Tencent is putting two of its key subsidiaries together in a fintech innovation lab focused on the research and development of applications for “open banking.” The joint venture is between Tencent Cloud, a global cloud services provider, and WeBank, China’s first online bank.
Open banking can be defined as a collaborative model in which banking data are shared through APIs between two or more unaffiliated parties.
WeBank’s Wei Li Dai (微粒贷) financial product was the first in China to provide consumers with a complete online lending process, from application and approval to the provision of funds. Borrowers are not required to provide collateral or security for credit, and instead only need to provide their identification numbers and mobile phone numbers through Tencent’s ubiquitous social media app WeChat and instant messaging software service QQ in order to obtain loans of between RMB500 and RMB200,000.
Tencent Cloud and WeBank’s new collaboration will be based on the concept of “open banking” to explore technical innovations on its fundamental structure, financial application and experiential innovation.
Hong Kong media blew this story out of proportion, but it is a good example of why the Greater Bay Area needs a Steering Committee ASAP: Qianhai, the special economic zone set up to boost integration work between Hong Kong and Guangdong, jumped the gun on plans to link up via railway – at a point in the far-distant future – with Hong Kong’s East Lantau Reclamation project. It was an easy and simple mistake to make, publicizing an idea that had not yet been formally communicated yet, but it elicited howls of indignation in political and media circles because the HKSAR’s development chief had not yet seen the memo from his counterparts across the border.
Shenzhen’s Qianhai Authority has set the cat among the pigeons by revealing a proposal for an extension of the cross-border high-speed railway line that would connect to Hong Kong’s proposed East Lantau Plan, also known as the Lantau Tomorrow Vision. According to a report over the weekend in the South China Morning Post, alleged plans for the rail line’s future development have been on display on the ground floor of an official exhibition center for the pilot development zone.
In the map, the local section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link that opened in the West Kowloon terminus last year would branch out to the East Lantau metropolis, run through the New Territories and cross the border to Qianhai, joining the national network. Of course, no date has been given for any of this. Hong Kong has not even announced whether the Lantau reclamation project will go ahead yet.
Witman Hung Wai-man, principal liaison officer for Hong Kong at the Qianhai Authority, said the preliminary idea for the rail extension was raised late last year, and the Qianhai Authority would further explore the concept before presenting it to the Shenzhen municipal government and Hong Kong authorities. But that couldn’t stop reporters from calling up Michael Wong, Secretary for Development for the HKSAR, who said he knew nothing about the plan. “I only learned about it when it was revealed in the news on Friday,” Wong said.
It was a reaction that predictably brought a surge of criticism from the usual corners about Hong Kong’s autonomy being eroded. Read more about the plan here and about Wong’s reaction here.
Shenzhen and Guangzhou, for the second consecutive year, won China’s unofficial “talent grab” contest. (No, it’s not the Chinese version of American Idol.) The two cities, followed by Xi’an, recorded the highest population growth rate in 2018, demonstrating their attractiveness to the “socially mobile generation”, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Shenzhen added 498,300 people in 2018, bringing its total to 13.02 million. Guangzhou attracted 406,000, bringing its total to 14.9 million. The high growth rate also showed the two cities’ openness to welcome outsiders and their eagerness to attract young skilled workers, according to Chinese media.
Two other GBA cities, Foshan (8th) and Dongguan (21st), also made into the Top 30. Foshan added 249,000, bringing its total to 7.9 million. Dongguan, ranked 21st, brought in 49,700, bringing its total to 8.39 million.
China recorded its lowest birth rate in 40 years last year, according to Chinese media, with only 15.23 million babies being born, two million less than the previous year. The birth rate stood at 10.94%, the lowest since 1978.
People in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Liaoning were the most reluctant to give birth, with the birth rate at 8.24%, 7.2%, 6.67% and 6.39% respectively. Hainan, Qinghai, Guangxi had the highest birth rate at 14.48%, 14.31% and 14.12%.
Guangdong, despite being the country’s richest province, stayed well above the national average, at 12.79%. It surpassed traditionally well-populated provinces such as Henan (11.72%) and Sichuan (11.05%) as well as economic rival Jiangsu (9.32%).
Local media believe the key to Guangdong’s relatively high birth rate is its demographics. Many young people have flooded in from other parts of China in recent years, giving the province not only the lowest aging rate in China, but also increasing its birth rate. Moreover, the east Guangdong area, represented by Chaozhou and Shantou, has “relatively well maintained the family tradition of procreation”, according to the report.
Guangdong also has the largest pool of pension funds in China.
Sinovation Ventures, the tech investment firm founded by former Google China head Lee Kaifu, says it will team up with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) to build a new AI research lab, according to Technode.
The new Computer Perception and Intelligent Control Lab will be led by former Tencent AI Lab chief Zhang Tong, who is currently a faculty member at HKUST. The Stanford-trained AI scientist was previously a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and had also worked at IBM, Yahoo and Baidu before joining Tencent.
Hong Kong’s Youth Development Commission has rolled out two new programs aimed at encouraging young entrepreneurs: the Funding Scheme for Experiential Programs at Innovation and Entrepreneurial Bases; and the Funding Scheme for Youth Entrepreneurship in the Greater Bay Area. The schemes aim at subsidizing Hong Kong NGOs to provide start-up assistance and incubation services that befit the needs of young people (aged between 18-40) who are about to start their businesses in Hong Kong and in other cities of the Greater Bay Area. This includes helping them settle in entrepreneurial bases and further helping them meet their initial capital needs.
The Shenzhen Neher Neural Plasticity Laboratory, led by German biophysicist Erwin Neher, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1991, was inaugurated at Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technologies under the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Saturday.
The lab, Neher’s first research lab in China, is one of Shenzhen’s key projects in developing research on neural science while engaging in researches on biomedicine development and the health industry.
At present, the lab has a team of 30 full-time researchers, including five senior researchers. The number will increase to 50 before the end of the year.
The second Belt & Road Shenzhen International Music Festival kicked off over the weekend in Shenzhen. The three-week event will receive more than 800 musicians of 23 troupes from over 40 countries and regions along the Belt & Road, including Russia, Poland, Turkey, Indonesia and Thailand. Among its list of performers also include the US’ Cleveland Orchestra, Germany’s Freiburger Baroque Orchestra, the China National Symphony Orchestra, U.S. jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center.
Shenzhen is ranked the second most lively night city in China, after Shanghai, according to a nightlife index based on the data provided by China’s ride hailing app Didi-Chuxing and the restaurant review app Dazhong Dianping.
They cite a report from Beijing-based commercial property consultancy firm RET, which looks at eight “nightlife sectors” including bars, cinemas, KTVs, gyms, late-night dining, internet cafes, entertainment and convenience stores. The report studied each sector’s geographical distribution, consumption patterns and operational models. RET said that it hopes the report will provide an understanding on Shenzhen’s evening and night-time economy, which should help in planning future development.
The report concluded that “consumption time has kept expanding into later hours”, which appears to suggest that people are working harder and playing later. Expansion has been spreading from the city center, while “different subcultures” have brought new business ideas and trends for late-night consumption. Technology has become an important driver of all this change, naturally.