Archive for ‘Shenzhen’

23/06/2019

Chinese cities see improving air quality from Jan. to May

BEIJING, June 23 (Xinhua) — Air quality improved in Chinese cities in the first five months of 2019, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE).

Some 337 Chinese cities enjoyed good air quality on 80.3 percent of days from January to May this year, up 0.6 percentage points from the same period last year. Nearly 120 cities met the air quality standards, including 20 cities joining this year, data of MEE showed.

The average PM2.5 density, a key indicator of air pollution remained unchanged at 44 micrograms per cubic meter over the period and the average density of PM10 and sulfur dioxide fell 2.6 percent and 13.3 percent respectively year on year.

Haikou, Lhasa and Shenzhen ranked top three on the list of 168 cities’ air quality in the first five months while cities in the provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shanxi lagged behind.

Several regions saw a decrease in PM2.5 in May 2019, with that in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and Yangtze River Delta down 16.7 percent and 8.6 percent year on year respectively.

China pledged to coordinate its efforts on environmental protection and economic development in 2019.

The country vowed to reduce imports of solid waste and push for better air quality with better regional coordination and heavy-polluter revamps, according to the ministry.

Source: Xinhua

Advertisements
03/06/2019

Inside China’s state-owned industrial park in Vietnam, Beijing’s image trumps trade war profits

  • China-Vietnam (Shenzhen-Haiphong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone is only Chinese state-owned industrial park in Vietnam
  • Venture has attracted increasing interest since start of US-China trade war, but operators say first duty is to support Xi Jinping’s trade initiative
A total of 16 of the 21 Chinese companies that have relocated to the China-Vietnam (Shenzhen-Haiphong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone did so after the start of the US-China trade war. Photo: Cissy Zhou
A total of 16 of the 21 Chinese companies that have relocated to the China-Vietnam (Shenzhen-Haiphong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone did so after the start of the US-China trade war. Photo: Cissy Zhou
Until the middle of 2018, business was slow for the only Chinese state-owned industrial park in Vietnam, located in the northeastern manufacturing hub of Haiphong and wholly-owned by the Shenzhen city government.
US President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods enacted last year changed that, with 16 of the 21 Chinese companies that have relocated to the China-Vietnam
(Shenzhen-Haiphong) Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone – many of them electronic device manufacturers – having done so since the start of the trade war.
However, profit-making was never the top priority for the park’s operators, which took over the reins from private investors after a series anti-Chinese riots raged through southern and central Vietnam in May 2014 forced the owners to abandon the project.
Protesters set fire to other industrial parks and factories and attacked Chinese workers, killing more than 20 people and injuring more than 100.

While any commercial organisation would be thrilled at the rush of manufacturing firms into Vietnam, for the park’s operators, the first duty is to showcase the Chinese government’s top international economic cooperation project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

[They] requested that we make this industrial park a showcase for the Belt and Road Initiative, so that when our top leaders pay state visits to Vietnam, they can come to our park Chen Xu

The Shenzhen arm of the State-owned Assets Control and Supervision Commission (SASAC), which oversees all city owned companies “has requested that we make this industrial park a showcase for the Belt and Road Initiative, so that when our top leaders pay state visits to Vietnam, they can come to our park”, Chen Xu, vice general manager at the Vietnam-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Park (VCEP), told the South China Morning Post.
The Chinese industrial enclave in Vietnam is part of a largely untold story of the trade war. The common narrative is that Chinese and international firms are fleeing China to avoid paying tariffs, setting up in low-cost hubs in Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but the picture is more nuanced than that.

In Haiphong, a part of the Chinese government is actively encouraging firms to come to Vietnam, armed with US$200 million in investment capital and with a vision of creating 30,000 jobs by the time the entire three-phase project is completed in 2022.

The then-private VCEP project was suspended after the 2014 riots, and after the local government in Vietnam said it would reclaim the land unless it resumed, the Shenzhen government “decided to fully take over the project”, according to VCEP general manager Zhang Xiaotao.

Newcomers must now buy land from the park and build their facilities themselves as the original buildings have already been rented out. Photo: Cissy Zhou
Newcomers must now buy land from the park and build their facilities themselves as the original buildings have already been rented out. Photo: Cissy Zhou

“Our evaluation then was that we could not make a profit out of this project. Then why did we still take it over? We have to serve the Belt and Road Initiative, as it is a national strategy,” Zhang added. “In fact, we surrender part of our profit [because] we sell the land [in the park] at a lower price and with better facilities than in neighbouring industrial parks. We are still in the red based upon the current land price. Our bosses understand the situation and ask us at least not to lose money.

“To make a profit is of course the priority of any company. But we are different, we are not a pure commercial project.”

Furthermore, it is a commonly held assumption that China is only open to losing low-end, labour intensive and high-polluting industry, as it looks to upgrade its manufacturing profile domestically. And while there is certainly truth to that as examples of low-value Chinese manufacturing plants litter Vietnam, VCEP is keen to avoid that persona.

Because of the need to maintain a relatively high-profile, the park does not welcome labour-intensive manufacturers such as shoes factories, because “it is bad for our image”, Chen said. Instead, it is focused on hi-tech engineering – exactly the kind of industry China is desperate to nurture on its own soil. In this sense, the Shenzhen-Haiphong facility represents something of a paradox.

With 1,500 people currently employed, it is some way from reaching its 30,000 goal, but the number of Chinese manufacturers wanting to set up factories in the park is now about eight times what it was before the trade war started last July, according to both Chen and Zhang. Newcomers must now buy land from the park and build their facilities themselves as the original buildings have already been rented out.

The relatively poor state of the surrounding infrastructure has also led VCEP to spend 30 million yuan (US$4.3 million) on a new road and bridge linking the park to the national highway in Haiphong.

“We could not wait for the Vietnamese government to build the infrastructure. They don’t have the money and their efficiency is low, so we built it ourselves,” said Li Meng, a member of VCEP’s Strategic Investment Department, who said it took less than nine months to finish the project.

The cost of the bridge was more than triple what it would have cost in China as “the efficiency is much lower here and we needed to import a lot of material from China due to lack of material in Vietnam”, Li added

“Every inch of the road and the bridge linking the national highway in Haiphong to VCEP is paved with renminbi.”

The Vietnam-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Park has a vision of creating 30,000 jobs by the time the entire three-phase project is completed in 2022. Photo: Cissy Zhou
The Vietnam-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Park has a vision of creating 30,000 jobs by the time the entire three-phase project is completed in 2022. Photo: Cissy Zhou

TP-Link, the Shenzhen-based Chinese manufacturer of computer networking products, has rented a plant in the park and will start testing its equipment in July. The company, the world’s largest provider of consumer Wi-fi networking devices, has bought an additional 140,000 square metres of land in the park to expand production.

When TP-Link bought the land in late-2018, the price was between US$75 to US$80 per square metre, Chen said. Now, six months later, the price has risen to US$90 per square metre. This is indicative of the huge spike in interest in manufacturing in Vietnam caused by the trade war. Data from Vietnam’s Foreign Investment Agency shows that Vietnam attracted US$16.74 billion in foreign capital over the first five months of 2019, a year-on-year increase of 69.1 per cent. Of this, 72 per cent was invested in the processing and manufacturing sectors.

“Chinese local governments are, of course, unhappy with the increasing number of manufacturers who are relocating to Vietnam, but President Xi has clearly put forward the Belt and Road Initiative, which local governments cannot disturb. So local governments are not encouraging manufacturers to relocate, but they dare not try to stop them,” said vice-general manager Chen.

The Chinese inflow has also met with opposition in Vietnam, although far from the scale of the deadly riots of 2014.

“Some local [Vietnamese] media have been demonising China, with local prime time TV news talking about fake Chinese meat and poisoned food and hyping these cases. High-ranking Chinese officials have asked the Vietnamese government to guide public opinion in the right direction,” Chen added.

General manager Zhang added that the Vietnamese authorities have also become more sensitive to investment from China, a view reflected by Lam Thanh Ha, a senior lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam university which operates under the management of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Overreliance on foreign cash in general and Chinese capital in particular may pose risks for Vietnam in terms of exchange rate fluctuations and external influences,” Ha warned.

“As production is generally dependent on transnational supply chains, foreign enterprises in Vietnam are often deeply engaged in both import and export processes, leaving the Vietnamese economy vulnerable to global economic conditions,” Ha added.

In a 

commentary published

by the Post earlier in May, Ha warned that Vietnam should avoid “becoming China’s dirty industrial backyard”, although Zhang had the opposite view.

“We are not shifting all our low-end industries to Vietnam, which would be irresponsible. China is trying to help Vietnam with sincerity, even if we don’t make a profit, we still want to proceed with the project,” he said.
Source: SCMP
29/05/2019

China showing signs similar to Japanese housing bubble that led to its ‘lost decades’, expert warns

  • China’s housing market showing signs of bubble similar to that seen in Japan in 1980s, says Asian Development Bank Institute dean and CEO Naoyuki Yoshino
  • China’s loose policy following 2008 global financial crisis laid foundations for current housing bubble, with US-China trade war adding to concerns
The average price of a home in Beijing has soared from around 380 yuan (US$55) per square feet in the early 2000s to the current level of well above 5,610 yuan (US$813) per square foot, according to property data provider creprice.cn. Photo: Bloomberg
The average price of a home in Beijing has soared from around 380 yuan (US$55) per square feet in the early 2000s to the current level of well above 5,610 yuan (US$813) per square foot, according to property data provider creprice.cn. Photo: Bloomberg
China must exercise extreme caution in handling its housing sector because it is showing signs similar to those witnessed during Japan’s bubble period of the 1980s that contributed to the collapse of Japanese asset prices and its subsequent “lost decades” of weak economic growth and deflation, a Japanese financial system expert warned.
The parallels between China’s current landscape and Japan’s three decades ago are readily apparent, stemming from a loose monetary policy that laid the foundation for the expansion of a housing bubble, said Naoyuki Yoshino, dean and CEO of the Asian Development Bank Institute.
China flooded its economy with credit in response to the 2008 global financial crisis, fuelling rapid growth in mortgages, real estate borrowings and investments over the past decade.
In the same vein, the Japanese government’s relaxed monetary policy in the 1980s triggered an economic bubble that eventually burst and sank the economy into a recession that 
lasted almost 25 years,

with the Bank of Japan continuing to still keep interest rates at or below zero per cent to this day in an attempt to spur inflation.

The Japanese government’s relaxed monetary policy in the 1980s triggered an economic bubble that eventually burst and sank the economy into a recession that lasted almost 25 years. Photo: Bloomberg
The Japanese government’s relaxed monetary policy in the 1980s triggered an economic bubble that eventually burst and sank the economy into a recession that lasted almost 25 years. Photo: Bloomberg

Japan’s experience could serve as a lesson on how to avoid a housing market collapse that would be especially detrimental to China’s financial sector and real economy, according to Yoshino.

“I’m very much concerned that if land prices keep on rising and if the population starts to shrink along with aggregate demand, then China will experience a similar situation to that of Japan,” Yoshino said.

There are already several strong signs of a housing bubble in China, according to Yoshino, firstly the astronomical surge in property prices in recent years.

I’m very much concerned that if land prices keep on rising and if the population starts to shrink along with aggregate demand, then China will experience a similar situation to that of Japan Naoyuki Yoshino
Home ownership is one of the few ways for Chinese families to generate wealth because of limited investment opportunities. The average price of a home in Beijing has soared from around 4,000 yuan (US$578) per square metre, or 380 yuan (US$55) per square feet, in the early 2000s to the current level of well above 60,000 yuan (US$8,677) per square metre, or 5,610 yuan (US$813) per square foot, according to property data provider creprice.cn.

The increase has also lifted the housing price to income ratio sharply from 5.6 in 1996 to 7.6 in 2013, well above the Japanese rate of 3.0 at its peak in 1988. The price to income ratio is the basic affordability measure for housing.

According to the Global Times, a reasonable home price should be three to six times the median household income. That means a family with an average income can buy a house with three to six years’ annual income. The house price to income ratio in China is above 50 in the first-tier cities and 30 to 40 in the third- and fourth-tier cities, the newspaper said in October. There are four levels of cities in China, defined by a number of factors including gross domestic product (GDP) and population, with Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen considered tier-one cities.

Another worrying sign, according to Yoshino, is that China’s financial sector has lent more heavily to the real estate sector than did Japanese banks during their bubble period.

Thirdly, the ratio of Chinese housing loans to the nation’s GDP has consistently been higher than Japan’s by about three times more.

Ever since US President Donald Trump started imposing tariffs on Chinese imports in July, worries have been mounting that China’s property bubble and its record debt level would make the economy vulnerable to the impact of rising trade tensions, leading to a sharper-than-expected economic slowdown.

Despite a government crackdown on debt and risky lending over the last several years, housing prices and bank lending to the sector have continued to rise, pushing homes beyond what the vast majority of people can afford, as well as putting many property developers deeply into debt.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top government think tank, said in a report last week that the growth in housing prices in China’s bigger cities, caused by a relatively short supply of new homes, is likely to push up costs across the country.

“The government should closely monitor these cities to avoid overheating,” said Wang Yeqiang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who co-authored the report.

Property developers have begun a debt-fuelled land-buying spree just as urban housing demand is entering a long-running structural decline, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics. The potential supply of property that could be built on developers’ land reserves jumped last year to a record high, meaning the risk of a glut of new housing is real, Evans-Pritchard added, if developers were to convert all their land reserves into housing tracts.

“Since real estate drives around a fifth of GDP, a sharp downturn in this sector would be contagious, resulting in a jump in defaults across a wide swathe of the economy that could quickly erode bank capital buffers,” he warned.

China’s corporate debt stood at 155 per cent of GDP in the second quarter of 2018, much higher than other major economies, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. In comparison, Japan’s corporate debt level is 100 per cent of GDP and is 74 per cent in the US. China’s corporate debt includes issuances by its 

local government

vehicles which by extension is mostly credit with an implicit guarantee from the central government.

Since real estate drives around a fifth of GDP, a sharp downturn in this sector would be contagious, resulting in a jump in defaults across a wide swathe of the economy that could quickly erode bank capital buffersJulian Evans-Pritchard

China’s imbalance between housing supply and demand may worsen because it faces a similar economic transition that is already well underway in Japan – a

rapidly ageing population

and

shrinking workforce

that led to Japan’s long-term deflation problem, said Yoshino, who is also the chief adviser to the Japan Financial Services Agency’s Financial Research Centre.

Even if rising housing demand due to urbanisation were to push China’s housing prices higher over the near term, the country faces risks from an oversupply of housing in the longer term due to its increasingly unbalanced demographic structure, he said.
The government has proposed that China’s retirement ages of 45 to 50 years for females and 55 to 60 years for males introduced in the 1980s be gradually increased to 65 years for both by 2045 due to a rapidly ageing population.
The rising population of retirees will consume fewer goods and services compared to younger families with children, and in turn, could dampen business investment given lower expected rates of return.
At the same time, more retirees means a bigger burden on the younger generation of taxpayers, which would reduce their wealth and change patterns of consumption. This is especially worrying on the back of China’s high debt level and pension funding gap, similar to the situation in Japan, Yoshino said.
In Japan, benefits from government pension schemes account for an increasing share of the country’s accumulated debt as spending on social protection programmes now represents more than a third of the government’s total budget.
China’s national pension fund is forecast to peak at 6.99 trillion yuan (US$1 trillion) in 2027 before it gradually runs out by 2035, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Photo: AFP
China’s national pension fund is forecast to peak at 6.99 trillion yuan (US$1 trillion) in 2027 before it gradually runs out by 2035, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Photo: AFP
The strain is also evident in China with the

national pension fund

forecast to peak at 6.99 trillion yuan (US$1 trillion) in 2027 before it gradually runs out by 2035, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, forcing the government to start to transfer assets from state-owned companies to fill the funding gap.

Against the broader economic slowdown, compounded by the trade war with the US, policymakers are also expected to carve out a highly expansionary fiscal budget for this year, with the broad deficit surging to 6.6 per cent of China’s GDP, up from 4.7 per cent last year, according to Larry Hu, head of China economics at Macquarie Capital.

Alicia Garcia Herrero, Asia-Pacific chief economist at Natixis, noted that the US criticisms of China’s unfair trade practises and currency manipulation were reminiscent of the US-Japan disputes in the 1980s and 1990s.

Because Japan was politically and economically dependent on the US at that time, it inevitably implemented economic policies to reduce its current account surplus. Subsequently, Japan suffered from the bursting of its asset price bubble, which led to deflation and the lost decades.

However, Herrero said that the modern China is less dependent on the US and so is in a better position to resist pressure to adjust its economic policies to create demand for American products.

Wang Yang, one of the seven members of China’s elite Politburo Standing Committee, said the US-China trade war could slash one percentage point off Beijing’s economic growth this year. Last year, growth expanded at its slowest pace since 1990, while corporate bond defaults hit a record high and banks’ non-performing loan ratio hit a 10-year high.

Source: SCMP

25/05/2019

Across China: “Sino-British Street” seeks rejuvenation

SHENZHEN, May 25 (Xinhua) — A southern Chinese trade hub boasting special links with Hong Kong is hoping the enhanced efforts to build the g will revitalize its tourism industry and local economy.

Chung Ying Street, or “Sino-British Street,” straddles the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the mainland city of Shenzhen and has been a special zone where local residents from both sides are allowed to cross the border freely.

It was once a boomtown popular among mainland visitors, who entered with a special permit to snatch duty-free goods from Hong Kong, but fell into decline after travel to Hong Kong was made easier for mainlanders.

The street derived from a small village, which was divided by the “Sino-British” borderline after Hong Kong became a British colony in the 19th century.

Sha Jintao, a 73-year-old resident, remembers how the street became a boomtown as China opened up and tightened links between the mainland and Hong Kong.

“When I was a child, there were only a few farmers and fishermen living on the mainland side of the street, while the Hong Kong side bustled with shops and businesses,” Sha said.

But as Shenzhen rose as a forefront of China’s reform and opening up starting in the late 1970s, the street became the center of changes. New shops and factories propped up with the inflow of Hong Kong investments, and the fancy commodities from its Hong Kong stores wooed in large numbers of mainland tourists.

Historical records show the number of tourists flocking into the 250-meter-long street peaked at 100,000 a day in the 1980s. As many as 89 jewelry stores opened in its heyday and sold 5 tonnes of gold jewelry in half a year.

SURVIVAL CRISIS

The heyday was however short-lived. After Hong Kong returned to the motherland in 1997, the street began to lose its appeal, as shopping in Hong Kong was made much easier for mainland tourists. Its daily visitors dropped below 10,000 after 2003, when mainlanders were allowed to independently travel to Hong Kong.

Many stores closed due to a loss of customers, and some survived by selling fake jewelry, winning the street much notoriety, recalled Sha, who then headed the local neighborhood committee.

Sha said the ephemeral boom was limited to the era when most Chinese had limited access to the outside world, so as the country opened its door wider, the street’s function as a “window” faced an inevitable doom.

“Now with a smartphone, a consumer could easily buy goods from across the globe,” he said, referring to China’s cross-border e-commerce boom. “So if is just for the purpose of shopping, why take the trouble of traveling to the Chung Ying Street?”

The street is now more of a cultural site, dotted with relics and museums displaying its history, but locals are hopeful that the ongoing construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will usher in another golden era for their neighborhood.

China has planned to turn the greater bay area, which encompasses Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in Guangdong Province, into the world’s largest bay area in terms of GDP by 2030.

Earlier this month, the city government of Shenzhen said it will upgrade its ports with Hong Kong to boost the greater bay area development. The Shatoujiao Subdistrict, where the Chung Ying Street is located, was reserved for a new cooperation zone featuring tourism and consumption.

Optimism is running high in the community. New industries like artificial intelligence (AI), health and high-end shipping service have taken root in Yantian District, which administers Shatoujiao, and Sha is buzzing around to connect business people from Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

“Shatoujiao and its Chung Ying Street have boasted the one-of-the-kind advantage in Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation. We’ll work hard to turn the blueprint of the greater bay area into a reality here,” said Chen Qing, party secretary of Yantian.

Source: Xinhua

17/05/2019

Chinese police detain driver after three pedestrians are mowed down at roadside

  • Police in Shenzhen look for clues to accident in driver’s medical records
  • Motorist complains of ‘sudden attack’ at time of accident
Police in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, are investigating a driver’s medical history after a fatal accident on Thursday. Photo: Weibo
Police in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, are investigating a driver’s medical history after a fatal accident on Thursday. Photo: Weibo
Police in southern China have detained a motorist after three people were killed and seven injured in a car accident on Thursday night.
Officers said a car went out of control and struck pedestrians on a road in Nanshan district in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, at about 7.20pm. The 23-year-old driver, surnamed Liu, was taken into custody.
In a statement online, the Shenzhen public security bureau said blood and urine tests showed the driver was sober and drug-free. They said medicine for epilepsy was found in the vehicle.
Two dead, six injured in Japan after bus drives through pedestrians in Kobe

During questioning, Liu told officers he lost control of car because he had had “a sudden attack”, but did not elaborate.

Police said they were examining Liu’s medical records.

In China, people with epilepsy are not allowed to apply for a driving licence, according to regulations from the Ministry of Public Security.

Source: SCMP

22/04/2019

Huawei says launches ‘world’s first’ 5G communications hardware for autos

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Huawei Technologies launched on Monday what it said was the world’s first 5G communications hardware for the automotive industry, in a sign of its growing ambitions to become a key supplier to the sector for self-driving technology.
Huawei said in a statement that the so-called MH5000 module is based on the Balong 5000 5G chip which it launched in January. “Based on this chip, Huawei has developed the world’s first 5G car module with high speed and high quality,” it said.
It launched the module at the Shanghai Autoshow, which began last week and runs until Thursday.
“As an important communication product for future intelligent car transportation, this 5G car module will promote the automotive industry to move towards the 5G era,” Huawei said.
It said the module will aid its plans to start commercializing 5G network technology for the automotive sector in the second half of this year.
Huawei has in recent years been testing technology for intelligent connected cars in Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuxi and has signed cooperation deals with a swathe of car makers including FAW, Dongfeng and Changan.
The company, which is also the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker, is striving to lead the global race for next-generation 5G networks but has come under increasing scrutiny from Washington which alleges that its equipment could be used for espionage. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Source: Reuters
15/04/2019

Int’l talent exchange conference opens in Shenzhen

CHINA-SHENZHEN-17TH CIEP (CN)

A foreign job seeker attends a job fair during the 17th Conference on International Exchange of Professionals (CIEP) in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong Province on April 14, 2019. The conference kicked off in Shenzhen on Sunday, attracting about 4,000 agencies and organizations from more than 50 countries and regions, as well as 40,000 government representatives, experts and high talented people. (Xinhua/Mao Siqian)

SHENZHEN, April 14 (Xinhua) — The 17th Conference on International Exchange of Professionals (CIEP) opened in south China’s tech hub Shenzhen on Sunday.

The two-day event, featuring a series of forums and recruitment fairs, attracted more than 4,000 professional institutions and organizations as well as over 40,000 government officials, experts and high-end talents from more than 50 countries and regions.

Over 1,500 enterprises will provide 30,000 jobs at the recruitment fairs.

A variety of activities were held in Britain, the guest of honor of this year’s CIEP, before the conference’s opening to attract more innovative overseas talent to start their business in China.

Created in 2001, CIEP has become one of China’s top events for international talent exchange.

Source: Xinhua

07/04/2019

China-EU tourism cooperation receives boost, official says

BRUSSELS, April 6 (Xinhua) — China-European Union (EU) relations in tourism get a boost as the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year has scored a success, an official recently said.

During the tourism year, China and the EU held more than 100 promotional activities. It “has been extremely successful,” said Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission (ETC).

There was a 5.1-percent year-on-year increase in Chinese arrivals in EU destinations in 2018, and among the top ones in terms of the volume of Chinese arrivals were Britain, Germany and France, according to the latest figures from the ETC and the air travel analysis agency ForwardKeys.

“We continue to see the benefits in 2019,” Santander added. “The growth in Chinese travellers has been solid, and the near future, judging by current bookings, will see the EU continuing to increase its share of this valuable market, not just to traditional destinations, but lesser-known and emerging ones as well.”

Chinese bookings to the EU for the first four months of 2019 are 16.9 percent ahead of where they were at the end of 2017, said the ETC, adding that this compares very favorably to the global trend, which is 9.3 percent ahead.

According to a recent report by China Tourism Academy and China’s online travel agency Ctrip, 70 percent of Chinese tourists in 2018 chose “package tours” when traveling in Europe, due to language, visa, culture and other factors.

Nevertheless, the proportion of independent and customized travel continues to rise. In 2018, the demand for customized European tours booked by the travel website increased by 127 percent over the past year, far higher than the growth rate of the overall market, said the report.

In addition, a number of new routes were launched between China and Europe in 2018, including direct flights from Fuzhou to Moscow, Changsha to London, Jinan to Paris, and Shenzhen to Brussels. In 2018, there were more than 600 flights a week between China and Europe, according to the report.

Ctrip in 2018 forecast that consumption of each tourist in Europe will exceed 25,000 yuan (about 3,721 U.S. dollars) in two years, with the total annual consumption to reach 150 billion yuan (about 22.3 billion dollars).

“Our findings confirm what a concerted effort to boost tourism can achieve. It also appears to have lasting effects, as we can see in the forward booking figures,” said Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys.

China’s domestic travel agencies are also deepening the cooperation with Europe. For example, the SkyScanner, Ctrip’s online travel search platform, set up its first overseas calling service center in Edinburgh in April 2018.

Source: Xinhua

10/03/2019

China’s wealthy families are turning to long holidays abroad as their efforts emigrate overseas are halted

  • Foreign lifestyle experiences are becoming more popular as citizens seek to escape pollution, food and medicine safety worries and authoritarian government controls
  • Citizens encountering more barriers to their dreams of travelling abroad, with severe limits on moving money overseas and restrictions on visiting foreign countries
Thailand, including the likes of Chiang Mai, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are popular destinations for Chinese families. Photo: Shutteratock
Thailand, including the likes of Chiang Mai, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are popular destinations for Chinese families. Photo: Shutteratock

Xu Zhangle and her husband and their two children are a typical middle-class couple from Shenzhen, and along with 60 other Chinese families, they are going on an extended holiday to Thailand in July, where they hope to enjoy an immigrant-like life experience.

The family have paid a travel agent around 50,000 yuan (US$7,473) for the stay in Chiang Mai in the mountainous north of the country, including transport, a three-week summer camp for their daughters at a local international school, rent for a serviced apartment and daily expenses.

Zhangle loves Chiang Mai’s relaxed lifestyle and easy atmosphere and wants to live as a local for a month or even longer, instead of having to rush through a short-term holiday.

“It would not be just [tourist] travelling but rather a life away from the mainland.” she said.

Recently, upper middle-class citizens have increased their efforts to safeguard their wealth and achieve more freedom by spending more time abroad.

They have invested considerable amounts of money in overseas properties and applied for long-stay visas, although many of their attempts have ended in failure.

Chinese citizens are encountering more barriers to their dreams of travelling abroad, with severe limits on moving money overseas and restrictions on visiting foreign countries.

Still, growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China.

Among the options, there is growing demand for sojourns abroad of a month or more, to enjoy a foreign lifestyle for a brief period to make up for the fact that their emigration dreams may have stalled.

“I think this is becoming a trend. Chinese middle-class families are facing increasing difficulties to emigrate and own homes overseas. On the other hand, they still yearn for more freedom, for a better quality of life than what is found in first-tier cities in China.

They are eager to seek alternatives to give themselves and their children a global lifestyle,” said Cai Mingdong, founder of Zhejiang Newway, an online tour and education operator in Ningbo, south of Shanghai.

“First, the availability of multiple-entry tourist visas and the sharp drop in air ticket prices have made it convenient and practical to stay abroad for from a few weeks to up to three months each year.”

Blacklist labels millions of Chinese citizens and businesses untrustworthy

Now, many well-to-do Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in a number of countries — including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries — for up to six months at a time.

“In 2011, a round-trip air ticket from Shanghai to New Zealand cost 14,000 yuan (US$2,000), but now is about 4,000 (US$598),” added Cai.

This opens up the possibility for many middle-class families who are not eligible to emigrate, to live abroad for short periods of time.

Many wealthy Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries, for up to six months at a time. Photo: AP
Many wealthy Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries, for up to six months at a time. Photo: AP

Chinese tourists made more than 140 million trips outside the country in 2018, a 13.5 per cent increase from the previous year, spending an estimated US$120 billion, according to the China Tourism Academy, an official research institute under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

“In [the Thai cities of] Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there are more and more Chinese who stay there to experience the local lifestyle, which is different from theirs in China. The life there is very different from that in China,” said Owen Zhu, who now lives in the Bangkok condo he bought last year.

“The freedom, culture and community are diversified. The quality of air, food and services are much higher than in first-tier cities in China, but the prices are more affordable.

“In Bangkok, in many international apartment complexes where foreigners live, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom [apartment] is about 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan.”

China’s richest regions are also home to the most blacklisted firms
A one-bedroom apartment in Shenzhen in southern China is twice as expensive, with rents continuing to rise rapidly.

There are global goods, and it is easy to socialise with different people from around the world,” Zhu added

“Many Chinese people around me, really, come to Thailand to live for a while and go back to China, but then come back again after a few months.”

Both Cai and Zhu said they discovered the new phenomenon among China’s middle class and decided it was a business opportunity.

Growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China. Photo: AP
Growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China. Photo: AP

Zhu is in the process of registering a company in Bangkok and plans to build an online platform to service the needs of Chinese citizens living abroad who do not own property or have immigration status, especially members of the LGBT community.

Cai said dozens of Chinese families in the Yangtze River Delta had paid him to send their children to schools in New Zealand or Europe for around three or four weeks in the middle of the school year, while the parents rent villas in the area, with New Zealand and Toronto in Canada among the most popular destinations.

Last year, Zheng Feng, a single mother and freelance writer from Beijing, rented a small villa in Australia for a month for them, a friend and their children to escape Beijing’s pollution and experience life overseas.

“To be honest, I don’t have enough money to invest in a property or a green card in Australia. But it’s very affordable for me and my son to pay about 30,000 yuan (US$4,484) to live abroad for one or two months.” Zheng said.

China says 2018 growth was worth more than Australia’s whole GDP

Zheng will join the Xu family in Chiang Mai later this year and she is also planning a similar trip to England next year.

Zheng’s friend, Alice Yu, invested in an American EB-5 investor visa a few years ago, and plans to make one or two month-long trips abroad each year until her family is finally able to move to the United States.

Demand for the EB-5 investor visa in China seems to be waning given heightened uncertainty about the future of the programme and US immigration law in general under US President Donald Trump.

Approval for the visa can now take up to 10 years, resulting in a huge backlog that has further dampened interest and led to a significant dip in investment inflows into the US from foreign individuals.

A one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around bout 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan a month. Photo: AFP
A one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around bout 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan a month. Photo: AFP

“Maybe it will soon become standard for a real Chinese middle-class family to have the time and money to enjoy a long stay at a countryside villa overseas,” said Yu.

“Regardless of whether we can get a long-term visa for the United States, I want my children grow up in a global lifestyle and with more freedom than just growing up on the mainland. So do all wealthy and middle class Chinese families, I think.”

Karen Gao’s son started studying at an international school in Chiang Mai in June, at the cost of about 70,000 yuan (US$10,462) a year, after she quit her job as a public relations manager in Shenzhen and moved to Thailand on a tourist visa.

For better or worse? China’s complicated employment explained

“A few months each year for good air, good food and no censorship and internet control, but cheaper living costs compared to Beijing, it sounds like a really good deal to go,” said Gao, who has now been offered a guardian visa to accompany her son, who has already been given a student visa.

“In Shenzhen, I wasn’t able to get him into school because I had no [local] residence permit.

“It would be the best choice for us because we feel so uncertain and worried about investing and living in the mainland.”

Last year, Gao, like thousands of other private investors mostly middle class people living in first-tier cities, suffered significant losses when their investments in hotels and inns in Dali, Yunnan province, were demolished amid the local government’s campaign to curb pollution and improve the environment around Lake Erhai.

“We were robbed by the officials without proper compensation,” Gao said.

Source: SCMP

06/03/2019

Huawei: The story of a controversial company

The African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa is a shiny spaceship-like structure that glistens in the afternoon sun.

With its accompanying skyscraper, it stands out in the Ethiopian capital.

Greetings in Mandarin welcome visitors as they enter the lifts, and the plastic palm trees bear the logos of the China Development Bank.

African Union HQ, Addis Ababa

African Union HQ, Addis Ababa

 

Everywhere, there are small indications that the building was made possible through Chinese financial aid.

In 2006, Beijing pledged $200m to build the headquarters. Completed in 2012, everything was custom-built by the Chinese – including a state-of-the-art computer system.

For several years, the building stood as a proud testament to ever-closer ties between China and Africa. Trade has rocketed over the past two decades, growing by about 20% a year, according to international consultancy McKinsey. China is Africa’s largest economic partner.

But in January 2018, French newspaper Le Monde Afrique dropped a bombshell.

It reported that the AU’s computer system had been compromised.

The newspaper, citing multiple sources, said that for five years, between the hours of midnight and 0200, data from the AU’s servers was transferred more than 8,000km away – to servers in Shanghai.

This had allegedly continued for 1,825 days in a row.

Le Monde Afrique reported that it had come to light in 2017, when a conscientious scientist working for the AU recorded an unusually high amount of computer activity on its servers during hours when the offices would have been deserted.

It was also reported that microphones and listening devices had been discovered in the walls and desks of the building, following a sweep for bugs.

The reaction was swift.

Both AU and Chinese officials publicly condemned the report as false and sensationalist – an attempt by the Western media to damage relations between a more assertive China and an increasingly independent Africa.

But Le Monde Afrique said that AU officials had privately expressed concerns about just how dependent they were on Chinese aid – and what the consequences of that could be.

In the midst of all of this, one fact remained largely unreported.

The main supplier of information and communication technology systems to the AU headquarters was China’s best-known telecoms equipment company – Huawei.

The company says it had “nothing” to do with any alleged breach.

Huawei “served as the key ICT provider inside the AU’s headquarters”, said Danielle Cave of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in a review of the alleged incident.

Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China

Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China

“This doesn’t mean the company was complicit in any theft of data. But… it’s hard to see how – given Huawei’s role in providing equipment and key ICT services to the AU building and specifically to the AU’s data centre – the company could have remained completely unaware of the apparent theft of large amounts of data, every day, for five years.”

There is no evidence to indicate that Huawei’s telecoms network equipment was ever used by the Chinese government – or anyone else – to gain access to the data of their customers.

Indeed, no-one has ever gone on record to confirm that the AU system was compromised in the first place.

But these reports played into years of suspicions about Huawei – that a large Chinese company might find itself unduly influenced by the Chinese government.

Ren and the rise of Huawei

“When I first started out 30 years ago… we didn’t really have any telephones. The only phones we had were those hand-cranked phones that you see in old World War II films. We were pretty undeveloped then.”

Huawei’s founder and chairman Ren Zhengfei is reminiscing to the BBC about the origins of the world’s second-biggest smartphone firm, while sitting in the Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen – a symbol of the success that he’s worked his whole lifetime for.

A long marbled staircase, covered in plush red carpet, greets you as you first walk in.

At the top of the stairs, a giant painting depicts a traditional Chinese New Year scene.

Inside Huawei's Shenzhen HQ

Inside Huawei’s Shenzhen HQ

A few kilometres away in Dongguan, Huawei’s latest campus is even more eye-catching.

The site – designed to accommodate the company’s 25,000 R&D staff – comprises 12 “villages”, each of which recreates the architecture of a different European city, among them Paris, Bologna and Granada.

It’s as if Silicon Valley had been re-imagined by Walt Disney. Long corridors of Roman pillars and picturesque French cafes adorn the campus, with a train connecting the different areas, running through manicured gardens and past an artificial lake.

It’s a world away from the environment that Mr Ren found himself in when he first started the company in 1987. “I founded Huawei when China began to implement its reform and opening up policy,” he says. “At that time, China was shifting from a planned economy to a market economy. Not only people like myself, but even the most senior government officials, did not have the vaguest idea of what a market economy was. It seemed it was hard to survive.”

Ren was born in 1944 in Southern China – a tumultuous, chaotic place, one of the poorest regions in an already destitute country.

For a long time, hardship was all he ever knew.

He was from a family of seven children. “They were very poor,” says David De Cremer, who has co-written a book on Ren and Huawei.

“I think hardship is something that you can see throughout his life, and which he keeps emphasising himself.”

To escape that life of poverty and drudgery, Ren did what many young Chinese men of that era did. He joined the army.

Soldiers from the People's Liberation Army, 1972

Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army, 1972

“I was a very low-ranking officer in the People’s Liberation Army,” he says. “I served in an ordinary construction project, not a field unit. At the time, I was a technician of a company in the military, and then I became an engineer.”

He left the military in 1983 when China began to downsize its forces, and went into the electronics business.

By his own admission, he wasn’t a great businessman at first.

“I was someone who had been in the military all my life at the time, used to doing what I was told,” he says. “Suddenly, I began to work in a market economy. I was at a total loss. So I too suffered losses, I too was deceived, and I was cheated.”

But he was quick to learn, and was a keen student of Western business practices and European history.

“I did research on what exactly a market economy was all about,” he says. “I read books on laws, including those about European and US laws. At that time, there were very few books on Chinese laws, and I had to read those on European and US laws.”

Five years later, he founded Huawei – the name can be translated as “splendid achievement” or “China is able” – to sell simple telecoms equipment to the rural Chinese market. Within a few years, Huawei was developing and producing the equipment itself.

Sometime in the early 90s, Huawei won a government contract to provide telecoms equipment for the People’s Liberation Army.

By 1995, the company was generating sales of around US$220,000, mainly from selling to the rural market.

The following year Huawei was given the status of a Chinese “national champion”. In practice, this meant the government closed the market to foreign competition.

At a time when China’s economy was growing by an average of 10% per year, this was no small advantage. But it was only when Huawei started to expand overseas in 2000, that it really saw its sales soar.

In 2002, Huawei made US$552m from its international market sales. By 2005 its international market contracts exceeded its domestic business for the first time.

Ren’s early days in business instilled in him a desire to protect his company from the whims and fancies of the stock market. Huawei is privately held and employee-owned. This gave Ren the power to plough more money back into research and development. Each year, Huawei spends US$20bn on R&D – one of the biggest such budgets in the world.

“Publicly listed companies have to pay a lot of attention to their balance sheets,” he says. “They can’t invest too much, otherwise profits will drop and so will their share prices. At Huawei, we fight for our ideals. We know that if we fertilise our ‘soil’ it will become more bountiful. That’s how we’ve managed to pull ahead and succeed.”

One story from the early days of the company tells how Ren was cooking for his staff (he loves to cook, or so the story goes). Suddenly he rushed out of the kitchen and announced to the room: “Huawei will be a top three player in the global communications market 20 years from now!”

And that’s exactly what happened. In fact, those ambitions were surpassed.

Today, Huawei is the world’s biggest seller of network telecommunications equipment.

From aspiring to be a company like Apple, it now sells more smartphones than Apple.

But shadows have continued to loom over Huawei’s international success.

Ren and Huawei’s links to the Chinese Communist Party have raised suspicions that the company owes its meteoric rise to its powerful political connections in China. The US has accused Huawei of being a tool of the Chinese government.

It’s an accusation which Ren denies. “Please don’t think that Huawei has become what it is today because we have special connections,” he says. “Even 100% state-owned companies have failed. Do good connections mean you will succeed then? Huawei’s success is still very much due to our hard work.”

The case against

It was 1 December 2018. US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping were dining on grilled sirloin followed by caramel rolled pancakes at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

They had a lot to discuss. The US and China were in the middle of a trade war – imposing tariffs on each other’s goods – and growth forecasts for both countries had recently been cut as a result. This was adding to the fear of a slowing global economy.

In the event, the two leaders agreed a truce in the trade war, with Donald Trump tweeting that “Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward!”

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at dinner, December 2018

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at dinner, December 2018

But thousands of kilometres north in Canada, an arrest was taking place that would throw doubt on this rapprochement.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and Ren Zhengfei’s eldest daughter, had been detained by Canadian officials while transferring between flights at Vancouver airport.

The arrest had come at the request of the US, who accused her of breaking sanctions against Iran.

“When she was detained, as her father, my heart broke,” says Ren, visibly emotional. “How could I watch my child suffer like this? But what happened, has happened. We can only depend on the law to solve this problem.”

Meng Wanzhou being driven to court in Canada

Meng Wanzhou being driven to court in Canada

Huawei’s problems were just beginning. Nearly two months later, the US Department of Justice filed two indictments against Huawei and Ms Meng.

Under the first indictment, Huawei and Ms Meng were charged with misleading banks and the US government about their business in Iran.

The second indictment – against Huawei – involved criminal charges including obstruction of justice and the attempted theft of trade secrets.

Both Huawei and Ms Meng deny the charges.

January 2019: Acting US attorney general Matthew Whittaker announces charges against Huawei and Meng Wanzhou

January 2019: Acting US attorney general Matthew Whittaker announces charges against Huawei and Meng Wanzhou

The charge of stealing trade secrets centres on a robotic tool – developed by T-Mobile – known as Tappy.

According to legal documents, Huawei had tried to buy Tappy, a device which mimicked human fingers by tapping mobile phone screens rapidly to test responsiveness.

T-Mobile was in partnership with Huawei at the time, but it rebuffed the Chinese firm’s offers, fearing it would use the technology to make phones for T-Mobile’s competitors.

It’s alleged that one of Huawei’s US employees then smuggled Tappy’s robotic arm into his satchel so that he could send its details to colleagues in China.

After the alleged theft was discovered, the Huawei employee claimed that the arm had mistakenly fallen into his bag.

Huawei claimed that the employee had been acting alone, and the case was settled out of court in 2014. But the latest case is built on email trails between managers in China and the company’s US employees, linking Huawei management to the alleged theft.

The indictment also details evidence of a bonus scheme from 2013, offering Huawei employees financial rewards for stealing confidential information from competitors.

Huawei has denied any such scheme exists.

Meng Wanzhou, photographed in 2014

Meng Wanzhou, photographed in 2014

This is not the first time that Huawei has been accused of stealing trade secrets. Over the years companies like Cisco, Nortel and Motorola have all pointed the finger at the Chinese firm.

But US fears about Huawei are about much more than industrial espionage. For more than a decade, the US government has seen the company as little more than an arm of the Chinese Communist Party.

These concerns have been brought to the fore with the advent of “fifth generation” or 5G mobile internet, which promises download speeds 10 or 20 times faster than at present, and much greater connectivity between devices.

As the world’s biggest telecoms infrastructure provider, Huawei is one of the companies best placed to build new 5G networks. But the US has warned its intelligence partners that awarding contracts to Huawei would be tantamount to allowing the Chinese spy on them.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently cautioned against Huawei, saying, “If a country adopts this and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The UK, Germany and Canada are reviewing whether Huawei’s products pose a security threat.

Australia went a step further last year, and banned equipment suppliers “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government”.

Huawei was not mentioned by name, but Danielle Cave of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says the company posed a national security risk because of its government links.

She cites an article in Chinese law that makes it impossible for any company to refuse to help the Chinese Communist Party in intelligence gathering.

“Admittedly, what is missing from this debate is the smoking gun,” she says.

“For the average person who has a Huawei smartphone it’s not a big deal. But if you’re a Western government that has key national security to protect – why would you allow this access to a company that is in the political system that China is in?”

For his part, Ren says that Huawei’s resources have never and would never be used to spy for the Chinese government.

“The Chinese government has clearly said that it won’t ask companies to install backdoors,” he says. A “backdoor” is a term used to describe a secret entry point in software or a computer system that gives access to the person or entity who installed it to the inner workings of the system.

“Huawei will not do it either,” he continues. “Our sales revenues are now hundreds of billions of dollars. We are not going to risk the disgust of our country and our customers all over the world because of something like that. We will lose all our business. I’m not going to take that risk.”

Xi’s China

Zhou Daiqi is Huawei’s chief ethics and compliance officer.

He’s been with the company for nearly 25 years, in a number of different positions – chief engineer, director of the hardware department, head of the research centre in Xi’an, according to his biography on the company’s website. He is also understood to combine his high-ranking executive duties with another role – party secretary of Huawei’s Communist Party committee.

All companies in China are required by law to have a Communist Party committee.

Zhou Daiqi's profile on Huawei's website

Zhou Daiqi’s profile on Huawei’s website

The official line is that they exist to ensure that employees uphold the country’s moral and social values. Representatives of the committee are also often tasked with helping workers with financial problems.

But critics of China’s one-party system argue that they allow the state to exert control on corporate China. And they say the level of this control has increased in recent years.

“[President] Xi Jinping is exerting greater control over the business community in China,” says Elliott Zaagman, who regularly advises Chinese companies on their PR strategy. “As these companies gain power and influence overseas, the party doesn’t want to lose control over them.”

Ren, however, argues that the role of Huawei’s Communist Party committee is far less important than many in the West believe.

“[It] serves only to educate its employees,” he says. “It is not involved in any business decisions.”

In China, most chief executives are Communist Party members.

Every year, they dutifully turn up to the National People’s Congress along with local and national party chiefs, officials and chief executives.

It’s where the big economic decisions are voted on – although no proposal is put forward which hasn’t already been agreed upon.

Still, big CEOs come to show their commitment to the party, and to contribute to working papers that are meant to help the government understand the concerns of the business community.

Being a member of the party is very much a networking opportunity – in the way one would join a business association.

Elliott Zaagman argues that this is a system that demands loyalty.

“There is no separation from the party and the state,” he says.

“The system in China encourages the lack of transparency in companies like Huawei.”

The worry is that these close links mean that if the Communist Party asked a company to do something, they would have no choice but to comply.

And if that company is one that is involved in sensitive global telecoms infrastructure projects, it’s easy to see why Western observers would be worried.

There is no evidence to indicate that Huawei is in any way under the orders of the Chinese government, or that Beijing has any plans to dictate business plans and strategy at Huawei – particularly when it comes to spying.

But the way in which the Chinese Communist Party has robustly defended Huawei has raised questions about how independent the company is of its influence.

For example, Beijing stated that Ms Meng’s detention was a rights abuse .

And while her extradition case to the US was moving forward, China detained two Canadian citizens and accused them of stealing state secrets. Critics say the detentions are linked to Ms Meng’s arrest.

December 2018: Chinese police patrol outside Canada's embassy in Beijing

December 2018: Chinese police patrol outside Canada’s embassy in Beijing

While not commenting on the arrest of the Canadians, Ren says China’s defence of Huawei is understandable.

“It is the Chinese government’s duty to protect its people,” he says. “If the US attempts to gain competitive edge by undermining China’s most outstanding hi-tech talent, then it is understandable if the Chinese government, in turn, protects its hi-tech companies.”

Over the past few years, there have been signs of a bigger push by the government to get private companies, and in particular tech firms, to cooperate with party rules – even when they are firmly resistant.

 A Didi Chuxing logo adorns a building in Hangzhou, China

 A Didi Chuxing logo adorns a building in Hangzhou, China

China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing’s troubles are an example of the struggles Chinese firms face when they try to uphold their independence in the face of government pressure.

Chinese attitudes to data collection and data privacy are different to those in the West – many people don’t care if businesses have access to their data, arguing that it adds to the convenience of life and work.

Government access to data in China is not the free-for-all that many outside of China assume it to be

Samm Sacks, CSIS

So it wasn’t unusual when, after the murders of two of its passengers by Didi drivers, regulators used the scandal to force Didi to share more corporate data with the government. But Didi resisted – citing customer privacy. Under Chinese law, it had no choice but to comply.

When it did, it handed over “three boxes of data printed on paper, including 95 hard copies for authorities to review”.

According to Samm Sacks of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the case demonstrates that “government access to data in China is not the free-for-all that many outside China assume it to be”.

She says this indicates that there appears to be “a kind of tug of war between the government and companies over data”.

How this plays out will determine how Chinese companies are viewed by foreign governments when they do business overseas.

Companies like Huawei have grown up in a system where to survive and thrive they needed strong links to the Chinese government – there was and is no other choice. But these links could harm their reputation abroad.

“It’s two different systems,” says Zaagman. “Think of it like an electrical outlet. China’s plug doesn’t fit in to the outlets we have in the West.”

What’s at stake

“Basically you want to connect to everything that can be connected.”

Zhu Peiying, head of Huawei’s 5G wireless labs, is showing off devices that can connect to the new technology. From a smart toothbrush that collects data about how well you brush your teeth, to a smart cup that reminds you when you should drink some water, this is a world where everything you can think of is being measured and analysed.

At its most sophisticated, everything in entire cities would be connected – driverless cars, the temperature of buildings, the speed of public transport – the list is endless.

Huawei is thought to be a year ahead of its competitors in terms of its technological expertise and what it can offer customers, according to industry sources.

It’s also thought that the company can offer prices that are about 10% cheaper than its competitors, although critics claim this is because of state support.

Ren dismisses this, saying that Huawei doesn’t receive government subsidies.

He says the real reason behind the US resistance to Huawei is its superior technology.

“There’s no way the US can crush us,” he says. “The world needs Huawei because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily we could just scale things down a bit.”

Many analysts say that Huawei’s exclusion from US networks could actually cause the US to fall behind in its 5G capabilities.

“It would mean we wouldn’t be able to participate in any blended network [using Huawei] in Europe or Asia,” says Samm Sacks of CSIS. “That would put us at a significant disadvantage.”

What this would mean in reality is a world of two internets – or what analysts are calling a “digital iron curtain” – dividing the world into parts that do business with Chinese companies like Huawei, and those that don’t.

Because of US pressure on its allies, Huawei has been on an aggressive public relations campaign to win over customers and government stakeholders.

In recent days, Vodafone’s boss Nick Read called on the US to share any evidence it has about Huawei, while Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s vice president for the digital single market, said in a tweet that he had met with Huawei’s rotating CEO to discuss the importance of being open and transparent, as they explored ways of working together.

But suspicions about Huawei remain.

One security firm reports a sharp rise in inquiries by Asian government clients about Huawei.

“Some have asked us how much they should worry about whether Huawei is really a liability,” says an analyst who consults to Asian governments, on condition of anonymity.

Ren is sanguine about such concerns.

“For countries who believe in them [suspicions about Huawei] we will hold off,” he says. “For countries who feel Huawei is trustworthy, we may move a little faster. The world is so big. We can’t walk across every corner of it.”

But this is about more than just one company or one CEO and his family.

Increasingly, this is perceived as a battle between two world orders, and which one is the future.

In the early days of China opening up, US presidents like George HW Bush espoused the merits of engagement.

“No nation on Earth has discovered a way to import the world’s goods and services while stopping foreign ideas at the border,” he said in a 1991 speech. “Just as the democratic idea has transformed nations on every continent, so, too, change will inevitably come to China.”

1989: George HW Bush in Beijing - he encouraged economic engagement with China

1989: George HW Bush in Beijing – he encouraged economic engagement with China

Previous US administrations believed that economic engagement in China would lead to China following a freer, more “liberal” path.

There’s no denying China has made remarkable strides in the past 40 years. The economy grew by an annual average of 10% for three decades, helping to lift 800 million people out of poverty. It is now the second-largest economy in the world, only surpassed by the US.

Some estimates put China’s economy ahead of America’s by 2030.

It achieved this while maintaining one-party rule and the supremacy of the Communist Party.

But its success has raised concerns that it is only possible with a huge amount of government control over the country’s companies. The fear is that control could be used to achieve the Communist Party’s goals – which are at this point unclear.

“It’s a double-edged sword for China,” says Danielle Cave. “[Because of its laws] the Chinese Communist Party has made it virtually impossible for Chinese companies to expand without attracting understandable and legitimate suspicion.”

Added to this, China has become more authoritarian under Xi Jinping’s rule.

President Xi Jinping 

President Xi Jinping 

“Xi is systematically undermining virtually every feature that made China so distinct and helped it work so well in the past,” writes Jonathan Tepperman, editor in chief of Foreign Policy.

“His efforts may boost his own power and prestige in the short term and reduce some forms of corruption. On balance, however, Xi’s campaign will have disastrous long-term consequences for his country and the world.”

But Ren dismisses this, insisting that China is more open than ever before.

“If this meeting took place 30 years ago,” he says of our interview, “it would have been very dangerous for me. Today, I can be straightforward when answering difficult questions. This shows that China has a more open political environment.”

Still, Ren is hopeful of the direction China will take in the future.

“China has more or less tried to close itself off from the outside world for 5,000 years,” he says. “Yet we had found ourselves poor, lagging behind other nations. It was only in the past 30 years since Deng Xiaoping opened China’s doors to the world that China has become more prosperous. Therefore, China must continue to move forward on the path of reform and opening-up.”

In one of Huawei’s vast campus sites across Shenzen, lies a man-made lake. Swimming in these serene waters are two black swans.

There is a story that Ren put the birds here to remind employees of “black swan” events – unpredictable and catastrophic financial eventualities that are impossible to prepare for. He dismisses this as an urban myth, but it’s hard not to read something into it.

For Huawei, and Ren, these are highly uncertain times with no way of telling what lies ahead.

Source: The BBC

Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India