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by Isabelle Li / Dec 17, 2018 07:54 PM / Business & Tech

Users of yet another sharing service are having trouble getting their deposits back. 

This time it is the vehicle-sharing venture Togo that is having refund issues, local media reported Monday.

Users in Beijing, Shenzhen and Chengdu have complained that they are having unexpected difficulties getting their deposits back from the platform.

The amount of the deposit is 1,500 yuan ($218), five times more than the typical deposit for bike-sharing services in China.

Under Togo’s user agreement, the company is supposed to return user deposits within seven days of a refund request, the Beijing Daily reports. However, some users have been waiting more than two months for their refunds.

China’s internet industry embraced a shared economy boom in recent years, but several companies have suffered deposit refund problems as cash flow pressures have weighed in on these "innovative" platforms.

The scandal comes as a surprise given that Togo had just announced in October that it had raised tens of millions of dollars in its latest round of fund raising. In addition to Togo, many other car-sharing services, such as that of online services giant Meituan, have been shuttered or sold off due to financial problems, according to previous media reports.

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By Tang Ziyi / Dec 17, 2018 06:50 PM / Politics & law

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Sun Bo, former general manager of the state-run China Shipbuilding Industry Corp., was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party and stripped of all public positions on suspicion of taking bribes and severe disciplinary violations, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announced on Monday.

He was also accused of "engaging in superstitious activities," the commission said.

Sun Bo became the general manager of the aircraft carrier maker, as well as the deputy secretary of the corporation’s party committee, in March 2015. The CCDI announced he was under investigation in June of this year.

 


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By Mo Yelin / Dec 17, 2018 06:35 PM / Business & Tech

Users of the shared-bike app Ofo are going to great lengths to get their deposits back. The customers are so frustrated that they’ve taken to showing up at the company’s Beijing offices. 

A line of more than 100 people formed in Ofo’s office lobby and spilling outside of the company’s Beijing headquarters on Monday. So many people joined throughout the day that police arrived to maintain order, Caixin has learned.

Ofo users across China have complained about not receiving refunds even after the company’s maximum wait of 15 days after applying. Users are seeking refunds on the deposits once needed to use the shared bikes, some 99 yuan ($14.30) and some 199 yuan. 

But even the users showing up at the office couldn’t immediately get their money. Instead, they were asked to write down their personal information, including the bank account info, with the promise that they would get the money within three days, local media reported.

Related: Cash-Strapped, Money-Losing Ofo Says It Will Soldier On

 


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By Isabelle Li / Dec 17, 2018 05:50 PM / Business & Tech

Richard Liu. Photo: VCG

Richard Liu. Photo: VCG

E-commerce giant JD.com’s finance unit has undergone a minor shakeup that’s seen embattled founder and CEO Richard Liu replaced as the company’s largest shareholder by … Richard Liu.

The latest public records show that Liu, who stands accused of rape stemming from a U.S. case dating back to August, has recently seen his personal stake drop in JD.D, previously known as JD Finance. The drop to 14.02% from a previous 16.67% is significant, because the latter figure was enough to make him the company’s biggest stakeholder.

But following the reduction, the biggest single shareholder now becomes a limited partnership registered in Liu’s hometown of Suqian in east China’s Jiangsu Province. And guess who controls that partnership, which holds 16.13% of JD.D? Of course that would be Liu, who is the majority stakeholder.

The company had no comment on the minor reshuffle.

Liu was accused of rape in August by a student in the U.S. state of Minnesota, in a case where prosecutors are still weighing whether to bring charges.

JD.com’s stock has slumped by over 30% since the rape allegation. The company, the second largest e-commerce player in China after Alibaba, was listed on the Nasdaq in 2014, and still counts Liu as the man in control with 79.5% of its total voting rights. JD Finance is one of JD’s three key sub-businesses besides JD mall and JD logistics.

Related: Rape Investigation for Internet Tycoon Richard Liu Wraps Up

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By Yang Ge / Dec 17, 2018 05:41 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Property-turned-entertainment conglomerate Wanda Group is getting more introspective, announcing a plan to invest 12 billion yuan ($1.74 billion) on a tourism project in the city at the terminus of the Communist Party’s well-known Long March of 1934 to 1935.

The massive project will occupy 1,900 mu (1.3 square kilometers) in the Gaoxin district of the city of Yan’an, a city in central China’s Shaanxi province, according to a company announcement over the weekend. About a third of the total investment will go to entertainment, including educational elements and a tourism village themed on the Long March.  

Construction will begin early next year and should wrap up by 2021, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party. The complex is part of a growing trend for the development of “red tourism” sites in China that feature various elements of the Communist Party’s history during its formative years.

The Long March is central to that lore, and saw the Communists go from eastern China’s Jiangxi province on a nationwide trek that ended in Yan’an as they fled the then-ruling Nationalists, in what they called a strategic retreat.

Wanda’s investment comes as the once globally-minded company starts becoming more inward-looking, following a Beijing crackdown on big conglomerates that became burdened by too much debt after big buying sprees. One of the company’s other big projects has been development of a similar cultural village at Danzhai in Guizhou province, another relatively poor area of the China.


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By Tang Ziyi / Dec 17, 2018 05:34 PM / Society & Culture

Shennongshan Sightseeing Zone in Henan. Photo: VCG

Shennongshan Sightseeing Zone in Henan. Photo: VCG

A tourist park in Henan has said it will let Huawei phone-owners in for free — just weeks after a top executive of the company was arrested in Canada.

Shennongshan Sightseeing Zone (神农山风景名胜区), a geological park in Henan, said tourists need simply show a Huawei phone at the gate and their 80-yuan ($12) ticket fee will be waived.

The park cast the move as a gesture of solidarity with Huawei. On Dec. 1, the telecom company’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities, who say she was involved in financial transactions that violated American sanctions against Iran.

"Good wishes to friends who support Huawei around the world," the park said.

Related: In-Depth: The Shockwaves of Meng Wanzhou’s Arrest

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By Noelle Mateer / Dec 17, 2018 05:01 PM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Beijing’s new airport, being built south of the capital, gets most of the aviation-related attention these days.

But another prospective airport may find a home south of the capital, as well. Way south of the capital.

A Chinese expedition has determined that “a huge blue ice area” in Antarctica is suitable for China’s first large permanent airport on the continent, Xinhua reported Sunday.

The airport would allow China to fly its own large Y-20 transport aircraft, as well as Airbus and Boeing planes, without having to adjust landing gear. There are currently eight blue-ice airports already in Antarctica, which belong to other countries, expedition team leader Sun Bo told Xinhua.

The airport will complement China’s current four research bases in Antarctica.

Related: China Aims to Double Its Number of Airports

 


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By Bloomberg / Dec 17, 2018 02:53 PM / Economy

Photo: Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

China’s exchange rate is likely to get more volatile in time as the country pushes greater international use of the yuan, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

While the yuan-internationalization campaign hit a setback as China tightened regulation of capital flows in the wake of a messy 2015 devaluation, there’s increasing pressure for policy makers to take up the initiative again, economists including MK Tang wrote in a note Monday.

China’s current account will tip into deficit in coming years, in the view of many strategists, as its increasingly large economy continues to grow faster than the rest of the world. In financing that deficit, China could reduce risks if it acquired funding in its own currency -- much like the U.S. does now, and unlike more vulnerable countries such as Brazil, Goldman noted.

By reducing reliance on the dollar, China could also avoid the kind of vulnerability Russia has faced with U.S. sanctions on its companies, it said.

“After a brief hiatus in the last couple of years, global promotion of the RMB will likely be supported with a greater sense of urgency,” the team wrote. The RMB refers to the renminbi, an official name for China’s currency.

One occurrence that’s likely to come is a convergence between the yuan traded offshore, known as CNH, and that traded onshore, known as CNY, the economists argued. Their analysis of discrepancies between the two suggested that yuan volatility would be “much closer to that of other major currencies” once exchange-rate controls were eased.

“A truly global currency is one whose worth should be essentially indifferent to country boundaries,” the Goldman economists wrote. “Should CNY’s fluctuations one day indeed become as large as those of other major currencies, it may also significantly push up the volatility of the other Asian” emerging-market currencies, they added.

Up to now, Asian exchange rates have tended to fluctuate less than other emerging nation currencies, possibly because the yuan has played an “anchor” role, Goldman said.

Related: It Has Been a Bad Year for the Yuan. 2019 Could Be Worse

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By Mo Yelin / Dec 17, 2018 01:15 PM / Business & Tech

Nio's first electric SUV, the ES8. Photo: VCG

Nio's first electric SUV, the ES8. Photo: VCG

U.S.-listed Chinese electric-car upstart Nio has introduced its second commercial model: the five-seat ES6 SUV.

The high-end vehicle reinforces the company’s intention to break into China’s burgeoning luxury car market.

The ES6 is less expensive than Nio’s first model, with a starting price of 358,000 yuan ($51,918), and has a range of roughly 300 miles. The company’s first car, the ES8, unveiled a year ago, cost 448,000 yuan with a range of approximately 220 miles.

Nio unveiled the ES6 at its annual event in Shanghai over the weekend. The company has been dubbed the Chinese rival to U.S. Tesla.

Related: China’s Tesla Rival Steps on Accelerator


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By Tang Ziyi / Dec 17, 2018 12:29 PM / Politics & law

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese President Xi Jinping will speak Tuesday at an official gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Monday

The meeting will take place at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People at 10 a.m. to honor the 1978 debut of former leader Deng Xiaoping’s policies that are credited with driving rapid economic growth in once poverty-stricken China.


By Tang Ziyi / Dec 17, 2018 11:41 AM / Environment

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Over 6,000 homes have been damaged and 629 people evacuated as of 11 p.m. on Sunday, due to earthquakes in the southwestern province of Sichuan, the China News Service reported.

An additional 17 people were reported injured, the Ministry of Emergency Management said Monday

The magnitude 5.7 earthquake struck Sichuan’s Yibin city at 12:46 p.m. on Sunday and was followed by a 3.2 magnitude aftershock at 8:16 p.m. the same day, according to China Earthquake Networks Center


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By Tanner Brown / Dec 17, 2018 11:26 AM / Business & Tech

Photo: S12morela (https://bit.ly/2PE4HgF)

Photo: S12morela (https://bit.ly/2PE4HgF)

UK brand Laura Ashley appears to be leaving the UK.

The fashion and home goods retailer, which is owned by Malaysian United Industries (MUI), will close some 40 UK stores amid its push into China, BBC reported Monday.

It’s good news for Chinese fans of UK brands. Topshop reneged on plans to expand in China earlier this year – as did British store Marks & Spencer, who announced it would end its online sales in China last January.

 Related: A Hands-Off Management Style Suits Chinese Buyers of European Luxury Brands

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By Noelle Mateer / Dec 17, 2018 10:47 AM / Society & Culture

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said VIPKid will offer Chicago public school students free Chinese courses. Photo: VCG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said VIPKid will offer Chicago public school students free Chinese courses. Photo: VCG

Kids at Chicago Public Schools are about to get a lot better at Mandarin.

Beijing-based online education giant VIPKid will offer public school students in Chicago free online courses as well as a “virtual pen pal program with students in China,” Chicago’s Office of the Mayor announced Thursday. 

VIPKid, whose backers include basketball star Kobe Bryant, has had success among teachers in the U.S. who use the online platform to remotely tutor Chinese students in English. Now they’re flipping the script with their Mandarin-learning platform, called Lingo Bus.

More than 10,000 students at public schools in Chicago currently study Mandarin, the statement said.

Related: Online Educator VIPKid Sees World as Its Classroom

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By Tanner Brown / Dec 17, 2018 09:40 AM / Politics & law

Michael Spavor. Photo from Spavor's Twitter account.

Michael Spavor. Photo from Spavor's Twitter account.

The Canadian government has been granted access to Michael Spavor, the second Canadian citizen detained in China last week.

Canada's ambassador to China, John McCallum, met with Spavor on Sunday, according to Canada’s diplomacy department, Global Affairs Canada.

Savor and a second Canadian, Michael Kovrig, were separately arrested last week by Chinese authorities, both for allegedly “endangering China’s national security,” Beijing said.

Their detainments are seen as possible retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou. The Huawei CFO and daughter of the company’s founder was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver. She has been granted bail and faces possible extradition to the U.S., which charges that she facilitated financial transactions in violation of American sanctions against Iran.

Canada announced Friday that it was granted consular access to Kovrig.

Read more: In-Depth: The Shockwaves of Meng Wanzhou’s Arrest

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By Han Wei / Dec 15, 2018 01:48 AM / World

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

Canada has been granted consular access to Michael Kovrig, a Canadian ex-diplomat detained in China last week, the Canadian government said in an email statement to Caixin Friday.

Canada’s Ambassador to China, John McCallum, met with Kovrig in Beijing, according to the statement from Global Affairs Canada. Consular officials will continue to provide consular services to him and will continue to seek further access to Kovrig, the Canadian government said.

The department didn’t provide more details about the visit, citing privacy laws. Canada continues to press for consular access to Michael Spavor, another Canadian detained in China earlier this week, according to the statement.

Kovrig, an employee of the nongovernmental organization Crisis Group International, was detained Dec. 10 on allegations of violating China’s national security.

Spavor, a Canadian whose company takes tourists and hockey players into North Korea, is also under investigation as part of a national security case, Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper reported.

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By Isabelle Li / Dec 14, 2018 07:40 PM / Business & Tech

AliPay, the biggest mobile payment app in China, released its latest face-scan payment product named Dragonfly on Thursday.

Facial recognition payment technology has been around in supermarkets, hospitals and even some KFCs in China since last year, but Dragonfly will further lower the installation cost for merchants by 80%, Albaba-backed AliPay says.

Cashless payments through mobile apps can be made almost anywhere in China, from street food stalls to government halls, with AliPay and Wechat Pay being the two dominant players.

Statistics from Alibaba during this year’s “Double 11” shopping festival also suggest that payments through face and fingerprint scans now make up 60% of all transactions. The company says that as facial recognition technology takes the place of QR codes, “paying by smiling” will most likely experience explosive growth over the next three years.

Read more: Alipay and WeChat May Have Grown Too Big to Fail

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By Fran Wang / Dec 14, 2018 06:54 PM / Economy

China announced Friday it will suspend punitive tariffs on U.S.-made cars and auto parts starting Jan. 1, another step by Beijing to implement agreements reached by presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping to call a truce to the bilateral trade war.

The government will halt the imposition of duties that affect 211 product lines, such as hybrid passenger vehicles, diesel-engine trucks, chassis and seat safety belts for three months, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

The suspension will see the taxes that China slaps on U.S. cars fall temporarily to 15% from the current 40%. In July, China lowered duties on imported vehicles to 15% from 25%, but later hiked the rate on autos from the U.S. to 40% in retaliation to Washington’s punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.

“Imposing additional tariffs on U.S.-made cars and auto parts was a forced move to counter U.S. trade protectionism,” the ministry said. “Suspending the taxes is a concrete step to implement the consensus reached by the two countries’ leaders.”

“We hope both sides will, in accordance with the consensus reached by the two leaders, match words with deeds to speed up the negotiations aimed at scrapping all additional tariffs on the basis of mutual respect and on an equal footing.”

See more of our trade war coverage here.


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By Teng Jing Xuan / Dec 14, 2018 06:41 PM / Business & Tech

Google executives unveil the company's Chinese name in 2006. Photo: Getty Images/VCG

Google executives unveil the company's Chinese name in 2006. Photo: Getty Images/VCG

Party-owned Global Times has reported that Chinese users have lost faith in domestic search giant Baidu’s services due to “scam ads,” adding that experts are calling for a return to China of Google’s search engine.

“Google has done a much better job, and has a ‘clean record’ compared with its Chinese counterparts in terms of paid listings,” Global Times reported one analyst as saying.

The Global Times article comes amid international controversy over Google’s plans to return to China, a market it left in 2010 due to Beijing’s strict self-policing policies.

Google employees and NGOs have petitioned Google to stop working on Dragonfly, a version of Google’s search engine tailored to China’s sensitive-content requirements.

But the report by Global Times, which frequently weighs in on controversies involving China, is the latest sign of positive, if tentative, media attention for Google in the country. In August, People’s Daily — the parent publication of Global Times — published a commentary welcoming Google back to the Chinese mainland, although “it must comply with Chinese law.” People’s Daily’s commentary was later removed, Bloomberg reported.


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By Isabelle Li / Dec 14, 2018 06:32 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

House-sharing platform Airbnb’s business in China is projected to increase by 400% year-on-year in the second half of 2018, according to the company’s China CEO, Peng Tao.

Bookings grew fastest in Shenzhen – four times higher this year than last year – while all other cities on Airbnb China’s Top 10 growth list are non-first-tier cities such as Xiamen, Changsha and Guiyang.

Domestic bookings have now surpassed international ones, Peng said, while Southeast Asia the most popular destination for Chinese going abroad.

Post-90s youngsters make up most of the users on the platform, including both guests and hosts, an Airbnb release said. And roughly 30% of bookings are by groups and families renting out full apartments.

Related: Full House: Chinese Rival of Airbnb Secures $300 Million

 


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By Noelle Mateer / Dec 14, 2018 05:47 PM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

A prominent former U.S. senator is now in the middle of Chinese tech giant ZTE’s problems in the U.S.

Former Senator Joe Lieberman has been tapped by the Chinese tech giant to “conduct an ‘independent’ national security assessment of its products,” Politico reported, speaking with Lieberman directly.

As the former senator said to Politico: “There are obviously still concerns about the safety of their products or the extent to which their products could be used to compromise American security in any way or even individual security.”

He added that ZTE has “decided to really try to get ahead of those concerns and be in a position to answer them,” according to the report.

Shenzhen-based ZTE has been struggling ever since Washington determined that the company had violated an agreement originally made to punish it for having violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. The finding triggered a two-month suspension of ZTE operations in the States. 

This isn’t the first time ZTE has hired an ex-lawmaker to help improve its image in Washington. The company has gotten lobbying assistance from former Senator Norm Coleman and former Representative Jon Christensen.

Related: ZTE Slow to Recover From U.S. Sanctions


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