Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC)

China Press Review – November 4, 2021

32 nations to remove China from preferential tariff treatment on December 1
China had been accorded preferential treatment since 1978, and more than 40 nations have provided or continue to offer it duty-free status on some goods.   China Customs has announced that 32 nations would no longer grant favourable tariff treatment to Beijing from December 1, even as an economist predicted that labour-intensive enterprises will face the brunt of the change. According to Hong Kong media, 32 nations would remove China from their trade preference lists of recipients of duty-free tariff treatment of certain items. The reports cited a statement recently made by the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC).     China will no longer be eligible for GSP trade benefits from 27 EU nations, the United Kingdom, Canada, Turkey, Ukraine, and Liechtenstein as of December 1, leaving the country with only three options: Norway, New Zealand, and Australia.

China leaving US behind with RCEP a new chapter for Beijing after surviving trade war
The 15-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP will take effect on January 1 after reaching the minimum number of ratifications this week    China is also aiming to join another trade bloc, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)  China is taking the lead in expanding global trade as the world’s biggest trade pact takes effect, leaving behind an increasingly protectionist United States, trade experts say. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), comprising 15 member countries including China, will take effect on January 1 after reaching the minimum number of ratifications this week. First signed in November last year after eight years of negotiations, RCEP will not only expand trade for around 30 per cent of the world’s population, but further open up China to the world.  With the RCEP going ahead officially, China will now be able to drive trade on its terms, although some trade experts say there may still be roadblocks ahead and the effectiveness of RCEP remains to be seen, with some even questioning how many countries would benefit fully from the deal.   As for CPTPP, Beijing should not expect its application to take the relatively easy path it had with the RCEP, said a Singaporean source familiar with the situation, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.The Chinese government has already had consultations with Singapore, given its position as the CPTPP’s chair next year, but the source revealed there was little Singapore could do about China’s application, especially given the complications of its relationship with Australia, a CPTPP member, as well as Taiwan’s application to join the pact.“Because the application has to get the unanimous approval of all 11 member states, China needs to negotiate with them one by one … as long as there is one member who disagrees, [China] won’t succeed,” he said. He called on Beijing to rethink its current diplomatic and trade practices with Australia, and warned China should not expect special “treatment” afforded to developing countries like Vietnam, a founding CPTPP member

996 no more: TikTok owner ByteDance embraces shorter ‘1075’ work hours amid backlash in China’s tech world
The Beijing-based unicorn updated its system on Monday to discourage staff from working more than nine hours a day or going to the office on weekends   Chinese authorities have openly criticised excessive work hours in Chinese tech companies, calling it an “evil” in labour exploitation

COP26: more than 100 nations pledge to cut methane, but not China
Russia and India also did not sign the commitment, leaving out the world’s top three emitters of the second-most human-caused greenhouse gas    But while it has no near-term targets, Beijing says it is stepping up efforts to reduce non-carbon dioxide emissions

China Stresses Developed Nations’ Promises at COP26
In Glasgow, China’s representatives argued rich states must fulfill promises to support poorer nations’ green capacity development, even while power shortages call China’s own promises into question.  China’s chief climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, who is leading the Chinese delegation at the summit, reiterated the view expressed by Xi that rich countries must do more. Xie told reporters Tuesday that developed nations have “failed to deliver” on the promise of $100 billion annually in financing to developing nations to build green capacity. “I recently spoke with the COP26 president Alok Sharma, and with [U.S. climate envoy] John Kerry and ministers for many other countries,” said Xie. “They told me that we need to wait until 2022 or even 2023 to achieve the target of 100 billion US dollars, a target which was set for before 2020.” China is facing a combination of economic stagnation and rising prices, or “stagflation,” according to Wen Zhao, a Toronto-based independent journalist. “Some grocery items have gone up two or threefold. This is directly related to the lack of electricity, and the cost pressure on the northern greenhouses which require electricity,” said Wen. Although the transition away from coal at home remains fitful, China’s September commitment not to approve construction of any new coal-fired power stations abroad was one point of optimism for environmentalists in the lead up to COP26.  Coal power along the Belt and Road had for years been criticized by activists and NGOs, with a 2019 Greenpeace study indicating that coal-fired power along the BRI far outstripped wind and solar, with 67.9 GW of coal to just 12.6 GW of wind and solar. That ratio may now even up.   “Following this announcement, coal-fired power projects abroad that are already under construction will continue, but in the future … coal mines and coal-based power generation projects will no longer be built,” said Fudan University Professor Huang Renwei.“The announcement shows that China is at least somewhat receptive to constructive international opinion, especially when it is articulated through global bodies like U.N. agencies and consultative bodies of chosen international advisers,” said Judith Shapiro of American University. On Thursday, COP26 in Glasgow will focus on the theme of “clean energy,” and this will be followed by the topics “youth and public empowerment,” “nature,” “adaptation, loss and damage,” “gender,” and “cities, regions and the built environment” in the remaining days of the conference, which will conclude on November 12.

China’s climate goals hinge on a $440bn nuclear buildout
Nuclear power once seemed like the world’s best hope for a carbon-neutral future. After decades of cost-overruns, public protests and disasters elsewhere, China has emerged as the world’s last great believer, with plans to generate an eye-popping amount of nuclear energy, quickly and at relatively low cost.

COP26: More than 40 countries to phase out coal but not China or US
MORE than 40 countries have committed to phase out coal power, but concerns have been raised after China and other major polluters didn’t join the pledge.

China’s daily coal output near annual high, govt continues crackdown on irregularities
China’s daily coal output hit 11.67 million tonnes on November 2, rising around one million tonnes from early October, close to a record high this year amid a raft of measures to ramp up production, according to the country’s state planner.    The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) published six statements late on Wednesday, showing recent coal production and its efforts in reining in prices.

What can Europe learn from China’s live e-commerce boom?
Brands venturing into livestreaming at home need to be aware of cultural differences.

China’s debt-to-GDP down but delevaraging slows
China’s campaign to lower debt continued to see success in the third quarter but momentum is slowing due to a stalling of economic growth, reports the South China Morning Post. Defusing China’s financial risk is an economic priority for the country’s leadership and the nation’s leverage ratio—which measures the percentage of debt to gross domestic product (GDP)—is closely watched as an indicator of progress. The lower the ratio, the lower the amount of debt per US dollar of national output.  The ratio fell to 264.8% in the three months to end September, from 265.4% in the previous quarter—the fourth straight quarterly decline, the National Institution for Finance and Development (NIFD) said in a report on Tuesday.  But the decrease of 0.6% was slower than the 2.6% fall in the second quarter. That was because GDP output was also falling, which diluted the effects of deleveraging, according to NIFD, a research body under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Analysis: Xi’s ‘common prosperity’ feels the heat as economy fizzles
Divide the cake or make it bigger? Debate returns to China    “To achieve common prosperity, ‘enlarging the cake’ through high-quality development is the premise, foundation and a necessary condition,” the article says. “In the process of ‘sharing the cake,’ we should expand the proportion of middle-income groups, increase the income of low-income groups and reasonably adjust high incomes.” These expressions are vague and difficult to understand. They also seem to suggest that making the cake bigger and dividing it equally will proceed simultaneously. On another note, the Xi administration recently sent another signal to the business world.   Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma Yun in the second half of October abruptly went on what China calls an overseas inspection tour of Spain and the Netherlands, according to a Hong Kong newspaper affiliated with Alibaba.  It was thought in some quarters that Ma had been restricted from traveling abroad after his Ant Group, the financial arm of Alibaba, was forced to delay its dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong one year ago. If that view is correct, then the restrictions have been lifted. Said a private-sector source, “It is a signal of easing tensions sent to the business world by the leadership, which has become aware of an adverse impact of crackdowns on businesses.” Will China continue to send pro-business messages? Or will it revert to tightening its grip? Only Xi knows.

Evergrande crisis: delivery of homes continues to decline, vendors receive property in lieu of overdue payments
China Evergrande said it handed over 57,462 homes across 184 projects in the mainland since July, but deliveries fell sharply last month      Two suppliers, owed millions in payment, received flats from the developer instead of cash

Why China’s property crash isn’t a new Lehman moment
On the face of it, Chinese property developers’ debts appear big enough to crash the whole economy. But several factors could limit the real estate downturn and the threat of contagion.

Chinese developer Kaisa unit misses payment, debt worries mount
Chinese property developer Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd (1638.HK) said on Thursday its finance unit had missed a payment on a wealth management product (WMP), adding to worries about a cash crunch at the debt-strapped company. Kaisa’s troubles come amid concerns about a deepening liquidity crisis in the Chinese property sector, with a string of offshore debt defaults, credit rating downgrades, and sell offs in the developers’ shares and bonds in recent weeks

China’s property market crackdown: how concerned should investors be?
While fundamental demand for homes peaked in 2018, real estate investment was buoyed by the wall of money created by the central bank     The property investment carnival encompassed the central government, local administrations, wealthy households, banks and developers, but the drive towards common prosperity may spell its end

Tesla rejects reports on Qingdao as site of its second China EV plant, pledges to boost investment in booming market
The information circulating on the internet about the location is not true, Tesla China’s head of communications says on her Weibo account     Tesla pledges to step up investment in sustainable manner, starts offering financing to car buyers amid a surge in demand

Cross-Border Data Transfer – New Draft Measures Offer Clarification on Security Review
The Cyberspace Administration of China has released draft measures detailing requirements for security reviews for cross-border data transfer. Industry players have been waiting for such measures ever since China issued legislation subjecting companies that want to export certain types of data to a security assessment. The draft measures offer clarity on the governmental body responsible for overseeing security assessments and what procedures companies must undergo to get clearance to transfer data overseas.

Where is China in the metaverse race?
Metaverse has become the new buzzword in 2021 for China, and tech giants are busy planning their way into this new virtual world. Alibaba has recently launched its “Metaverse Art Exhibition” to boost its sales during Double 11 shopping festival.

China’s smartphone chip champion Unisoc reaches new heights in global market
The fabless chip firm saw its shipments of smartphone processors grow 147 times from a year earlier during the most recent quarter     Unisoc’s rapid ascent comes amid China’s drive to increase technological self-reliance and reduce demand for foreign chips    The jump in sales was buoyed by orders from clients including Huawei’s budget brand spin-off Honor, Nokia and Chinese smartphone brand Doov, said researchers. Unisoc’s flagship Tiger T610 chip – reportedly made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company – is featured in Honor’s budget Play 5T and Changwan 20 phones.  Taiwan fabless chip designer MediaTek topped the rankings with 28.8 million units shipped, up by 25 per cent year on year.   California-based Qualcomm came in a close second place with the same amount of units delivered, up by 32 per cent year on year. The US giant made incursions into the low-end and mid-range smartphone processor markets, taking advantage of the collapse of Huawei’s chip design unit HiSilicon, whose shipments plummeted 77 per cent amid US sanctions.    Unisoc’s ascent comes as China seeks to increase its mature chip-making capacity, focusing mostly on 28-nanometre or above technology node, as part of the country’s bid to strengthen its supply chain security.  China still relies heavily on foreign chips to manufacture its products, which are of high demand around the world. Between January and September, China imported US$312.6 billion worth of semiconductors and US$25.1 billion worth of chip-making equipment, up 24 per cent and 35 per cent year on year, respectively.

Signs of global chip shortage easing seen in Qualcomm’s bright outlook and ability to find scarce parts
Qualcomm is farming out production to multiple manufacturers, helping ensure supplies, but few companies have the scale to do the same      Android smartphones are still the chip maker’s biggest growth opportunity in handsets, CEO Cristiano Amon said   Even with the challenges, the company is benefiting from the growing appetite for smartphone chips and a push into new markets. Qualcomm, the world’s largest smartphone chip maker, expects earnings of US$2.90 to US$3.10 a share in the period ending in December, well above the $2.58 predicted by Wall Street. Revenue will be US$10 billion to $10.8 billion, compared with an average estimate of US$9.73 billion.  For consumers, Qualcomm chips are appearing more in tablets, virtual-reality headsets and wearables. In industrial applications, the company’s products can be found in energy metering, warehouse logistics systems and retail point-of-sale equipment. Sales at its IoT division were up 66 per cent to US$1.54 billion last quarter.  Qualcomm’s flagship phone-chip business rose 56 per cent to US$4.69 billion. Growth is mostly coming from smartphones that use the Android operating system, Amon said. Like many other chip makers, Qualcomm outsources production to companies such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Samsung Electronics Co. A surge in demand has left these foundries unable to keep up, but there have been recent signs that chip shortages may be easing. A closely watched measure of chip delivery times didn’t grow as quickly in October – a hopeful sign. And the delays shrank for some kinds of semiconductors. More broadly, a key logistics provider said this week that supply-chain snags are subsiding. The problems have snarled ports and hit everything from cars to sneakers.

Evergrande’s unit is poised to sell UK start-up Protean to EV maker Bedeo, part of developer’s asset sales plan to pare debt
Evergrande bought Protean in 2019 for US$58 million    Protean makes in-wheel motor technology used in electric cars, self-driving vehicles and commercial vans, with 150 staff in the UK, China and the US

Chinese solar panel maker LONGi Green says detainment of its products at US border has had no major impact on operations
Its products contain polysilicon made in China’s Xinjiang region, where Washington believes human rights abuses take place    ‘Shipments to the US market are still proceeding normally to meet the order needs of American customers,’ LONGi says   hina accounts for more than 70 per cent of global output of polysilicon, a major raw material for solar products, shipping most of it to countries in Europe and Asia.
LONGi said it is not reliant on the US market, where newly added photovoltaic installations accounted for 14.8 per cent of the world total in 2020, according to data it quoted from the China Photovoltaic Industry Association.  The company said it has established measures to respond to potential temporary detention orders since late last year, and will actively cooperate with the US border agency to ensure the restrictions can be lifted as soon as possible.  The US government started blocking imports of solar-panel materials produced in Xinjiang in June over allegations of forced labour. The autonomous region largely populated by the Uygur Muslim minority has become a geopolitical battleground for Western countries critical of China’s human rights records. China has rejected the allegations.   Qi said Chinese photovoltaic companies also have large polysilicon production capacitiy in other regions such as Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and Sichuan, so they are not wholly reliant on Xinjiang and should be able to avoid future sanctions from the US.

Podcast: Investment opportunities in healthcare for 2021 and beyond
Covid-19 had a profound impact on healthcare investment opportunities and strategies    Investing early comes with several potential challenges and requires companies to meet certain criteria, including: the quality of their basic research, the skills of their management team, the financial capability of the company, future relevance, the benefit to patients, and the possibility of future commercialization This is relevant because the Innovation and Technology Fund has awarded a cumulative amount of about 25 billion to different projects since its founding in the 1990s, and prior to 2020, only about 6 per cent of capital had gone to the biomedical sector. The increased focus on the biomedical sector in 2020 suggests a shift in the future of healthcare research, development, and investment.  According to Andrew Wong, some “key therapeutic areas” which will likely retain a lot of investor attention in the future include pharmacology, oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, cardiovascular health, and pulmonary tension. Other healthcare sectors that will likely provide opportunities for investors include skin health, orthopedic medical devices, and digital health/telehealth. In the firechat with Vikram Kapur, Partner & Head of APAC Healthcare Practice at Bain & Company, moderated by Peggy Sito, Deputy Business Editor at the Post, Kapur shared the biopharmaceutical sector attracts the most attention from private investors, and “the other big theme we saw in the past year was continued investment behind innovation, be it med tech… health tech [etc.].” With such a large focus on health and healthcare innovation as a result of the pandemic, “healthcare has now become almost like the next national defense [for most governments],” noted Kapur. This suggests the healthcare sector will be full of large opportunities for investors for the foreseeable future in the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

Mainland China’s capital market will triple in size to US$100 trillion in next 10 years, Hong Kong stock exchange boss Nicolas Aguzin predicts
A key driver of this growth will be a shift of China’s massive domestic savings towards investment in search of higher returns, says HKEX chief executive    ‘Hong Kong is a gateway to bring international investors to the growth story of China,’ Aguzin tells 2021 Hong Kong FinTech Week conference   Mainland China’s capital market, including both equities and bonds, will more than triple in size in the next decade to US$100 trillion, with Hong Kong playing a vital gateway role, according to the head of the city’s bourse operator.  “The role of Hong Kong is to connect China with the world, as the city is a centre for raising capital, wealth management and risk management. Hong Kong is a gateway to bring international investors to the growth story of China,” said Nicolas Aguzin, chief executive of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing in a speech on Thursday at the 2021 Hong Kong FinTech Week conference.   If his estimate is accurate, the Chinese stock market in 10 years’ time will almost match the size of the entire US capital market today, including both stocks and bonds. That figure currently stands at US$96 trillion, according to data from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

China’s 100 Richest 2021: Collective Wealth Climbs To Nearly $1.5 Trillion Amid Tumult
It’s been a tumultuous 12 months for mainland China’s richest. Shifts in government policy covering the education and tech industries, along with worries about real estate debt, led to many of the country’s largest private-sector companies experiencing steep share declines. A government push to promote “common prosperity” saw tycoons and tech companies announce billions of dollars in donations to social causes. Yet overall, China’s 100 Richest saw their collective net worth rise from last year’s list. Their total wealth increased to $1.48 trillion from $1.33 trillion a year earlier. Among the biggest gainers were those who benefited from increased sales at companies tied to green energy industries in which China is a global leader, such as lithium-ion batteries. China, the world’s largest auto market, also leads the world in EV sales. The minimum net worth to make the top 100 rose to $5.74 billion from $5.03 billion a year ago.The second-biggest increase in wealth went to Robin Zeng, chairman of battery-maker Contemporary Amperex Technology, whose fortune increased to $50.8 billion from $20.1 billion last year. That earned him the No. 3 spot on this year’s list.  China’s bottled water king Zhong Shanshan, chairman and founder of Nongfu Spring, tops the list with a fortune of $65.9 billion, following gains in revenue in the first half. Consumer spending in China has been helped this year by policies that limited the fallout from the pandemic. Zhong’s fortune also benefited from a successful investment in Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy, a pharmaceuticals supplier whose Shanghai-listed stock was up 76% in mid-October from a year ago.Internet billionaires had mixed fortunes. Jack Ma, last year’s No. 1 with a $65.6 billion fortune, fell to No. 5 with an estimated fortune of $41.5 billion on our 2021 list. It follows the postponement of the listing of Alibaba’s online financial services arm, Ant Group, and a slide in Alibaba’s own shares. Tencent chairman and CEO “Pony” Ma Huateng saw his fortune slide to $49.1 billion compared with $55.2 billion a year ago. Faring better, Zhang Yiming, founder of video platform ByteDance, enjoyed a doubling of  his fortune to $59.4 billion from $27.7 billion in 2020.

China’s Wealth Creation: Challenging Economic Outlook As Power Crunch And Evergrande Concerns Linger
Since the Chinese Communist Party’s centennial anniversary in early July, President Xi Jinping has doubled down on his plans to reshape China’s economy. The country under Xi has shifted to calls for “common prosperity” as it tackles rising income inequality, excess borrowing and speculative investments. But Beijing’s toolbox of regulatory actions—largely aimed at the country’s tech titans—has knocked China’s equity markets. Not only are they among the worst performers in Asia, Hong Kong’s GEM market, a capital-raising venue for small, high-growth companies, has had the steepest decline of any bourse worldwide.   China remains one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. GDP is projected to expand 8% this year, as growth rebounds from the pandemic-hit 2.3% rate last year. Next year, however, growth is expected to ease to 5.5%. Power shortages are hitting both China’s commodities producers and manufacturing hubs. One worry is that China could export stagflation globally, where prices rise even as economic growth withers. The troubles of real estate developer Evergrande have unnerved the central government and global investors. Given the gigantic size and importance of the property sector, estimated to contribute as much as 20% of China’s GDP, and Covid-19’s lingering impact, Beijing is making every effort to avoid a hard landing. The near-term economic outlook remains challenging

China-EU relations: Lithuania says its rocky ties with Beijing are a ‘wake-up call’ for Europe
Europe must ‘get its act together’ regarding China if it seeks credibility and partnership with the US, Lithuania’s deputy foreign minister says   Lithuania’s move to leave the 17+1 mechanism was not anti-China but pro-Europe, Arnoldas Pranckevicius tells security forum in the US

China keeps close vigil at ports to cut COVID-19 risks
China is on high alert at its ports as strict policies on travel in and out of the country are enforced to reduce COVID-19 risks amid a fresh domestic outbreak, less than 100 days out from the open of the Beijing Winter Olympics.      The National Immigration Administration (NIA) said on Thursday it would continue to guide citizens not to go abroad for non-urgent and non-essential reasons.

China’s Xi warns on protectionism, calls for unimpeded vaccine trade
Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Thursday for the smooth global trade in vacccines and other medical supplies, saying that unilateralism and protectionism are rising across the world and globalization is facing headwinds.     Speaking in a televised address at the opening of the China International Import Expo, Xi touted China’s contributions to the global fight against COVID-19 and its efforts to open up its economy, even as it maintains a zero-tolerance approach to virus control that has put strict limits on travel into and out of the country.

Chinese People Think China Is Popular Overseas. Americans Disagree.
The widening perception gap between the Chinese and Western publics points to long-term divergence.  The widening perception gap between the Chinese and Western publics is alarming, but not surprising. The pandemic and the ensuing geopolitical tussles have merely amplified pre-existing tensions and long-standing resentment; the writing had always been on the wall. As China rises, it needs to learn the ropes of navigating a world that is not necessarily receptive toward its actions – especially when couched in the trenchant, absolutist rhetoric that has undergirded its recent statements. China must also be wary of conflating what it sees with the full reality – though this is a fact that I believe many in the bureaucratic and political system are well aware of. The perception gap between the Chinese public and the international community (at least significant segments of it) is widening, and this alone is a cause for concern.   Yet concurrently, those in the West who are seeking to engage China on dialogue and forthcoming exchanges must continue to do so. An isolated, cut-off, and alienated China is in the interest of neither the country’s 1.4 billion population, nor the world at large. Ameliorating conflicting interests and incentives requires a basic alignment of understanding. Aligning understanding, in turn, behoves tact and moderation.

The True Price of China’s Most Expensive Teas
Some of the country’s most expensive teas cost millions per kilogram. They also aren’t actually for sale. How much would you pay for a cup of tea? For most people, the answer is probably not much, but for a few ultra-wealthy Chinese, a handful of the country’s most exclusive tea leaves can be worth more than its weight in gold — 38 times more, to be exact.

Alain Gillard
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