GBA Briefs 5/27/2020

Hong Kong crisis: US senators have proposed a bill that would allow for sanctions against anyone with a role in violating “China’s obligations to Hong Kong under the [Sino-British] Joint Declaration and the Basic Law”, and on banks who do business with them. President Donald Trump has not yet weighed in on the specifics of what his administration plans to do in response to China’s announcement of its imminent imposition of national-security legislation in Hong Kong, but, when asked if he was prepared to use sanctions against China over the issue, he said: “We’re doing something now. I think you’ll find it very interesting. It’s something you’re going to be hearing about … before the end of the week – very powerfully.” SCMP

Law’s scope widened: Beijing’s proposed resolution for a national security law for Hong Kong was amended on Tuesday in an unexpected move that expanded its scope to prohibit “activities” that would “seriously endanger national security”. SCMP.

Continue reading GBA Briefs 5/27/2020

‘New infrastructure’ plan unveiled

The central government is planning to pump more than 10 trillion yuan (US$1.4 trillion) from now until 2025 into the economy through the roll-out of “new infrastructure” – which includes a wide range of technology, from next-generation wireless networks to artificial intelligence (AI). The master plan, which will be endorsed by the NPC this weekend, calls on urban governments and private hi-tech giants like Huawei Technologies to help lay 5G wireless networks, install cameras and sensors, and develop AI software that will underpin autonomous driving to automated factories and mass surveillance. SCMP.

Guangdong is already well ahead of the plan. As covered previously, the province has begun work on eight of 10 planned new industrial parks, which will be used for experimentation and development of new technologies. Basically, these involve the creation of  products and services that run on AI-driven computing power stored in data centers and distributed via 5G networks. Think autonomous cars and robotaxis, smart washing machines and fridges, intelligent buildings, cutting-edge medical devices, and so on. 

Continue reading ‘New infrastructure’ plan unveiled

GBA Briefs: 5/22/2020

NPC takes aim at HK: Beijing will establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in Hong Kong, Premier Li Keqiang said today at the opening session of the 2020 National People’s Congress. A resolution was tabled to enable the Standing Committee of the NPC to craft and pass a new national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong. It would require the city’s government to set up a specific organisation to do the job. SCMP.

Business reacts: The NPC’s passage of an annex to the Basic Law covering national-security legislation is a worrisome development that will erode the city’s global reputation and attraction as a corporate base, according to business groups, security and legal experts in Washington. Others were more sanguine, however, saying most companies with Hong Kong operations are focused on the bottom line, unlikely to act on principle and remain in a wait-and-see mode even as they bridle at Beijing’s latest move. SCMP.

Continue reading GBA Briefs: 5/22/2020

Beijing announces sweeping economic reforms

The central government has issued a guideline to “accelerate the improvement of its socialist market economy in the new era”, which analysts are saying is the boldest economic reform launched by the current leadership since President Xi Jinping took office.

According to Xinhua, the country’s goal is to “build a high-level socialist market economy that is more systematic, mature and well-shaped”, which would keep public ownership “as the mainstay” while allowing “multiple forms of ownership to develop together.” It stressed minimizing the government’s “direct allocation of market resources and direct intervention in microeconomic activities.” Read Xinhua for the full text.

Continue reading Beijing announces sweeping economic reforms

Guangdong’s foreign trade revives

Guangdong’s foreign trade is picking up, albeit slowly. Provincial data show total imports and exports in the first four months of the year at 1.92 trillion yuan, a 9.8% YoY drop, but 2 percentage points better than the number reported at the end of March. By month, the YoY contraction in foreign trade has been steadily improving, from -15% in January-February, to -6% in March, and now -4.9% in April.

Part of the reason for this narrowing has been the pickup in exports of medical equipment, which in April were up 52% YoY, pharmaceuticals, up 67.9%, and masks, which jumped by four times the amount shipped a year ago.

Continue reading Guangdong’s foreign trade revives

‘Romantic industry’ takes off

Guangzhou’s Conghua has welcomed the establishment of a series of “romantic industry” projects, which the district government hopes will inject new vitality into the more rural part of the city known for its hot springs.

Perhaps the most intriguing of these for prospective newlyweds is a project calling itself the province’s first “one-stop wedding service demonstration base”. Offering venues for both Chinese and Western wedding ceremonies, including group weddings, the complex has a wide range of on-site services available, including photography and marriage registration. It also has post-wedding services, i.e., for honeymoons, which it refers to as “wedding tourism”.

Continue reading ‘Romantic industry’ takes off

GBA Briefs: 5/19/2020

Huawei in ‘survival’ mode: Shenzhen’s Huawei Technologies has said it will “inevitably be impacted” by what it has described as an “arbitrary and pernicious” decision by the US government to further restrict its ability to develop semiconductors using American technologies. However, chairman Guo Ping said at the company’s global analyst summit that, “as the challenges over the past year have helped us develop a thicker skin, we are confident about finding solutions soon” … survival is currently the keyword”, he said. SCMP.

HK testing ramps up: Hong Kong’s public hospitals and laboratories will expand their daily coronavirus testing capacity by more than half within months to detect more silent carriers of the coronavirus. “Actions are in hand to ramp up [public-sector testing capacity] to about 7,000 in the next few months,” a government source said, adding that currently around 4,500 tests could be done. SCMP.

Continue reading GBA Briefs: 5/19/2020

History exam question inflames Hong Kong again

An uproar is growing in Hong Kong society again over a controversial exam question, which was deleted from high school test papers after intervention by the government last week. Here is a good explainer of the issue (SCMP), which relates to the relationship between China and Japan from 1900 to 1945.  

Yesterday, the deputy head of the Education Bureau said, “On major issues of right and wrong, such as invasions, massacres and ethnic cleansing, we should never lead students in their basic education stage to discuss their positive values.” (SCMP) 

Continue reading History exam question inflames Hong Kong again

GBA Briefs: 5/18/2020

Testing surges: As of a week ago (May 11), Guangdong had conducted 10.41 million coronavirus nucleic acid tests. That compares to the UK, which has had 2 million tests done so far, and the US, which was had 9.72 million tests done so far. SCN.

Hamsters proof: Hong Kong scientists conducting research on hamsters have offered the first proof of what many residents have believed all along – that wearing surgical masks can significantly reduce the rate of airborne Covid-19 transmission. SCMP.

Continue reading GBA Briefs: 5/18/2020

GBA Briefs: 5/15/2020

  • A pilot previously given the all-clear for Covid-19 after his return to Hong Kong from London a month ago has tested preliminary positive for the coronavirus during a trip to a local hospital for surgery. If confirmed, the infection is likely to raise concerns over further transmission of the disease, after the man came into contact with more than a dozen people at Princess Margaret Hospital. SCMP.
  • It will soon become cheaper for mainland residents to buy critical-illness insurance in the Greater Bay Area. This is thanks to the China Actuary Association, which recently released the “Prevalence Rate of Major Disease Experience in the Chinese Life Insurance Industry”. It includes for the first time a “GBA Table” for serious diseases, which is seen as a prerequisite for the launch of GBA-wide critical-illness insurance products. This is the first time in China that a region – the nine Guangdong cities of the GBA – have been able to set their own differentiated pricing for insurance. It is expected to being premiums closer to the levels enjoyed in Hong Kong and Macau and, eventually, result in their cross-border equalization.  SCN.

Continue reading GBA Briefs: 5/15/2020