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WORLD

By Yang Ge / May 27, 2020 01:27 PM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The skies over the major Asian hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore are about to get just a little friendlier, at least if you’re an international traveler.

The two cities have both announced they’ll reopen their airports to transiting travelers come June, with Hong Kong taking the step first next Monday followed by Singapore a day later.

Both had rolled up their red carpets for such travelers during the height of their local outbreaks in a bid to stop infections coming in from other countries. The move had a chilling effect on passenger flights to Hong Kong, with flights from non-mainland China destinations dropping from 100 per day in March to less than 30 in April and May.

The move to reopen Hong Kong for transit travel was met with cheers on the Chinese mainland, as it opened a new channel for thousands of Chinese nationals stranded abroad to finally return home.

After Hong Kong’s announcement on Tuesday, queries involving Hong Kong rose by more than seven times between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. from the same time a day earlier on online booking platform Qunar, while actual bookings rose by nearly 10 times. On the Fliggy travel platform operated by e-commerce giant Alibaba, the number of search queries on transiting through Hong Kong increased nearly seven times.

Among international carriers, Air Canada and Qatar Airways are planning to resume flights to Hong Kong in June. Meantime, Singapore discount airline Scoot has announced plans to resume some flights in June to Guangzhou in China, as well as to the Malaysian cities of Penang, Ipoh and Kuching.

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

Related: Washington Pressures China to Let U.S. Airlines Come Back


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WORLD

By Ding Yi / May 26, 2020 05:03 PM / World

Tencent has reportedly agreed to invest 7 billion yen ($65 million) for a 20% stake in Japanese video game developer Marvelous, the latest sign that the Chinese tech giant is further expanding its video gaming empire overseas.

The purchase, which will be made through Tencent’s subsidiary Image Frame Investment, will mean the Chinese company will become the largest shareholder in Marvelous that is known for its farming simulation game “Story of Seasons,” according to a report by Bloomberg.

The Japanese company will use the funds to bolster its existing game franchises and launch new ones over the next three years. It also plans to deepen ties with Tencent around game development and global expansion, the report said.

In 2019, Marvelous signed a licensing agreement with Tencent authorizing the Chinese company to develop, distribute and operate the mobile version of “Story of Seasons.”

Apart from Marvelous, Tencent has also taken stakes in U.S.-based Epic Games and South Korea’s Bluehole.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Tencent Teams Up With U.S. Chipmaker Nvidia on Cloud Gaming


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By Ding Yi / May 21, 2020 05:58 PM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Didi Chuxing will expand its in-app “Health Guard” program to its Latin American markets, using artificial intelligence (AI) to verify whether its drivers are wearing face masks in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting May 22, Didi will require its ride-hailing drivers in Latin America to take a selfie wearing a mask for their AI-driven verification system, according to a company statement released on Wednesday. Passengers will also be required to wear masks when taking Didi’s rides.

Didi will also ask drivers to report their body temperature and upload photos of their daily vehicle disinfection work to its app from June. Those failing to meet the safety requirements could possibly lose their license to provide Didi’s ride-hailing services, the statement said.

Both passengers and drivers can cancel trips if they feel unsafe about the hygiene conditions, Didi said.

The “Health Guard” program was first introduced in China in January, when the coronavirus pandemic started spreading rapidly across the country. Since then, Didi has taken a series of measures to safeguard its drivers and customers in China against the disease, including installing protective plastic sheets in its cars to separate drivers from passengers.

Earlier this month, Didi president Liu Qing revealed in an interview with CNBC that her company’s ride order volume in China reached 60% to 70% of pre-coronavirus levels and was five times higher than its February low.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Didi Boss Says Core Business Is Profitable As Pandemic Eases Across China


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By Ding Yi / May 18, 2020 02:07 PM / World

China’s commerce ministry said Sunday that the U.S. needed to immediately stop its “wrong actions” and it would take “all necessary measures” to defend Chinese companies’ legal rights in response to a U.S. move to further restrict the ability of blacklisted Chinese tech giant Huawei to develop semiconductors using American technology.

“The U.S. uses state power, under the so-called excuse of national security, and abuses export control measures to continuously suppress and contain specific enterprises of other countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

On Friday, the U.S. announced plans to limit “Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology.” The new rules will require foreign semiconductor manufacturers which use American chipmaking technology to obtain a U.S. government license before shipping chips to Huawei.

“We must amend our rules exploited by Huawei and HiSilicon and prevent U.S. technologies from enabling malign activities contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement. HiSilicon is Huawei’s chip design subsidiary.

Friday’s move is the latest U.S. action against Huawei and could incur Chinese retaliation. Citing an anonymous source close to the Chinese government, the Global Times, a Beijing-backed newspaper, reported that officials were ready to take countermeasures including putting U.S. companies on an “unreliable entity list,” launching probes and imposing restrictions on American firms as well as suspending the purchase of Boeing aircrafts.

The new U.S. action against Huawei comes after Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC), one of the world’s top contract chipmakers, announced plans to build a $12 billion plant in Arizona. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Friday that TSMC’s chip plant plan will “increase U.S. economic dependence,” Reuters reported. TSMC makes chips on contract for many global tech companies including Huawei, Apple and Qualcomm.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Taiwan Chipmaker TSMC Creates ‘Good Will’ With $12 Billion U.S. Factory Plan


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By Ding Yi / May 11, 2020 06:51 PM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Fast-growing short video platform TikTok has opened an office in London, making the city its main hub in Europe, CNBC reported Friday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

London is the only city in Europe where TikTok is actively recruiting engineers to develop new features for its app, even though the continent is currently not a major source of users.

“They are on a big hiring spree,” a London-based tech worker who was approached by a TikTok recruiter told CNBC.

The ByteDance-owned app is currently recruiting workers for 117 vacancies in London, including a lead machine learning engineer and a lead solutions engineer, accounting for about 14% of its new global workforce opportunities, the report said, citing LinkedIn data.

TikTok is willing to pay the lead machine learning engineer an annual basic salary of £200,000 ($246,000), another source told CNBC, who claimed to be contacted for the role.

TikTok also has offices in European cities including Paris, Berlin and Dublin.

However, the app is not viewed favorably by some European governments. On Friday, Reuters reported that the Dutch Data Protection Authority will investigate whether TikTok adequately protects the privacy of young users and whether the app clearly states how it uses data. The company is facing similar headwinds in the U.S.

So far, TikTok has been downloaded 2 billion times on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store combined, with India, China and the U.S. being the top three download sources.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: ByteDance’s TikTok Surpasses 2 Billion Downloads Globally


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By Ding Yi / May 07, 2020 12:59 PM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer ZTE said Wednesday that its board has approved a plan to allow three Turkish companies in which it owns direct and indirect stakes to jointly guarantee each other’s loans.

The companies involved are Netas Telekomunikasyon AS, Netas Bilisim Teknolojileri AS and BDH Bilisim Destek Hizmetleri Sanayi Ve Ticaret AS, which are all registered in Istanbul, Turkey, according to a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The plan will allow the related companies to mutually provide joint guarantees when they borrow money from financial institutions.

The total credit lines guaranteed should be no more than $139 million and can be reusable until Dec. 31, the filing said, adding that the loans will be used by the three companies to maintain daily operations and expand business operations.

ZTE acquired a 48% stake in Turkish systems integration provider Netas Telekomunikasyon in a 2016 deal, becoming the Turkish company’s largest shareholder. Netas Telekomunikasyon is 100% owner of Netas Bilisim, which wholly owns BDH.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: China’s ZTE Denies Knowledge of Reports of U.S. Bribery Investigation


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By Ding Yi / May 05, 2020 02:36 PM / World

Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi is seeking to bring its production lines in India – its biggest market after China – back online by June, after they were shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a nod from the government of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Foxconn, one of Xiaomi’s manufacturing partners, should soon restart production at its Sri City-based plant, where Xiaomi phones are made, Xiaomi India Managing Director Manu Jain was quoted by the local media outlet The Hindu as saying.

“We hope all of our manufacturing plants will soon get approval...of course, with all kinds of precautions in factories, the ramp up is going to be slow, but we are hoping the factories will be up and running very soon,” Jain told The Hindu.

Xiaomi India chief operating officer Muralikrishnan B expressed concerns over labor shortages, but stressed that the problem could be solved through safety and hygiene procedures at factories, according to the report.

Those concerns are reflected in a separate report by another local media outlet The Economic Times, which said that Foxconn will resume production with just 10% of its workforce, citing an unnamed source with knowledge about the matter.

With strong online and offline sales channels, Xiaomi retained its position as India’s largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2020, with a market share of 30.6%. On Monday, the company announced that it will launch a new offline-to-online service called Mi Commerce in India this week, allowing consumers stuck at home during the coronavirus-induced lockdown to browse online products available at Xiaomi stores close to their residence and place orders.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Chinese Smartphone Brand Outstrips Samsung’s Q1 Sales to India


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By Ding Yi / May 05, 2020 11:43 AM / World

Photo: Visual China

Photo: Visual China

Major U.S. companies and trade groups are reportedly urging the Trump administration to expand its tax exemptions to Chinese-made high-tech products, two months after the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) lifted tariffs on some medical goods imported from China as a reaction to the coronavirus crisis.

In March, the USTR said that it would not impose tariffs on some critical health-related products including ventilators, oxygen masks and nebulizers from China at a time when the pandemic began spreading rapidly across the U.S..

The Consumer Technology Association and several other industry bodies said in an open letter that sensors and cameras used for telehealth services, robots that can sterilize infected spaces, drones that can deliver medical supplies and networking equipment in data centers, among other products, should be entitled to the tariff waivers, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The letter was echoed by the National Elevator Industry, which said that the tariff exemptions should also be granted for elevators and escalator parts that are “essential to the functions of healthcare facilities, hospitals and medical equipment factories,” according to the report.

The Computing Technology Industry Association also joined the petition, calling on the government to lift tariffs on personal computers, monitors, servers and other electronics because they are used by all essential critical infrastructure workers, Reuters said.

In China, products powered by advanced technologies have been widely used in the fight against the coronavirus. For example, robots have been used to deliver meals, take body temperatures and disinfect rooms in hospitals in order to reduce cross infections and save on protective gear for medics. Unmanned aerial vehicles have been used to spray disinfecting chemicals in some virus-hit parts of the country.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: China’s Robotics Spending to Reach $121 Billion in 2024


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By Ding Yi / Apr 30, 2020 11:52 AM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

There seems to be no stopping TikTok’s exponential growth across the globe.

The ByteDance-owned short video app has amassed more than 2 billion downloads on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store combined, a milestone that comes just five months after the app hit the 1.5 billion download mark, research firm SensorTower said on Wednesday.

In the first quarter of 2020, TikTok was downloaded over 315 million times globally, more than any other app for the period, SensorTower said. The figures did not include third-party app stores.

SensorTower partly attributed TikTok’s download growth to the global coronavirus pandemic which has confined people around the world to their homes and increased the consumption of online content on mobile devices.

Users based in India seemed the most obsessed with TikTok, with 30.3% of the app’s total downloads coming from the South Asian country, followed by China with 9.7%, according to SensorTower. The U.S. was the third-largest download source, with 8.2%, despite the fact that some American lawmakers have urged government employees to stop using the app on government-issued devices due to national security concerns.

As the app expands its global footprint, TikTok is reaping huge benefits from its users, who have so far spent $456.7 million on the app, compared with $175 million five months ago, SensorTower said. About 72.3% of TikTok’s total revenue came from China, where the app is known as Douyin. The U.S. ranked second in terms of user spending with 19%.

Over the past few months, TikTok has taken steps to answer criticisms about the app including establishing a content moderation committee in a push to ease U.S. concerns over data security and how content is moderated.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: U.S. Investor Tiger Global Boosts Stake in TikTok Owner ByteDance


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By Ding Yi / Apr 28, 2020 11:54 AM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese smartphone-maker Vivo shipped more handsets to India than Samsung to become the country’s second-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter of 2020, catching up with its Chinese peer Xiaomi, which was still the top dog in the South Asian country.

For the three months through March, Vivo grew its smartphone shipments by nearly 50% to 6.7 million units in India, giving it a market share of 19.9%, according to statistics provided by research firm Canalys.

Canalys analyst Madhumita Chaudhary attributed Vivo’s shipment growth to the “planned stockpiles ahead of the high-profile Indian Premier League,” the country’s flagship cricket tournament of which Vivo is a main sponsor.

However, following the league’s postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, Vivo will find it harder to achieve its expected sell-through to consumers even if the lockdown is lifted, Chaudhary predicted.

In the first quarter of the year, Xiaomi controlled 30.6% of the Indian smartphone market. South Korean giant Samsung came in third, seeing its market share shrinking to 18.9% from 24.4% in the same period of last year.

Chinese brands Realme and Oppo ranked fourth and fifth with respective market shares of 11.7% and 10.4%, according to Canalys. That means Chinese companies made up four of India’s five top smartphone brands.

Vivo, Realme and Oppo are all under the control of Guangdong-based conglomerate BBK Electronics.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Xiaomi Still Top Dog in Indian Smartphone Market in Fourth Quarter 2019


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By Lu Yutong and Zheng Lichun / Apr 16, 2020 05:09 PM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The world’s biggest commercial drone-maker SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd. said it has no access to the data collected by the drones it sells to other countries, which are using them to fight the spread of Covid-19.

“We can’t get the data; this is not our business,” a company spokesman said Monday in response to questions by Caixin over a data security issue. “Some of our industry plans include data collection, but those (data) belong to our clients.”

DJI products have been widely used in several countries to assist governments in their efforts to keep people indoors and spray disinfectant, despite the concerns over data security that have been expressed by companies and officials in the U.S.

Last month Chile and Columbia both deployed DJI’s MG-1P agricultural drones to disinfect streets and neighborhoods, the company said on social media. The agricultural series of drones were also used to conduct mass disinfections in the Philippines, Dubai and Indonesia, as well as the virus-ravaged Spain.

Malaysia has used the company’s Mavic 2 drones as flying loud speakers to blast out messages for people to stay home. The drones were equipped with infrared thermography to help the detect whether people are gathering in public.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later.

https://www.caixinglobal.com/

Contact reporter Lu Yutong (yutonglu@caixin.com)


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By Bloomberg / Apr 16, 2020 10:37 AM / World

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

Watching cricket and playing rummy are online passions for hundreds of millions of Indians, fueling a nascent gaming industry on the verge of quadrupling its revenue. That’s attracting attention from some of Asia’s biggest internet companies.

Tencent Holdings Ltd., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and SoftBank Group Corp. are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Indian apps that use loopholes in anti-gambling laws -- some dating to India’s colonial era -- to offer bettors cash prizes, vacations to Macau and new iPhones.

About 300 million players use apps such as Dream11, Play Games24x7, Paytm First Games and FanFight to gamble on “fantasy cricket” and rummy card games -- a player base expected to at least double by year’s end. Industry sales are forecast to reach about $3.3 billion by 2024, prompting India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, to say the business eventually will surpass that of music, movies and TV shows combined ($12 billion).

Alibaba’s lottery subsidiary AGTech Holdings Ltd. and SoftBank digital payments subsidiary Paytm jointly back Paytm First Games, an app offering 200-plus games, including Fantasy Cricket, rummy and poker.

The app, unveiled in 2017 as Gamepind, has raised more than $35 million from investors, Chief Operating Officer Sudhanshu Gupta said. Gambling makes up more than 40% of all revenue earned by games, he said.

Related: China Calls on Philippines to Ban Online Gambling


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By Bloomberg / Apr 09, 2020 09:34 AM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Foxconn, the company responsible for assembling most of the world’s Apple Inc. iPhones, will aid the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by developing and making ventilators in the U.S.

The Wisconsin plant owned by Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., will be used to manufacture ventilators, Medtronic Plc Chief Executive Officer Omar Ishrak told CNBC.

Foxconn confirmed the partnership in a statement on Wednesday but did not say when it will start making the medical equipment. Evelyn Tsai, spokesperson for founder Terry Gou, said production would take place in Wisconsin and Taiwan.

There has been a critical shortage of supply globally for ventilators needed in the treatment of severe cases of Covid-19. Foxconn’s collaboration with Medtronic covers design and development of the devices. Production will start within the next four to six weeks, Ishrak said, without quantifying a volume.

Foxconn has been making face masks, used to curb the spread of the virus, in China since February and its subsidiary Sharp Corp. also began churning them out in Japan in late March.

The company’s share price was up 5.3% in Taipei on Wednesday. It released better-than-anticipated March-quarter sales numbers on April 6.

Fellow Taiwanese tech manufacturing supplier Kinpo Electronics Inc. also announced plans to begin producing coronavirus-fighting medical equipment in the U.S. starting in May.

Foxconn’s contract for its Wisconsin plant was signed with great fanfare in late 2017. President Donald Trump, who had helped bring the deal together with the state’s then-governor, Republican Scott Walker, said Foxconn would revitalize U.S. manufacturing and that its massive factory hub would become “the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Since then, the plant-- which was originally intended for making display panels -- has been criticized for delays and changes of direction. The company missed its first-year hiring target by a wide margin, ending 2018 with 178 full-time employees.

Related: Export Backlogs Grow for Chinese Ventilator-Makers


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By Bloomberg / Apr 08, 2020 09:33 AM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Japanese companies began to close retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and offices, while expanding work-from-home policies, after the government declared a state of emergency in major metropolitan areas.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd., Lumine Co. and Rakuten Inc. are closing stores, while Nintendo Co. said it will shut its flagship Tokyo shop until further notice. Toyo Tire Co. said it would close its headquarters and other operations in Hyogo Prefecture for a month, while workers telecommute. Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. also said it would close all offices in the affected areas for a month, including its main Tokyo site.

Critical businesses in manufacturing and technology will keep operating. Automakers, including Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co., plan to continue assembly, while Toshiba Corp. affiliate Kioxia Holdings is maintaining normal operations at its Yokkaichi plant, a key producer of memory chips for iPhones and other smartphones. Grocers and convenience stores, including those operated by Seven & i Holdings Co. and Lawson Inc., will remain open so residents can shop for essentials.

The state of emergency declaration affects Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures, which together account for about half of the country’s economic output. That’s fueled concern that output will tumble by as much as 20% in the current quarter, driven by an anticipated drop in retail and entertainment.

“A big drop in April-June GDP is unavoidable because the service sector, which accounts for a big chunk of Japan’s economy, will be asked to shut down,” said Yuki Endo, senior economist at the Hamagin Research Institute. “Most of employment in this sector is part-time. Employment conditions for part-time workers will deteriorate greatly.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a news conference that if people reduce contact by at least 70% or 80%, in two weeks the increase in infections will peak out, according to experts’ calculations. He called on all office workers to work from home, except for essential services.

Details regarding which businesses will be asked to close will be announced on April 10 and take effect the following day, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at a briefing on Tuesday.

Related: Japan’s Abe Moves to Declare Emergency, Pass Record Stimulus


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By Bloomberg / Apr 03, 2020 10:13 AM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Singapore’s government urged residents to consider ordering their groceries online rather than going to the shops. That just became tougher.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Lazada Group SA is temporarily suspending new grocery orders in Singapore after strict physical distancing measures and rising coronavirus cases triggered a surge in orders.

RedMart, Lazada’s online grocer unit, will not take new orders until it resumes on April 4, the company said in a notice to customers on Thursday. RedMart will use this time to make changes to the range of products available and prioritize daily essentials such as rice, flour and eggs, it said, adding that it will fulfill existing orders.

Lazada’s RedMart and other grocery delivery services such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Now have been kept busy amid harrowing economic times in Singapore. These companies have been trying to cope with surging demand as about 5.7 million people in the densely populated island increasingly turn to online grocery shopping, part of Singapore’s S$7.5 billion ($5.2 billion) grocery market estimated by Euromonitor.

While lockdowns in neighboring Malaysia may have disrupted food supply into Singapore, government officials have assured the nation it won’t run out of food or basic necessities.

Related: Multiple Countries Ban Food Exports as Demand Spikes Fuel Shortage Fears


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By Wen Simin, Huang Shulun and Lu Yutong / Apr 02, 2020 03:27 PM / World

Photo: Visual China

Photo: Visual China

Multiple countries in Asia and other parts of the world have put exports of agricultural goods on hold due to fears of potential food shortages in their own domestic markets.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Monday that the country will suspend exports of white rice and paddy rice starting April 5 to ensure local food security amid the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing only fragrant rice to be traded.

Around 40% of the Asian nation’s 620,000 tons of exported rice last year was shipped to neighboring China, data from Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) shows.

Earlier, Vietnam, the world’s third largest rice exporter, declined new rice contracts from overseas since Saturday but hasn’t rolled out any specific restriction on exports. The nation, which accounts for 15% of the world’s trade in rice by volume, shipped 6.37 million tons of rice abroad in 2019, data from its Ministry of Industry and Trade shows.

A statement from Vietnam’s government shows there was a 31.7% year-on-year jump in the country’s rice export in the first two months of this year to 928,798 tons. “If exports keep rising at this pace, Vietnam would face the risk of shortages for domestic consumption,” the ministry said.

Kazakhstan has also adopted a similar strategy by suspending 12 kinds of food products including wheat and sugar since March 22 to secure enough domestic supply, while Egypt has issued a notice saying it is suspending exports of all kinds of legumes for three months starting Saturday as “part of preventive measures”.

Although the world’s largest rice exporter India hasn’t taken any action against potential food shortages, the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed on March 24 has already crippled the transport of goods, as all public transport has been suspended and states’ borders have been closed.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later.

Contact reporter Lu Yutong (yutonglu@caixin.com)


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By Wang Junhai / Mar 30, 2020 03:43 PM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The disruption of international transport and supply chains caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic could create volatility in China’s agricultural commodities markets, especially among areas reliant on imports. These issues could be exacerbated by the reemergence of pests and diseases that could further constrict supply.

As the world’s top importer of soybeans — a key material for edible oil and agricultural feedstuff, China imported 85 million tons of soybeans in 2018, accounting for 85% of its total soybean consumption that year. South America, the main producers of soybeans, has revised up its output forecast for 2020 to 102.4 million tons. The possible increase in supply could see downward pressure on prices.

On the other hand, if countries there fail to control the spread of Covid-19, national lockdowns could be implemented. This would lead to soybean shipments grinding to a halt, and subsequently causing shortages in China later this year and driving prices up.

A similar situation could also play out in corn markets. China’s corn production is expected to drop by 18 million tons in 2020, which could lead to higher prices. The potential reemergence of the fall armyworm, a pest that can devastate corn crops and is widespread in China, would also put upward pressure on prices.

The price fluctuations of both corn and soybean will also be influenced by the recovery of the country’s poultry sector following the stabilizing of Covid-19 on the Chinese mainland, as this would heavily affect demand.

These contradictory and opposing forces could all lead to massive price fluctuations for agricultural produce and goods.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later.

Contact translator Lu Yutong (yutonglu@caixin.com)

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By Bloomberg / Mar 24, 2020 10:10 AM / World

Customers browse inside the Apple Inc. store in Hong Kong

Customers browse inside the Apple Inc. store in Hong Kong

Apple Inc.’s request for its popular watches to be excluded from tariffs on Chinese imports was approved by the U.S. Trade Representative, according to a letter dated Friday from USTR to the company.

President Donald Trump imposed a 15% tariff on a list of goods in September that included the Apple watch. He cut in half those tariffs as part of an initial trade deal with Beijing that went into effect Feb. 15.

Apple argued in its request last year that its product, as a consumer electronic device, should be exempted because “it is not strategically important or related to ‘Made in China 2025’ or other Chinese industrial programs.”

The company also said it had not identified a source outside of China that is able to meet U.S. demand for this product in the coming year.

An Apple spokesman said the company had nothing to add to the filing.

Related: Apple's Supply Chain Woes Linger Even as China Recovers

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By Han Wei / Mar 23, 2020 10:51 AM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

South Korea is providing an interesting case study of how to combat the virus, after cases initially skyrocketed with a massive cluster of infections, once making it the worst-hit country outside China.

While an increasing number of governments around the world are turning to draconian measures from city shutdowns to sealing borders, South Korea has demonstrated that there is another way to effectively bring the disease under control. Businesses across the country have largely carried on, and no city was locked down. With falling numbers of new cases, life in South Korea seems to be on track to returning to normal.

More importantly, South Korea has one of the world’s lowest fatality rates from Covid-19 at just 1%, compared with the 3.4% global fatality rate estimated by the World Health Organization in early March.

Korean officials attribute their relative success to a strategy called TRUST, for transparency, robust screening and quarantine, unique but universally-applicable testing, strict control and treatment.

However, while South Korea provides a model that other countries may look to copy, it is far too early to say the country has “won the war” against the virus or be complacent.

South Korea’s new cases began trending downward starting March 7 with daily increases of fewer than 100. That ended, however, with a rebound March 19, when 152 new infections were reported, including a cluster at a nursing home in Daegu. The previous week, another cluster of cases appeared around a call center in Seoul.

The spread of Covid-19 has been slowed in South Korea largely due to implementation of strict social distancing and public hygiene policies, according to Jin Yong Kim, a Korean infectious disease physician. Speaking to Caixin, Kim also offered this warning, “The enemy we fear most is not the virus, but the next surge we must face without changing our current lifestyle.”

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com)

Read the Full Story: In Depth: Why South Korea Is Winning Its Covid-19 Fight


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By Ding Yi / Mar 16, 2020 05:14 PM / World

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has denied knowledge of a reported bribery investigation into the company by the U.S. government.

On Friday, NBC News reported that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating ZTE over possible bribes paid to foreign officials in order to gain advantages in its global operations, citing two sources familiar with the matter. The Wall Street Journal also reported the claims.

In a Monday statement published on the website of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, ZTE said that it “has not received notices from the relevant government departments of the United States in this regard.” The company will continue to prioritize making itself a trusted and reliable business partner in the global markets, the statement added.

ZTE’s statement comes just three days after U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a bill that bars small state-backed telcos from using government subsidies to purchase networking equipment from ZTE and its Chinese peer Huawei, which the legislation deems a national security threat.

In 2017, ZTE, which relies heavily on American-made core parts for its smartphones and networking gear, pleaded guilty and paid nearly $900 million in fines after a U.S. investigation found that the Chinese company had violated a U.S. trade embargo on the sale of U.S. technology-powered products to Iran.

The U.S. later found the company had violated that initial agreement, and in 2018 fined ZTE another $1 billion and made it pay an additional $400 million into an escrow account against potential future violations.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Trump Signs Law Barring Small State-Supported Telcos from Buying Huawei Equipment


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