Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC)

China Press Review – March 8, 2022

Gender equality at work: how do Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore and others compare?
Around the world, the proportion of women in the workforce is lower than for men. Parental leave, pay and protections against harassment also give an idea of progress. Last year, a dozen regional governments in China lengthened their maternity leave allowances – Beijing, for instance, added 60 days, bringing the total to 158. Paternity leave in the capital city, however, remained at 15. But critics said longer maternity leave could reinforce stereotypes of women being the main parent responsible for childcare, and may cause companies to discriminate against them. In Hong Kong, women can take 14 weeks of maternity leave, while men have only five days of paternity leave. Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance in Hong Kong, it is unlawful to discriminate based on sex in employment terms and conditions. However, the gender pay gap still exists. In 2020, the median monthly earnings of employed women was HK$15,000 (US$1,920) while it was HK$20,000 for men – one-third more, according to a 2021 report by the city’s Census and Statistics Department. The reported noted that a larger proportion of men worked as managers and administrators, professionals and associate professionals, which were professions with higher average earnings. Many places around the world similarly have provisions in the law requiring equal pay for equal work, but the reality is another matter. In mainland China, the average wage for urban men was 22.5 per cent higher than for women in 2019, according to a report by recruitment site Hong Kong’s Sex Discrimination Ordinance states that discrimination or sexual harassment in employment is unlawful, and employers may be held vicariously liable whether or not they know about or agree with their employees’ acts of sexual harassment during their employment. In mainland China, tech hub Shenzhen released unprecedented regulations in March last year clearly defining what constitutes sexual harassment, amid growing calls for change. Draft revisions to the nationwide women’s rights law also require schools and companies to set up a mechanism to prevent and punish sexual harassment against women. However, #MeToo and labour activists continue to face crackdowns including censorship and arrests.

Respect and Protection: How Should You Manage Your Female Employees in China
Though the famous phrase, “Chinese women hold up half of the sky,” was invented when China was still an agricultural society, it is still true today. In 2020, the number of women employed in urban units reached 67.8 million, accounting for 43.5 percent of the total labor force. In big cities, this figure could be even higher. Nevertheless, women in the workplace still face more challenges than their male coworkers, ranging from gender discrimination in recruitment and promotion, non-supportive policies for their pregnancy and childcare, as well as higher risks of being the victims of sexual harassment. Considering the significance of women’s contributions to the economy and society, such improper treatment is not only detrimental to a company’s talent strategy, but also has negative implications on the success and growth of your businesses in China. In the event of the 112th Women’s Day anniversary, we put together this article to discuss some best practices and fair policies when managing your female employees in China.

How Damaging Are Russian Sanctions On China-EU Rail Trade And The Belt & Road Initiative ?
In short, the Belt and Road Initiative’s Southern route – multimodal – avoids Russia while improving the EU’s access to Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle east, East Africa, India, and China. So, to answer the media headlines about Russia destroying China’s Belt and Road Initiative – that, like much about the BRI, is just lazy reporting. Will there be supply chain bottleneck, delays and re-routing? Yes. But what the Ukraine conflict has done is two-fold: concentrate supply chain minds on the necessity to have alternative back-ups, and to focus the BRI on its southern, Russia-avoiding routes. Foreign investment into the Caspian region and along the Southern BRI routes is going to boom.

Ukraine-Russia Crisis: Belt and Road Initiative and China’s diplomacy
Today China’s dilemma is that it cannot support directly the aggression by Russia nor it can oppose it and it also doesn’t want to lose access to the European market. Although, China has criticised the west for being responsible for this crisis as the west tried to expand North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) into those areas which were earlier under Russian control.
Being positioned as neutral, China advocates that the issue should be resolved through negotiation and dialogue. The UN general assembly has already urged Russia to stop its aggression by a vote of 141 to 5. Only Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, Russia, Syria has supported in the favour of Russia. However, China who is also one of the permanent members of the UN security council and has veto power abstained from voting. A report of Bloomberg has mentioned that China has refrained from using the term “Invasion”. Considering the above backdrop, It will be interesting to see how China balances between these two sides. On the one side, it is Russia and on the other, it is the entire west and its market.

Are Taiwan exports moving away from mainland China to the US?
With political tension between mainland China and Taiwan escalating, there are signs that Taiwan exports are gradually moving away from mainland China.

Investing in China means both protection and opportunity
On the basis of 8.1% GDP growth last year, the Chinese government set a target of around 5.5% for 2022 and unveiled a raft of measures to attract foreign investment at this year’s “two sessions.”
After going through the impacts of trade friction with the U.S., compounded by the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising international commodity prices, China has weathered the most challenging and complex period in its economic development. Going forward, China will remain a top destination for foreign investment and a strong force driving steady global economic recovery.

Pang: China’s challenges are mounting
High global energy costs are a problem for people around the world and not least in China. Leaders there have assembled for the annual ‘Two Sessions’ gathering and ING’s Greater China economist, Iris Pang, says the challenge to promote strong economic growth is high.

American businesses in China say U.S.-China relations are back to Trump era tensions
After President Joe Biden was elected in late 2020, there was a spike in optimism among businesses, with 45% of respondents expecting better U.S.-China relations, the American Chamber of Commerce in China’s annual survey of members found. That level of optimism has dropped to 27% of respondents in the latest survey — conducted in fall 2021 — the same as when Donald Trump was president and enacted tougher policies on China. “What we’ve seen over the course of the last year is that there’s a new reality that has set in, where largely speaking many of the policies and sentiment of the Trump administration remain in place with the Biden administration,” Alan Beebe, president, AmCham China, said Tuesday in a call with reporters.

U.S. companies in China cite political pressure for gloomy outlook
Operators wary of boosting investment in uncertain business environment U.S. companies operating in China face mounting pressure and risk as tensions between Beijing and Washington fuel uncertainty about the country’s business environment, the American Chamber of Commerce China said Tuesday.  In its annual China Business Climate survey, AmCham said 42% of its members reported increased scrutiny over comments they make, or don’t make, about politically sensitive issues. More than two thirds cited the Chinese government as the main source of that pressure, followed by China’s state-controlled media and the U.S. government. About 56% of respondents said U.S.-China tensions were their top business challenge, along with an uncertain regulatory and enforcement environment as well as rising labor costs. “This is clearly emerging as an additional challenge for U.S. companies in China to navigate and respond to political pressures, which are outside of their normal realm of commercial activity,”. And while 2021 revenue and profitability rebounded from a year earlier, the number of U.S. companies that felt unwelcome operating in mainland China doubled over the past year, back to levels seen in 2018 when a U.S.-China trade war escalated, according to the October-November survey of 49% of AmCham’s nearly 1,000 member companies. Some 73% of companies surveyed expected U.S.-China relations to either stay the same or deteriorate this year. China remains a top priority for U.S. companies and AmCham members are committed to their operations there, but many are reluctant to boost investment given the uncertainty and pessimism over the business environment, the survey said. Some 35% of respondents planned to lower their China investments this year. “Policy and regulatory issues are contributing to lower investment,” Beebe said. “Whether that be around limiting industrial policies that create barriers, intellectual property issues, and you know transparency, predictability and fairness.” American companies have also been grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and strict measures aimed at enforcing China’s zero-virus policy, AmCham said, pointing to global business travel disruptions, rising international transportation costs and the soaring expense of products and services. For the first time, companies listed U.S.-China relations as a top factor among their human resource challenges. Nearly half the companies surveyed said recruiting and retaining expatriate talent was getting tougher, with qualified candidates “unwilling or unable” to move to China.

‘Biden bump’ vanishes in China as US firms’ bilateral outlook revisits levels seen under Trump
Annual survey of AmCham China members, conducted before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, flags growing concerns among American companies operating in China. Vast majority of surveyed members say they have come under intensifying political pressure from China, the United States or both “For those companies that are exporting to Russia, if sanctions are within the scope of the products or services that they provide, obviously they cannot do that,” he said. “But probably more significant is the foreign direct product rule whereby US companies that are selling products and services to Chinese companies that may, in turn, be exporting to Russia – those companies are also subject to these sanctions and various types of restrictions.” Rising US-China tensions remain the main challenge for American companies in China, and such tensions were cited for the first time as a top factor specifically contributing to human resource challenges, according to the survey. The association advised the White House to refrain from engaging in aggressive rhetoric and tit-for-tat sanctions, and to pursue an in-person meeting between Xi and Biden. The group also reiterated its call for Beijing to follow through on its vows to ensure a level playing field for US businesses in China. Furthermore, the survey showed that just 47 per cent of companies were confident in Beijing’s commitment to further open China’s market to foreign investment in the coming three years, down from 61 per cent last year. Surveyed companies’ revenue and profitability did begin to rebound in 2021, but did not return to pre-pandemic levels.“Our member companies view China as a top priority market, but at the moment, they’re hesitant to continue making a significant increase in investments due to uncertainties and kind of increasing pessimism on a number of fronts,” Beebe said.

‘Two sessions’ 2022: as small-business concerns persist, China’s No 4 official tries to calm frayed nerves
‘Do not believe nor circulate’ attempts to question China’s basic economic system, China’s CPPCC chairman tells representatives of business communities. Wang Yang acknowledges that pandemic and China’s shifting economic development model put pressure on private firms, but says these are more ‘short-term’ difficulties.

China’s state firms to pay US$260 billion in profits to help fund Beijing’s spending spree
China’s central bank will be among state financial institutions paying some of their profits, including arrears, to the government this year to fund an increase in fiscal spending, the finance ministry said on Tuesday. The People’s Bank of China and other state-owned institutions and monopolies are required under Chinese law to pay part of their profits to the government, although it had been suspended for two years due to the coronavirus, the finance ministry said in a statement on its website. China Investment Corporation, the sovereign wealth fund, and China National Tobacco Corporation, the world’s biggest cigarette maker, are among the financial institutions and monopolies that will pay surplus profits from previous years, it said. The finance ministry said in its 2022 budget released on Saturday it expected state-owned financial institutions and state monopolies to pay a total of 1.65 trillion yuan (US$261 billion) in profits this year. The payments and other fund transfers will help boost fiscal spending by 2 trillion yuan this year, the ministry said. China will step up its fiscal spending this year to support the slowing economy, despite a lower budget deficit ratio, Finance Minister Liu Kun has said.

China led world with 500,000 electric car exports in 2021
Shipments jumped 160% with EU-bound EVs growing fivefold to 230,000 China exported nearly 500,000 electric cars in 2021 — more than any other country in the world — thanks to increasing sales in Europe and Southeast Asia by emerging cost-competitive automakers, Nikkei has learned.
According to the General Administration of Customs of China, the number of passenger EVs exported in 2021 increased 2.6 times to 499,573 units. Meanwhile, Germany doubled its exports to about 230,000 units, while the U.S fell 30% to around 110,000 units, and Japan increased 24% to 27,400 units — according to data compiled by the German Association of the Automotive Industry and the Japan External Trade Organization.

How the Ukraine war could boost China’s global finance ambitions
Sanctions levied in response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have dealt a devastating blow to his country’s financial system and left the rouble down more than 30 per cent this year, sending ripples across currencies in eastern Europe. But the renminbi, the currency of Russia’s closest strategic ally and top trading partner, has remained conspicuously stable. China’s currency has barely budged since Russia’s invasion began, even touching a four-year high of about Rmb6.31 against the dollar, extending a months-long run of resilience despite a recent slowdown in the growth of China’s economy. Its relative stability has fuelled talk that the currency could become a haven asset, shielded from the geopolitical turbulence that has roiled markets around the world. This would be a boost to more than 20 years of work by Beijing to globalise its currency by increasing its use in foreign trade and as a store of value in international finance.

Russian banks plan to use China’s UnionPay after Visa and Mastercard exit
Several Russian banks plan to switch to China’s UnionPay after Western sanctions. Credit: 123rf
Several Russian banks are planning to use China’s bank card service UnionPay as US services Visa and Mastercard suspend services in Russia, according to Reuters. Russia-issued credit cards using the Visa and Mastercard systems will stop functioning after March 9, part of a broader global economic backlash over the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

The China Factor in Tech Export Controls Against Russia
Will tech export controls against Russia further strengthen Sino-Russian high-tech cooperation? At this point, it seems unlikely that Beijing will put its future on the line to back Putin. First, there are objective limits to China’s ability to plug in Russia’s high-tech gaps. China is unable to provide Russia with some strategically important technologies like high-end semiconductors. Second, China may fear it will come in the crosshairs of Western sanctions if it backs Russia in the high-tech sphere. China has the potential to increase its exports of certain technologies to Russia, including less-sophisticated chips, cloud services, as well as computers. Third, Russia may be reluctant to significantly increase its dependency on Chinese tech. In the past, Moscow was careful to avoid depending too heavily on Chinese technology, especially in security sensitive areas like telecommunications equipment. An expansion of Russia’s reliance on Chinese foundational technologies would provide Beijing with greater political and economic leverage over Moscow – something that Putin, already uncomfortable enough in the role as Beijing’s junior partner, will try to avoid So far, China has been cautious in responding to the Russian invasion and it remains unclear whether Chinese entities will comply with U.S. restrictions on technology exports. Yet, given China’s long-term interests and its dependency on foreign technology and markets, it seems unlikely at this point that Beijing will put its future on the line to back Putin. It is possible that Putin’s war on Ukraine and the tough tech controls imposed by the U.S. and its allies may not bring Russia and China closer together but – at least temporarily – drive them apart.

China’s crypto ban chips into the semiconductor war
In September 2021, ten Chinese state bodies jointly declared all cryptocurrency (‘crypto’) transactions illegal, while the National Development and Reform Council promised to phase out crypto mining completely. While the ban ostensibly undermines China’s vaunted semiconductor capacity development aims, it gets China out of a potential losing battle with the United States in mining rig exports. But how does the mining ban play into China’s semiconductor trade war?

Protect, expand lithium, CPPCC adviser says
Exploration and development of domestic lithium deposits should be accelerated to ensure the supply chain of the resource, according to a national political adviser. A core raw material for batteries, lithium faces a grim supply and demand situation, according to Zeng Yuqun, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People”s Political Consultative Conference.“ Independent innovation and scientific and technological research should be strengthened to improve the level of recycling and efficient utilization of lithium,” CATL has been making efforts to optimize lithium resources upstream from manufacturers in recent years. The company signed an agreement in January with Yongxing Materials to establish a joint venture to build a lithium carbonate factory. The project, with an investment of 2.5 billion yuan ($400 million), is expected to produce 50,000 tons of lithium carbonate annually, sources at CATL said.

China’s Xi calls for ‘maximum restraint’ in Ukraine
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday (Mar 8) called for “maximum restraint” in Ukraine and said China is “pained to see the flames of war reignited in Europe”, state media reported, in his strongest statement to date on the conflict. Xi, speaking at a virtual meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said the three countries should jointly support peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported. Xi described the situation in Ukraine as “worrying” and said the priority should be preventing it from escalating or “spinning out of control”, CCTV cited him as saying. He also said France and Germany should make efforts to reduce negative impacts.

More scope for Sino-US cooperation on climate
Energy industry experts in the US have felt encouraged by instances of closer cooperation between the United States and China in recent years and are calling for further collaboration to solve global climate problems. “Any sort of global climate solution is obviously going to rely almost entirely on the actions of both the US and China. And there has been a lot of cooperation,” said Jeff Berman, director of energy transition analysis at consultancy Rapidan Energy Group. Before the 2015 Paris Agreement, the US and China struck an agreement on reducing emissions in late 2014. Last year, when the new global agreement - the Glasgow Climate Pact - was reached, the two countries issued a joint pledge to ramp up cooperation in tackling climate change.

China’s youthful beauty brands give themselves a facelift after initial success with clever marketing begins to fade
China’s home-grown beauty market is facing external and internal pressures, and needs deeper product and management expertise. At least a dozen online beauty brands, including Apinkbaby and Two Space, closed shop last year, media reports show.

Alain Gillard
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