WORLD NEWS AS REPORTED III

Thai opposition politicians charged on eve of coup anniversary

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 29 min 1 sec ago
Three politicians from the party ousted by Thailand’s generals were charged on Monday with sedition, as dissent grows before the fourth anniversary of the junta’s 2014 coup. The military filed a case after senior Puea Thai party figures railed against the coup organisers at a press conference last week, blasting the generals for repeatedly breaking promises to restore democracy. The party supports former premiers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, whose elected governments...

Singapore firms could have lost billions that would amount to six per cent of Singapore’s GDP through cyber attacks

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 39 min 30 sec ago
By Ethan Rakin Some local companies may not realise the severity but cyber security could lead to major financial losses. According to a study which Microsoft commissioned Frost & Sullivan, it found that cyber attacks on companies in Singapore last year could potentially amount to a staggering US$17.7 billion (S$23.8 billion) in economic damage. That figure would account for six per cent of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Hacking his way to the top: Singaporean...

Japanese climber who lost fingertips to frostbite dies on eighth attempt of Mount Everest

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 2 hours 10 min ago
A Japanese climber, who lost nine fingertips to frostbite in a previous expedition, died on Monday during an attempt to climb Mount Everest, an official said, the third person to die during the current climbing season. Nobukazu Kuriki, 36, was found dead in a tent at 7,400 metres (24,278 feet) on the 8,850-metre mountain, tourism department official Gyanendra Shrestha said from base camp. “Sherpas found his body inside the tent,” Shrestha said. Details of the incident are not...

New Zealand scientists to lead new hunt for Loch Ness monster

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 2 hours 24 min ago
A group of New Zealand scientists are set to tackle the mystery of the Loch Ness monster after more than a thousand years of questions about its existence. The team, led by Professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago, is set to investigate the murky waters of Loch Ness in Scotland next month. The Loch News monster, commonly referred to as “Nessie”, supposedly has a long neck and one or more humps protruding from the water. Evidence of its existence is purely anecdotal, with a...

South Korea’ Hite beer accused of copying logo of ‘Lite’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 2 hours 24 min ago
By Park Jae-hyuk MillerCoors has recently filed an opposition suit against HiteJinro over an application the South Korean brewery filed last year to register the new logo for Hite lager as a trademark in the U.S., according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Sunday. The U.S. brewing giant has accused the Korean firm of copying the Miller Lite logo. If the USPTO rules in favour of MillerCoors, HiteJinro will face a setback in its expansion in the U.S. market and will pay a...

Bangladesh kills 13 suspected drug dealers in major crackdown on ‘yaba’ meth pill trade

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 2 hours 38 min ago
Bangladesh police have shot dead 13 drug traffickers and arrested thousands in an aggressive campaign against the surging trade in methamphetamines and other narcotics. Four drug dealers were killed Sunday in separate raids, police said, while the elite Rapid Action Battalion said its forces had killed nine others since Tuesday. Around 2,300 suspected drug traffickers and users had been arrested, the battalion said, in raids since early May. An estimated US$2.5 million worth of drugs had been...

Malaysia is saddled with US$251 billion debt – and new PM Mahathir is taking aim at his predecessor

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 3 hours 46 min ago
Malaysia is saddled with over 1 trillion ringgit (US$251.70 billion) in debt, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday, blaming the previous government led by former protégé Najib Razak who now faces domestic graft investigations. Mahathir, 92, led an opposition coalition to a spectacular win over Najib’s previously undefeated ruling alliance in a general election on May 9, having campaigned aggressively over people’s rising living costs and a multibillion-dollar...

Philippines takes ‘diplomatic action’ after Chinese bombers land at South China Sea island base

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 4 hours 13 min ago
The Philippines expressed “serious concerns” over the presence of China’s strategic bombers in the disputed South China Sea and its foreign ministry has taken “appropriate diplomatic action”, the spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday China’s air force said bombers such as the H-6K had landed and taken off from islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of training exercises last week, drawing angry reactions from opposition lawmakers in...

Celebrities urge Indonesia’s president to ban cruel trade in dog meat after blowtorch exposé

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - 5 hours 13 min ago
International stars of acting, music and sports have urged Indonesia’s president to ban what they say is a brutal trade in dog and cat meat for human consumption. The appeal comes after Indonesian campaigners against animal cruelty and Humane Society International in January exposed markets on the island of Sulawesi where dogs were bludgeoned by the thousands and blow-torched alive to remove their hair before onlookers including children. The letter to President Joko Widodo released...

‘It is a nightmare’: Parents of Pakistani exchange student killed in Texas prepare for her funeral

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 20:35
Hundreds of people are expected to attend the funeral Sunday in Texas of Sabika Sheikh, the young Pakistani exchange student killed in a mass shooting Friday at a Texas high school, organisers told AFP. The sombre ceremony is to take place at an Islamic centre in the Texas town of Stafford, not far from Santa Fe High School, where the shooting took place, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston said in a statement.  Girl turned down Texas teen – ‘so he killed her and 9 others...

Much to gain from opening-up of finance sector

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
THE opening-up of China’s financial market will bring ample benefits, and it is a necessary step for the country’s economic transition, according to experts. Opening-up in the banking and insurance sectors will help optimize the allocation of financial resources, so that they can better serve the real economy, said Chen Wenhui, vice chairman of China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission. Over the past 40 years, foreign investment has helped with the development of China’s banking and insurance sectors in terms of corporate governance and risk management, Chen said at the Tsinghua PBCSF Global Finance Forum, which opened on Saturday in Beijing. China has ample room for further opening-up. At the end of 2017, the total assets of foreign-funded banks accounted for only 1.32 percent of total assets of China’s banking industry, far behind the over 10 percent seen in many developed markets and other BRICS economies, according to Chen. In the process of further opening-up, China should also improve its risk control mechanisms and regulatory framework, he said. The CBIRC is stepping up efforts to roll out detailed opening-up measures, including easing restrictions on foreign investment and expanding the business scope of foreign-funded banks. The regulator will continue to maintain a tough stance against market irregularities, and create a healthy environment for further opening-up, Chen said at the forum themed “Financial Reform, Opening-up and Stability in the New Era.” China has unveiled a package of opening-up policies in the financial sector regarding market access, business scope and infrastructure, said Zhu Min, former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund. The country’s more open position will help promote reform of financial institutions and financial efficiency, he said. Internationalization of China’s financial sector is necessary as the country’s regulatory strength is still incommensurate with its market heft, he added. “A modern supervision and regulation system can only be established with an open market,” Zhu said.

LG Group chairman dies of brain disease

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
THE chairman of LG Group, Koo Bon-moo, who helped transform South Korea’s fourth-largest conglomerate into a global brand, passed away yesterday after a battle with a brain disease. Koo, 73, had been ill for a year, LG Group said in a statement. Koo had been fighting a brain disease and had undergone surgery, said a group official who declined to be identified. “Becoming the third chairman of LG at the age of 50 in 1995, Koo established three key businesses — electronics, chemicals and telecommunications — led a global company LG, and contributed to driving (South Korea’s) industrial competitiveness and national economic development,” LG said. LG Group also established a holding company in order to streamline ownership structure and to begin the process of succession. The country’s powerful family-run conglomerates are implementing generational succession amid growing calls from the government and public to improve transparency and corporate governance. LG Corp, a holding company of the conglomerate, had said on Thursday its longtime chairman was unwell and it planned to nominate his son to its board of directors in preparation for a leadership succession. Heir apparent Koo Kwang-mo is from the fourth generation of LG Group’s controlling family. He owns 6 percent of LG Corp and currently heads LG Electronics’ information display unit. He joined the finance division of LG Electronics in 2006 and has been involved in several businesses such as appliances, home entertainment and group strategy, LG said. The late chairman adopted Koo in 2004 from his younger brother Koo Bon-neung after his only son died in a car accident. The change at the helm is not expected to be disruptive to the group’s business, one analyst said.

Guitar nets US$500,000

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
A guitar that played a key role in Bob Dylan’s artistic evolution from folk music to rock fetched a half million dollars at an auction on Saturday. The guitar, a 1965 Fender Telecaster that belonged to Robbie Robertson, Dylan’s guitarist, was used by Dylan, Eric Clapton and George Harrison, Julien’s Auctions said on Saturday. It had been expected to fetch between US$400,000 and US$600,000. The guitar marked the singer’s path from folk stylings like “The Times They Are A-Changin’” (1964), to electric rock, like his 1965 hit “Like a Rolling Stone.” Other famous guitars went under the hammer on Saturday: George Harrison’s first electric guitar, a US$40,000 Hofner Club 40, and a Fender Telecaster rosewood guitar made for Elvis Presley in 1968, priced at a cool US$115,200. More than 40 years after his death, Elvis items still fetch a handsome price. A heavily decorated Elvis belt, which he wore during a concert in Hawaii in 1972, sold for US$354,400. A star-shaped diamond ring donated by Elvis to an admirer at a concert in 1975 brought in a sparkly US$100,000. The sale also included show costumes that belonged to artists from Elton John, to Britney Spears and Michael Jackson.

Carrefour Le Marche launches

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
FRENCH retailer Carrefour yesterday launched its innovative Carrefour Le Marche in Shanghai as it extended its partnership with Tencent Group. The smart shop, the first of its kind for Carrefour, features smart technology such as self-payment through the WeChat app, artificial intelligence for facial recognition to guarantee payment security, and self-checkout machine. Le Marche means “market” in French. Although it is half the size of regular Carrefour supermarkets at only 4,000 square meters, the Le Marche store offers a wider range of popular products, especially imported food. “Le Marche is an innovation as China has become a laboratory to try out a new format of retailing,” said Carrefour China President and CEO Thierry Garnier. Garnier said two Carrefour Le Marche outlets will be opened in Shenzhen, where Tencent is headquartered, in the next several months.

Over 100 turboprop planes sold

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
CHINA has delivered more than 100 domestically-produced MA60 and MA600 turboprop planes, including 57 to overseas customers, according to the developer on Saturday. Developed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China Xi’an Aircraft Industry (Group) Company Ltd, the MA60 and MA600 turboprop aircraft are designed to operate regional commercial flights. The MA60 was the first short-range regional turboprop aircraft made in China in line with international airworthiness criteria. It was designed for short airstrips. The MA600 is an upgraded version of the MA60. The manufacturer is now developing the MA700 whose maiden flight is set for 2019. Designed to be a high-speed turboprop regional aircraft, the MA700 has received 185 orders of intent from 11 domestic and foreign customers.

Postal business soars with help of drones

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
Yang Daxue gets up early and goes to the post office in town to watch the drone take off.“I have only seen it on television, and I never expected that we would use drones to deliver mail here,” said Yang, a shop owner in Weicheng Township, in Qingzhen City of southwest China’s Guizhou Province. “It flies and delivers mail really quickly.”Weicheng in Guizhou is surrounded by lush green mountains making transport in the area very difficult.To make mail delivery easier, local postal authorties have resorted to drones to help with mail delivery for Yingyan, Yinqiao, Maixiang, Xingguang and Lianhuasi, five of the most remote villages of the town, as part of the pilot program.The multi-rotor drone, more than a meter in diameter, consists of six propellers. A green box, bearing the China Post logo is lodged underneath the aircraft.Taking off every Monday and Thursday, the drone is capable of transporting newspapers, letters and packages up to a total of 4.4 kilograms with a single battery charge.Many residents in the township have never seen a drone, and every flight draws a big crowd.The unmanned aircraft’s takeoff and landing spot is located on the rooftop of the China Post branch in Weicheng, operated by Wang Hua, a postman at the branch.“In the past, sending letters to these five villages could take a whole day,” Wang said.Although the villages are not very far away from the branch in terms of distance, Wang said his deliveries on motorcycle were often delayed by dangerous traffic conditions such as steep paths and sharp bends in the road.“Not to mention getting covered with ice during the winter and getting muddy on rainy days,” he said.“Such deliveries have been shortened to less than two hours thanks to the drone, which follows designed routes and is operated via a smartphone application,” Wang said.Wang now lays a red-and-blue parking apron on the ground, loads the drone with mail and parcels, scans the QR code on the drones battery and on the aircraft with his smartphone, and taps the “launch” button before the drone takes off.According to Wang, technicians with the drone’s manufacturer in the eastern province of Zhejiang monitor and measure the real-time wind speed at the back-end. In the case of weather disruption, the drone will deviate from the route, land at a pre-arranged place and return automatically.At a maximum speed of 12 meters per second, the drone is capable of flying up to 100 meters above the ground within 10 seconds, and takes slightly more than one hour to finish its route.To finish the set route with the 10-minute flight distance from one village to another, the battery needs to be replaced with a fully charged one when the drone arrives in each village, “like a relay,” Wang said.A WeChat group has been established so that the drone’s caretakers from the five villages can inform each other about its whereabouts.Wen Bing is one of the drone’s caretakers in Yingyan Village. Upon receiving the takeoff notice, she checks the real-time flight position on her smartphone, and lays out the parking apron on the village square.After the aircraft lands, she quickly takes out the mail and parcels, loads the drone with a fully charged battery, and scans the QR codes before the drone flies to its next destination.The drone usually delivers newspapers and letters to Wen, but pairs of shoes are occasionally sent by villagers working in other provinces. “It would take two hours to walk to the township and fetch them if it were not for the drone,” she said.The branch post office offers postal services to more than 80,000 people living in 30 villages in the townships of Weicheng and Anliu with only three postmen, said Chen Zhongxiang, postmaster of the branch.Chen, whose father was also a postman of the township, is glad to see that the drone guarantees the safety of both the postmen and mail, while reducing the postmen’s workload. “I remember as a kid, my father would often go out to deliver mail for days, whether it was rainy or windy,” Chen said. “At that time, postmen like my father walked or rode on horses to send mail.”Chen was a postman for seven years himself, so he can relate to the postmen. “We might add more flights if the pilot program goes well, but the traditional ways of postal delivery have not yet been replaced due to the drone’s payload limitation,” Chen said.“My biggest wish is that the drone can deliver heavier packages,” said Wen Bing, the drone caretaker. “I hope that with the drone, online shopping will be much more convenient for the villagers.”

Business-style matchmaking: How recruitment is changing

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
In 2011, Wang Yi, a Chinese product manager working at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, told his wife that he wanted to move back to China.Wang, who received his doctoral degree in computer sciences at Princeton University, brought home with him some keen insights about why so many Chinese who go to the US don’t achieve their ambitions there.“There is something wrong with our traditional English teaching model,” Wang said. So, in 2012, he set up a technology-driven education platform called Liulishuo to try to help remedy the problem.For entrepreneurs and professional talent like Wang, China is now regarded as fertile ground to advance their careers or start up their own businesses. On the 40th anniversary of China’s opening up to the outside world, the nation has produced the second-largest global economy and become a global leader in innovation. With that progress, demand for specialized talent has become a pressing concern. Market landscape About 20 years ago, when executive search firm Bólè Associates was established, its main aim was to recruit professionals for multinational companies doing business in China, according to David Chan, chief executive officer of the company. The headhunter was looking for people with international backgrounds, who could “culturally” assimilate into global firms. Today, that strategy has radically changed. Chan told Shanghai Daily that the firm is recruiting more Chinese who were educated and worked abroad but now want to return to the motherland. Yang Junfei, team leader for technology, media and telecommunications at Bólè, said the firm’s clients include the likes of Xiaomi, a Chinese mobile phone maker that ranks fourth in the world in terms of shipments, and Toutiao, a popular news-gathering provider. The new buzzword in personnel recruitment is “growth hackers,” a term coined in 2010 to describe people who cut across traditional business operations like development, marketing and sales to help companies, especdially startups, achieve the fastest growth possible.Zhu Yuhuan, Bólè’s senior marketing manager, said growth hackers are in high demand, particularly in technology companies. Pete Chia, president of BRecruit, a firm specializing in jobs for middle- to senior-level professionals in the Asia-Pacific region, said the speed of development in China and the focus on “made for China” are changing consumer habits and pushing multinational companies to adapt to new trends.“This is quite different from my own homeland, Malaysia, where most people still take pride in buying imported goods,” he said. Recruitment efforts mirror changes in the Chinese economy.Ten years ago, when the Chinese government was trying to create as many jobs as possible to weather the global financial crisis, BRecruit was mainly focused on recruitment for lower-cost industries. The name of the game back then was outsourcing. “Everything was outsourced,” said Chia, noting that the Zhangjiang area in Shanghai and the northeastern city of Dalian were two popular hubs for that business.When China was still an export-driven economy, Chia’s team mostly helped companies like Siemens and ABB recruit junior workers and more entry-level engineers. In 2012 and 2013, as China’s economy stabilized, companies began looking to value-added services. “Localization” was the watchword across almost every industry, Chia said. Companies were looking for people who understood the local market and had a research-and-development mindset. Take the retail fashion industry as one example. It formerly sought employees who could smile at customers and take their money. Now it needs people who can connect with local consumers, tell them the stories behind niche brands and give advice on what fashion trends would suit a particular customer. “This kind of hiring is different,” Chia said. “The industry needs people who are passionate about their job, know the market and can manage customer relationships.” The battleground for recruitment has shifted online in the past two decades. Guo Tao, general manager of Zhaopin.com’s Shanghai branch, said their firm first went digital in 1997 and was able to ride the dot-com boom. Today, it is one of the top three online recruitment platforms in China. Guo said the employment landscape in China changed dramatically after the “iron rice bowl” or lifetime job security system in China was broken. That created tremendous movement in the job market. Recruitment has broadened from newspaper ads and job fairs to online sites. Guo predicts that mobile phones will be the dominant job search engine in the future. Still, online recruitment activity remains low. Only 20 percent of the 430,000 companies registered with Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce report that they look for new employees via the Internet, according to Guo, who added that many companies still rely on internal referrals and headhunting agencies. The talent gap Last July, China unveiled an ambitious plan to build a 1 trillion yuan (US$157.3 billion) artificial intelligence industry by 2030. To do that, the nation needs to fill a huge talent gap. Artificial intelligence is one sector where demand will grow significantly, Bólè’s Chan predicted. But about 70 percent of China’s talent pool for advanced technology industries is now residing in other countries, primarily the US and India.The State Council, China’s cabinet, unveiled a guideline this month to promote the development of “Internet Plus healthcare.” Zhao Huili, vice president of human resources at We Doctor Holdings Ltd, a leading technology healthcare solutions platform in China, said the online health services industry is about to “enter the fast lane.” She said the industry is in dire need of talent that crosses the line between traditional medical management and Internet operations, big data and artificial intelligence.Overseas credentials Bólè’s Chan said Chinese who have studied or worked abroad are needed to fill employment gaps on the mainland.Chan himself is something of a returnee. He was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Australia. He came to work on the mainland in 2011.“We tend to have a bit of ‘glass ceiling’ in terms of very senior-level Chinese people,” he said. “If you look at those occupying very senior positions, most of them tend to be non-Chinese internationals.” He added that the decision whether or not to return to China for professionals working abroad, as in California’s Silicon Valley, often revolves around lifestyle considerations. “Government is on the right track,” said Chan, noting that big cities like Shanghai have incorporated lifestyle incentives into recruitment programs for overseas talent. As a father of two boys, Liulishuo’s Wang admitted he was concerned about lifestyle and schooling for the children. Then he learned from a classmate that the Yangpu District in Shanghai was sponsoring a very supportive environment for returned overseas Chinese. With the help of that program, Wang moved into a nice three-bedroom apartment earmarked for professional talent and received preferential treatment for his sons’ education. He also received venture capital to help get his business started. In terms of hiring professionals, Chan said Chinese firms get high marks for their willingness to adopt incentives and other benefits to attract talent. But when it comes to retaining talent, their success rate is less stellar. “This all comes back to culture, expectation, strategy and commitment,” he said.He advises Chinese companies that are expanding very quickly to improve their internal organizational structures and focus more on the nurturing and career development of executives. BRecruit’s 2018 Salary Watch survey shows that the top three reasons people in general industries change their job are the platform, the culture and the salary. In a break from the past, many job candidates are now willing to work for domestic companies if they are given the right incentives, said BRecruit’s Chia.To compete, global firms also are changing their strategies for retaining talent, he added.

Job market adapts to the needs of a technological age

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
Matching job-seekers with companies needing employees through online platforms worked well when the trend began, but digital recruitment began to show some cracks as users greatly multiplied. “This is a pain point in the industry,” said Guo Tao, general manager of Zhaopin.com’s Shanghai branch.He said that the platform now has more than 600,000 corporate subscribers and 120 million active individual users. Both sides are complaining about inefficiencies in the system. As a result, Zhaopin.com plans to expand its research and development force and adopt state-of-the-art technologies like big data and artificial intelligence to provide better matches and even advice to users. The company is repositioning itself as a “career development platform” which will guide prospective job applicants in their career decisions.“We are aiming to provide more products and more channels to three main target groups: college students, white-collar workers and senior executives,” Guo said. Zhaopin.com used to rely on its advertising and sales team for revenue. Now it wants to strengthen the services it provides to users.“Recruitment, after all, is a low-frequency thing,” said Guo. “We not only hope customers will come to us for help when they want to change their jobs, we also want to be able to predict when that decision might occur.”The platform plans to provide advice to their users on improving job skills based on their search footprints. It also aims to operate online communities. BRecruit, a firm specializing in recruiting middle- to senior-level professionals in the Asia-Pacific region, said one of its clients, an auto company in Nanjing, was looking for new “creative” talent but it had no benchmark to measure what it meant by creativity.“We could ask candidates whether they could design the next generation of cars, but nobody knows exactly how those cars will look like,” said Pete Chia, BRecruit’s president. Because it is a new and emerging sector, candidates don’t necessarily possess relevant experience, so BRecruit needs to look for people who are keen, have the potential to adapt and are willing to work hard in vanguard jobs. The recruitment sector follows the changing trends of industries. Hiring in the past was a lot simpler, Chia said, because the job requirements of company clients were relatively straightforward. But now clients themselves often don’t know what types of people they need to hire. Recruitment firms must offer consulting services and solutions for clients. BRecruit used to segregate its team by industries and work in a vertical way. Now it is building cross-functional teams and encouraging consultants to work in clusters that cut across industries. Further reforms At the recent Boao Forum for Asia President Xi Jinping promised that China will do more to open access to its markets. Chia said the new policies are very “bold and good” and more foreign investment will follow soon.David Chan, chief executive officer of recruitment firm Bólè Associates, predicted that deregulation of financial services, for example, will require more talent in areas such as asset and wealth management. Returning Chinese with expertise in finance will find golden new opportunities, he said.And for non-Chinese, who used to need big pay incentives to come to China, working on the mainland now is more regarded a big step up the career ladder. “Today, if your CV shows that you have worked in China, it will be a big boost for a career,” Chia said. Chia said he sees “endless possibilities” for those seeking work in China.“If you are good at singing, you can stream your music live and make a lot of money today,” he said, by way of one example. Economic development in China’s second-tier and third-tier cities is also a big plus in driving the jobs market. To ride the trend, Bólè established a new business called Single Specialization Team last year. The company said it’s aimed at companies that need speed of operational execution, especially in cutting-edge sectors.Second-tier cities like Chengdu and Wuhan are betting big on industries like gaming and e-learning, which have a big demand for talent, according to Yang Junfei, a team leader at Bólè.Zhaopin.com’s Guo said his company is now working with local governments like Chengdu to implement recruitment initiatives.In early May, Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi Province, released new recruitment polices that include housing subsidies and other incentives. Startups, an emerging engine of the local economy, are eligible for up to 100 million yuan (US$15.8 million) in financing.“The competitiveness of provinces and cities boils down to the quality of talent they can attract,” said Guo.

Startups elbow into electric auto industry

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 18:01
China is not only the world’s largest auto market but it is also the most advanced in the field of electric cars. Small wonder that so many startup companies are hoping to benefit from national policies favoring green cars. The startups are hoping to gain a foothold by rolling out electric car models with intelligent and connected features inside the vehicles. For them, an electric car is a smart device on wheels.“This year will be a crucial one for these startups,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association. “According to plans of these enterprises, a number of new models will be unveiled his year. Some of the companies, such as Shanghai-based NIO and VM Motor Technology Co, have even entered the stage of actual production.” The startups are raising eyebrows among Chinese consumers and industry insiders alike. They are pioneering new technologies and trying to define what consumers want in a cutting-edge vehicle.“In the past, most people around me paid attention to traditional car manufacturers during the Beijing Auto Show,” said Cheng Yujia, a friend of mine who studies at the School of Automotive Studies of Tongji University. “But this year, they are discussing Chinese electric startups and are eager to get a look at their vehicles.”According to Caixin Global, an estimated 20 electric-vehicle startups have been launched since 2014. The first 10 out of the gate reportedly secured investments totaling more than 50 billion yuan (US$7.9 billion).China began issuing permits allowing non-traditional automakers to manufacture electric cars in 2015. It’s part of a national policy to encourage non-polluting cars and help reduce smog in major cities.Bolstered by such strong government backing, more startups are appearing. With government subsidies and a rising consumer acceptance of electric vehicles in large cities, it’s considered a promising sector.After much initial consumer skepticism, sales of electric cars are becoming more robust. In the first four months of this year, China sold 225,310 electric cars, nearly a 150 percent surge from the same period a year ago. That compares with the 4.8 percent growth rate in the overall auto industry.The country wants to see electric vehicles dominate the roads in the future.Compared with traditional car manufacturers, electric car startups are often more innovative when it comes to interactive functions between drivers and vehicles, and features such as automated driving and connectivity to the Internet. These technologies are helping make electric cars more attractive to consumers, especially a young generation hooked on everything digital.Chinese electric car startups NIO and Future Mobility Co are among the companies betting on technology inside the vehicle.NIO has applied self-driving technology to its electric sport-utility vehicle called the NIO ES8. NIO Pilot, its autonomous driving assistant system, is Internet-connected and equipped with 23 sensors. The system includes a highway pilot, a traffic jam pilot and automatic emergency braking. Drivers can interact with the vehicle through a voice-activated artificial intelligent assistant named Nomi to broadcast music, close the windows and navigate to a destination. Last month, Future Mobility Co showcased its smart electric sport-utility vehicle called the Byton Concept. It comes equipped with multiple screens, including a touch screen that replaces the central console in traditional cars. The touch screen automatically adjusts brightness according to changes in light, and it enables content to be shared with other passengers in the car.Face-recognition cameras allow the driver or passenger to unlock the door. The car also recognizes driver and passenger preferences to auto-adjust seat angles, entertainment options and other information. Autonomous driving features are applied on the model.Smart features and technology are the trump cards for electric car startups. However, some industry insiders also point to constraints for these firms.The startups face competition from the traditional carmakers like Volkswagen, Ford and BMW, which are muscling into the electric car space. These auto giants have made new energy vehicles a high priority in their future development plans in China.“The automobile is a very complicated business, involving all aspects of supply chain, manufacturing, sales and after-sales services,” said Zhang Xiaofeng, an independent market analyst. “For all of those aspects, traditional car manufacturers have certain advantages because they have been in the business for so many years. Electric startups still lack that level of experience.”Cui said manufacturing electric vehicles involves huge upfront costs. “The competition is only going to get fiercer in the future,” he said. “Electric car startups will need to accelerate their development pace, and not many of them will be able to survive with a mass production scale of cars.” For electric car startups, there’s also the challenge of turning what is now consumer curiosity into concrete sales. They need to build brand image and cultivate buyer loyalty.According to a recent survey by consulting firm J.D. Power, the startups are in a weaker position than traditional automakers.The survey of 2,710 Chinese consumers found that only 9 percent would consider buying startup brands, while 46 percent said they prefer traditional car brands. The remainder of the respondents said they would look at both before making any decisions.

Hounded by graft probe and fearing for his safety, Malaysia’s Najib seeks police protection

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 12:37
Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak fears for his safety and has asked for police protection, his spokesman said on Sunday, a day after the ex-leader complained about the conduct of police searching properties for evidence of corruption. Having ruled Malaysia for nearly 10 years, Najib – and his wife, Rosmah Mansor – have been barred from leaving the country after his coalition’s defeat in an election on May 9. The new government led by his mentor-turned-foe,...

Rosmah Mansor: police raids and lavish lifestyle of Malaysia ex-PM’s wife draw comparisons to Philippines’ Imelda Marcos

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 11:17
In early 2015, as Malaysians were protesting over government plans to introduce a consumption tax, the then first lady was complaining about the rising costs of her hairdresser. Rosmah Mansor lamented in a speech at a public forum on the implementation of the tax that she had to pay 1,200 ringgit (US$300) for one hair-dyeing session, at a time when the minimum wage job in Malaysia paid 900 ringgit a month. Rosmah’s comments angered many Malaysians, who had already noticed her luxury...

Sri Lanka still a divided nation as it marks anniversary of war’s end

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 10:47
Sri Lanka commemorated the ninth anniversary of the end of its civil war as a divided nation, with minority Tamils calling for an international investigation into alleged wartime atrocities and the government defending soldiers from allegations. President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday presided over a war memorial ceremony in the capital, Colombo. He said even though some accuse the military of war crimes, such allegations have not been formally levied by world bodies such as the UN Human...

North Korea demands Seoul return waitresses who ‘defected’ from China after threat to scrap Donald Trump summit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 09:42
North Korea has demanded Seoul repatriate a dozen waitresses who fled to the South two years ago, just days after abruptly calling off a planned inter-Korean meeting following weeks of tentative rapprochement. The issue has long been controversial, with Pyongyang claiming the women were kidnapped from a North Korean state-run Azalea Friendship Restaurant in Ningbo, China in 2016. Seoul insists they defected of their own free will. But the restaurant’s manager said in a recent interview he...

Indian ex-diplomat found guilty of passing secrets to Pakistan

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 09:21
An Indian diplomat convicted of passing state secrets to Pakistan’s intelligence services has been jailed for three years, her lawyer said Sunday. Madhuri Gupta was found guilty in a New Delhi court on Friday of “spying and wrongful communication of information” while posted to the Indian embassy in Islamabad. Gupta, 61, was arrested in 2010 for allegedly passing information to the ISI, the intelligence wing of India’s arch-rival Pakistan. The low-level diplomat was...

It took 12 days for a Pakistan court to find Asma guilty of murder. It took 20 years to be acquitted

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 09:00
Asma Nawab spent two decades in jail, wrongfully accused of murdering her family. Finally acquitted, she is seeking a new life, free from whispers and memories, as her plight draws fresh questions over Pakistan’s woeful justice system. Nawab was just 16 years old when someone slit the throats of her parents and only brother during an attempted robbery at their home in Pakistan’s chaotic port city of Karachi in 1998. With the killings dominating headlines, prosecutors pushed for...

Philippines powerless to stop Beijing’s militarisation of South China Sea, President Duterte says

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 08:36
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that he would not provoke China into a war following reports that the Chinese military landed long-range bombers on an airstrip in the disputed South China Sea. “You know they have the planes, not stationed in Spratly [Islands] but near the provinces facing … Chinese provinces facing the Spratly and the China Sea. And with their hypersonic, they can reach Manila within seven to 10 minutes,” he said in a speech on Saturday in...

Indonesia’s Reformasi activists were burned, beaten, electrocuted – and they still fear for their country

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 08:33
February 4, 1998, was a day that would change Desmond Junaidi Mahesa’s life forever and he never saw it coming. The social justice activist had left his office to attend a gathering after the Muslim festival of Eid in Jakarta, but he never made it to the celebration. Instead, he was approached by two men who grabbed him, threw a bag over his head and forced him into a car. About 40 minutes later, he found himself in a 2 x 2.5-metre room in an undisclosed location where he would be kept...

China’s love-hate relationship with Japan is love again. Ahem

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 07:01
Over the years, few love-hate relationships have come close to the geopolitical one between China and Japan. Right now in the media, the ‘love’ part seems to be getting a lot of attention. Not only has Premier Li Keqiang recently returned from the first visit to Japan by a top Chinese leader in eight years, but Beijing and Tokyo have also agreed to resume their regular summits, with promises that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit China and President Xi Jinpi ng will...

Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte wants to be friends, why isn’t China playing ball?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 06:02
President Rodrigo Duterte is at sea again, navigating through unceasing Chinese militarisation off his shores on the one hand and growing domestic demand to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty on the other, even as he seeks friendlier relations with the Asian giant. After announcing with much fanfare plans to visit underwater plateau Benham Rise to mark the first anniversary of its renaming as Philippine Rise, Duterte this week decided not to go the distance after all. Flying to a navy...

Indonesia’s reformed economy can’t quash inequality

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 04:33
On a sunny Friday in Denpasar, the capital of Indonesia’s Bali, a group of burly men gather at a small, gated, two-house complex across from the city’s main cathedral. Some sit outside smoking and playing with their smartphones. Some chat inside the unfurnished main house. A white SUV, a dirt bike and a shiny Harley-Davidson – with a number plate from East Java – are parked at the unkempt courtyard. A woman brings them cold water and French fries back and forth from the...

Top Philippine diplomat in Hong Kong Antonio Morales backs calls to raise minimum wage of city’s domestic helpers

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 04:00
The Philippines’ top diplomat in Hong Kong has called on the city’s government to raise the minimum monthly wage for domestic helpers amid rising costs of living, with workers asking for a pay rise of 25 per cent to HK$5,500 (US$700) to prevent an exodus to mainland China. Their demands were prompted by Manila’s labour minister Silvestre Bello telling Dubai newspaper Gulf News that Beijing wanted Filipino domestic helpers, cooks, carers, musicians and nurses to work...

Singapore’s got a taste for Hong Kong cooking – and it’s coming back for more

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 03:30
A t least once a month, marketing executive Clare Lee heads down to Singapore’s prime shopping belt Orchard Road to satisfy her craving for a box of Tai Cheong Bakery’s famous egg tarts. At S$2 (HK$11.70) apiece, the pastry can be almost double the price of those found in local bakeries in Singapore’s heartlands. But the 26-year-old is undeterred. “They have one of the best egg tarts I’ve ever tasted – the crust is really buttery and the egg custard is good...

How ‘polarising’ former strongman Mahathir Mohamad could bring unity to Southeast Asia

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 03:03
Malaysia’s election stunner, which brought a nonagenarian back to power, is expected to have immense strategic ramifications for the region. At the remarkable age of 92, Mahathir Mohamad is the oldest elected leader on Earth, yet is far from a spent force.  The return of the still fiery and feisty leader, who spent two decades in the previous century ruling his country with an iron fist, is likely to mean a more assertive Malaysian foreign policy.  If anything, Mahathir is set...

Malaysia’s Mahathir: good news for China, not so much for the US

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 05/20/2018 - 02:03
It’s been a week since Mahathir Mohamad took office as Prime Minister of Malaysia, for the second time. And the 92-year-old has already moved with the aplomb expected of an ex-strongman – he ruled Malaysia with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003 – to assert control over all levers of government. On the economic front, his one-time right hand man Daim Zainuddin, 80, is helming a “Council of Eminent Persons”, which just days after being appointed last week, has come up...

Key ally of Narendra Modi quits as leader of Indian state after two days in the job due to lack of support

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 14:27
The chief minister of a key Indian state plunged into a political crisis that saw Supreme Court hearings and accusations of bribery quit on Saturday after admitting he did not have enough support to form a government. B.S. Yeddyurappa of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stepped down after just two days in the post and minutes before he was to have faced a vote of confidence in the Karnataka state assembly. His move ended a week of mounting acrimony between Prime Minister...

Kashmir deserted as security intensifies for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 11:33
Large parts of Indian Kashmir closed down on Saturday to protest a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Muslim-majority region gripped by deadly new tensions and clashes with rival Pakistan. Shops shut and the main streets of the main city, Srinagar, were empty except for police and paramilitary patrols while authorities laid on maximum security for Modi’s one-day visit. Authorities cut mobile internet services in the region and imposed a curfew in parts of Srinigar. Separatist...

North Korean military officer crosses Yellow Sea to defect, South Korean media reports

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 11:23
A North Korean military officer, accompanied by a civilian, defected to the South across the Yellow Sea on Saturday, a South Korean news report said, citing a government source. “A small boat was spotted in waters off the north of Baengnyeong Island” near the inter-Korean border, the source told Yonhap news agency, adding that the officer, who holds the rank of major, and a civilian were aboard the vessel. “They expressed willingness to defect.” A Korea Coast Guard...

Malaysians celebrate the downfall of Rosmah Mansor, the big-spending, reviled wife of ousted PM Najib Razak

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 11:15
Malaysia’s unpopular former first lady on Saturday lamented the “trying times” since her husband Najib Razak’s ouster from power, in a plea for public sympathy just a day after police seized a huge trove of cash, jewels and designer handbags linked to the couple. Rosmah Mansor, who is widely reviled for her reported luxurious tastes and tone-deaf attitude towards the struggles of ordinary Malaysians, issued a statement lashing out at the police raids, complaining that...

Commonwealth Bank apologises for staff manipulation of children’s accounts

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 11:05
Commonwealth Bank has apologised for the widespread manipulation of Dollamites accounts by its retail staff in an effort to inflate their bonuses and hit performance targets. The practice, revealed by Fairfax Media on Saturday, involved CBA’s Youthsaver accounts, commonly known as Dollarmites, which are created by school-age children and their families. Staff used loose change – either their own money or the bank’s money – to activate dormant Youthsaver accounts that had...

Japan and Pacific Nations discuss North Korean sanctions and ‘rule of law’ at sea during two-day summit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 10:58
Japan and Pacific island countries on Saturday called on North Korea to take concrete actions toward denuclearisation by complying with UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile development, as they wrapped up a two-day summit meeting in northeastern Japan. In the joint declaration released after the gathering in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and leaders from 14 Pacific island nations expressed “deep concerns” over the North evading international...

Malaysians transfixed by luxury goods seized from ex-PM’s flat

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 10:45
In 10 days of dramatic political developments, none has transfixed Malaysians more than the sight of truckloads of orange boxes containing Hermes Birkin handbags and luggage filled with cash and jewellery being seized from flats linked to former Prime Minister Najib Razak. Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, was known for her love of Birkin bags and her opulent lifestyle, but television footage of the police haul has Malaysia gasping with shock. It is possibly the most sensational image of elite...

Mongolian president urges Mahathir to reopen 2006 case of model murdered in Malaysia

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 10:13
Mongolia’s president has urged new Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to reopen investigations into the murder of a Mongolian model near Kuala Lumpur in 2006, a move that could put more pressure on Mahathir’s embattled predecessor. Shaariibuu Altantuya, 28, was killed and blown up with military grade explosives in a forest on the outskirts of Malaysia’s capital. In 2015, two former police officers were sentenced to death for the crime after first being sentenced in 2009...

Why Malaysia’s China policy is unlikely to change, for now, despite election shock

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 10:03
By all accounts, it shouldn’t have been possible. Years of gerrymandering, malapportionment, and even a desperate attempt to legislate “fake news” ¬ a euphemism for political speech opposing the incumbent – were supposed to leave last week’s Malaysian general election a sadly predictable affair.  Even with the deck stacked in favour of Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, Malaysian voters delivered a political earthquake....

Is Indonesia’s Reformasi a success, 20 years after Suharto?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 08:02
Usman Said surveys the stainless steel plaques bearing the names of his fallen classmates at Trisakti University in Jakarta. Twenty years ago this week soldiers gunned them down amid escalating protests that within days would topple the dictator Suharto. Snipers that day held off ambulances, leaving the young men in their early 20s to bleed to death. Said, who now heads Amnesty International in Jakarta, takes some solace that their deaths weren’t in vain. “We have freedom of...

Indonesian Chinese still face discrimination 20 years after Reformasi

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 06:47
When Francis Xavier Harsono applied for his first passport in 1992 he was brimming with anticipation for his first trip overseas. Back then, things were looking up for Harsono, one of Indonesia’s first contemporary artists. He had been making a name for himself with work that subtly criticised the Suharto regime and an artist-in-residency programme in Adelaide, Australia, awaited him. But then the bureaucrats struck. The passport office forced Harsono, an Indonesian of Chinese descent,...

For China and Japan, is this Trump’s ‘Nixon shock’?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 04:33
Annoyed with a US president who simply seems to change policy at whim, the Japanese prime minister plans to see China’s leader for a one-on-one discussion. This isn’t a description of the sudden warming of relations between Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping over the past few days. It happened in July 1971, when president Richard Nixon announced that he would visit China without having first warned his closest Asian ally, Japan, an event that became known as the Nixon “shock”....

Old Mahathir Mohamad was not always pals with Singapore. What about the new one?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 03:32
Does Mahathir Mohamad’s return to power in Malaysia mean Singapore will soon find itself fending off – once again – the veteran leader’s grand plan for a so-called crooked bridge between the two countries? Mahathir’s second time at the helm as prime minister is not only rattling Chinese investors. Singapore, which endured periods of being his main whipping boy during his turn as premier from 1981 to 2003, is having anxieties of its own. The crooked bridge is one of...

China angers US after landing planes, including H-6K bomber, on a South China Sea reef

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 00:59
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force strategic bomber landed for the first time on an island reef in the South China Sea, something that the US Department of Defence said “serves to raise tensions and destabilise the region”. A spokesman at the Pentagon, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, called the exercise an act of “China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea”.  Military escalation fears as Chinese...

Study finds acupuncture does not improve IVF live birth rates

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 20:34
One of the most popular wellness services at fertility clinics is acupuncture. The traditional Chinese treatment involves placing sterile needles at various points on the body to manipulate the “chi,” or energy flow. Acupuncture is used by a growing number of patients seeking relief from lower back pain, headaches and arthritis. The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) says some studies suggest it may help ease some types of pain, although any...

Asia in 3 minutes: naughty Chinese tourists in Vietnam; naughty monkeys in Thailand

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 14:35
Chinese tourists make a splash in Vietnam with South China Sea T-shirts A photo of Chinese tourists wearing T-shirts depicting Beijing’s claims to the disputed South China Sea has sparked online anger in Vietnam, prompting calls for the visitors to be deported. The shirts featured a map of China and its nine-dash line – the sea boundary found on some 1940s-era maps which Beijing says proves its claim to most of the waterway, despite partial claims from Vietnam and other nations. The...

New owner of Phnom Penh Post denies Cambodian government has launched crackdown on independent press

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 14:29
The new Malaysian owner of one of Cambodia’s major newspapers has brushed off suggestions of a far-reaching media crackdown and vehemently denied links to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for 33 years, as concerns about the country’s press freedom deepen. In a fiery press conference in the capital Phnom Penh on Friday, Malaysian businessman Siva Kumar Ganapathy blasted former Phnom Penh Post journalists as “careless, malicious and defamatory” in their reporting of...

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gets the finger for committing the ultimate Australian pub sin

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 10:10
Did Malcolm Turnbull commit the ultimate Aussie pub sin and jump the queue? One Brisbane man certainly thought so and allegedly unleashed a torrent of abuse – and the finger – at the prime minister and his companions, at a politics-at-the-pub event in Brisbane’s eastern suburbs on Thursday night. But the 27-year-old Carina man did not even realise who he was flipping the bird to – he was just inflamed by the wait at the bar. “Police will allege the man became...

The French ambassador to Malaysia just killed it with his congratulatory speech to Malaysians delivered in fluent Malay

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 09:35
By Sujin Thomas The French Ambassador to Malaysia Frédéric Laplanche has caused a stir online in a congratulatory video to Malaysians on the results of the recent 14th General Election. In the video which was posted on the official Facebook page of the French consulate and embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Laplanche delivered a one-minute message in the Malay language which earned him praises for his impressive pronunciation. The clip, entitled “Tahniah, Malaysia” (...

Thailand’s military government targets opposition for criticising election delays

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 09:20
Thailand’s military government has accused opposition members of flouting a ban on political activity, among other charges, after they criticised it for reneging on promises to restore democracy and protect basic rights, police said on Friday. The military, which has ruled since a 2014 coup it said was needed to restore order after months of protests, promised a return to democratic rule within two years, but has repeatedly delayed general elections, most recently set for February 2019....

Murder, abuse of parents rising in South Korea

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 09:00
By Lee Kyung-min Korea is known for its culture long dominated by Confucianism, which prioritises filial duty and respecting the elderly over other social values. Koreans are taught to uphold the value of “hyo,” a Chinese character for “fulfilling filial duty,” a major source of dispute, especially among couples over supporting their parents as they grow old and become sick and financially needy. Recent data raises a question about whether Koreans are still bound by such...

French cybercrime gang boss caught in Thailand

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 09:00
By Wassayos Ngamkham A French cybercrime gang leader wanted for hacking into customers’ accounts at a bank in England and demanding a ransom was caught in Thailand’s Samui district, Surat Thani. Joint teams of the country’s Crime Suppression Division police, forensic officials, French embassy officials and French police raided three locations looking for him — one on Koh Samui and two in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Pak Chong district.   The team, led by Pol Col...

Indonesia seeks death for cleric accused of ordering attacks

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 08:06
Indonesian prosecutors on Friday demanded the death sentence for radical Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman who is accused of ordering attacks including a January 2016 suicide bombing and gun attack in Jakarta that killed four civilians, as well as four attackers. Abdurrahman, who police and prosecutors say is a key ideologue for Islamic State militants in the world’s largest Muslim nation, sat quietly as the prosecution announced the sentencing demand before a panel of five judges....

Dozens of cash-filled designer handbags seized in raids on ex-Malaysian PM Najib’s properties

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 05:13
Malaysian police seized a huge haul of designer handbags, many of them stuffed with cash and jewellery, in searches of homes and offices linked to former premier Najib Razak, local media reports said on Friday. Amar Singh, head of the Malaysian police commercial crime investigation unit, told media at one of the raid sites that the value of what was seized was impossible to immediately estimate due to its sheer volume. “Our personnel checked these bags and discovered various currencies...

Donald Trump promises Kim Jong-un power and riches if he plays along - and death like Libya’s Gaddafi if he doesn’t 

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 01:36
US President Donald Trump tried to put his summit with Kim Jong-un back on track Thursday, offering the North Korean leader guarantees of staying in power if he abandons nuclear weapons – but threatening a grisly death if he refuses. As prospects for a historic summit next month between the two leaders dimmed, Trump told reporters that if the meeting were to go ahead successfully, Kim “will get protections that will be very strong,” and that “He’d be in his country...

Donald Trump says North Korea could have been ‘influenced’ by Xi Jinping to turn on US ahead of talks with Kim Jong-un

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 21:24
US President Donald Trump said Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping “could be influencing” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after his regime abruptly shifted to a sharp, negative tone this week about the prospects of a planned summit with the US in June. “If you remember two weeks ago, all of a sudden out of nowhere Kim Jong-un went to China to say hello again – second time – to President Xi,” Trump told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with...

FDI into mainland falls 1.1% to US$9.3b in April

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
FOREIGN direct investment into China’s mainland fell in April but the FDI inflow edged up in January to April, with capital going into high technology industries growing rapidly. FDI declined 1.1 percent year on year to 59.24 billion yuan (US$9.3 billion) last month, and the number of newly-set up foreign companies in the mainland rose 39.5 percent year on year to 4,662, data from the Ministry of Commerce showed yesterday. In the first four months of this year, the total number of newly-formed enterprises funded by foreign investors jumped by 95.4 percent to 19,002, while foreign funds that were actually used added 0.2 percent from a year ago to 286.78 billion yuan. Gao Feng, a ministry spokesman, highlighted the rapid growth capital invested in high-tech manufacturing. “The high technology industries posted a 20.2 percent year-on-year rise in actual use of foreign investment in January to April, accounting for 20.8 percent of the total FDI amount,” Gao said. “FDI in the high-tech manufacturing sector increased heftily by 79.5 percent from the same period a year ago to 29.6 billion yuan.” Pharmaceutical manufacturing, electronic and telecommunication equipment manufacturing, and the medical instrument making industry posted year-on-year FDI growth of 31.1 percent, 70.7 percent and 513.6 percent respectively, the data showed. Around 30.11 billion yuan were actually invested in high-tech services during the four months, with research and development and designing services growing 14.3 percent from the same period last year. Investments from Singapore, South Korea, Japan, the UK and Macau grew 53.6 percent, 57.2 percent, 7.6 percent, 63.2 percent and 77.3 percent respectively from a year ago, Gao pointed out. “FDI from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations rose 57.7 percent, and investment from countries along the Belt and Road was up 57.2 percent in the first four months from the same period of last year,” Gao added. FDI in China’s central regions surged 47.2 percent from a year earlier to 21.12 billion yuan and the western regions lured 19.31 billion yuan, up 20.6 percent, according to the ministry. China’s outbound direct investment in the four-month period grew steadily, up a robust 34.9 percent to US$35.58 billion, according to the ministry. Chinese enterprises have invested US$4.67 billion in countries along the Belt and Road from January to April, an increase of 17.3 percent from the same period last year, the ministry said.

Home-sharing services to hit US$7.9b

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
China’s market for home-sharing services is expanding rapidly, with the transaction volume expected to reach 50 billion yuan (US$7.85 billion) by 2020, a report showed.The number of tenants is likely to exceed 100 million while the number of shared homes will exceed 6 million by 2020, according to a report by the State Information Center, a State Council think tank.In 2017, transactions in the country’s home-sharing market totaled 14.5 billion yuan, up 70.6 percent year on year. Around 7,600 tenants had the option to choose from 3 million shared-homes that are registered on Airbnb-like short-term lodging providers.Chen Chi, CEO of industry leader Xiaozhu.com, said that there is still ample room for the home-sharing market to develop, and the whole industry needs to work together to improve user experiences. The growth was supported by a surge in financing. Home-sharing service providers across China received a combined US$540 million in financing last year, up 180 percent year on year.Amid government efforts to encourage innovation, China’s sharing economy has seen rapid expansion in the past few years.

Local debt stays within official cap

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
CHINA’S local government debt balance stood at 16.61 trillion yuan (US$2.6 trillion) at the end of April, well within the official limit, data from the Ministry of Finance showed. The country’s top legislative body has decided that the upper limit for local government debt this year should be 20.99 trillion yuan. China issued local government bonds worth 301.8 billion yuan in April and 521.3 billion yuan in the first four months, all for debt swaps and refunding. China has made bond issuance the sole legal way for local governments to raise debt amid efforts to forestall systemic financial crisis, Finance Minister Xiao Jie said in March. In the first four months, China’s fiscal revenue rose 12.9 percent year on year to 6.9 trillion yuan, the ministry said. China cut its fiscal deficit target to 2.6 percent of GDP for 2018, down by 0.4 percentage points from that in 2017, the first drop since 2013.

CNPC to replace Total in Iran project

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
Chinese state-owned oil company CNPC will replace Total on a major gas field project in Iran if the French energy giant pulls out over renewed US sanctions against Tehran, Iran’s oil minister has said.“Total has said that if it doesn’t get an exemption from the United States to continue its work, it will begin to pull out of the deal,” Bijan Namdar Zanganeh was quoted as saying by his ministry’s Shana news service. “If that happens, the Chinese firm CNPC will replace Total.”Total started the US$4.8-billion South Pars 11 project in July 2017, two years after Western powers signed a nuclear deal with Tehran prompting the return of many businesses to Iran.But earlier this month, US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the deal, and warned companies that they face sanctions if they do business with Iran.The French group said on Wednesday it has US$10 billion of capital employed in its US assets, and US banks are involved in 90 percent of its financing operations, making Total highly vulnerable if targeted by any US action.By contrast, Total said it had spent less than 40 million euros (US$47 million) on the Iranian project, which it runs with its partner Petrochina and which is dedicated to the supply of domestic gas inside Iran. Zanganeh said on Wednesday that were CNPC, which was part of the Total deal, unable to carry out the work in South Pars due to US sanctions it would fall to Iran’s Petropars. Iran possesses the second-largest gas reserves on the planet, after Russia, and the fourth largest oil supply.

Slashing time to set up firms

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
THE Chinese government has demanded local authorities to halve the time required for starting businesses as part of efforts to improve the business environment and encourage entrepreneurship. The amount of time required to start a business in municipalities, sub-provincial cities and provincial capitals should be cut from an average of 20 workdays to within 8.5 workdays by the end of this year, said a document from the General Office of the State Council. The measure will also be launched in Dalian, Qingdao, Ningbo, Xiamen and Shenzhen, with other areas also required to see positive progress, the document said. The target will be met nationally in the first half of 2019. “The procedures that a new firm needs to go through to be operational should be streamlined, making it simpler to submit applications, register a business, carve common seals, apply for invoices and manage social insurance,” the document said.

Enjoying VR sensation

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
Two men try a VR cabin that conveys a sense of touch and movement yesterday at the 21st China Beijing International High-tech Expo. The four-day event has drawn over 1,600 companies from 14 countries and regions. High-tech products such as underwater gliders will be shown.

Bosch’s China sales rise 24% in 2017

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
BOSCH posted a nearly 24 percent jump in sales in China last year amid rapid growth in the country’s new energy vehicle market and accelerated industrial upgrading, it said yesterday. However, the German engineering and electronics company sees sales to grow moderately in China in 2018 “due to rising geopolitical risks and economic uncertainties caused by trade tensions” between China and the US. The group expects sales to grow only 2-3 percent annually in China this year, Bosch’s sales totaled 113.4 billion yuan (US$17.8 billion) in China last year, up nearly 24 percent from a year ago. China remains Bosch’s largest single market outside its home, taking up over 60 percent of sales growth in Asia Pacific, said Peter Tyroller, a management board member at the company. Although China’s auto market grew at the slowest since 2012 overall, sales of new-energy vehicles soared 53.3 percent to 777,000 units last year, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. “That has bolstered our performance last year as mobility remains the key sector of our business in China,” Tyroller said. Bosch’s industrial technology and smart city businesses also grew rapidly as China quickened its upgrading in manufacturing and consumer industries last year, according to Tyroller.

Falling home sales propel OnePlus abroad

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
ONEPLUS, a Chinese smartphone startup, will boost global expansion as it seeks to overcome declining sales in the domestic market, the company said in Beijing yesterday. OnePlus’ revenue totaled 10 billion yuan (US$1.59 billion) in 2017, with over 70 percent coming from overseas markets, said Chief Executive Liu Zuohu during a conference to launch its new flagship OnePlus 6 in Beijing. The startup boasts a 44 percent market share in the segment for smartphones costing between US$400 and US$600 in the United States. OnePlus also captures over 50 percent of the Indian market for smartphone models priced at over US$400, according to Liu. China’s smartphone sales totaled 91 million units in the first quarter of 2018, down 21 percent year on year, according to researcher Canalys. OnePlus launched its new flagship OnePlus 6, priced from 3,199 yuan, in Beijing yesterday. To attract high-end consumers, its Avengers-branded limited edition of OnePlus 6 costs 4,199 yuan.

5G industry alliance founded

SHANGHAI DAILY - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 18:01
A 5G industry alliance comprising 16 companies was founded in Shanghai yesterday — World Telecommunications Day. The alliance, which focuses on ultra high-definition video transferred on 5G networks, groups companies to encourage them to develop new applications for future 5G services, which are set to be commercially available in China in 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said yesterday in a statement. The 5G technology, offering 20 to 50 times faster speed compared with 4G networks, creates new applications and business opportunities in drones, the Internet of Things and super-high video streaming, analysts said. The major members of the “5G Plus 8K” alliance includes Oriental Pearl, China Telecom Shanghai branch, BesTV and Foxconn. The alliance will develop high-speed 5G and super high-definition video up to 8K technology, the current highest ultra high definition in digital television and digital cinematography. Oriental Pearl and Foxconn will produce 8K content while BesTV and Shanghai Telecom will broadcast programs based on 5G networks to create an “8K Ecosystem.” China Telecom has started 5G trial networks in six cities nationwide including Shanghai. It is testing 5G in areas in Zhongshan Park. China Mobile is also testing 5G in the city in areas in Hongkou District.

Malaysia’s Chinese projects: Mahathir to respect all agreements

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 13:03
Malaysia’s newly installed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday said his government would “respect all agreements” even as it reviewed the viability of Chinese-linked projects in the country. Responding to a question from This Week in Asia during a press conference, Mahathir said: “As far as the leaders from China and the Chinese are concerned, we have made it clear that we are going to look into all these contracts again because they are very costly for the...

China-backed plan for Mekong’s biggest dam would ‘devastate’ fisheries that feed millions of people, according to Cambodian study

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:05
A Chinese-backed plan for Cambodia to build the Mekong River’s biggest dam would destroy fisheries that feed millions and worsen tensions with Vietnam, the downstream country with most to lose from dams on the waterway, according to a three-year study commissioned by the Cambodian government. The report, posted this month on the website of the US-based organisation that conducted the study, said the Sambor dam would “generate large power benefits to Cambodia, but at the probable...

Pakistan army kills senior militant wanted for targeting Shiites

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 11:47
Pakistan’s military has killed a senior member of Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) along two suicide bombers in a raid in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, the army’s media wing said on Thursday. A military intelligence officer was killed and four other soldiers wounded during the operation targeting Salman Badeni, the Baluchistan region chief of LeJ, on the outskirts of provincial capital Quetta. Badeni had been “involved in killings of over 100...

Anwar Ibrahim, the prime minister-in-waiting, calls for an end to race-based policies favouring his country’s Malay majority

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 10:47
Pardoned Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim said on Thursday that decades-old affirmative action policies for the country’s Malay majority must be discarded in favour of a new programme to help the poor regardless of race. Malaysia’s prime minister-in-waiting also said he plans to run in a by-election this year to become a member of parliament but that he is in no rush to take over the top job. Anwar, 70, was convicted of sodomy in 2015 in a case he said was politically motivated....

‘Depressed and overworked’ Japanese monk sues temple

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 10:18
A Japanese monk is suing his temple, claiming he was forced to work non-stop catering to visiting tourists and that the heavy workload gave him depression, his lawyer said Thursday. The monk in his forties is seeking 8.6 million yen ($78,000) from his temple on Mount Koya, a World Heritage Site also known as Koyasan that regarded as one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Japan. The plaintiff began working at a temple there in 2008 and became depressed around December 2015, according to his...

Jury finds US man guilty of abusing Cambodian orphans

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 09:41
A US jury found a Christian missionary from Oregon guilty of multiple sex abuse charges for molesting children living at an unlicensed Cambodian orphanage that he operated in Phnom Penh over a period of years. Daniel Stephen Johnson, 40, was convicted of six counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and one count each of travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and aggravated sexual assault with children. He faces a minimum of 30 years in prison when...

Indian court allows Narendra Modi’s BJP to form state government in Karnataka despite lacking a majority

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 08:37
A leader from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party was sworn in as chief minister of a key southern Indian state on Thursday, despite lacking a majority, after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute bid to block the move. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the biggest winner in the Karnataka state election but has fallen short of a majority, sparking a scramble for power between the party and its arch rival Congress. The Congress party, which lost sole control of the...

In Rohingya refugee camps, 48,000 women will give birth this year, nine months after Myanmar forces unleashed ‘frenzy of sexual violence’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 08:24
Aid workers are scouring the world’s largest refugee camp for pregnant Rohingya rape victims, with a rush of births anticipated nine months after Myanmar forces unleashed “a frenzy of sexual violence” against women and girls from the Muslim minority. Specialists and Rohingya volunteers are racing against time to find women in the giant camp who are thought to be hiding their pregnancies out of shame, as fears grow that newborns could be abandoned and new mothers may die...

Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces unit joins police hunt for Islamic militants after suicide attacks

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 07:37
A special Indonesian military unit has joined the police in cracking down on terrorist cells amid a recent wave of suicide bombings in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, the head of the national police said. “I called Indonesian Defence Force Commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto to request the involvement of the army’s special force unit Kopassus in our operation to crack down on terrorism,” National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian said. “He approved and...

A road already traveled: after a Trump-Kim summit, the next steps the US and North Korea will probably take 

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 21:44
The prospects for a summit meeting next month between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might look a bit shaky, but if it does go off as scheduled, a larger issue remains: how best to build on it and end the decades of hostility between the two nations. US analysts suggest that a road map already exists – the diplomatic path Washington and Beijing took to reach the normalisation of their relations. That path starts with setting up liaison offices, not an...

Malaysian police raid ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak’s house ‘while looking for US$4.5b 1MDB corruption scandal documents’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 19:33
Malaysian police raided former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s house late on Wednesday, reportedly searching for documents as part of a renewed probe into a massive corruption scandal involving a state investment fund that is being investigated abroad. More than a dozen police vehicles arrived at Najib’s house shortly after he returned home from prayers at a nearby mosque, fuelling speculation that he may be arrested after new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that Razak could be...

Red tape will be cut back for foreign-funded companies

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
CHINA will streamline procedures for the establishment of foreign-funded companies to promote trade and facilitate investment. Measures will be taken to dramatically reduce the time foreign firms need for business registration, according to a statement released after a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang yesterday. Effective on June 30, foreign firms will see much easier business filing and registration as the procedures will be finished paperless and free of charge and needs no presence in person. To facilitate the implementation, banks, customs, taxation and foreign exchange agencies will share business information and coordinate management. China has been pushing for easier access for foreign investment, with an array of favorable policies rolled out this year. More than 35,000 foreign-funded businesses were set up on the Chinese mainland last year with direct investment hitting an all-time high of 878 billion yuan (US$140 billion). The meeting also decided to establish an e-platform for accessing inter-connected government services at the national, provincial and city levels. All government services items will be put on this platform unless the laws otherwise stipulate or for confidentiality reasons. No less than 90 percent of the services items offered at provincial level and 70 percent at city and county levels will be available online by the end of 2019. A series of measures will be also be rolled out to reduce logistics costs by more than 12 billion yuan this year. Land use taxes will be halved for logistics firms that rent land for warehouses from this month to the end of 2019. Vehicle purchase taxes of trailers will be halved during the next three years from July. Expressway toll stations at provincial boundaries will be gradually removed.

Rising Chinese passion for wine whets mouth-watering prospects

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
CHINA’S growing thirst for wine has spawned a new crop of connoisseurs, inspired prize-winning domestic producers and even attracted a top international tasting competition. More than 300 experts from around the world gathered at a luxury hotel in Beijing last weekend to taste 9,000 wines from some 50 countries. After sniffing, tasting and spitting the various vintages, they recorded their notes on touchscreen tablets for the 25th Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, which awards coveted gold and silver medals that producers can then tag on their bottles. To avoid any risk of bias the bottles were all wrapped in opaque plastic and the results will be announced later this month. Dynamic market “Why have we come to China? Because it is the most dynamic market in the world,” said Baudouin Havaux, the competition’s president. “In terms of consumption it is incredible, this country is growing at a crazy speed.” The Chinese drink 1.46 billion liters of wine per year — on average almost one liter, or more than one bottle, per person — according to a study by Vinexpo, an organizer of international wine fairs. China ranks fifth in the world for wine consumption after the US, France, Italy and Germany. But this figure is expected to increase by 18.5 percent between now and 2021. Over the next five years, China is expected to become the world’s second-largest consumer of wine, behind only the US. “I think gift-giving and status are still the biggest factors” driving wine purchases, said Canadian wine taster Jim Boyce. “A lot of people also drink red wine because of the perceived health benefits. But there is also a growing niche of consumers who drink wine for taste, for pleasure and for experience.” “People simply have more money now to enjoy something like wine,” said the expert who is based in China, where the disposable income of urban Chinese doubled between 2009 and 2016. Wine was more a symbol of “prestige” five years ago, agreed Havaux. “It was important to leave the price tag on the bottle to show that it is very expensive,” Havaux said. “But young people are beginning to grow interested in the product itself.” Among them is Kang Yi, a 30-year-old interpreter. “I discovered wine when I was studying in Paris. Especially rose, champagne and riesling. When I came back to China, I joined a wine-tasting club.” Beijing-based Zhou Hewei, who works in insurance, admitted she used to buy wine for dinner parties “without really knowing much about it.” “Until the day when a friend who had studied wine at university opened a website. She wrote articles about grape varieties, terroirs... I learnt a lot and began to buy more and more bottles.” As a result of this growing passion, China in 2017 imported 750 million liters of foreign wine, according to customs data — 20 percent up on the previous year. Foreign wines make up 50 percent of all sales in China, according to experts. “The quality of Chinese wine has been steadily rising for a decade now,” said Boyce, who has tasted more than 1,000 Chinese wines since 2005. “We see the best Chinese wines are winning hundreds of medals overseas. And just overall, I think most people would say they taste a lot better than they did a decade ago.” The arrival of e-commerce has changed the landscape for Chinese wine lovers, Boyce added. “Ten years ago, Chinese people would probably get their wine at a retail shop, and it would be mostly big Chinese brands and red Bordeaux. “And then the Internet came along, and the smartphone came along, and suddenly consumers had thousands of choices, from lots of countries,” he said. “This put a tremendous amount of pressure on the local companies to get better, because those companies were focused more on marketing than on quality.” Chinese wine producers have responded by gaining more experience, training overseas, and buying in better equipment. But their production costs remain high, as many are forced to bury their vines in winter to prevent them freezing. “Lots of wine estates are improving their quality and winning medals in major competitions,” said Eva Xie, a Chinese taster and wine critic. They are making their presence felt at the competition. “In 2017, 30 percent of Chinese wines tasted at the Concours de Bruxelles were medalists, which is above the average rate of 25 percent,” said Havaux. “That is impressive.”

US posts increase in industrial production in April

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
COLD weather and strong mining activity combined with a solid showing by manufacturing firms to drive a jump in US industrial production in April, the Federal Reserve said yesterday. Even the sharp decline in production of cars and auto parts was not enough to dampen the strong start to the first quarter, according to the data. Total industrial production rose 0.7 percent compared to March, slightly better than economists expected, and was 3.5 percent faster than April 2017. The output gain in March was revised higher, also to 0.7 percent, but the prior months were revised downward, meaning the production gain in the first quarter of the year was 0.6 percentage points lower than previously reported. Still, the April data reflected broad strength across nearly all sectors and bodes well for growth in the second quarter. The “below-normal temperatures” last month drove a 1.9 percent increase in utilities, which included a 10 percent surge in gas due to the strong demand for heating, the report said. Mining output rose 1.1 percent, and was 10.6 percent higher than the same month of 2017, fueled on gains in oil and gas extraction, which offset the decline in coal mining. The key manufacturing sector posted a 0.5 percent output rise, which included gains of over one percent in machinery, computer and electronic products, electrical equipment and appliances, and aerospace and transport equipment. However, motor vehicles and parts shed 1.3 percent, the first decline since November, even while production was over three percent above April 2017. Wood products was the only other category that fell over one percent. Total industrial capacity in use in April rose to 78 percent, the highest since March 2015 but still nearly two points below the long-run average, the Fed said.

Mobility services to see fewer cars bought

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
THE prevalence of new mobility services such as ride-sharing and public bike rental might drive some Chinese consumers away from buying a vehicle of their own, a study by Bain & Company shows. The widespread availability of very easy mobility services would lead to 23 percent of car owners and 21 percent of potential car owners from purchasing a car, according to the study. “Given newly available transportation options, the formidable traffic congestion and the financial costs of car ownership, more Chinese consumers are turning their backs on buying cars,” said Pierre-Henri Boutot, a Bain & Company partner and a leader in its Performance Improvement practice. Also under 50 percent of the survey participants now equate owning a car to improving one’s social status, the survey said. The popular bike sharing was used by 73 percent of respondents, and e-hailing followed with 62 percent of participants having used the service, the survey said. “Chinese consumers adopt new practices as soon as they are introduced and bring them into the mainstream,” said Raymond Tsang, partner with Bain & Company and a co-author of the report. “With technology integration, government support and the emergence of new options such as B2C car sharing, China’s mobility industry is likely to continue on its upward trajectory.” Bike sharing has grown over fivefold and e-hailing fourfold in the last three years, according to Bain. The survey of nearly 2,000 Chinese consumers revealed that 60 percent of them raised their mobility frequency in the past two years.

Robots show off dance moves

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
Robots dance during the second World Intelligence Congress in north China’s Tianjin yesterday. The three-day conference focuses on new development and policies in AI and participants including tech firms like Baidu, Alibaba, JD.com, Microsoft, Huawei, and iFlytek are taking part.

Prices of new homes in China stay stable in April

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
PRICES of new homes remained stable across China in April, data released yesterday by the National Bureau of Statistics showed. New home prices in Beijing and Shenzhen edged up 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively, from March, while those in Shanghai and Guangzhou both shed by 0.1 percent from a month ago. On an annual basis, prices in the four first-tier cities continued to drop, ranging from 0.2 percent to 2.2 percent, according to the bureau, which monitors home prices in 70 major Chinese cities. “In the 15 hottest cities, new home prices were little changed for another month with minor increases being recorded on both a monthly and yearly basis, as rein-in measures to curb speculation remained strictly enforced,” said Liu Jianwei, a senior statistician at the bureau. Eight of the 15 cities, including first-tier and key second-tier cities, saw new home prices rise by 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent from March. Year on year, new home prices in five of the 15 cities gained between 0.4 percent and 1.1 percent. Notably, the number of cities where new home prices grew month on month rose by three to 58 in April, the most since the second half of 2017. Seventeen of the 58 cities saw prices rise 1 percent and above month over month, compared to five cities in February and three in March, the bureau's data showed. In the pre-occupied home market, prices in first-tier cities fell 0.1 percent from March. They were flat in second-tier cities and added 0.1 percentage point in third-tier cities. New home prices in Dandong, a northeastern city on the border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea gained 2 percent in April from a month ago, the largest increase among all Chinese cities. It was followed by Sanya and Haikou in Hainan Province, where new home prices both rose 1.9 percent from March. During previous years, rocketing housing prices, especially in major cities, had fueled concerns about asset bubbles. To curb speculation, local governments have passed or expanded their curbs on house purchases and raised the minimum downpayment required for a mortgage. Property development investment grew 10.3 percent year on year for January-April, a dip from 10.4 percent during the first quarter, said the bureau. The pullback in property development investment and housing sales growth was normal, bureau spokesperson Liu Aihua said on Tuesday, adding that she expected the property market to keep stable development as China continues to impose measures to curb home buying to contain speculation. This year’s government work report reiterated that “houses are for living in, not for speculation.”

Growth in solar power generation charges ahead

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
CHINA’S solar power generation growth exceeded other power sources over the first four months as the country continues to upgrade its energy structure, the National Reform and Development Commission said yesterday. From January to April, solar power generation in China surged 26.4 percent from a year ago, faster than the 7.3 percent annual growth for coal power, 6.5 percent for nuclear power and 22.6 percent for wind power. But generation of hydropower fell 2.6 percent amid shrinking water flow in main dams, the top economic planner said. “Although solar power accounted for less than 2 percent of China’s overall electricity generation last year, it is surpassing other sources in growth as China is taking great efforts to boost its use and supply,” said Alex Liu, analyst for energy and public utilities at UBS. China’s newly-installed clean energy accounted for 74.3 percent of the total nationwide from January to March, according to the China Electricity Council in a recent report. The central government has called for provinces nationwide to ensure the consumption of wind and solar power takes up at least 8 percent of total energy use, “above the figure of less than 6 percent last year,” Liu said. China has installed 10 gigawatts of solar power in the first quarter, “comparing to the 4 gigawatts in the same period of last year,” Liu said.

Stocks decline on trade tensions and profit-taking

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
SHANGHAI stocks dipped yesterday as investors took profit of companies that are to be included in the MSCI indices while worries continued over tensions in global trade. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.71 percent to 3,169.57 points, ending a two-day rebound. While news of the inclusion of 234 A-shares in the MSCI China index boosted the domestic market yesterday, “a round of profit taking however dragged down today’s market,” said Shen Meng, director of domestic investment bank Chanson & Co. Gu Yongtao, strategic analyst at Cinda Securities, said domestic investors’ anticipation of which stocks would be included differed only slightly from the MSCI announcement. Investors then took profit of the stocks they have long been buying, Shen said. Kweichow Moutai Co, a liquor maker to be included in MSCI indices on June 1, lost 1.15 percent to 734.52 yuan (US$115.35) after gaining 7.13 percent over the past two weeks. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, another stock to be included in the indices, gave up its gains on Tuesday and fell 1.48 percent to 6.00 yuan yesterday. Worries of a possible trade war between China and US “also weighed on the market as huge uncertainties remain, making investors wary before the upcoming next round of trade negotiations,” Shen said. The US and China are “still very far apart” on disputes over trade, said US Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, yesterday. Shanghai’s drop echoed declines in Hong Kong and Tokyo amid rising geopolitical worries triggered by news that North Korea abruptly called off talks with Seoul and threatened to withdraw from a planned summit with the US in Singapore next month.

360 shares surge 3.1% on plan to raise US$1.7b

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:01
SHARES of the 360 Security Technology surged yesterday after China’s biggest cyber security firm announced a plan to raise 10.8 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion) by private placement to invest in AI and big data. The investment will cover nine projects that include cyber security research, online search, artificial intelligence and big data, Shanghai-listed 360 said in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The exact pricing has yet to be finalized. The plan is still pending approval from shareholders and the China Securities Regulatory Commission. Shares of 360 surged 3.1 percent to 37.9 yuan, compared with the 0.71 percent drop of the Shanghai stock index yesterday. Cyber security is more than just a technology problem as it is a “giant security” covering national security, society development and urban management, Zhou Hongyi, chairman of 360, told an IT forum yesterday. AI and intelligent systems still have loopholes, which require more investment and upgraded technologies to improve them, Zhou added. Among the nine projects, 360 will invest in Internet of Things sector covering car communications and smart watches designed for children. In April, 360’s net profit surged 80 percent in 2017 in their first annual fiscal report after listing domestically. 360 is China’s biggest online security firm with 550 million active monthly users.

Philippines lifts ban for Kuwait-bound workers

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 18:00
The Philippines Wednesday lifted its ban on migrant workers heading to jobs in Kuwait, capping a diplomatic row sparked when a murdered Filipina maid was found in her employer’s freezer. The news comes days after Kuwait and the Philippines signed a deal to regulate and protect the hundreds of thousands of Filipino workers who seek higher-paid jobs in the wealthy Gulf state. The spat, simmering for months, reached its lowest point last month when Kuwaiti authorities expelled Manila’s...

False starts and failures on North Korea: the long road to the planned summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 14:19
No, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un isn’t killing his summit with US President Donald Trump. Or at least, he’s highly unlikely to. Pyongyang breaking off a high-level meeting with Seoul and threatening to scrap next month’s historic summit with Washington over regular allied military drills is seen as a move by Kim to gain leverage and establish that he’s entering the crucial nuclear negotiations from a position of strength. Washington and Seoul, which have no intentions...

Singapore’s new anti-terror law takes effect, allowing media blackouts in the event of an attack

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:56
A new law that gives the police special powers during terrorist attacks, including widely banning journalists and members of the public from reporting on the scene, took effect in Singapore on Wednesday. The law gives the police the power to block all communications on-site, ranging from photographs to videos, text and audio messages, for up to a month if authorities feel security operations could be compromised. The Ministry of Home Affairs, which drafted the law, said on Tuesday that the...

Bangladeshi opposition leader Khaleda Zia bailed on corruption charges amid concerns about ill health

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:36
Bangladesh’s 72-year-old opposition leader Khaleda Zia was granted bail on corruption charges on Wednesday after her lawyers argued her health was at risk, paving the way for her to be released from jail. Zia was imprisoned in February after being accused of embezzling money intended for an orphanage, an allegation she said was politically motivated. Bangladesh has for years been locked in an epic showdown between Zia, who has served as prime minister three times, and her arch-rival,...

Malaysia plans to scrap GST from June 1 in the hope of promoting spending

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 11:58
Malaysia’s new government on Wednesday said it would reduce a goods and services tax to zero from June 1, effectively abolishing it, a move that is likely to spur spending in the Southeast Asian nation but put pressure on its fiscal position. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who won last week’s general election, had vowed during the campaign to get rid of the 6 per cent GST to address the rising cost of living. Ousted leader Najib Razak had introduced the tax in 2015 amid lower oil...

Japan economy shrinks after two years of growth, dealing a blow to prime Minister Shinzo Abe

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 10:18
Japan’s economy slid into reverse for the first time in two years at the beginning of the year, hit by sluggish consumption and a winter cold snap, but analysts predicted the world’s third-largest economy would quickly rebound. The economy contracted by 0.2 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the January-March period, compared with growth of 0.1 per cent at the end of 2017, the Cabinet Office said on Wednesday. This brought to an end a series of eight consecutive quarters of growth, a...

Low-key military drills between US and South Korea point to cautious approach ahead of planned Kim-Trump summit

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 09:50
Before North Korea’s condemnation of US-South Korea military drills, even US policy wonks who follow every twist and turn of events on the Korean peninsula probably did not know much about them. That was no accident. The Pentagon made a point of keeping the annual exercises off the front pages, even as US military leaders including Defence Secretary Jim Mattis saw them as critical to the US-South Korean alliance. Mattis set an explicit policy of going quiet on North Korea, including on...

Need a travel companion? Now you can rent a robot in Japan

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 09:31
By Uptin Saiidi If you’re planning to go to Japan by yourself, fear not, RoBoHon is here. This humanoid robot can hold short conversations with humans and is marketed in Japan as a device that could possible replace your cellphone. Now, it’s available for tourists, too. CNBC recently went to Tokyo, Japan, where the robot is available for rental at Haneda Airport. Fast forward: from robots to sense-stimulating wearables, the future is now RoBoHoN costs about US$12 per day, with...

Australian supermarkets limit baby milk formula sales as China demand hits stocks

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 07:21
One of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains said Wednesday some stores were moving baby milk formula behind counters and restricting sales as it emerged customers were clearing shelves and selling it online in China for more than double the price. Coles’ decision to take the milk product off aisles follows complaints from worried mothers over supplies and after Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported one kilogram tins bought for up to A$35 (US$26) were being resold to Chinese...

18 people crushed to death in India after giant concrete slab falls from highway overpass

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 06:37
A highway overpass being built in north India collapsed, killing 18 people when an immense concrete slab slammed down onto the crowded road below, officials said Wednesday. Five injured people were pulled from the wreckage, police said. Two were seriously hurt. Local media reports said four officials from the Uttar Pradesh state construction agency were suspended in the wake of the Tuesday collapse. Rescuers and crane operators worked through much of the night in the city of Varanasi to search...

YouTube is the most used smartphone app in South Korea

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 06:22
By Jun Ji-hye Google’s YouTube has become the most-used smartphone app in Korea, with users here having spent an average of 882 minutes last month watching video clips, according to a survey released Tuesday. According to Seoul-based app analytics firm WiseApp, those in their teens to their 40s spent the most time on YouTube when using their smartphones. For those in their 50s, YouTube was the second-favorite app after the nation’s largest mobile messenger app, Kakao Talk. The...

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