Aussie telco to axe 8,000 jobs

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
People walk past a Telstra store in Melbourne’s central business district yesterday. Australia’s dominant telecommunications company Telstra yesterday announced plans to axe 8,000 jobs — a quarter of its workforce — as part of a new strategy to cope with a competitive industry.

Bithumb: US$35m in coins hacked

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
SOUTH Korean cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb said 35 billion won (US$31.5 million) worth of virtual coins were stolen by hackers, the second local exchange targeted in just over a week as cyber thieves exposed the high risks of trading the digital asset. Bithumb said in a notice on its website yesterday that it had stopped all trading after ascertaining “some cryptocurrencies worth about 35 billion won were seized between late yesterday and early morning today.” The exchange, the sixth busiest in the world according to, said it had stored “all clients’ assets in safe cold wallets,” which operate on platforms not directly connected to the Internet. It added that the company would fully compensate customers. The Bithumb theft highlights the security risks and the weak regulation of global cryptocurrency markets. Global policy-makers have warned investors to be cautious in trading the digital currency given the lack of broad regulatory oversight. In Ho, a professor at Korea University’s Blockchain Research Institute, said the stolen coins were most likely to be from the more insecure “hot wallets.” “Since coins in the cold wallets are not at all wired to the Internet, it would have been impossible for hackers to steal those in cold wallets unless they physically broke in,” said In. Bithumb did not immediately respond to reporters’ request for comments, and its statement did not say whether the stolen coins were stored in its “hot wallets.” Mun Chong-hyun, chief analyst at ESTsecurity, said digital coins would continue to be juicy targets for hackers around the world. “No security measures or regulations can 100 percent guarantee safety of virtual coins. It is held anonymously and in lightly-secured systems, which makes them an irresistible target,” Mun said. On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp, bitcoin BTC=BTSP was down 1.8 percent at US$6,612.92 by 0351 GMT, extending losses as a series of intrusions on cryptocurrency exchanges in recent weeks sparked concerns over security. It has fallen roughly 70 percent from its all-time peak hit around mid-December 2017. On June 11, another South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinrail said it was hacked. The cyber attacks come after a high-profile theft of over half a billion dollars worth of digital currency at Japan’s exchange Coincheck earlier this year. In January, South Korea banned the use of anonymous bank accounts for virtual coin trading to stop cryptocurrencies being used in money laundering and other crimes. But the government said it does not intend to go as far as shutting down domestic exchanges. Bithumb trades over 37 different virtual coins, said

Housing stocks in major cities drop 8.2%

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
HOUSING inventories in China’s major cities fell 8.2 percent year on year in May as sweeping destocking measures kicked in, latest industry data showed. Floor space of unsold new homes in 100 major Chinese cities fell to 427.08 million square meters, a level last seen in March 2012, according to figures released by property research agency E-house China R&D Institute. A total of 73 surveyed cities registered inventory declines, with the coastal city of Dalian in Liaoning Province shedding 53 percent of unsold houses in the largest drop. Year on year, floor space of unsold new homes in first-tier cities shed 3.1 percent in May, while that for second-tier cities plunged by 10.3 percent, and third- and fourth-tier cities lost 6.1 percent. Demand in China’s housing market has exceeded supply for six straight months as of May, when 51.61 million square meters were sold and 44.82 million square meters of new homes were built, according to the institute. Yan Yuejin, a researcher with the institute, attributed the inventory drop to destocking measures taken by local authorities and fast-turnover approaches of real estate enterprises. Over 40 cities unveiled a total of 50 property market rules in May, a monthly record for frequency, Centaline Property said.

Central SOEs post high profits

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
THE profits of China’s central state-owned enterprises in May hit a record high compared with the same period historically, official data showed yesterday. Combined profits stood at 155.19 billion yuan (US$24 billion) in May, said the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. In the first five months, total profits rose 22.1 percent year on year to 685.94 billion yuan, according to SASAC. The total operating revenue of central SOEs grew 9.8 percent year on year to 11 trillion yuan in the same period. SASAC said that central SOEs in emerging industries posted fast growth with revenues of enterprises in the telecommunication sector taking up 50.4 percent of the total central SOE revenues. By the end of May, the average asset-liability ratio for central SOEs stood at 66 percent, down 0.3 percentage points from the start of the year and down 0.4 percentage points from a year ago.

Electricity use powers 11% in May

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
CHINA’S electricity consumption, a key gauge of economic activity, rose 11.4 percent year on year to 553.4 billion kilowatt hours in May amid a resilient economy, official data showed yesterday. The rate was above the 7.8-percent rise for April, according to data released by the National Energy Administration. Electricity used by the service sector rose 15.3 percent, followed by a 10.9 percent gain for the industrial sector and 10.3 percent for residential power use. Power consumption in the agricultural sector rose 9.1 percent, the NEA said. In the first five months, power use added 9.8 percent to 2.66 trillion kilowatt hours. China’s economy grew 6.8 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2018, above the government’s annual target of around 6.5 percent. Economic activity grew steadily in May amid solid industrial output and manufacturing investment.

Shares rebound after PBOC’s moves

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
SHANGHAI stocks rebounded yesterday from Tuesday’s heavy losses after China’s central bank calmed the market and injected funds into the financial system. The Shanghai Composite Index ended 0.27 percent higher at 2,915.73 points, with iron and steel producers leading the gains. Following the over 3 percent tumble of the key stock index to below the 3,000-point threshold, People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang reiterated late on Tuesday that the country boasts good economic fundamentals and investors should keep calm and rational. “I am fully confident on the health of China’s capital market based on good economic fundamentals. China’s economy has the capability to cope with external shocks,” said Yi. Yi also noted that the PBOC is prepared for potential external shocks, will use various monetary policy tools, ensure liquidity to promote stable economic development as well as fend off systemic financial risks. Investors were also cheered by the central bank’s injection of 100 billion yuan (US$15.5 billion) into the financial market through reverse repurchase agreements yesterday, according to a statement published on the PBOC’s official website. Iron and steel producers, liquor makers and pharmaceutical companies were among the biggest gainers. Xinjiang Ba yi Iron & Steel Co Ltd surged by the daily limit of 10 percent to 5.15 yuan, Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Co Ltd rose 4.79 percent to 15.10 yuan and Shanxi Xinghuacun Fen Wine Factory Co Ltd added 4.65 percent to close at 62.51 yuan.

GE loses spot on Dow after over a century in benchmark index

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
GENERAL Electric Co has lost its spot in the Dow Jones Industrial Average after over a century in the blue chip stock index, a new blow to a company that once towered over the American business landscape but is now struggling to retain its standing as an industrial powerhouse. S&P Dow Jones Indices said on Tuesday that GE, an original member of the Dow when it was formed by Charles Dow in 1896 and a continuous member since 1907, will be replaced in the 30-component stock average by drug store chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc prior to the start of trading on Tuesday. GE’s stock slipped 1.5 percent in after-hours trading following the announcement while Walgreens jumped 3 percent. A decade and a half ago GE was the world’s most valuable public company. But it foundered in several key industrial markets in recent years, and a diversion into financial services steered it into the eye of the global financial crisis in 2008. It now ranks as the sixth smallest member of the Dow by market value and carries the index’s lowest stock price, making it the least influential component of the price-weighted average. Faced with weak profits and calls to be broken up, the 126-year-old company is aggressively cutting costs, selling businesses and trying to strengthen its balance sheet under new managers and a new board. Its stock has fallen nearly 80 percent from highs in 2000. Last month, CEO John Flannery warned that GE may not be able to pay its 2019 dividend. “It was at one time perhaps one of the quintessential US companies, and like others that have been taken out of the Dow, it’s a reflection that they’re no longer seen in that light,” said Rick Meckler, a partner at Cherry Lane Investments, a family investment office in New Vernon, New Jersey. The shifting sands of the Dow are testament to the various companies that were unassailable household names for decades before becoming the victims of an evolving economy. Some simply disappeared, while others found new life even if they did not reclaim their prior economic influence. They include Eastman Kodak, Sears Roebuck, International Paper, Goodyear, Bethlehem Steel, Westinghouse, General Motors Co and Chrysler. Co-founded by inventor Thomas Edison, GE was the largest US company by stock market value starting in 1993, with brief interruptions from Microsoft Inc until Exxon Mobil Corp overtook it in 2005. With the addition of Walgreens, the Dow will better reflect the role of consumers and healthcare in the US economy, S&P Dow Jones Indices said in a statement. While analysts had anticipated GE’s exit from the Dow because of its falling share price, it is a blow to the company to lose its status as the only original member of the iconic index. GE did leave the Dow after the index was founded in 1896 but rejoined in 1907 and has been a constant member since then, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. In a statement, GE said: “We are focused on executing against the plan we’ve laid out to improve GE’s performance. Today’s announcement does nothing to change those commitments or our focus in creating in a stronger, simpler GE.” Some index watchers had expected GE’s troubles to lead to its removal from the elite index.

China’s box office drives global sales

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
CHINA’S total box office increased by 13.45 percent in 2017, making the Chinese film market an engine of the global box office, according to a report released on Tuesday. The Chinese Film Association and Film Art Center of China Federation of Literacy and Art Circle jointly released the international version of the 2018 Research Report on the Chinese Film Industry at the ongoing Shanghai International Film and TV Festival. “The Chinese market has returned to a strong growth track, further narrowing the gap with the North American market,” it said. Among the total box office, 30 billion yuan (US$4.6 billion) came from domestic movies, accounting for 53.84 percent of the market, 7.6 percent higher than that of imported movies. Of the top 10 movies in Chinese market last year, five were domestically produced. “Local blockbusters, having become a match for their Hollywood counterparts, regained favor with audiences in 2017 with increased market competitiveness and quality,” it said. The report said data showed that China’s top 10 box office films are no longer just local films and Hollywood blockbusters, as movies made in other countries such as India appeared on the list last year. Chinese movie “Wolf Warrior 2” made a great contribution to the domestic movie market last year, accounting for 18.9 percent of the total box office, according to the report. Online ticketing platforms have changed the way Chinese moviegoers buy their tickets and also played a major role in China’s film market in 2017. The report said online sales of tickets accounted for more than 80 percent of the ticket revenue of China’s cinemas. The Chinese box office stood at 55.9 billion yuan in 2017. Nearly 1,000 movies including features, animations, educational movies, and documentaries were produced in China last year, according to the report.

Slower expansion

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
TOTAL assets managed by Chinese trust companies reported the first quarterly drop in two years as the government has placed increasing emphasis on financial risk prevention, data from the China Trustee Association yesterday. The asset scale of the country’s 68 trust companies came in at 25.61 trillion yuan (US$3.96 trillion) at the end of the first quarter this year, down 2.41 percent from the volume at the end of 2017. Year on year, the growth of 16.6 percent also slowed from the 29.8-percent rise at the end of the fourth quarter last year, the data showed. Zhou Ping, researcher with the China Trustee Association, attributed the slower expansion to companies’ self-initiated downsizing amid government’s deleveraging efforts to prevent financial risks.  

Bright for entertainment

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
CHINA’S media and entertainment sector will see strong demand for paid content and membership of online video/audio streaming sites in the coming years and online gaming is also set to continue its rebound after declining in 2014, according to a latest report. Internet companies will transform original fictional works into film and television series, said a joint report by China Jianyin Investment Co Huawen Media Investment Co and the Central University of Finance and Economics. Investors will fund technology-driven innovation in the media sector in the future, said chief researcher Zhang Lulu at JIC Huawen said  

WuXi Biologics expands

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
WUXI Biologics, a Hong Kong-listed biopharmaceutical company, said yesterday that construction of a US$20 million integrated biologics conjugate R&D and manufacturing center has started in Wuxi in neighboring Jiangsu Province. To be operational in 2019, the 6,000-square-meter facility will provide integrated solutions from concept to commercialization of biologics conjugates including Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADCs) and other protein conjugates. ADCs are complex molecules composed of an antibody linked to a biologically active cytotoxic drug, which has been adopted for a number of innovative treatments for targeted tumor therapy.  

SPDB backs ‘Four Brands’

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
THE Shanghai Pudong Development Bank said yesterday it planned to enhance the city’s “Four Brands” by supporting its financial system to transform the city into a global hub. The bank said that it will promote the building of the Shanghai Services, Shanghai Manufacturing, Shanghai Shopping and Shanghai Culture brands by boosting its financial support to the city in the free trade zone, the Yangtze River Delta integration program and innovation.

Disney raises bid for Fox’s assets

SHANGHAI DAILY - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:01
The 21st Century Fox logo is seen at the News Corporation building in New York City in file photo. Walt Disney Co raised its bid for Twenty-First Century Fox’s movie and television assets to US$71.3 billion, the companies said yesterday. The new bid is US$38 a share, up from Disney’s US$28 a share offer in December and rivaling Comcast’s US$35 a share all-cash bid last week.

‘Listen to how quiet it is’: on the North Korean side of DMZ, change is in the air

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 15:03
Lieutenant Colonel Hwang Myong Jin has been a guide on the northern side of the demilitarised zone that divides the two Koreas for five years. He says that since the summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the presidents of South Korea and the United States, things have quieted down noticeably in perhaps the last place on Earth where the cold war still burns hot. “A lot of things have changed. Listen to how quiet it is,” he said as he stood on the balcony of a large...

Russian gas could be piped through North Korea to the South and Japan, Moon says before visit to Moscow

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 12:48
New pipelines could be laid to bring Russian gas through North Korea to the South and even on to Japan following the diplomatic thaw with Pyongyang, Seoul’s leader suggested on Wednesday. President Moon Jae-in was speaking to Russian news media before a three-day visit to Moscow starting on Thursday, with the presidential Blue House releasing the transcript. Russia and South Korea agreed in 2008 to lay gas pipelines through the North to bring Russian natural gas to the South. But the...

Australia telecom giant Telstra to axe 8,000 jobs to save A$1 billion

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 11:33
Australia’s dominant telecommunications company Telstra Wednesday announced plans to axe 8,000 jobs – a quarter of its workforce – as part of a drastic new strategy to cope with an increasingly competitive industry. The decision by the company, one of Australia’s largest employers, is part of a shake-up targeting an extra A$1 billion (US$750 million) in cost-cutting by 2022, on top of A$1.5 billion previously announced. To create a leaner operation, it will also split...

Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy charged under new ‘royal insult’ law

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 09:32
Cambodia’s former opposition leader faces royal insult charges punishable by a jail term, according to a court summons, the first prominent figure to be accused under the new law. The adoption of the law in February triggered alarm from rights groups who warned it would become another tool for Prime Minister Hun Sen to stifle dissent. The strongman premier is seeking to prolong his 33-year grip on power in a general election next month and has used the courts to cripple his opponents....

Japan dreams of jackpot with legal casinos but critics warn cash grab will deepen gambling addictions

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 09:13
At a casino school in Tokyo, croupier-in-training Takuto Saito settles behind a green table and reaches for the roulette wheel, addressing a group of imaginary punters: “Spin up. Place your bets.” The 24-year-old has never set foot in a casino but he is gambling that new laws opening up the lucrative sector will soon create plenty of jobs for croupiers in Japan. Opening his palms to fake surveillance cameras on the roof to show there is nothing up his sleeves, Saito enjoys watching...

#MeToo inspires Australia to be a world first with launch of national sex harassment inquiry

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 08:22
Australia launched an independent inquiry on Wednesday into workplace sexual harassment, one of the first of its kind in the world, hoping to find solutions to problems brought to light by the global #MeToo movement. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said the inquiry was prompted by the social media movement known through the Twitter hashtag #MeToo, which has highlighted sexual misconduct in business, entertainment and politics. The planned 12-month investigation by the commission,...

Samsung to compete with Amazon, Google on AI platforms

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 07:56
By Baek Byung-yeul Amid the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Samsung Electronics has made a strong effort to beef up its presence in the sector. Since the Korean tech giant released its AI assistant Bixby last year, Samsung has applied the AI to its products ranging from the firm’s signature Galaxy S and Note phones to other home appliances. Moreover, Samsung is taking further steps in AI as it already declared all of its devices will have AI features by 2020. To pursue...

Toilet paper business in Japan is on a roll, thanks to surge in foreign tourists before 2020 Olympics

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 07:25
Japanese paper manufacturers were expecting a shrinking market due to the declining population but are expanding output instead due to an unexpected boost – a surge in foreign tourists pushing up demand, inevitably, for toilet paper. An industry official said the current situation was unforeseeable “10 years ago, when we thought the market would shrink due to the ageing population and low birth rates.” However, Nippon Paper Industries Co., Daio Paper Corp., Oji Holdings Corp....

What anti-China sentiment? Beijing’s man in Malaysia Bai Tian heartened by Mahathir’s overtures

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 05:02
“Where’s the anti-China sentiment? I don’t see it.” China’s ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian gave this assessment when asked whether China’s rapid economic rise and growing regional influence was spooking citizens in his host country. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Bai Tian said he was heartened by overtures to China by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, contrary to speculation the leader would take a hawkish stance towards Beijing in keeping with his...

Indonesia raises number missing from ferry sinking to 166, almost double initial estimate

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 04:58
Indonesian officials say 166 people are missing from a ferry sinking Monday evening at a popular lake on Sumatra, a much higher number than previously believed. The boat didn’t have a passenger manifest and disaster officials have several times raised the number of people it was carrying as distraught relatives who rushed to Lake Toba in northern Sumatra provided information. On Tuesday, officials said 94 people were missing and expected the number to rise. Only 18 people were rescued and...

Plot twist: Indian forest ranger posed for photos with python draped around his neck. It nearly strangled him

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 02:58
The rock python had just killed and eaten a goat, but perhaps more troubling, the reptile had crushed and consumed its meal within shouting distance of a school. Something had to be done. So worried residents in Jalpaiguri, a city in northeast India, called Sanjay Dutta, the local forest ranger, on Sunday. As onlookers stared, Dutta corralled the snake with an animal-control pole, then used thick gloves to grab the snake’s head and pick it up. A woman in Indonesia went to check her corn...

North Korea says Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping discuss ‘a new future’ and ‘true peace’ at Beijing talks

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 02:11
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping came to an understanding on issues that were discussed at a summit between the two leaders, including denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, the North’s state media said on Wednesday. Kim and Xi assessed the historic meeting Kim had with US President Donald Trump in Singapore last week and exchanged opinions on ways to resolve the issue of denuclearisation, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. The North Korean leader...

Mahathir Mohamad Q&A: Malaysian PM on Beijing, Jack Ma and why battleships in the South China Sea are a bad idea

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 02:01
In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post this week, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad opened up about relations with China and his ideas for getting his country going again. But he deflected questions on whether he wants to stay on as premier beyond the two years he has promised to stay in office. Below is an excerpt of the interview at his Putrajaya office. *********** Q: Selamat Hari Raya. We hear you had a big Hari Raya celebration (to mark the end of Ramadan) at...

Japan arranging a multinational meeting on North Korea denuclearisation in September

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 20:42
The Japanese government is arranging a meeting, to be held during the UN General Assembly gathering in September in New York, to discuss how to share the financing of North Korea’s complete denuclearisation, government sources said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed readiness to support initial costs related to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, but Japan is also planning to provide other funds needed to neutralise Pyongyang’s nuclear...

VW suspends Audi chief and appoints interim replacement

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
Volkswagen suspended Audi boss Rupert Stadler and announced an interim replacement yesterday, seeking to steady its most profitable business after German authorities arrested Stadler as part of an emissions probe.Audi said Stadler, 55, had requested to temporarily step down from his position, and named sales executive Abraham Schot as an interim replacement with immediate effect, confirming an earlier Reuters story.Stadler’s arrest has thrown Volkswagen back into turmoil almost three years after it admitted to using illegal software to cheat US emissions tests on diesel engines.Analysts said the arrest raised questions about whether Europe’s biggest carmaker had done enough to reform itself in the wake of the crisis, and that it threatened a delicate truce among the group’s powerful stakeholders, who had previously clashed about whether Stadler should remain in power.VW has set aside around US$30 billion to cover the cost of fines, vehicle refits and lawsuits arising from its “dieselgate” scandal, and is spending billions more on electric vehicles to try to rebuild its reputation.Munich prosecutors arrested Stadler at his home in Ingolstadt in the early hours of Monday, saying they saw a risk he could try to suppress evidence. He remains remanded in custody, but has not been charged with a crime.VW and Audi said on Monday that Stadler was presumed innocent unless proven otherwise.Last week, Munich prosecutors said they were investigating Stadler for suspected fraud and false advertising and for his alleged role in helping to bring cars equipped with illegal software on to the European market.VW has for years said only lower-level managers knew of the emissions cheating. However, US authorities filed criminal charges against former VW boss Martin Winterkorn earlier this year, and German prosecutors continue to investigate.Stadler has been under fire from the media, politicians and VW’s powerful trade unions for his handling of the scandal, but he survived a management reshuffle announced in August thanks to backing from the Piech and Porsche families that control VW.Schot joined the VW group in 2011 after having worked as president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Italia. He has been Audi board member for sales and marketing since last September.Peter Mosch, deputy chairman on Audi’s supervisory board and head of its works council, said labor representatives had backed a move to appoint Schot as interim CEO to ensure that Audi’s business did not suffer from the leadership crisis.“For the employees it is now important that the interim CEO returns the company to calmer waters, drives the (diesel) investigation and brings it to a conclusion, but mostly keeps the day-to-day business in view,” he said in a statement.

Singapore bank eyes Bay’s potential

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
SINGAPOREAN bank OCBC views the Guangdong-HK-Macau Great Bay Area as a strategic platform for strong business growth in the future, and said it will ride on the wave of the region’s development. The lender said it will invest S$200 million (US$148.2 million) in people and technology there by 2023, and they aim to achieve S$1 billion in profit from the area during the same period. Thanks to strong government support, the ongoing internationalization of the yuan as well as rising connectivity and flows, the area is set to achieve sustained long-term development, OCBC said. The bank said that business potential for financial institutions in lending and fee income is tremendous, and they are well-positioned to capture the trend in this fast-growing area. In 2017, Premier Li Keqiang announced a plan for the development of a city cluster in the Guangdong-HK-Macau Great Bay Area, with the aim of creating the world’s largest bay area by gross domestic product by 2030. As one of Asia’s most dynamic economic regions, the Great Bay Area is a leading growth engine for China. Although the area covers less than 1 percent of the country’s land area and its population is below 5 percent of the total, it contributed 12 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2017.

Offline stores turning alluring for online sites

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
CHINESE e-commerce firms are embracing offline channels after they posted a strong increase in the 618 sales campaign. JD’s on-demand delivery platform JD Daojia said gross merchandise volume added 4 times from a year ago on June 18 as it connected with nearly 100,000 offline supermarkets and retailers in 40 cities on the Chinese mainland. JD’s online sales from June 1 to June 18 totaled 159.2 billion yuan (US$24.6 billion), and as high as 90 percent of orders fulfilled by JD were delivered within 24 hours. US retail giant Walmart, which holds a stake in, saw sales quadrupled via JD Daojia as online payment and the widespread delivery network ensures the buyers get their purchases delivered to their doorstep. Suning Commerce Co said transaction size as of 6pm local time on Monday added 1.2 times from a year ago and the best selling merchandise included smartphones, food and beverage and air conditioners while consumer preferred top brands Apple, Haier and Midea. Suning also said that sales revenue from its neighborhood stores and convenience stores grew 30 percent. Alibaba teamed up with over 70 shopping malls nationwide and offered coupons for offline shoppers, and its brick-and-mortar affiliates including InTime, Hema Supermarket and RT Mart supermarkets also took part.

Popularity of installment payments rises

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
Installment payments are helping to power China’s domestic consumption and sales of online lender LexinFintech Holdings Ltd’s installment finance platform Fenqile surged 220 percent during an e-commerce shopping festival.Fenqile, translated as “Instalment Pleasure” in Chinese, lets consumers buy electronic equipment like mobile phones and consumer accessories such as handbags on credit and repay the loan in installments.Sales of Shenzhen-based LexinFintech’s Fenqile surged 220 percent during the annual 618 e-commerce shopping festival on Monday, a major mid-year shopping event.The average order amount per user on the platform during this year’s festival rose 37 percent annually from 5,024 yuan to 6,895 yuan. The number of Fenqile users who participated in this year’s 618 festival doubled from last year, LexinFintech said.The firm aims to further tap the growing trend among Chinese consumers to buy now and pay later, as the number of consumers using installment payments for e-commerce purchases in China is set to soar to 170 million this year, from 95 million last year.

Share market falls amid China-US trade tensions

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
SHANGHAI shares tumbled yesterday as investors became worried amid trade tensions between China and US. The Shanghai Composite Index fell below the 3,000-point threshold by losing 3.78 percent to end at 2,907.82. The rout had sent 1,023 stocks down by the daily 10 percent limit — or more than one in four. Telecom firms led the decline, with Eastern Communications Co Ltd off 9.96 percent to 4.70 yuan (73 US cents) and China United Network Communications Ltd shedding 6.92 percent to 4.98 yuan. The US on Monday threatened to impose a 10 percent tariff on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods, marking an escalation in trade tensions between the two countries. “China’s response is to firmly safeguard the interests of the nation and its people, free trade system and common interests of mankind,” said a statement published on the official website of the Ministry of Commerce yesterday. Nomura Securities said that “the next key date is June 30, when the US is scheduled to release investment restrictions and export controls for related Chinese persons and entities.” “As the US-China trade conflict enters a tit-for-tat stage, we expect Beijing will adjust domestic policies given the new situation,” Nomura said. “Recent activity data have surprised on the downside, implying end demand has been getting increasingly weaker due to rapidly shrinking credit supply from the shadow banking sector. We estimated that Beijing will make necessary adjustments and introduce easing measures.” “Seeing the benchmark dropping below the 3,000 level hurts sentiment even more,” said Hao Hong, chief strategist with Bocom International Holdings Co in Hong Kong. “Things could get a lot worse if the trade war escalates and China fights back in an unconventional way. I would advise against buying into the selloff.” The People’s Bank of China yesterday injected a net liquidity of 100 billion yuan into the financial market via reverse repurchase agreements, according to a statement published on its official website. The central bank also lent 200 billion yuan to financial institutions via its medium-term lending facility.

Firms to cooperate on forestalling risks

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
CHINESE and British companies anticipate more cooperation in insurance to forestall risks as both sides are set to deepen coordination in projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, speakers told a high-profile Sino-UK BRI insurance cooperation forum held on Monday in London. The UK capital, as a natural partner for the BRI, has a lot to offer for cooperation with China in assessing project risks and insurance, said Cetherine McGuinness, chairman of Policy and Resources Committee, City of London. In insurance specifically, the London market is “a leader in innovative product development and has historically embraced insuring new risks,” McGuinness said. Proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI aims to achieve policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes, thus building a new platform for international cooperation to create new drivers of growth. So far, over 100 countries and international organizations have responded positively to the BRI and pledged their support. More than 80 countries and international bodies have signed cooperation agreements with China. Yuan Linjiang, chairman of the China Reinurance Corporation, said insurance and assessment of risks are extremely important considering the complexity of political, economic and cultural situations in countries along the BRI. Full awareness and prediction of risks are necessary for governments, companies and individuals, said Yuan, adding insurance and reinsurance are the best ways to divert and minimize risks of projects. Yuan also called for the establishment of a joint insurance mechanism to deflect major risks as a single company may not be able to cover the giant projects under the initiative with enormous investment and long construction period.

Chinese banks post net forex purchase

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
CHINESE commercial banks continued to see a net foreign exchange purchase in May and cross-border capital flows remained basically stable, the country’s forex regulator said yesterday. Chinese lenders bought US$172.6 billion worth of foreign currencies and sold US$153.2 billion worth last month, resulting in a net purchase of US$19.4 billion, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said in a statement. In April, the banks recorded a net forex purchase of US$10.6 billion, marking the first net forex purchase since December 2017. The SAFE attributed the net purchase to the decisions of businesses and individuals to adjust their currency-holding structure amid stable expectations of the foreign exchange market. Although some emerging economies have been facing pressure from capital outflows and currency depreciation since May, the Chinese economy has maintained a stable and improving trend, which effectively stabilized market expectations and offered fundamental support for the forex market, a SAFE spokesperson noted in a separate statement.

Investors to see new negative list

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
CHINA has completed the revision of a new negative list for market access of foreign investment and will make it public soon, China Securities Journal said yesterday. Curbs on energy, resources, infrastructure, transport, commerce circulation, and professional services will be removed or eased in the upcoming list, the report said. China has already announced measures to further liberalize the finance and automobile sectors. The new negative list will have a section for nationwide implementation and one for pilot free trade zones. There will be a transitional period for some industries.

Xiaomi cuts valuation after pulling CDR issue

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
CHINESE smartphone maker Xiaomi has lowered its likely valuation to between US$55 billion and US$70 billion following its decision to delay its mainland share offering until after its Hong Kong IPO, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said. The delay was triggered by a dispute between the company and regulators over the valuation of its China depositary receipts, sources said. Xiaomi Corp is using a range of US$55 billion to US$70 billion in its discussions with potential cornerstone investors ahead of the planned launch of its Hong Kong initial public offering later this week, three sources said. The sources declined to be named because the discussions were not public. Xiaomi did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the valuation. The new valuation is below the US$100 billion touted by sources earlier this year and below the more recent floor price of US$70 billion that the company and its advisers had informally used as guidance for investors. The company said it was asking regulators to postpone its application to sell CDRs, but gave no reason for the decision. “After iterative, careful research, the company has decided to implement its Hong Kong and mainland IPO in a measured way,” Xiaomi said in a post on its Weibo account. “We’ll list in Hong Kong first, before going public on the mainland through the CDR.” Beijing-based, Cayman-domiciled Xiaomi had been expected to raise up to US$10 billion, split between its Hong Kong and mainland offerings in one of the biggest tech floats worldwide in recent years. Two sources said it was eying to sell 10 percent of its enlarged capital in the Hong Kong offering.

China to raise income tax threshold

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
CHINA is considering raising the personal income tax threshold to 5,000 yuan (US$772) per month — 60,000 yuan a year — from the current 3,500 yuan, according to a draft amendment. The draft was submitted to the third session of the 13th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress yesterday. For the first time, comprehensive taxation will cover four earned income items — salaries, remuneration for personal services, authors’ remuneration and royalties. Several other expenses have been added into the personal income tax deduction for the first time. They include expenditures incurred for children’s education, higher education, medical spending for serious illness, housing loan interest and housing rent. Minister of Finance Liu Kun told lawmakers that the revisions focus on content that is no longer suitable for China’s continuing reform. The changes are conducive to reducing tax burdens for taxpayers, raising people’s income and boosting consumption, Liu said, adding that the changes have taken people’s rising consumption expenses into account. According to the draft amendment, the previous method of taxing monthly income will be replaced with a new calculation that focuses on taxing annual income. “The new method will be fairer and more reasonable for those whose monthly salary varies,” said Zhang Bin, an expert from the National Academy of Economic Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. If the revisions are adopted, those whose monthly salary ranges from 5,000 yuan to 20,000 yuan will see their tax cut by more than 50 percent and those whose monthly salary ranges from 20,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan will see their tax cut by 10 to 50 percent. “The personal income tax reform is primarily a good news for middle to lower-income groups as people with less income will see a larger tax reduction,” said Li Wanfu, head of the institute of tax science of the State Administration of Taxation. This is the seventh overhaul of the personal income tax code since it was first issued in 1980. If the draft is approved, it will be the fourth time that the threshold of China’s personal income tax has been raised, and seven years since the last adjustment in 2011. “The amendment will help to alleviate the stress of tax burden on working class people and boost consumption growth,” said Lian Ping, chief economist at Bank of Communications. The amendment defines resident individuals and non-resident individuals as two types of taxpayers. In addition, the length of time used to distinguish between the two groups will be adjusted to 183 days from the previous 365 days. “This will help establish tax jurisdictions and safeguard national tax rights and interests,” the finance minister said. The amendment also adds an anti-tax avoidance clause, empowering tax authorities to adjust taxation in a reasonable way when individuals transfer property in violation of independent trading. Individuals will also be subject to the clause when they evade taxes in overseas tax havens or obtain improper tax benefits by organizing unlawful commercial activities. In a March report on government work, Premier Li Keqiang said: “We will raise the personal income tax threshold and create expense deductions for items like children’s education and treatment for serious diseases, appropriately lightening burdens, and encouraging our people to increase their incomes and achieve prosperity through hard work.” China’s total tax revenue in 2017 rose 10.7 percent from a year earlier to 14.4 trillion yuan for its first double-digit increase in five years, according to data from the Ministry of Finance. Among them, revenue from personal income tax was up sharply by 18.6 percent year on year to 1.2 trillion yuan. The individual income tax was the third-largest contributor to China’s total tax revenue, following value-added tax and enterprise income tax.

Mercedes-Benz cultivates aging workforce

SHANGHAI DAILY - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:01
TOO slow, inflexible, forgetful, always off sick. Those are some attitudes about older workers that carmaker Mercedes-Benz is trying to dispel as Germany grapples with the challenges of an aging society. The luxury brand owned by Germany’s Daimler AG is waging a company-wide campaign to combat those mistaken impressions. “We wanted a paradigm shift in attitudes,” said Sylvia Huette-Ritterbusch, a Mercedes personnel expert whose job is to decide what skills the firm will need in future. One initiative Daimler has developed is an exhibition to challenge stereotypes about aging. It has already been visited by 80,000 people, including 2,500 of its factory managers and has now been brought to Berlin and opened to the public. Visitors are asked to choose between the “young” or “old” door to enter the exhibition. Many retired visitors, who obviously feel young at heart, come in through the “young” door. Once inside, you can take tests to measure memory, balance, ability to work in a team, the tightness of your grip, how high you can jump and how easily you can relax. It turns out that this correspondent, real age 45, has a biological age of 36, but 119 years of life experience. The initiative has been championed by Mercedes production head Markus Schaefer, who says: “Many prejudices about aging are long out-of-date. Every age has potential... age diversity means diversity of experience, perspectives and new ideas.” The average age of Daimler’s 136,000 employees in Germany is 44.7 years. Rival carmaker BMW expects workers aged over 50 to make up more than 35 percent of its workforce by 2020, from 25 percent in 2014. Germany faces a serious skills shortage as the post-war “baby boomer” generation retires. The working-age population is expected to shrink by some 2 million by 2030. The shortage of workers is costing the economy up to 0.9 percentage points of output a year, the IW German Economic Institute said recently. The German government has moved to discourage people from retiring early and the pension age is scheduled to rise gradually from 65 to 67 by 2030. “Companies know it is not so easy attract young workers. They are realizing they can’t do without some of the baby boomers and will try and hang onto them,” said Andre Schleiter, a demographics expert at the Bertelsmann Foundation think tank. Car-making ‘YouTube’ In addition to the exhibition, Mercedes has introduced demographic audits across the company to encourage employees and management to openly discuss the age structure of their teams and address ways to promote cooperation between young and old. Initiatives that have come out of that process include the launch of a corporate video platform where older workers can post YouTube-like tutorials on complex working processes to pass on their expertise to the next generation. The company has also launched formal joint toolmaking training for teenage apprentices and employees aged over 50 and is testing ergonomic tools, such as an exoskeleton which reduces muscle strain for workers installing parts overhead. Other ideas include a system to help workers swap shifts more easily; allowing older staff to work part-time as they approach retirement and hiring retirees for short-term projects. “People don’t want to be on or off,” said Huette-Ritterbusch. Mercedes is not alone in seeking to address the challenge of an aging population. German tech company SAP runs a “mature talent” program which promotes two-way mentoring between experienced employees and younger colleagues, as well as a structured knowledge transfer process before older staff members retire. BMW has taken steps including installing wooden floors to soften the impact on workers’ knees and rotating jobs during shifts so staff avoid too many repetitive movements. Company initiatives and government policies seem to be bearing fruit: the employment rate among those aged 55 to 60 has risen sharply in the last decade. Germany now has one of Europe’s highest rates of older people working. “Companies are investing more systematically in people over 50 because it is clear that there aren’t enough young people coming up with qualifications,” said Schleiter. “In coming years, more companies will make a bigger commitment to 55-year-olds who still have another 12 years to work.”

Top Philippine court hears landmark gay marriage case

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:51
The Philippines’ top court heard arguments on Tuesday for the legalisation of gay marriage, a historic first in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation. Two same-sex couples denied licences to wed urged the Supreme Court to strike down a 1987 law that states marriage must be between a man and a woman. “When the right to marry, a decision so personal, so intimate and so life-changing, is denied to LGBT people, the state is not valuing their dignity,” lawyer Jesus Falcis, who is also...

Forget the warships: Malaysian PM Mahathir’s peace formula for South China Sea

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:03
Keep out the warships and instead have joint small-boat patrols – that is Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s prescription for maintaining peace in the disputed and resource-rich South China Sea. “I think there should not be too many warships. Warships create tension,” the 92-year-old leader told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview. “Someday, somebody might make some mistakes and there will be a fight, some ships will be lost, and there...

Bangladesh opposition leader Zia critically ill, aide says

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 13:41
Imprisoned former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia is critically ill and needs urgent medical care, a top leader of her party said on Tuesday. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, a top aide to Zia, said the 72-year-old opposition leader had suffered a recent mild stroke and multiple complications. Doctors have warned that she could be paralysed if she isn’t treated quickly, he said, adding that she can no longer walk on her own. The government has offered to have Zia admitted to two state-...

US suspends ‘war games’ with South Korea – but military drills with Japan continue

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 12:23
South Korea on Tuesday presented a united front with the United States on a decision to call off a major military drill, one week after US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement that he would suspend such exercises with the long-time Asian ally. Soon after the US and South Korean militaries formally announced the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises slated for August had been called off, Seoul’s Defence Ministry said the decision was necessary to support ongoing talks both...

Japan to check concrete walls after Osaka quake deaths

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 12:02
Japan’s government ordered an emergency inspection of breeze block walls at schools nationwide on Tuesday, a day after an earthquake in Osaka killed four people, two of whom were crushed by falling walls. The magnitude 6.1 earthquake that struck Osaka during Monday’s morning rush hour injured more than 370 people in the region, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. The quake also damaged many buildings and disrupted traffic. The death of nine-year-old Rina Miyake...

1MDB probe needs time to be watertight: Malaysia’s Mahathir calls for cool heads as Najib rumours swirl

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:34
The Malaysian government is taking time to build a watertight case in the 1MDB financial scandal and not be swayed by populist sentiment, according to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. His predecessor Najib Razak is the prime suspect under investigation and has been banned from leaving the country. This week, Najib’s decision to go on holiday to the resort island of Langkawi – which coincidentally is the parliamentary seat of Mahathir – sparked fears he was trying to slip out...

Kasuo Kashio, co-founder of Casio Computer, dies aged 89

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:25
Kazuo Kashio, one of four brothers who founded Casio Computer Co, the Japanese firm behind pocket calculators and later G-Shock watches, has died aged 89. Kashio, who was chairman and served previously as president, died at a Tokyo hospital on Monday from aspiration pneumonia, which is set off by breathing in food or liquids, the company announced on Tuesday. Kashio is credited with making the calculator an everyday product through Casio Mini. He also helped popularise G-Shock, which has grown...

American arrested in Vietnam ‘regrets’ breaking the law

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:55
An American student held in Vietnam for “causing public disorder” at violent protests this month has appeared on state television to say he regrets breaking the law and will stay away from future rallies. William Nguyen was detained on June 10 in Ho Chi Minh City after attending demonstrations against proposed special economic zones that would grant investors 99-year leases. Video footage shows the Texas-born 32-year-old with a bleeding head wound being dragged by plain clothes men...

Nothing to fear from China, says Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, but lopsided deals must end

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:30
Malaysia wants to strengthen its “good relations” with Beijing, says Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, but he is urging Chinese companies investing in his country to refrain from relying only on material, capital and labour from back home and denying his country any real benefits. The 92-year-old Malaysian leader’s setting out of the terms for better relations in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post came in the wake of widespread unease that his predecessor...

Singapore was the top cyber attack target during Trump-Kim talks, says report

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 08:46
By Cynthia Choo Singapore was the top cyber attack target around the world during the Trump-Kim summit, with the country experiencing close to 40,000 attacks during the June 12 meeting, according to data collected by American technology company F5 Networks and its data partner Loryka. Data analysis by F5 Networks’ Threat Research Intelligence team, which monitors global attacks, found that cyber attacks “skyrocketed” from June 11 and 12.Eighty-eight per cent of the 40,000...

Puan, the world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan, dies aged 62

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 07:21
The world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan, which had 11 children and 54 descendants spread across the globe, has died aged 62, Australian zoo officials said Tuesday. Puan – Indonesian for “lady” – died on Monday at Perth Zoo, where she had lived since being gifted by Malaysia in 1968. “She did so much for the colony at Perth Zoo and the survival of her species,” said primate supervisor Holly Thompson. “Apart from being the oldest member of our colony...

New Zealand man charged with stealing human toes from dead body exhibition

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 07:19
By Sam Hurley In a bizarre criminal case, a New Zealand man has been charged with stealing two human toes from an exhibition displaying human corpses and organs. The 28-year-old appeared in the Auckland District Court today before a Community Magistrate charged with stealing two deceased human toes from the Body Worlds Vital exhibition in Auckland on May 4. The toes, which have been returned to the exhibition, are valued at NZ$5,500 (US$3,813), according to court documents. The man, who has...

Thailand carries out first execution since 2009 – on convicted murderer who robbed, then stabbed victim 24 times

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 07:01
Thailand has carried out its first execution since 2009, the Department of Corrections said, killing a 26-year-old convicted murderer in a move condemned by Amnesty International as “deplorable”. Theerasak Longji was executed by lethal injection on Monday, six years after his conviction. His death came as Thailand’s coup leader-turned-premier Prayuth Chan-ocha prepares to travel to the United Kingdom and France on a highly-publicised official visit. But the trip will now...

Chinese ambassador calls on Australia to drop 'cold war mentality'

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 06:41
China’s ambassador to Australia said on Tuesday “less bias and bigotry” were needed to repair bilateral relations amid concerns over Chinese influence in Australia and its use of loans to build leverage over poorer South Pacific island nations. “We need to see each other’s development and policy intentions from a more positive perspective with less cold war mentality,” Cheng Jingye said in a speech to politicians and business leaders in Canberra. Relations...

Chinese resorts are quietly setting up baccarat tables in Hainan, and Macau may have reason to be nervous

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 02:18
They’re not quite casinos, but they’re pretty close – and they could be coming to China sooner than some expected. On the tropical island of Hainan, at least five Chinese-owned resorts are laying the groundwork for so-called entertainment bars, where players put down real money on games but receive their winnings in the form of points that can be redeemed in local shops, restaurants and hotels, according to people with direct knowledge of the plans. The resorts’ owners...

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un ‘planning a third meeting’ with Xi Jinping

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:30
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un plans to visit China as early as Tuesday to brief President Xi Jinping on his Singapore summit with US President Donald Trump and discuss a future negotiating strategy, Japanese publication Nikkei reported. Citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter, the report said Kim is expected to fly into Beijing. Security preparations are already under way, it said. It would mark Kim’s third meeting with Xi after a secret first trip to Beijing in late...

At least one person dead after a ferry with 80 passengers sinks in Indonesia’s Lake Toba

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 20:47
At least one person died after a ferry containing around 80 passengers sank in Lake Toba in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province on Monday, a disaster agency official said. The Sinar Bangun ferry sank in rough weather at around 5.30pm about a mile from the port of Tigaras, while carrying passengers from the lake’s volcanic Samosir Island to the town of Parapat Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPT) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said. A woman in Indonesia went to check her corn and was...

Huawei’s open letter slams Aussie flak

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:01
HUAWEI is fighting back in Australia following reports that authorities could ban it from any involvement in building 5G mobile networks in the country. Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications network equipment and the No. 3 smartphone supplier published an open letter to Australian lawmakers yesterday. “Recent public commentary around China has referenced Huawei and its role in Australia and prompted some observations around security concerns,” Huawei Australia Chairman John Lord and board directors John Brumby and Lance Hockridge wrote in the unprecedented letter. “Many of these comments are ill-informed and not based on facts.” In its open letter, Huawei insisted it is “a private company, owned by our employees with no other shareholders.” Huawei said in the letter it operates in 170 countries and abides by national laws and guidelines. Citing 5G investments in Britain, Canada and New Zealand, the company said those governments had taken up its offer to evaluate the company’s technology to make sure it abided by cyber security protocols. Huawei has been virtually shut out from the giant US market because of alleged national security concerns. Australia has in 2012 banned Huawei from supplying its huge National Broadband Network.

Volvo eyes 25% of recycled plastics in new models

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:01
At least 25 percent of the plastics used in new Volvo car models from 2025 will be from recycled materials, the Chinese-owned company said yesterday in an anti-pollution plan praised by the United Nations.Recycled plastics — such as from fishing nets or old bottles in car dashboards or carpets — would not affect safety or quality, Stuart Templar, director for sustainability at Volvo Cars said. “We think this makes business sense,” said the director for sustainability.Many big companies are designing products that can be recycled after use to limit pollution. Volvo’s plan goes a step further by building ever more recycled materials into its production lines.“Volvo Cars is committed to minimizing its global environmental footprint,” Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars, which is owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co, said in a statement.Volvo said it was in talks with plastics producers to achieve its “ambition that from 2025, at least 25 percent of the plastics used in every newly launched Volvo car will be made from recycled material.”Volvo sold 570,000 cars last year, with about 5 percent of plastics in its cars currently made from recycled materials.Volvo unveiled a test model of its XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid SUV in Gothenburg, Sweden, that it said looks identical to the existing car except that some of its plastic parts were made from recycled materials.The carpet, for instance, had fibers made from PET plastic bottles, old Volvo car seats were used in sound-absorbing material under the bonnet and fishing nets and ropes were used in the tunnel console — between the passenger and driver seats.The UN welcomed Volvo’s plan. More than eight million tons of plastics end up in the oceans every year, threatening marine life from fish stocks to coral reefs.“As far as we are aware this is a first — an attempt to source waste as a raw material for a new vehicle,” Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi, said.

Arrest of Audi chief linked to ‘dieselgate’

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:01
Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler was arrested yesterday in connection with parent company Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal, with prosecutors saying they feared he might try to destroy evidence.The dramatic development comes a week after Munich prosecutors raided Stadler’s home, accusing him of fraud and the falsification of documents that allowed diesel vehicles equipped with cheating software to be sold to European customers.Prosecutors in the Bavarian state said the arrest was justified because of the “risk of concealment of evidence.”Audi confirmed the arrest to AFP, declining to give further details.“For Mr Stadler, the presumption of innocence continues to apply,” a spokesman said in a statement.Stadler is the most senior executive yet to be detained in the dieselgate crisis, which started when the Volkswagen group admitted in 2015 to installing so-called “defeat devices” in some 11 million diesels worldwide that made them seem less polluting in lab tests than they actually were on the road.The affected vehicles involved VW’s own-brand cars, but also those made by Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat.VW’s luxury subsidiary Audi has long faced suspicions that its engineers helped create the software used in the scam.Audi’s former head of engine development, Wolfgang Hatz, was taken into custody in Germany in September 2017 and remains behind bars.A manager at VW subsidiary Porsche was also detained in April. He was identified by German media as Joerg Kerner, an engineer in charge of Porsche’s engine division who was working at Audi when the diesel scandal broke.In a separate setback for Audi, German authorities earlier this month ordered the recall of some 60,000 Audi A6 and A7 cars across Europe to remove illegal emissions control software — using a different technique however than the one at the heart of dieselgate.Auto industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the CAR research center called the allegations against Stadler “very serious.”“Audi needs a new start,” he said.Stadler, 55, who joined Audi in 1990 and has been its CEO since 2007, has enjoyed the full backing of VW’s top brass so far.But Dudenhoeffer said VW’s supervisory board may want to reconsider its stance when it met yesterday.“VW supervisory board chairman Wolfgang Porsche has to be careful that he doesn’t ‘burn’ the hand with which he is shielding Stadler.”Stadler’s arrest is the latest blow to the Volkswagen group, which has struggled to shake off the dieselgate crisis and continues to face a litany of investigations at home and abroad.Two former VW chief executives — Martin Winterkorn and his successor Matthias Mueller — have both landed in the sights of German prosecutors.They are suspected of knowing earlier than they have admitted about the cheating, meaning they may have failed in their duty to inform investors in the car giant about the financial risks.

Fall in crude oil output narrows in May

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:01
China’s crude oil output shed 1.6 percent year on year in May to 15.97 million tons, narrowed from a 2.3-percent drop in April, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.China produced 515,000 tons of crude oil per day last month, down from 517,000 tons for April. The daily crude oil output had stayed at around 515,000 tons for five months in a row, said the bureau.In May, China’s crude oil imports gained 5 percent year on year to 39.05 million tons, the data showed.In the first five months this year, China’s crude oil output fell 2 percent to 78.23 million tons, while the first four months saw crude oil imports shed 2.1 percent, according to the bureau.From January to May, China’s crude oil imports rose 8 percent year on year to 190 million tons, the data showed.International crude oil prices rose in May. At the end of last month, crude oil prices rose to US$76.45 per barrel, from US$75.92 a month ago.

Google injects US$550m cash in

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:01
GOOGLE said it will invest US$550 million in cash in e-commerce giant to build up its alliance in China’s booming e-commerce landscape. Google will get 27.1 million newly issued Class A ordinary shares as part of the deal, a stake of under 1 percent. As part of a range of strategic initiatives between the two companies, they also plan to carry out joint development of retail solutions in China, Southeast Asia, the US and Europe. “This partnership with Google opens up a broad range of possibilities to offer a superior retail experience to consumers throughout the world,” said JD Chief Strategy Officer Liao Jianwen. “This marks an important step in the process of modernizing global retail and also opens a new chapter for JD.” By applying JD’s supply chain and logistics expertise and Google’s technology strengths, the two companies aim to upgrade retail infrastructure solutions. “We are excited to partner with and explore new solutions for retail ecosystems around the world to enable helpful, personalized and frictionless shopping experiences that give consumers the power to shop wherever and however they want,” Google Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler said in a statement. Some JD products will also be available through Google Shopping in multiple regions, including the US and Europe. JD said its annual sales event, which is comparable to Alibaba’s Singles Day shopping gala, kicked off on June 1 and reached 127.5 billion yuan (US$20.2 billion) in sales as of 00:10am on Monday. Globalization has been a key strategy as JD also competes with Alibaba back in China. Alibaba has set its footprint in a number of Asian countries and seeks to integrate its logistics infrastructure and other e-commerce capabilities.

Yuan set to play bigger global role in future

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:01
FOREIGN exchange reserve managers have become more optimistic about the yuan and predict bigger global influence of the Chinese currency in the coming years, a private survey showed. Surveyed institutions upgraded their forecast of the share of the yuan in global forex reserves in 2020 to 8.5 percent from the 6.9-percent prediction made three years ago, due to the currency’s inclusion into the IMF Special Drawing Right basket and China’s steady capital market opening up. Seventy-four percent of respondents selected the yuan when asked which currency has become more attractive than a year ago, the highest among all global currencies and followed by the US dollar and euro. The survey, sponsored by HSBC, covers 79 central banks worldwide that manage a total of US$5.5 trillion of forex reserves, 54 percent of the world’s total. Christian Deseglise, global head of central banks at HSBC, said the survey confirmed the continued momentum of the yuan as the 8.5-percent ratio marks a huge rise from the 1.2-percent reading published by the IMF at the end of 2017. International investors will have a bigger demand for yuan encouraged by the A shares’ inclusion into MSCI index, more cross-border use of the yuan, and the future inclusion of Chinese bonds into global indices, said Helen Wong, HSBC’s chief executive for China.

China tells world import stance to continue

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:01
CHINA has reassured the world that its stance on encouraging imports will not change, a major development strategy that will not only help domestic industrial upgrades but also stimulate global economic growth. Several incentives will be taken to further lift imports, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, decided at an executive meeting last week chaired by Premier Li Keqiang. In response to domestic consumption upgrades and an economic shift to quality, China supports the imports of daily consumer goods, medicine, and equipment for rehabilitation and old-age care, according to the meeting. More measures are in the pipelines to lower tariffs, optimize import customs clearance, and clear up unreasonable management measures and fees. The move represents China’s latest efforts to further open up its economy, as the country embraces the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening-up drive, the first and foremost factor behind its economic success story. The government has announced multiple new policies to further liberalize domestic sectors and bring in more foreign products since the start of the year. Effective on July 1, the average tariff rate for clothing, shoes and hats, kitchenware, and sports and fitness supplies will be cut from 15.9 percent to 7.1 percent, and that for home appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators from 20.5 percent to 8 percent. The tariff rates for other products including aquatic products, processed food, detergents, cosmetics, and some medicine will also be cut substantially. Import taxes on vehicles and auto parts will also be cut sharply on the same day to upgrade the auto industry. “Our initiative to boost imports demonstrates China’s commitment to a new round of high-standard opening up, to economic restructuring, and to economic transformation and high-quality development,” Li said. China has been striving to reduce tariffs. More than 8,000 types of imported goods now enjoy duty-free policies, based on free trade agreements with 23 countries and regions. Analysts believe the intensive pro-import measures will help China meet increasing domestic demand, achieve balanced trade, and share development dividends with the rest of the world. Widened access for foreign goods will allow Chinese consumers to enjoy more quality products and prompt domestic companies to improve their competitiveness, said Zhang Jianping, researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce. Given steady economic expansion, China has overtaken the US as the world’s largest goods trading nation in 2017. China has been the world’s largest exporter and second largest importer of goods for nine consecutive years, and is now the world’s largest importer of energy resources. China contributed 10.2 percent to global imports last year.

Alibaba opens office in Malaysia

SHANGHAI DAILY - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:01
ALIBABA Group’s new Malaysia office, also its first country office in Southeast Asia, started operation yesterday as the Chinese tech giant continues its overseas expansion in the region. Alibaba, having already established the first international eHub under the Electronic World Trade Platform initiative, aims to use the office to better serve the needs of local small and medium enterprises and help the new Malaysian government train more young talents, said Jack Ma, Alibaba founder and executive chairman at the launch ceremony. In an interview before the ceremony, Ma told Xinhua that Alibaba plans to deepen its localization in Malaysia, and in the process it will hire more local people, perhaps more than 1,000 in the future. He said Alibaba’s investment in Malaysia in recent years has reached over US$100 million. Alibaba has been expanding its presence in Malaysia in recent years. Aside from eWTP, Alibaba also established a cloud computing data center, brought its mobile payment service Alipay and has trained thousands of individuals, entrepreneurs and cloud computing professionals. Before the ceremony, Ma met with Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who took power after winning the May 9 election. “We had a good exchange of ideas on a wide range of subjects,” Mahathir said in a twitter post after the meeting. During the meeting, which lasted for about an hour, Mahathir said he welcomes Alibaba to come to Malaysia and train more people in the digital age. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said he appreciated Alibaba’s “eagerness to work with the new Federal Government to help spur new investments, create new jobs and economic opportunities for Malaysia.” “We consider this a shining symbol of China-Malaysia friendship that is based on mutual respect and benefits that augurs well for the cooperation on the part of governments, businesses and people from both countries,” Lim added.

US and South Korea to suspend ‘large-scale’ joint military drills, source says

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 17:20
South Korea and the US are expected to announce the suspension of “large-scale” military drills next week, with the provision that they will restart if North Korea fails to keep its promise to denuclearise, a South Korean news agency said on Sunday. Citing an unnamed government source, the Yonhap agency said the suspension was likely to affect only major joint exercises, not more routine military training. US President Donald Trump surprised officials in Seoul and Washington after...

Video games are as addictive as crack cocaine or gambling to some players, warns WHO

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 16:19
The World Health Organisation says some obsessive video gamers may really have an addiction. In its latest revision to a disease classification manual, the UN health agency said on Monday that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a mental health condition. But the statement led critics to warn that it may risk stigmatising young people just because they play video games. The WHO said classifying so-called gaming disorder as a separate condition will help governments, families and...

Philippine air strikes target IS-linked militants near Marawi

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 15:07
Philippine military air strikes and ground assaults targeted a group of Islamic State-linked militants in an offensive that reportedly killed five extremists and forced thousands of villagers to flee to safety in the south, officials said on Monday. Army Colonel Romeo Brawner said the offensive on Sunday sparked gun battles between troops and the extremists in Tubaran town in a mountainous region of Lanao del Sur province and the military was verifying reports that at least five militants had...

Injured Cambodian ex-PM Norodom Ranariddh sent to Bangkok hospital after car crash killed wife

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:01
A Cambodian prince hurt in a car crash that killed his wife was flown to Bangkok for treatment Monday and is expected to recover, a member of his political party said. Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a former prime minister and half-brother of the current king Norodom Sihamoni, suffered “some broken ribs” and leg injuries, Yim Savy, the secretary general of the Funcinpec party, said. “He was sent to Thailand as a precaution”, Savy said, adding that the 74-year-old was in good...

Seoul says sanctions on North Korea may be eased before denuclearisation

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 10:35
South Korea said on Monday that sanctions against North Korea could be eased once it takes “substantive steps towards denuclearisation”, seemingly setting the bar lower than Washington for such a move. Last week’s Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un produced only a vague statement in which Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”. Amid fears the summit...

Fashion statement: Rohingya refugees revel in the new-found right to wear trousers

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 09:54
In 28 years, Abdul Aziz had never known the pleasure of wearing trousers. Rohingya Muslim men like him were restricted to wearing sarongs, or longyis, in Myanmar. It was an unofficial uniform that identified Muslims as inferior, Rohingya refugees said. Wearing trousers outside cities and towns was restricted by local authorities and Rohingya who did so could be arrested and fined. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after a violent military crackdown in August....

PNG declares emergency after armed mobs torch plane and governor’s house

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 09:49
Papua New Guinea has declared a state of emergency in its rugged Southern Highlands after an armed mob went on the rampage, torching a passenger plane and the local governor’s house. Police said crowds were angered by a court decision to dismiss a petition against provincial governor William Powi’s 2017 election, amid concerns of corruption. They burned down Powi’s home and the local courthouse in the town of Mendi late last week and destroyed an aircraft belonging to the...

Japan angry as South Korea holds war games to defend against ‘island attack’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 09:17
South Korea on Monday began two days of war games to practise defending the disputed Dokdo islands off its east coast – against an unlikely attack by Japan. The drills come just days after US President Donald Trump announced the suspension of long-running US joint exercises with South Korea – aimed at deterring North Korea – calling them expensive and “provocative”. The two-day exercise – tiny compared with the suspended US-South Korea war games – will...

Osaka area hit by powerful earthquake sits above fault that’s been inactive for 10,000 years … and that’s a worry for scientists

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 08:28
Osaka and surrounding areas in western Japan hit by a powerful earthquake on Monday are in a region where experts have long warned of the potential for major seismic activity. The inland earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.1, occurred at a depth of around 13 kilometres shortly before 8am, with its epicentre in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture in an area where active faults are concentrated. Takuya Nishimura, an associate professor of geodetics at Kyoto University, said there was...

Hong Kong tour groups safe after child dies in deadly Osaka earthquake that struck during morning rush hour

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 07:40
Hong Kong travel agents are reporting that all their customers in Osaka are safe after a deadly earthquake struck Japan’s second city on Monday during the height of rush hour. A nine-year-old girl was killed when a wall collapsed at her school, an 80-year-old man is also believed to have died, and 200 people have reportedly been injured in the quake, which was measured at 5.3 on the Richter scale by the United States Geological Survey. The Japan Meteorological Agency measured the tremor...

Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad talk tech, jobs and future as China deals come under scrutiny

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 07:36
Alibaba Group’s efforts to undertake an intensive transfer of technology and skills to Malaysia are aligned with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s hopes for the Southeast Asia economy to transit into high-income status quickly, the Chinese conglomerate’s co-founder Jack Ma said on Monday. Ma was speaking to the media after a meeting with Mahathir in Kuala Lumpur – the first by a Chinese entrepreneur since the country’s landmark election of May 9 in which the...

Is this art? Man buried for three days under busy Australian road

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 06:47
An artist has emerged from three days entombed in a steel box under a busy Australian road in a performance billed as a tribute to victims of totalitarian violence. Mike Parr, 73, fasted during his time underground, with oxygen pumped into the 1.7-metre (5.5-foot) by 2.2-metre container to keep him alive as traffic drove on overhead. He had bedding, water, a waste bucket, a sketchpad and pencils for the stunt in Hobart, part of Tasmania state’s annual Dark Mofo festival, which celebrates...

Japan: Several feared dead after earthquake shakes Osaka

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 03:22
A strong earthquake shook the city of Osaka in western Japan on Monday morning, causing scattered damage including broken glass and partial building collapses. Several people were feared dead, according to Japanese media. A 9-year-old girl died after becoming trapped by a damaged wall in a swimming pool facility in the city of Takatsuki, local authorities said. At least eight people were injured and multiple fire incidents have been reported in the city of Osaka. The quake with a preliminary...

From China to Central Asia, a regional security bloc’s long, slow march towards an alternative world order

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 02:45
While the world was captivated this week by the globetrotting show of US President Donald Trump, another summit just days earlier suggested what an alternative world order might look like. Various heads of state from member nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) met in the Chinese city of Qingdao for the bloc’s annual heads of state meeting. The SCO’s activities have been limited in the decade and a half since it was formed but this year’s summit had some...

China sounds out Japan and South Korea for another summit about North Korea this year, sources say

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 02:27
China has sounded out Japan and South Korea to hold a trilateral summit again in December in Beijing, hoping to further ramp up cooperation to denuclearise North Korea, diplomatic sources said Sunday. With the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea having met for a summit in Tokyo just last month, it would be unusual for a trilateral meeting at this level to be held again in the same year. China, a key economic benefactor of North Korea, appears to be pushing for a successive summit with its...

‘My people can’t compete’: as China’s influence grows in Pacific, so does local resentment and international worry

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 01:52
In the gritty, steamy streets of Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, signs of China’s push into the Pacific island nation are inescapable. A Chinese worker stencils a logo for China Railway Group outside the new national courthouse it’s building; China Harbor Engineering Group labourers tar roads under the searing midday sun. Little by little they are taking slices of our businesses. My people feel we can’t compete Martyn Namorong, anti-China campaigner in Papua New...

Physical indicators give glimpse of positive changes in economy

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 18:01
WHILE China’s May economic data suggested overall economic resilience, a glimpse into the physical indicators may provide more details of the changes taking place in the economic picture. Growth in energy consumption, freight traffic, and producer prices all picked up last month. China’s industrial electricity use increased 10.8 percent from a year ago, picking up from the April level of 7.3 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. “This reflects stronger industrial production activities,” said Wen Jianwu, head of NBS’s department of industrial statistics. Meanwhile, freight volume increased 8.5 percent year on year last month. Railway freight in particular jumped 11.8 percent, 10.4 percent higher than the growth in April. Last month also saw stronger demand for industrial products, which pushed up the producer price index, a measure of industrial product inflation, by 4.1 percent year on year, the highest growth in four months. At Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd, a heavy machinery manufacturer, the working hours of heavy equipment including mixing stations, pumping trucks, and hoisting equipment was on the rise. In the first five months of this year, Sany’s cranes worked 13.9 percent longer compared with the same period in 2017 as expansion in manufacturing investment has kept machines busy. This was in line with official investment figures. NBS data showed that fixed-asset investment in manufacturing climbed 5.2 percent in the first five months, up from 4.8 percent for January-April. Continued expansion in manufacturing investment provides evidence of China’s restructuring progress. Amid efforts to drive innovation, the output of China’s high-tech and equipment manufacturing sectors substantially outpaced last month’s industrial average, with production of new energy vehicles, integrated circuits, and robots up 56.7 percent, 17.2 percent, and 35.1 percent, respectively. For the service sector, China’s Index of Services Production went up 8.1 percent last month, with modern emerging service industries such as the Internet contributing up to 56.8 percent to the service sector growth, according to the NBS. In another sign of booming new businesses, electricity consumed by the software and information technology industry jumped 66.05 percent year on year in the January-May period, while that of the Internet service industry rose 63.26 percent. NBS spokesperson Mao Shengyong said at a press conference earlier last week that the supply side structural reform had prompted robust emerging sectors and sustained growth in the broader economy.

American firms assess tariff impact

SHANGHAI DAILY - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 18:01
COMPANIES and trade groups in the US have expressed concern over how the escalating trade spat between the world’s two biggest economies could affect operations. Beijing retaliated immediately to tariffs on tens of billions in Chinese imports imposed by US President Donald Trump on Friday. US trade groups stepped up their criticism, while some large companies such as Boeing said they were beginning to evaluate the tariffs’ possible effects. Boeing garnered about 12.8 percent of its 2017 revenues from China and is frequently seen as among the more vulnerable US multinationals to a full-on trade war. US automakers, which have targeted China as a key growth market, are also slated to be hit by the bruising tariffs. American auto giant Ford has sold 338,386 cars thus far in China in 2018, about one-third the number in the US, and had welcomed a Chinese plan to lower tariffs on auto imports.

Marijuana use tops paint thinner abuse in Japan for the first time

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 15:53
An estimated 1.3 million Japanese people aged 15 to 64 have used marijuana, surpassing for the first time the number of those who have abused inhalants such as paint thinner, a survey by a national institute showed on Sunday. The National Centre of Neurology and Psychiatry in Tokyo’s Kodaira estimated there are 1,331,765 habitual and non-habitual marijuana users, an increase of around 380,000 from the previous survey, based on population ratios and other factors, while the survey showed...

Admit it: Trump’s Singapore date with Kim made us all safer

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 13:45
Let’s give credit where it’s due. Last Monday’s sit-down in Singapore between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un probably nudged the Doomsday Clock just a few minutes further away from the apocalypse. And as much as Trump-haters may be loath to admit it, anything that staves off the risk of nuclear war, even temporarily, is a really good thing. Consider that less than six months ago, Trump and Kim were trading playground taunts and boasting...

Aussie supermarket relents to allow mass nude photo on car park

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 11:11
A US artist known for his large-scale nude photo shoots said he is relieved that Australian supermarket chain Woolworths has changed its mind and will now let him use one of its rooftop car parks for his next project. Spencer Tunick is travelling to Australia in July where he will take part in Melbourne’s Provocare Festival of the Arts. He had been commissioned by the festival to do a piece within the precinct of Chapel Street, a main street known for upmarket fashion shops and...

Cambodian prince’s wife dies in head-on road crash

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 09:49
Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh was injured and his wife killed in a two-vehicle collision that left five others also injured on Sunday morning in the resort city of Sihanoukville, a police official said. Sihanoukville police chief Chuon Narin said Ranariddh’s sport utility vehicle collided head-on with an SUV taxi carrying five people around 9am. The prince, who heads the royalist FUNCINPEC party, and his wife, Ouk Phalla, who were on their way to see supporters in Sihanoukville, were...

Thai king takes control of US$30 billion royal fortune after ascending the throne in 2016

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 05:09
The official agency that had managed the vast wealth of Thailand’s royal family has announced that its assets have formally been turned over to King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, who assumed the throne after the death of his father in 2016. An undated announcement seen on Saturday on the website of the Crown Property Bureau says that assets it has been administering will be put in the same category as the monarch’s personal assets and managed together at his...

As Oli comes calling, what does Nepal want from China?

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 04:45
As Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli embarks on a visit to Beijing, a meeting that starts on June 19, his successful resetting of ties with India is likely to give him the elbow room he needs to rev up relations with China, which were once on the upswing but have slackened of late. Oli’s China visit comes a couple of months after his trip to New Delhi and a highly successful return trip by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month that put fraying India-Nepal...

After Trump-Kim summit, South Koreans are left wondering: ‘Are we better off than we were a week ago?’

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 03:30
South Koreans of a certain generation remember a hit children’s animation from 1978, featuring as its hero a Tarzan-like boy who battles an army of North Korean soldiers, depicted as packs of rabid wolves. By the end of the anti-communist movie, through the courageous feat of the protagonist Ttoli, the corpulent villain Red Marshal, who engorges himself while exploiting his own impoverished people, is unmasked and shown for his true self. As it turns out, the villain – unmistakably...

Kim Jong-un’s Air China summit charter is proof Beijing is wind beneath his wings

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 03:30
A picture is worth a thousand words. The proverb sprang to mind when the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, smiling and dressed in a Mao-style suit, stepped off the red-carpeted stairs of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet with the difficult-to-miss markings of Air China and its Phoenix logo. The visual that Kim flew on the Chinese special jet to Singapore for the historic summit with the US President Donald Trump is a subtle but apt reminder of China’s influences in the rapidly changing geopolitical...

From Vietnam, without love: the child brides of China

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 02:30
It was 8pm on a scorching summer night when Tien, a quiet, timid teenager, left her home in a coastal province of central Vietnam, supposedly to spend the night at her cousin’s. Or at least, that is what the 16-year-old had told her family. In fact, she planned to leave the village to escape the pressure on her to get married. Hoping her cousin would help her find a job, she slipped out the door. It was nearly two years before she would return, by then having endured horrors beyond the...

Canadian man accused of advising black market website Silk Road creator extradited to US from Thailand

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 00:15
A Canadian man accused by US authorities of acting as a senior adviser to the jailed creator of the underground Silk Road website was extradited to the United States from Thailand on Friday, federal prosecutors said. In a newly unsealed indictment, prosecutors charged Roger Thomas Clark with crimes including narcotics trafficking, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Clark was arrested in Thailand in 2015 at the request of US authorities. Prosecutors have said Clark was...

A woman went to check her corn and was swallowed by a python

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 22:33
For the second time in barely more than a year, an Indonesian villager has been swallowed whole by a python. Wa Tiba, 54, left her home on Muna island to visit her cornfield on Thursday night, according to The Jakarta Post. The field was about a half mile from her house, surrounded by cliffs, caves and a certain number of reticulated pythons, the longest snakes in the world. The snakes normally feed on smaller mammals. Attacks on humans are supposed to be as rare as winning the lottery and...

Why North Korea is set to become the next big thing for investors

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 16:58
Will North Korea become the next big thing for investors now that the Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un summit has ended with handshakes and a “walkabout” (rather than a walkout) by the two leaders? The question is not premature, even if denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is some way off. The general verdict on the Singapore summit is that there is still a long way to go before we can say Trump’s “art of the deal” has paid off. But the economic and financial...

Killing of Pakistani Taliban chief ‘significant’, prime minister says

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 15:32
Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk described the killing of Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah in a US drone strike in Afghanistan as a “significant development in the fight against terrorism”. Mulk made the comment in a telephone conversation on Friday night with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and thanked him for sharing information about Fazlullah’s killing, said a Pakistan government statement. The call was made by Ghani, who tweeted that Fazlullah...

Japan approves economic plan to allow more foreign workers

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 12:46
Japan’s cabinet on Friday adopted an economic plan that would allow more foreign workers as the rapidly ageing country tries to make up for its declining workforce. Under the plan, visa requirements would be relaxed in sectors facing severe labour shortages such as nursing, agriculture, construction and transport – new categories it would start accepting in addition to highly-skilled professionals. The workers would only be allowed to stay in the country for up to five years as...

Vietnam launches probe into American detained for ‘public disorder’ during protests over proposed land deal with China

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 09:00
Vietnam police have launched a formal criminal investigation into an American man who was among dozens arrested last week during rare protests that erupted across the authoritarian state. American citizen William Anh Nguyen, 32, was detained in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday during a massive rally protesting a government proposal to grant lengthy land leases in new special economic zones. Many protesters expressed fear the land would be handed to China, and thousands gathered in several cities...

Australia rules out moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem in line with US and Donald Trump

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 08:40
Australia will not be following Donald Trump’s lead and moving its embassy to Jerusalem, Julie Bishop has said, despite strong support from the party’s base. The Liberal Party’s youth arm had called on the government to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s legislative capital, and to suspend all aid to Palestine “until it terminates its ‘Martyr’s fund”. The motion, which is non-binding, was carried in a vote 43 to 31, but the foreign...

Donald Trump hails successful summit with Kim but North Korean cyberattacks went unaddressed

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 07:22
Among the subjects President Donald Trump apparently didn’t discuss with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore – the regime’s human rights abuses, its exports of missile technology and its mistreatment of US prisoners – there’s one more: its long record of dangerous cyberattacks against sensitive targets in the US and allied nations. Experts warn that the country’s hacking skills have become increasingly sophisticated and dangerous in recent years....

If Korean Chaebol were scandalous before Trump-Kim summit …

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 05:32
As the Korean Air scandal burns through almost every member of the company’s controlling family, the prospect of reforming South Korea’s chaebol – large, family-owned business conglomerates – looks less promising than ever, particularly after the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Singapore. The Korea Immigration Service this week subjected Lee Myung-hee, the wife of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho, to 13 hours of questioning...

With China no longer aboard, Mahathir opens new chapter in Saga of the Malaysian People’s Car

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 04:30
Malaysia’s newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has raised the possibility of a new national car project, putting behind him the mixed fortunes of his previous initiative, Proton, launched over three decades ago. “We need to go back to the idea of a national car,” he announced at the 24th Nikkei Conference in Tokyo on his first foreign trip since his election last month. “Our ambition is to start another national car, perhaps with some help from our partners...