Foreign waste import ban leaves Western nations, Chinese manufacturers in a dilemma

For nearly three decades, China has been the world’s biggest importer of waste. Each year, Chinese manufacturers and recyclers import 8 million tons of foreign waste to China to be reused as raw materials for new products.

While the waste produces health and environmental problems, these issues have long been overshadowed by the economic interests of both China and the exporting nations, which are mostly in the West. While recycling raw materials has helped Chinese firms save money, it has also helped Western countries earn money and solve their garbage problem.

So when China recently told the WTO that it will ban 24 types of solid waste imports before the year’s end in order to protect its citizens’ health and safety, the global recycling industry was left wondering: If China will no longer accept the globe’s garbage, where will it all go?

Western countries devastated

The West’s plastic recycling is dependent on China. A total of 87 percent of Europe’s waste plastic, for example, ends up in China. Globally, 56 percent of waste plastic is exported to China, according to a report by the International Solid Waste Association. Even developing countries, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, re-export reprocessed imports and domestically collected plastic scrap to China, the reports says.

Dependence on a single importer can be risky, and that risk is now looming as China plans to shut its doors to foreign waste.

Customs officers check imported waste at the port of Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province, on October 15, 2013. Photo: CFP

The 24 types of waste that are banned this time include plastic waste from living sources, toxic vanadium slag, unsorted waste paper and waste textile materials which are environmentally hazardous.

“Most of them used to be on the ‘restricted’ list of China’s import regulations, and this time they are banned,” said Liu Jianguo, a professor specializing in solid waste management at Tsinghua University.

Apart from environmentally hazardous solid waste, China will also ban imports of solid waste that can be replaced by domestic resources by the end of 2019, according to the State Council.

For the recycling industry overseas, it’s a nightmare scenario.

Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a Washington-based trade association, said in a statement that China’s ban will be “catastrophic” to the US recycling industry, which transforms obsolete materials into secondary raw materials before they are exported to China.

“With more than $5.6 billion in scrap commodities exported from the United States to China last year alone, the trade in specification-grade commodities – metals, paper and plastics – between the United States and China is of critical importance to the health and success of the United States based recycling industry. If implemented, a ban on scrap imports will result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and closure of many recycling businesses throughout the United States,” he said.

Arnaud Brunet, director general of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), a Belgium-based NGO, expressed a similar concern, saying the impact of the ban will be “devastating.” In a letter to the WTO, BIR called for China to reconsider its decision.

“This ban, if implemented, will have a serious impact on the global recycling industry which has, in the last 25 years, supported China in its economic development and growth and met its manufacturing needs for secondary raw materials,” Brunet said in a statement. The flow of international scrap to China amount to tens of billions US dollars’ worth of goods, he said.

Chinese experts, however, say such a ban is inevitable as China’s industries upgrade and environmental protection is made a priority.

“Western countries will have to think of ways to digest their waste themselves, including through landfill or incineration,” Liu told the Global Times.

Liu said while part of the industry might move to countries in Southeast Asia, India and Pakistan following China’s ban, the relatively small capacity of these countries won’t be able to satisfy global demand.

Others think this is an opportunity, rather than disaster, for Western countries. Steve Wong, executive president of the China Scrap Plastic Association, said China’s ban might be an “opportunity for recycling” in the US, according to industry website Resource Recycling. Wong, also the chairman of a Hong Kong recycling company, said at a recent conference that he is planning to open a plant in the US.

The ban explained

China started to import solid waste in the 1980s, when its rapidly growing economy fueled gigantic demand for cheap raw materials.

“Solid waste is a resource and source of pollution at the same time. In the past, when China needed to develop the economy, it valued its economic value and ignored how it may also pollute the environment,” Wang Wang, secretary general of the China Scrap Plastic Association, told the Global Times.

“A lot of people thought the majority of foreign waste was smuggled into China. But actually, most of it enters China legally and only a small amount is smuggled,” Xu Haiyun, chief engineer of the China Urban Construction Design and Research Institute, told the Global Times.

But as China deepens its supply-side reforms, more attention is being paid to protecting the environment.

This is not the first time China has restricted waste imports. In 2013, China launched the “Green Fence” campaign, a 10-month long initiative to prevent the import of unsorted shipments of recyclable waste from abroad. During the campaign, China prevented about 58,800 tons of foreign waste from entering the country, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Domestic impact

While the latest move has dealt a blow to overseas waste exporters, it will also push China’s domestic recycling industry to upgrade its technology and standards.

China launched a campaign to inspect all factories that hold import licenses for plastic waste recycling this July, when 420 officers from the Ministry of Environmental Protection conducted a special round of inspections in 22 regions involving 1,792 factories that deal with imported waste, checking their pollution controls and import permits. By July 29, the ministry had given suggestions or punishments to 1,074, or 60 percent, of these businesses.

The head of a chemical fiber factory in Jiaxing, East China’s Zhejiang Province told the Beijing Youth Daily that previously around 50 percent of the raw materials the factory used were scrap plastic from countries including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Tanzania. The factory has now stopped importing scrap plastic and vows to use only primary domestic raw materials in the future. “It takes months to import these materials and sometimes when they enter China, the price of domestic materials has dropped. This won’t be a problem in the future,” the factory head told Beijing Youth Daily.

But as the ban looms, this question is being posed – how to fill China’s demand gap, when as much as a quarter of the raw materials in some industries come from foreign recyclable waste.

Experts say one way to bridge this gap is for China to recycle more of its own waste, much of which now ends up in landfills. “It’s especially important to raise China’s safe recycling rate. China recycles a lot of things, but most of it is done by small family businesses which pay no attention to pollution,” Wang said.

One reason that Chinese businesses favor imported waste is that it is of better quality. A businessman in Shanghai who declined to be named told the Global Times that some imported plastic waste is both cheaper and of better quality than domestic waste.

The majority of Chinese recyclers which provide raw materials to manufacturers are small family-run affairs which use low-tech equipment and often ignore environmental protection rules.

The other way is to use more primary raw materials to replace foreign recycled waste, which may push up prices.

“I used to visit a fabric factory in Guangdong Province which manufactured fabric using imported second-hand clothes. The factory won many awards for its recycling efforts and even receives government subsidies. But it doesn’t dare tell the public what its fabrics are made of. Why doesn’t it use cotton from Xinjiang as its raw material?” Xu said.

Source: Global Times

North Korea’s threat against Guam makes US policy more ‘unpredictable’: expert

Chinese experts said China should not drop its guard on the missile capabilities of North Korea, who vowed on Wednesday to attack the US Pacific territory of Guam.

“The Korean People’s Army (KPA) Strategic Force is now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire in areas around Guam with several medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic Hwasong-12 rockets to contain the major US military bases on Guam, including Anderson Air Force Base,” a spokesman for the KPA said in a statement carried by the North’s state-run KCNA news agency, Reuters reported.

The governor of Guam said on Wednesday North Korea’s warning of a possible missile strike on the US Pacific territory was no threat and the island was prepared for “any eventuality,” with defenses strategically placed to protect its people.

“North Korea’s claim goes against China’s mediation efforts and those of other countries to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue through talks,” Da Zhigang, director of the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Northeast Asian Studies, told the Global Times.

“The statement on Wednesday would intensify tensions as well as make US policy on North Korea more unpredictable,” Da said.

“North Korea’s ability to strike at the US remains remote because North Korea’s missiles require extensive preparation, which would give the US time to react,” said Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force.

However, Da said that while information on North Korea’s missile program is limited, it’s clear the country has made substantial progress, especially in intercontinental ballistic missiles. Da added that China should not drop its guard on North Korea’s missile capabilities.

North Korea and the US are engaged in an increasingly heated “war of words,” and North Korea is the bigger loser, Lü Chao, a Korea expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

“However, the only way for North Korea to be free from US sanctions is to sit down and negotiate instead of expressing its anger through such statements,” Lü noted.

US President Donald Trump ratcheted up the rhetoric against North Korea on Tuesday, saying Pyongyang should not make any more threats against the US, Reuters reported. On Monday, two US B-1 bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula from Guam as part of its “continuous bomber presence,” a US official said, in a sign of Guam’s strategic importance, Reuters reported.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday that sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and the resumption of six-party talks are important and neither should be neglected, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Source: Global Times

47,000 tourists evacuated from quake-hit Jiuzhaigou

Rescue teams quickly responded to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Jiuzhaigou county in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province Tuesday night, killing 20 and leaving 431 others injured, evacuating thousands of tourists.

All 47,000 tourists had been transferred to safer places as of 6 pm, local news site reported.

About 38,000 tourists visit Jiuzhaigou daily from Saturday to Monday, according to the Jiuzhai Valley National Park.

The Aba prefecture government told the Global Times Wednesday that more than 1,000 foreigners were being transferred. Reports said four foreign tourists were injured.

The Blue Sky Rescue Team arrived in Jiuzhaigou county at midnight Tuesday and worked overnight trying to help evacuate and rescue tourists, Gou Shaolin, head of the team, told the Global Times.

Gou said many tourists are safe but in shock.

A soldier carries an injured elderly woman to the hospital on Wednesday after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan Province Tuesday night. Photo: IC

“Part of our job is to comfort and calm them down,” Gou noted.

A tourist surnamed Li told the Global Times that they were watching dramas about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake when the current earthquake struck.

“The performers panicked on the stage and shouted, ‘Earthquake! earthquake!’ but we thought the shaking was part of the special effects,” Li said, adding that it took a while for tourists to realize a real earthquake was taking place and began evacuating.

Chinese seismologists warned that there might be more aftershocks in the coming days.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for all-out efforts to rapidly organize relief and rescue work, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Xi said authorities should check on the earthquake’s impact, evacuate and settle visitors and local people, and reduce the numbers of deaths and injuries as much as possible, said Xinhua.

Premier Li Keqiang also urged local authorities to go all out in their relief and monitoring work.

Feng Zhenglin, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), confirmed the immediate activation of level-III emergency response procedures, urging civil aviation authorities to cooperate with local government in disaster relief efforts.

The CAAC has instructed airports to keep track of available runways and gate positions while asking airlines to help in the emergency evacuation of tourists in the disaster-hit area.

The National Development and Reform Commission said it plans to give Sichuan 60 million yuan ($8.92 million) to rehabilitate the area’s infrastructure.

The Ministry of Transport has also initiated level-II emergency response procedures and formed a leading group to guide local transportation authorities to aid rescue efforts.

Aside from government agencies, civic organizations and companies are contributing to rescue operations.

The Sichuan Red Cross has received more than 360 million yuan worth of donations as of 12 pm Wednesday, the China News Service (CNS) reported.

Second quake

Sichuan was not the only area hit by a strong earthquake.

A 6.6-magnitude tremor shook Jinghe county in the Bortala Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) announced. Thirty-four people were reportedly injured.

“These two earthquakes were caused by the activity of the Earth’s tectonic plates, and they may not be related to each other,” Xu Deshi, a researcher at the China Earthquake Administration, told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that Jinghe and Jiuzhaigou are located on different plates and in different earthquake zones.

However, the fact that the second earthquake occurred soon after the first one may indicate that China has entered a period of relatively high seismic activity, CENC researcher Sun Shihong said.

“An effective warning system needs to be accurate and quick before an earthquake hits. However, its effect is limited to near the quake’s epicenter and works best in areas 100 to 200 kilometers away,” Xu said.

Source: Global Times

Play it loud: Smart speaker market heats up

DingDong smart speakers Photo: Courtesy of Beijing LingLong Tech Co

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology developed by tech giants has turned the humble speaker into the tech world’s latest infatuation, and Chinese tech mammoth Alibaba Group Holding wants a piece of the action.

The company is getting ready to officially roll out its AI-powered home speaker next month in its bid for a slice of the burgeoning market pioneered by its US counterpart Amazon.

The hands-free speaker, dubbed “Tmall Genie X1,” is equipped with virtual voice assistant AliGenie, which reacts to voice commands in Putonghua. It is now in its testing stage at a price of 499 yuan ($73.40) and is set to be ready for Chinese end users on August 8.

Similar to Amazon’s Echo, Tmall Genie X1 features functions such as smart home control, music playback, and setting reminders, while also enabling consumers to easily buy goods online.

In the view of Qian Xue, head of Alibaba’s AI team, the AI-powered speaker is expected to promote a new mode of interaction between humans and computers: controlling electronic devices via voice.

Compared with the voice, a natural form of communication, the current touch-screen technology is unlikely to be the best interaction method, despite its wide application in smartphones, Qian said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Monday.

Alibaba is not the only Chinese company to dip its toes into the smart speaker segment.

China’s second-largest online retailer Inc has already tested the waters via its $25 million joint venture, Beijing LingLong Tech Co, with leading Chinese voice technology company iFlytek in 2015, following hot on the heels of Amazon.

Priced at 698 yuan on JD, its flagship Wi-Fi-enabled DingDong AI smart speaker can hear and respond to voice commands, just like most smart speakers in the market.

In an e-mailed reply to the Global Times on Tuesday, JD described the DingDong smart speaker as “the strategic product” for its application of AI.

Promising venture

Intelligent home speakers will challenge smartphones in the home of the future, analysts from US-based market consultancy Strategy Analytics predicted in a report released in late February.

David Watkins, director of the Connected Home Devices unit with Strategy Analytics, said in the report that the promise of such hands-free interaction with the Internet is “a very compelling one.”

Home smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and JD’s DingDong have already caused a wave of excitement among consumers.

Sales of DingDong smart speakers rose 378 percent year-on-year during this year’s 20-day shopping festival starting from June 1 on the JD platform, according to media reports.

When contacted by the Global Times, JD did not reveal the specific sales figures of DingDong since it was first launched in May 2015.

Last year, shipments of smart speakers reached 5.9 million units globally, according to the Strategy Analytics report. The value of the market is expected to exceed $1.5 billion this year and reach $5.5 billion by 2020.

US market research firm Gartner also sees the smart speaker market as a promising one, expecting 3.3 percent of global households to adopt speakers with virtual personal assistants by 2020.

As the frontrunner in the smart speaker market, Amazon’s Echo has maintained its dominance since its debut in 2014. The latest data from Strategy Analytics showed that strong demand for Echo has brought the number of speakers based on Amazon’s voice assistant system Alexa in use to over 6 million by the end of 2016.

Alexa seized 88 percent of the world’s smart home speaker market in the fourth quarter of last year, while Google’s Assistant occupied a 10 percent share over the reported quarter following the launch of its Home speaker last November.

Looming competition

Currently, Echo and Home, which respond mainly to English speakers, are not readily available in China.

“But this does not mean the nation’s smart speaker players do not need to concern themselves about the possible competition from the Western world,” Li Yi, a senior research fellow at the Internet Research Center under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times Tuesday.

Chinese consumers with the money to spend can always find a way to purchase US cutting-edge electronic gadgets, even though they are not officially sold in the country, said Li.

Several Chinese consumers have picked up Echo at the price of 1,799 yuan via JD, information on JD’s marketplace showed.

There has also been market speculation that Apple is intending to launch its new smart speaker HomePod in China. The Siri-powered, music-focused HomePod, unveiled by Apple in June, will first become available in the US, UK and Australia for $349 in December.

China, home to nearly 20 percent of the world’s population and a fast-growing economy, is widely perceived as a lucrative and attractive market.

In competing with Western tech veterans, domestic firms such as Alibaba and JD may lag behind in terms of AI technology development, but they have the chance to lead the Chinese smart speaker market, given their edge in the offering of localized services, said Li.

In the view of Wei Qiang, CEO of Beijing LingLong Tech, knowing what the customer needs is crucial.

“The key to the success of smart speakers is identifying potential customer demand and building up the scenarios to meet customer demand,” Wei told the Global Times Tuesday.

The DingDong-adapted JD Alpha, an AI services system developed by JD, now allows full voice control of more than 10 million smart products in over 60 categories covering items such as rice cookers, air conditioners and curtains.

Alibaba’s AliGenie, a latecomer to the game, is developing new location-based functions such as food delivery calls, in addition to traditional features such as smart home control and playing music.

At present, both DingDong and Tmall Genie X1 are only targeting the Chinese market.

China’s smart speaker industry is still in its early stages and full of huge opportunities as more and more customers get to know the convenience that smart speakers can bring them, said Wei.

Source: Global Times


Beijing Marriott Hotel Northeast holds Yunnan Food Festival

August is the rainy season and also the season for Yunnan wild mushrooms. The Bite of Yunnan Food Festival is being held from August 7 to 20 at Beijing Marriott Hotel Northeast. The Chef who is from Yunnan will create authentic Yunnan cuisine for the customers.

The high nutritional value of the wild mushroom with a variety of cooking methods is the main feature of the Yunnan Food Festival. Dishes like pan fried mat stake mushroom, sautéed shrimp with morel mushroom, sautéed porcini mushroom with bell pepper, marinated shredded chicken with lime, lemon grass and marinated deer horn mushroom are all recommended by the chef and are promised to bring guests a memorable experience through a delectable Yunnan food journey.

Source: Global Times

Chinese games prosper beyond border

China’s game developers, big or small, are busily exploring the overseas markets, not only in developed countries like the US, but also in emerging markets like India. The Global Times recently spoke with several Chinese developers about how they are conquering global markets with Made-in-China games. However, it seems that challenges have also emerged.

Looking back to 20 years ago, the video game was somewhat of an ambiguous concept for many Chinese. But now, the Chinese gaming industry has reached a phase of development whereby it is spreading beyond the Chinese border.

Two Chinese games were on the 2016 “Best Web Games” list compiled by Facebook. They are League of Angels II, a role-playing game developed by Shanghai-based Yoozoo Games, and role-playing game Naruto Online, developed by Hong Kong-headquartered Oasis Games.

On the Facebook page of League of Angels II, the Global Times noticed that more than 450,000 people “like” the game by press time on Tuesday.

Chinese games have also gained popularity on US digital game distribution platform Google Play.

For example, Piano Tiles 2, a rhythm game developed by Beijing-based Cheetah Mobile, was on Google Play’s hot mobile games ranking list.

Wang Si’en, Piano Tiles 2’s game developer and vice president of Cheetah Mobile, said that Piano Tiles 2 ranked at the top of gaming lists in 150 countries and regions, including the US and Japan where market access is the most difficult.

“The global market always holds an open attitude toward Chinese games, and they can achieve great popularity globally as long as the quality is high,” Wang told the Global Times on Monday.

Video game players compete against each other at an e-Sports convention held in Lyon, France in March. Photo: IC

Testing overseas waters

In recent years, more and more domestic game developers have been testing the waters overseas.

An Jianwang, president of the overseas sales department under Cheetah Mobile, said that Cheetah has been helping about 300 domestic game developers, big or small, explore the international market over the past four years.

“Five years ago, domestic game developers went abroad mostly because they faced survival pressure in the home market, so they often fought on their own in the global market. Nowadays, developers like to work together and tend to focus more on the mobile game sector,” An told the Global Times on Monday.

An also noted that diverse strategies had been adopted by different companies, with some big gaming companies being prone to entering the overseas market via acquisition of foreign gaming studios.

China’s tech mammoth Tencent Holdings reportedly invested in UK-based gaming studio Milky Tea on August 2.

Just a few days before then, the company also bought 9 percent of shares of Frontier Developments, another UK-based video game developer. Tencent hadn’t commented on those investments as of press time Tuesday.

Smaller firms are also busily exploring the overseas market. An said some of them even position the overseas market as their only business target.

One of such companies is Veewo Games, a Xiamen-based gaming company whose games like Super Phantom Cat are very popular on Google Play.

“We now mostly target overseas markets, and the domestic market is just a bonus for us,” Jason Yeung, CEO of Veewo, told the Global Times on Friday.

Apart from developed countries like the US, emerging markets are also attracting Chinese game developers.

Yoozoo, which has gained some advantages in mature markets like the US and Europe, also started to tap emerging markets like Russia.

In March, Yoozoo set up a subsidiary in Pune, India.

“We made this decision because we recognize that the big population base and booming mobile industry [in India] will bring about ample development space for potential mobile games,” Yoozoo’s vice president Liu Wanqin told the Global Times on Monday. “Now it’s time to break into that market, nurture user habits and set up brand reputation.”

She also noted that Yoozoo’s first online gambling card game in India Teen Patti is quite popular among local users.

Big fortune ahead?

Yoozoo’s overseas revenues stood at 1.268 billion yuan ($189 million) in 2016, up 64.55 percent year-on-year, said Liu.

As its products were welcomed mostly by US players, Veewo said it now gains about 60 percent of the company’s income from overseas markets.

Yeung bets that the proportion is expected to become even larger in the future.

Chinese game developers’ revenues in overseas markets surged by about 130 percent year-on-year in the first six months of 2017, according to a report published by domestic news site on July 31.

Moreover, according to Liu from Yoozoo, Chinese developers currently account for about 27 percent of all game revenues generated in Southeast Asia, and about 33 percent in the Middle East and Russia.

However, in an interview with the Global Times, Wesley Bao, CEO of Shanghai-based game developing start-up Coconut Island Games, said that overseas markets are not bonanzas for all Chinese game developers.

Coconut, which used to mainly target overseas users, has moved its focus back to the domestic market because it found that it is costly to meet the cultural needs of both domestic and overseas players with just one game, Bao told the Global Times on Monday.

Liu admitted that competition in the overseas market is also fierce and “you need to address hurdles like language and cultural differences” while exploring opportunities abroad.

Localization is the key

In the view of domestic developers, the key to success in overseas markets is localization.

Localization is not about translation, but about understanding local cultures, said Yeung.

For example, “you can’t promote Christmas-related games in Arab countries and you can’t say ‘blondy’ in US games as the term might be considered offensive there,” he explained.

According to Wang from Cheetah Mobile, Japanese game users are adapting slowly, so it’s hard for games to explode in Japan, but in South Korea and the US, players easily accept new things, therefore innovative games can become a hit right away there.

“For developers that want to succeed overseas, they should pay attention to the changes on those countries’ games lists and research on those hot games to find the market gaps. They should also conduct fast online surveys to see whether their games suit the tastes of local players,” Wang suggested.

He noted that English-speaking countries have a lot in common in culture, religion and language, so they can be treated as one homogenous market, “but other countries need to be treated one by one.”

Source: Global Times

Finance must resume natural role in real economy

Internal and external risks are weighing on China’s financial system, and an “explosion” of any of these problems could endanger the stability of the entire system.

Domestically, economic downward pressure has been increasing, and financial risks that were formerly concealed by rapid economic growth have been emerging. Chaotic conditions exist in some areas: there is an overheated real estate industry with related nonperforming loans, local government debt is at risk of default, and Internet finance and shadow banks are putting intense pressure on systemic liquidity.

In particular, the rapid expansion of shadow banks and their innovative products have posed great challenges to the supervisory authorities. The shadow banking system in 2016 was equivalent to 64.5 trillion yuan ($9.59 trillion), with three core products: entrusted loans, trust loans and the undiscounted bank acceptance notes.

Property risks can’t be ignored. Unlike other sectors, the real estate industry is more tightly connected with the financial industry and associated with rapid development of related financial derivatives. The credit exposure of banks to real estate in China was about 29.8 trillion yuan at the end of the first quarter of this year.

But the total may be much larger than the figure for direct loans suggests. For example, many financing platforms of local governments and corporate loans have used land and buildings as collateral, and this represents indirect credit exposure to real estate for banks.

Meanwhile, domestic regulators have often failed to keep up with the pace of market development. In some cases, regulators only act after the financial impact of excessive innovation emerges.

All these factors show that mounting risks in the financial system require close attention.

In addition, with the deepening of financial globalization, turmoil in the international financial markets is driving up China’s systemic risk. Of particular concern are the monetary policies of major economies, a source of uncertainty to the domestic financial markets.

The US interest-rate cycle is on the upswing. The interest rates cut at the end of 2015 by the US Federal Reserve caused a crash in global financial markets, including China’s stock market.

In March, China took small steps to follow the Fed in raising rates, which caused extremely tight liquidity among banks domestically. This outcome reflected a lack of preparation for a cycle of global liquidity tightening.

Compared with the interest-rate rise, greater risk may come from the balance sheet contraction of the Fed, which could start in the second half of this year. This will affect global liquidity more seriously. Meanwhile, the regulatory experience of the US after the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 deserves our attention. For instance, regulating the shadow bank system at the national level and carefully monitoring the risk from the insurance industry are important factors.

Almost all financial crises in history have resulted from abandoning the real economy to pursue financial speculation. To avoid systemic risk, finance must resume its natural role in the real economy. The sector should develop a belief in serving the real economy as its ultimate purpose, put customer needs first and optimize the financing system. These actions will be conducive to the real economy’s development.

It is necessary to establish effective mechanisms to identify, prevent and resolve risks. These will allow regulators to determine the sources of risk, conduct real-time monitoring, issue timely warnings and prevent risk. The specific design of such systems can combine international and domestic factors and resolve problems over a longer span.

This year’s National Financial Work Conference proposed to establish a committee under the State Council to deal with financial stability and development and strengthen supervision. It also emphasized serving the real economy effectively. Providing proper financial services to the real economy is the only fundamental way to prevent systemic financial risk.

The authors are respectively researcher and associate researcher of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Source: Global Times

Does record-breaking military movie signal an assertive China?

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Recently, a blockbuster movie has grabbed headlines in China, from newspapers to social media. Everyone is talking about Wolf Warriors 2, one of China’s first military action movies. This Monday, the movie set a new record in China’s box office history with total sales of 3.4 billion yuan ($507 million). The movie is still taking in about 200 million yuan each day. Wu Jing, a kung fu movie star and former national martial arts champion, directed, wrote and starred in the film.

The movie is a breakthrough. First, Chinese-made patriotic military movies have not been a popular genre among young people recently. No one including the director himself would have predicted that the film would find such box office success. Second, this movie is the first of its kind to be set outside Chinese borders. It features a former special forces soldier rescuing Chinese people from the hands of Western mercenaries in a conflict zone in Africa.

Some commentators from abroad regard Wolf Warriors 2 as a pure patriotic and nationalist movie indicative of an assertive and aggressive China.

Is it simple patriotic propaganda? The answer is clearly no. It is easy and stereotyped thinking to simply label this movie as public propaganda, but doing so will miss important political implications.

This movie is not top-down didactic, patriotic propaganda by the government. On the contrary, it is a purely commercial movie, rather than a state-initiated propaganda movie. The movie was entirely funded by private investment, a large portion by director and leading actor Wu Jing himself. He found raising the money tough, and many private investors and entertainment celebrities turned down a chance to invest. The director had to mortgage his house to finish the film.

However, to everyone’s surprise, this movie broke all the records in China’s movie history. It is more of a bottom-up approach, as the movie fed a public appetite and met their desire to see a confident and strong Chinese military force which could not only safeguard China’s national borders, but also successfully protect the safety and interests of Chinese people abroad. The latter is something new, but an urgent need for Chinese citizens, as China is increasing its presence abroad, from overseas investment to education to tourism.

This military action movie has important political implications for China’s foreign policy and security policy.

Prior to this movie, for the Chinese public, the functions of the Chinese army were constrained within Chinese borders, from disaster rescues to domestic security. This movie added another dimension to the public’s perception of China’ military. It showed in pictures and with emotions an unfamiliar and unrecognized fact that Chinese soldiers are shouldering more responsibility to safeguard the safety of Chinese citizens abroad. Part of this movie is based on real stories, when the Chinese embassies and navy evacuated Chinese nationals in Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Libya and other conflict zones.

Following the success of this movie, Chinese people will support more defensive military actions conducted by the Chinese army abroad. Its huge profits and political success will lure investment in more action movies with similar themes. As a result, these cultural products will further enhance public expectations and support for China’s military actions abroad, and a more active role for China in the international community as a responsible shareholder.

But is it indicative that China will become more assertive and aggressive? Or that China is ambitious to replace the US and become the next superhero to save the world? The answer is again no.

For observers who have preconceptions, it is hard to recognize and accept that the military actions of the Chinese soldiers that this movie promoted are defensive in nature. The heroes are not fighting to gain something for themselves, or intervening in local conflicts to attack the bad guys. The guidance for the Chinese army at home and abroad is to limit gunfire.

The leading character Leng Feng was a former special forces member. He did not receive any weapons from the Chinese navy, which was sent to evacuate Chinese nationals. A Navy commander in the film repeatedly emphasized that China could not send any troops into the war zone without UN authorization. The movie also raised a thought-provoking question, as Leng decided not only to rescue Chinese but also local African people and bring them to safety zones. The inclusiveness and equality the film promoted is beyond the narrow concept of nationalism.

When Leng and the people he has rescued pass a battlefield on their way to the port in the climax of the movie, Leng holds up a Chinese flag and asks people to throw away their guns. This shows a strong anti-war, anti-violence sentiment that would appeal to the Chinese public. The purpose of the action is to protect and rescue people, not to attack the enemy. This is in sharp contrast to the role and image of Western mercenaries in the film. While the West brings only destruction and war, China brings construction and trade.

The film is also not a simple replication of a Hollywood superhero movie. The director indeed hired the Captain America: Civil War production team for combat scenes and stunts. Many viewers said the movie is of Hollywood quality. But the purpose was not to produce another Hollywood movie, but an enthusiastic Chinese movie which could appeal to a Chinese audience and echo Chinese culture and values.

The director certainly adds creativity with the underwater fight, jeep racing and tank scenes. In that regard, foreign technology is one of the tools, not the result. The dedication and efforts of the director earned respect and support from Chinese viewers.

To understand this movie, we need to understand that ordinary Chinese people expect and support a strong Chinese military presence to offer protection and rescue when they are abroad. This urgent need is in line with the Chinese government’s increasing commitment to safeguard security and peace as a responsible power in the international community.

Source: Global Times

China, US can jointly shape international order

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

“International order” means the rules, or in other words, universal values, concepts and mechanisms, in global governance. It is shaped by major powers and followed by smaller countries. Rising powers are always attempting to break these rules and re-establish a new order that reflects their values.

The current international order was established by the US after WWII. Many believe that the order is now challenged by China, a rising power, and also by the US itself, as practices by US President Donald Trump are challenging and even destroying the current order.

The US is indeed confounded by some problems, and China is dissatisfied with the current order and is actively participating in international governance.

But Beijing will not replace Washington. This is determined by the nature of current international order.

At the beginning of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the country was excluded from the UN and didn’t participate in the establishment of the post-WWII international order. Even if Beijing now is regarded as challenging the order, it has never deviated from the current system, especially the principle of sovereign equality. For instance, mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty is at the core of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence put forward at the Bandung Conference in 1956. China has been gradually contributing to the current international order since it joined the UN in 1971.

It has taken Beijing quite a long time to adapt to international rules on sovereign security, human rights and other sensitive agendas. While China once maintained silence on security affairs, it is now playing an important role in UN peacekeeping operations, arms control and other fields. China’s increasing power is the fundamental reason for the shift.

But China is still dissatisfied with the current order. The rules represent mainly Western values, and, given political and cultural divergences, China regards many of the rules as unjust and unreasonable.

Shifts in economic strength have not been reflected by the current order. Under the current order, China has not obtained rights and discourse power that can match its strength and influence. Therefore, Beijing wants changes, but is suppressed by Washington.

China is dissatisfied with US double standards.

While Washington requires other countries to obey the rules, it does not act in accordance to the rules on most occasions, especially when the situation is unfavorable to it. Washington proposes to shape liberal and multilateral global institutions, but it has established an alliance system that excludes China.

As a result, Beijing is playing a more active role in international affairs, but this is regarded as a challenge to the current order and Washington. For instance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and other Chinese initiatives are believed to be an effort to counter US interests. China also put forward a number of rules about the sea, outer space and the Internet that are different from US.

But Beijing has no intention to target Washington, and the conditions are immature for it to replace Washington in shaping the international order.

To begin with, China’s hard power is not strong enough, and China doesn’t have enough resources to provide public goods for the current order. Soft power is also significant in global leadership, and more efforts are needed to make Chinese values and the Chinese model win approval from other countries. Meanwhile, China is still a beneficiary of the current order. It has to be admitted that the US-led security system has to some extent facilitated peace and stability in Asia.

Therefore, even if China is dissatisfied with the current international order, it will not replace the US in making new rules in Asia and the whole world. China is not rewriting the rules, but is attempting to have a higher status in rule-making. Therefore, there is enormous room for Beijing and Washington to negotiate and cooperate.

The US can transfer some power to China so that the two countries can jointly shape the international order. In the meantime, China should clarify that it is an upholder of the current order. China is just trying to reform the rights granted to developing countries.

The author is director of the Center for China-US Cooperation, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. This article is an abstract of his recent speech delivered in Center For China And Globalization.

Source: Global Times

No impact from calls for boycott of China

Indian businesswomen choose lighting fixtures in an exhibition in Yiwu, East China’s Zhejiang Province. File photo: IC

Despite reports of rising calls in India for boycotting Chinese goods in the wake of an ongoing military stand-off between China and India in a border area, Chinese traders’ exports of small commodities to the Indian market have remained unaffected so far, several domestic manufacturers said on Tuesday.

Industry insiders warned that since exports to India only represent a small portion of Chinese total trade volume, a boycott would only make India’s economy suffer.

“Our exports to India have grown steadily in the last two months and I have not felt any sentiment of hostility or a so-called boycott from Indian clients,” Ying Daijun, chairman of Shifeng Decorative Lighting Co in Yiwu, East China’s Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times Tuesday. The company’s exports to India account for 30 percent to 40 percent of its total revenue.

Also, the orders for lights used in one of India’s largest festivals, Diwali, which is at the end of October, are almost the same as the sales volume last year, Ying said, adding that the ordered items have already been packed and are on their way to India.

A sales representative of a decoration maker based in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, surnamed Pan, also said that the firm’s exports to India, which generates about 30 percent of its annual income, have not posted major fluctuations.

“Actually, there might be some small gains in recent months as an array of Indian traditional festivals loom,” he told the Global Times on Tuesday.

In terms of the potential sales decline following a boycott, Pan said that he is not worried. “Of course we sincerely hope that things do not get worse, but on the other hand, we have been exploring newly rising markets and have gained footholds in some [countries], which would dilute [the negative influence] and make up for the Indian market,” he said.

Ying agreed. “Our clients are spread globally, and when one market shrinks, another one will rise,” he said.

As bilateral tension mounted after the ongoing military stand-off on the border area, Indian media reported that the country’s political parties, as well as organizations and individuals, have called for its citizens to stop purchasing Chinese products.

For example, the state executive committee of India’s ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) on Monday called for a boycott of Chinese goods such as toys and consumer durables, the Times of India reported.

“The BJP state executive meeting felt that we should boycott their products to teach the neighboring country a lesson,” BJP state general secretary Shobha Karandlaje was quoted as saying in the report.

Limited impact

This is not the first time that India has called for boycotting Chinese consumer goods, said Wu Shunhuang, CEO of Hong Kong-based space-sharing firm Inworks, which has a subsidy in New Delhi, capital of India.

“In the past years, similar movements have also been launched several times, but none of them were able to hurt Chinese manufacturers. So [the actual effect] this time would be more like ‘much smoke and little fire’,” Wu told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Besides, compared with “made in India” products, Chinese merchandise is relatively cheap and of great variety and high quality, especially in terms of more complicated goods which India firms lack key techniques to produce, domestic vendors pointed out.

“Based on my experience, Indian clients are always looking for cheap commodities that their citizens can afford… so it’s hard for retailers to give up Chinese-produced goods that are price competitive,” Pan said.

While domestic firms remain largely unaffected, Indian’s economy might be the one that is actually being hurt, analysts pointed out.

In 2016, China’s exports to India totaled $58.32 billion, and imports from India stood at $11.76 billion. This led to a trade deficit of $46.56 billion.

Exports to India only represented about 2.7 percent of China’s total export volume last year, meaning that the export of small commodities is almost negligible, experts said.

“The economy of India is largely dependent on China,” Wu said. “Boycotting Chinese goods could take a toll on India because the country has to produce the commodities using more labor and materials due to its low level of industrialization.”

Source: Global Times