Links for Wednesday, May 20, 2020


The bankruptcy of a powerful state conglomerate has threatened to shake up about $100 billion of debt issued by Chinese companies in a development that is being closely watched by investors in the country’s dollar bond markets.

Administrators in the restructuring of Peking University Founder Group, a state-backed technology conglomerate linked to China’s top university, have said they will not recognise about $1.7 billion in so-called keepwell deeds that back its debt…  

If a Beijing court rules in favor of the state-backed administrator in the coming weeks, it could prompt a re-pricing in billions of dollars of other keepwell bonds.

[U]nder new rules announced last month, from June 1 every time a rider takes to one of the nation’s more than 250 million registered battery-powered bikes, they’ll be required to wear a helmet or risk being fined.

It will be easier said than done. According to research from Guojin Securities, China’s biggest helmet manufacturers can turn out around 2,000 per day, and there’s very little unused capacity. The firm puts China’s demand gap at about 200 million helmets.

Ping An Good Doctor, China’s largest online healthcare platform, is completely swapping out its senior management. According to reports from Caixin [paywall], the move may foreshadow greater integration between Ping An’s patient- and provider-facing platforms.

Ping An Good Doctor may have the most users of any online healthcare platform in China, but so far it hasn’t turned a profit. Ditching its ex-Alibaba leadership might signal a change from ecommerce-style tactics that have focused mostly on growth.

  • The Institute of International Finance (IFF) estimated that China’s total debt hit 317% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2020.
  • In May 2020, the IFF also said the debt owed to China by the rest of the world had risen to more than 6% of global GDP.


The People’s Republic of China has engaged in “health diplomacy” almost since its founding in 1949. Over the course of the 1950s and ’60s, a still-impoverished China sent a total of 6,500 trained medical personnel on assistance missions to over 40 countries and funded the construction of more than 20 medical institutions around the world.

While the U.S. struggled to come up with enough tests to manage the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak, a Chinese genetics company took less than a month to build testing centers thousands of miles away in the Middle East.

By moving swiftly, Shenzhen-based BGI Group won hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with traditional U.S. allies including Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Now the U.S. is warning those countries that they may be giving Beijing access to highly prized personal data that will propel economies of the future.

China has called for research literature and data to be shared with the World Health Organisation’s international COVID-19 database, in an apparent bid to counter accusations it has not been transparent about the outbreak.

The China Association for Science and Technology, a government-backed organization, asked its members to contribute to the WHO’s collection of data in an open letter on its website on Tuesday.


  • Germany sees China as important partner despite strong U.S. investment
    China drops out of top three foreign investors in Germany / Reuters
    “China last year dropped out of the top three foreign investors in Germany for the first time in more than a decade, official German data seen by Reuters showed on Wednesday, as the Chinese government focuses on boosting the domestic economy…The data showed that the United States remains the largest investor in Germany with 302 projects last year, followed by Britain with 185 and Switzerland with 184.”
    In other Germany-related news, a new Pew survey finds that in the Trump-Xi era, “Germans now see their country’s relationship with China as equally important as their relationship with the U.S.”
  • Anti-China sentiment rises in the U.S.
    Anti-China sentiment is on the rise / Politico
    Since January, the percentage of U.S. voters who say China is an “enemy” has risen 11 percentage points to 31%, while the percentage of voters who say China is either an ally or a friend has fallen nine points to a combined 23%, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll shows.
  • Trump continues to blame China for COVID-19, call out Biden
    Donald Trump on Twitter: “Some wacko in China just released a statement blaming everybody other than China for the Virus which has now killed hundreds of thousands of people. Please explain to this dope that it was the ‘incompetence of China,’ and nothing else, that did this mass Worldwide killing!”
    Trump on China trade deal: ‘I feel differently now about that deal than I did three months ago’ / Fox News

“I feel very differently now about that deal than I did three months ago,” the president said. “We’ll see what happens.”

“It just seems to mean less to me,” Trump explained. “It was very exciting, one of the biggest deals ever made. But once the virus came in, I said, ‘how did they let that happen?’”

“Why did they block it leaving Wuhan into China but they didn’t block it from going to other parts of the world?” he added.

For Mr. Trump, attacking former Vice President Joe Biden on China serves three purposes: to dampen turnout among populist Democrats; to deflect blame for his deadly mishandling of the coronavirus for which he takes no “responsibility at all” [porous paywall]; and most cynically, to try to turn his own blatant weakness on China into a political weapon.

  • Over 200 suspected rapid test kits and a patient were found at the villa in Clark Freeport that had been illegally turned into a seven-bed hospital.
  • Police said most of the medical facility’s clients may have come from the large numbers of Chinese nationals working in online gambling outfits.

[Xí Jìnpíng 习近平] now faces a dilemma, [Gù Sù 顾肃, a philosophy and law professor at Nanjing University] said: Ignoring the promise would be equivalent to saying that the Communist Party failed, while proclaiming victory would only rile up a seething middle class that is increasingly venting frustration online.

During the darkest days of the coronavirus crisis in Hong Kong, when restaurants were barely surviving, an appeal went out on social media to save Renee Cheung’s Dose. The restaurant is a “yellow” business, meaning it openly supports Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Like-minded diners answered the call — though they weren’t the ones who normally frequent the city’s hip bar district.

“The border dispute is a reminder that Chinese aggression is not always just rhetorical. So whether it is in South China Sea or whether it is along the border with India, we continue to see provocations and disturbing behaviour by China that raises questions how it seeks to use its growing power,’’ said Alice G Wells, U.S. State Department’s top official for Central and South Asia.


  • ‘I cried for three days, and now it’s your turn!’ woman says in note left with stinging gift.
  • Neighbour of ex-boyfriend says community was ‘filled with the strong stench of rotting onions.’

In the past six weeks ending May 9, more than 195,000 self-identified Asians — Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, among others — have filed initial unemployment claims in the state, about 56 times the 3,500 during the same period last year, according to New York State Department of Labour data.

The jump was by far the largest percentage increase compared to any other racial group.