2020-12-30 HKT 22:05
Photo Xi EU leaders
President Xi Jinping, European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attend the video conference. Photo: Reuters
President Xi Jinping and top European Union officials concluded a business investment deal on Wednesday that will open big opportunities to European companies, but has the potential to irk the new American administration.
Amid concerns about the human rights situation in China, the EU said the seven-year-long negotiations were concluded in “principle” during a videoconference involving Xi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and French President Emmanuel Macron also took part in the discussions with the Chinese president, the EU said.
“We are open for business but we are attached to reciprocity, level playing field and values,” von der Leyen said.
The videoconference launches a ratification process that will take several months. To enter into force, the agreement will need to be ratified by the European Parliament, and the issue of human rights could be a sticking point.
According to EU figures, China is now the bloc’s second-biggest trading partner behind the United States, and the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. China and Europe trade on average over €1 billion a day.
The agreement will give European companies unprecedented access to the Chinese market, Brussels said.
Calling the deal “of major economic significance”, an EU statement said: “China has committed to an unprecedented level of market access for EU investors.”
According to the EU, the deal was brokered after China committed to pursue ratification of the International Labor Organisation’s rules on forced labor.
The EU said China has committed to “effectively implement” International Labour Organisation rules it has already ratified “and to work towards the ratification of the ILO fundamental conventions, including on forced labour.”
On Tuesday, the EU expressed concerns about “the restrictions on freedom of expression, on access to information, and intimidation and surveillance of journalists, as well as detentions, trials and sentencing of human rights defenders, lawyers, and intellectuals in China.”
The EU hopes the agreement, known as CAI, will help correct an imbalance in market access and create new investment opportunities for European companies in China by ensuring they can compete on an equal footing when operating in the country.
The 27-nation bloc said the agreement is the most ambitious that China has ever agreed with a third country and will give additional access to many areas including the electric cars and hybrid vehicles sector, as well as private hospitals, telecoms and cloud services.
But it has the potential to cause tension with the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden only weeks after the EU proposed a trans-Atlantic dialogue to address “the strategic challenge presented by China’s growing international assertiveness.”
The EU, however, said the investment agreement will give the EU the same level of market access in China that the United States has and insisted that the deal will benefit other trading partners by getting China to commit to high standards of conduct.
The EU previously said the agreement, which includes provisions for settling disputes, should increase the transparency of Chinese state subsidies and make sustainable development a key element of the relationship between the EU and China.
The deal also includes clear rules against the forced transfer of technologies, a practice in which a government requires foreign investors to share their technology in exchange for market access. (AP/AFP)
Source: RTHK “China, EU seal landmark investment deal”
Note: This is RTHK’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
By Liu Xin, Fan Lingzhi and Yang Ruoyu in Xinjiang
Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/27 20:32:36
Machines widely used in picking cotton in the region
For some anti-China forces, cotton has become the latest tool to hype “forced labor” topics in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Citing a report of the infamous “scholar” Adrian Zenz, the BBC accused China of “forcing” Uygurs and people of other ethnic minority groups to pick cotton by hand. However, by visiting cotton farms and interviewing people working in cotton-related fields in southern Xinjiang, the Global Times found that machines have been widely applied in cotton planting and harvesting, with fewer workers needed, and there is no “forced labor” in related industries in Xinjiang.
In a report released on December 15, the BBC claimed that “New evidence suggests that upwards of half a million minority workers a year are being marshalled into seasonal cotton picking under conditions that again appear to raise a high risk of coercion.”
The report cited the anti-China “scholar” Adrian Zenz’s new “finding,” which claimed that 70 percent of the cotton plantations in Xinjiang in 2019 were harvested by human labor, and Uygurs and people of ethnic minority groups were forced to pick cotton for factories including for the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC).
As Zenz has been exposed as a backbone for an anti-China institute manipulated by US intelligence agencies, his latest report on cotton picking as well as his previous reports on China’s Xinjiang have been found to be full of loopholes and lies.
For example, data released by the agriculture department of Xinjiang in 2020 showed that the total cotton plantation area in Xinjiang reached 24.19 million mu (1.6 million hectares) and around 16.90 million mu were harvested by machines, accounting for 70 percent of the plantation area. Also, 95 percent of the cotton in northern Xinjiang was harvested by machines and the mechanization rate in southern Xinjiang has increased steadily.
Without even verifying Zenz’s report or talking to people in cotton farming, the BBC cited Zenz’s conclusion in its report and accused China of using forced labors in cotton picking, which contradicts the facts.
The Global Times found that in line with the latest data in 2020, the mechanization rates of Xinjiang’s cotton planting and harvesting have highly increased in recent years, and the need for cotton-pickers during the harvest season from around mid-September to December has greatly declined.
Li Chengjun, manager of the Taichang Agriculture Development Co in the Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, has been working in cotton plantations for 12 years, and he told the Global Times that since 2015, machines have been widely used in harvesting cotton. The mechanization rate of cotton planation in the XPCC was higher.
“Before 2016, lots of cotton pickers were needed in Xinjiang during the harvest season. Sometimes it took as many as 3,000 people from other provinces, including Henan and Sichuan, to pick the cotton. Currently, a John Deere machine can harvest cotton on 400 mu within one day. We own more than 60,000 mu of cotton, which took 15 days for several machines to harvest 85 percent of the cotton, Li said.
Li said that it usually takes only 100 workers to pick the left cotton from places where machines cannot get through.
Gao Ruinan, a manager from Haoxing Textile Co, told the Global Times that his company has been buying cotton from the XPCC for many years, and the cooperation mechanization started earlier than other places in Xinjiang. More than 90 percent of its cotton has been harvested by machines and some places have achieved 100-percent mechanization.
Conclusion before evidence
Aside from factual mistakes, the BBC’s report contains lots of guesswork. For example, it claimed that “the parallel purpose of mass employment and mass internment is made clear by the appearance of many factories within the walls of the camps, or in close proximity to them.”
It also posted satellite images of a factory in Kucha of Aksu prefecture to show that the education centers and factory have “been amalgamated into one large factory complex.”
The Global Times went to the factory that appeared in the BBC report. Huang Bingyou, chief manager of Pomegranate Seed Garment Co, told the Global Times that trainees in Xinjiang’s education and training centers had graduated in 2019.
“We are a normal factory with all the managing people hired from other cities in China, not deployed by the government,” Huang said.
The BBC report also claimed that its reporters including John Sudworth were “stopped” when “filming the perimeter of the complex.” Sudworth and his team released video footage of them arguing with some people outside the factory. Film of a man who tried to cover the camera was uploaded online, and the BBC said that although they filmed in public areas, they were stopped by “officials.”
The Global Times learned details of people who involved with the incident, which showed a story that BBC did not tell.
“They totally distorted the facts!” said Jiang Yong, the man who tried to cover the BBC’s camera. Jiang is not an “official” as the BBC claimed but the deputy manager and head of the logistics department of the Pomegranate Seed Garment Co.
“On November 19, our security guard found some foreigners had brought a camera to take videos of our factory and they reported the situation to me. I went to them to tell them to stop filming but they immediately turned the camera toward me. As a manager of the factory, I have a responsibility to protect the security of the factory and as an individual, I also have the right to protect my image, right?” Jiang told the Global Times.
Liang Qiting, who is a deputy director of the logistics department of the factory and who was at the site when the incident happened, told the Global Times that when he asked the foreigners what they were doing outside the factory, they answered arrogantly “what are you doing?”
“They slid me a sideways glance and their arrogant attitude made me feel uncomfortable and disrespected,” Liang said.
Both Jiang and Liang said that the foreigners could provide no certificates for their “reporter” identity. Neither had they applied to the factory for an interview. The factory called the police about the incident.
Jiang told the Global Times that these foreigners continuously claimed that they had the right to film in public areas. “It is ridiculous! They stand a dozen miles away from my factory and take a camera to peer into it. In their logic, if the place is not the factory but my house, they can also film from a public area into my house when I am having a bath.”
What angers Jiang the most is that one of the foreigners promised that his image would not appear in any platform. But after the BBC released its report, the picture of him covering the camera was used and was misinterpreted as a local official preventing an interview.
These foreigners said that stopping them filming was “suspicious.” Jiang thought it was “ridiculous.”
“We have nothing to hide and people in our factory are working. I was angry because we used to see some foreign media sneak around and take pictures and make groundless slander,” he said.
Different story unveiled
What is really happening in the Pomegranate Seed Garment Co that the BBC reporters seemed they never intended to go into? After communicating with the factory ahead of time, the Global Times went into the factory, randomly talking to workers and found that the true story within the factory may disappoint the BBC reporters.
The factory was founded in March and its main business is to make school uniforms, bags and suitcases. Most of its orders are from Xinjiang.
Aliye Ababekri is a 23-year-old woman working in the factory. She told the Global Times that this is her first job and her current monthly salary is 2,500 yuan ($382), which is expected to increase soon. She said that the job helps her achieve a dream from childhood – to learn clothing design.
The factory offers accommodation for its employees. Renagul Guhalm showed the Global Times her shared dormitory nearby the factory. She shares a fully equipped apartment with five other women and they have decorated the walls with paper flowers they cut.
Aside from Aliye and Renagul, workers reached by the Global Times denied the BBC reports that they were “forced” to work in the factory. Some workers were introduced by friends or family members, and others found recruitment information from the local labor market.
Huang Bingyou, chief manager of the factory, also refuted the BBC’s claims of the government mobilizing and organizing labor for the factory.
Huang said that when the factory was founded, it posted recruitment ads in nearby villages and placed a worker in each village for liaison. The factory’s employees can choose to live in their own houses or the dormitory. They first recruited around 1,800 workers and after the early training, more than 500 stayed. The company paid them a salary during the training period.
“There is no such thing as ‘forced labor.’ Actually, we are more worried about employees jumping from our company to other companies after the training,” Huang said.
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Wall Street Journal had an ignorant article “How the U.S. Misread China’s Xi: Hoping for a Globalist, It Got an Autocrat” stating that the US first regarded China’s Xi as a globalist but realized now that he is an autocrat.
Strange, in China’s centralized political system, the leader must be an autocrat instead of one elected by universal suffrage but an autocrat can be a globalist as Xi now strongly advocates globalization. The US, however, now advocates “America first” against globalization though its president Trump is elected by universal suffrage. Trump tried to be an autocrat but US democracy does not allow that so that he has failed to be reelected.
How ignorant is the article.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on WSJ’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.wsj.com/articles/xi-jinping-globalist-autocrat-misread-11608735769
Source: Xinhua| 2020-12-24 14:44:33|Editor: huaxia
A bullet freight train with a maximum operational speed of 350 km per hour rolled off the assembly line in Tangshan, north China’s Hebei Province, on Wednesday morning. Delivered by Chinese train maker CRRC Tangshan Co., Ltd., it is the first freight train in the world to reach the 350 km/h speed threshold, according to the company. The train is equipped with 2.9-meter-wide loading doors to ensure speedy loading and unloading. The utility rate of cargo space on the train is 85 percent. The shape of the locomotive resembles a Chinese sturgeon, a design that has greatly reduced running resistance. During design and construction, big data, cloud technologies and genetic algorithms were applied to realize the smart distribution of the loads, according to the company. CRRC Tangshan Co., Ltd. is one of China’s major high-speed train manufacturers. The city of Tangshan has also established an intelligent rail transit industry alliance and an innovation and development center for the rail transport industry.
Note: This is Xinhua’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Washington: China, over the past year, has strategically captured the entire supply chain of the US, making it vulnerable and dependent on Beijing, said Lucas Kunce, the national security director at the American Economic Liberties Project.
Kunce told The Hill that the business people who testified during recent congressional hearings on tariffs revealed that the US cannot produce essential products including certain weapons systems and US dollars “without some components or resources coming from China.”
“So China has strategically captured our entire supply chain,” he told The Hill. “And it makes us vulnerable, and it hurts American workers too because we are losing skills that we need to try to get back and we’re losing good-paying jobs.”
Kunce argued that the U.S. economy and the individuals that control it pursue profit and “self-interest above everything else,” which, he claims, China has used to its advantage.
“They figured out that all of the things that we build and create in our industries are controlled by individuals, and these individuals are subject to the profit slave,” he said.
“So if they want to get our industries, our intellectual property, our manufacturing base, anything, all they have to do is make it profitable for those individuals to make the decision to go to China, and they’ll do it,” he added.
Last week, in another major setback to China, the US designated 58 Chinese companies out of 103 companies as foreign entities with military ties thereby restricting export, re-export and transfers with them.
Along with the 58 Chinese companies, the remaining are Russian companies, the US Commerce Department said.
According to a statement from the Commerce Department, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) will amend the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) by adding a n ..
“This action establishes a new process to designate military end-users on the MEU List to assist exporters in screening their customers for military end-users,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as quoted by the statement.
Ross said that the department recognizes the importance of leveraging its partnerships with the U.S. and global companies to combat efforts by China and Russia to divert U.S. technology for their destabilizing military programs.
Source: The Economic Times “China strategically captured entire supply chain of America, says US-based advocacy group”
Note: This is The Economic Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Foreign Affairs’ recent article “Rogue Superpower: Why This Could Be an Illiberal American Century” says that Trump’s ‘America first’ policy has undermined the so-called liberal international order—the set of institutions and norms that have governed world politics since the end of World War II.
People hope there will be changes when Trump has left White House but the article says, “Don’t count on it. The era of liberal U.S. hegemony is an artifact of the Cold War’s immediate afterglow. Trump’s transactional approach to foreign policy, by contrast, has been the norm for most of U.S. history.”
Headline of the article: The United States might start acting less like the head of a grand coalition and more like a rogue superpower.
Headline of the article: U.S. strategic alliances might still exist on paper, but most would be dead letters.
Headline of the article: Such a world would see the return of great-power mercantilism.
According to the article EU will disbanded with the rise of some European powers.
According to prediction there will be two superpowers Japan and India in Asia. China is certainly not one as China does not pursue hegemony. China Dream only seek strength to avoid being bullied again.
I believe it is better that there is a good dominant world leader. Otherwise there will be frequent wars among world powers or even another world war. Anyway, China shall not be any party of such wars. Watching others in fire is much better than being burnt oneself!!!
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Affairs’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-10-06/illiberal-american-century-rogue-superpower?utm_medium=newsletters&utm_source=fatoday&utm_campaign=How%20a%20Great%20Power%20Falls%20Apart&utm_content=20201226&utm_term=FA%20Today%20-%20112017.
Nadir GuramaniUpdated 24 Dec 2020Facebook Count
Federal Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati said on Thursday Prime Minister Imran Khan will soon sign an agreement for a trilateral railway project connecting Pakistan with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
Talking to DawnNewsTV, Swati revealed that the project, which was conceived in 2018, included both passenger and cargo trains going between the three countries. He said the project was made possible through a $4.5 billion initiative under the auspices of the World Bank.
“Prime minister will sign the project in a day or two during the visit of a delegation from Uzbekistan, which will include either the deputy prime minister or the transport minister,” said Swati. He added that the accord had already been signed by the presidents of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
Swati termed the agreement on the project the “best news of 2020” for the three countries because of the opportunities it would provide for transport, trade and cargo.
“A whole corridor to the Central Asian republics will be opened up,” said Swati, highlighting that the potential connections with parts of Russia also constituted an important aspect of the rail linkages.
Speaking on the routes which Pakistan would operate, the minister said, “Pakistan will do its job from Peshawar to Torkham. Afghanistan and Uzbekistan will operate the project beyond Torkham.”
Swati said both passenger and cargo trains would operate, and emphasised that the project would deploy “high speed trains” only.
Swati was appointed minister for railways recently as part of a cabinet reshuffle, replacing Sheikh Rashid, who is now the interior minister.
Source: dawn.com “Pakistan to sign railway accord connecting it with Afghanistan, Uzbekistan: minister”
Note: This is dawn.com’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views
This reblogger’s note: Previously Iran agreed to let India build railway connect Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan with link to India from Iran’s port, but now India has joined the Quad as US ally. It is Pakistan’s chance to build the connection to benefit China.
Perceptions of China have darkened in the United States and much of Europe. Are those feelings mutual?
By Adam Y. Liu, Xiaojun Li, and Songying Fang
December 18, 2020
This article is free
The Diplomat has removed paywall restrictions on our coverage of the COVID–19 crisis.
What Do Chinese People Think of Developed Countries?
Credit: Illustration by Catherine Putz.
In October 2020, a Pew Research Center survey found that a median of 61 percent of citizens in 14 major economies hold unfavorable views of China. In countries such as the United States and Canada, negative views have reached historic highs. Major news outlets around the world picked up the story, with headlines such as “Distrust of China Jumps to New Highs in Democratic Nations,” “China Shocked to Discover the Developed World Views It in a Negative Light,” “China Has a Global Image Problem,” and “World Turns Sour on China.” The survey has generated much attention because China’s image abroad affects the extent to which China can play a leadership role in world affairs as it continues to rise. Some went as far as saying that “even if China could lead the world one day, it would never be loved.”
We investigated the other half of the story: How do ordinary Chinese view the rest of the world? Is a similar plunge in public opinion occurring in China toward the United States and its traditional allies? The Chinese public’s views of these countries matter to their perception of other countries’ intentions toward China, and their willingness to support engagement with these countries bilaterally and multilaterally.
With these questions in mind, we conducted a survey of 1,064 Chinese adults right before the U.S. presidential election. We asked them about their feelings toward the same 14 countries covered by the Pew study, using exactly the same wording: “What’s your view of the following countries?”
We found that the negative feelings are mutual. In particular, Chinese and Americans dislike each other to the same extent. In the Pew study, 73 percent of Americans held either “very unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” views of China. On the Chinese side, the antipathy is even more widespread: 77 percent of the Chinese hold such views of the United States.
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Particularly surprising is the large increase from a previously known level of negativity toward the United States. Much is made of the result from the Pew study that negative views of China in the United States have jumped nearly 20 percentage points since President Donald Trump took office, rising 13 points since just last year. Yet this pales in comparison to the deterioration in Chinese views of the U.S. When the Eurasia Group Foundation polled Chinese opinions about the United States in October 2019, only 17 percent reported having unfavorable views. Then, in just twelve months, this number more than quadrupled.
So what has happened since last October? In a nutshell, all news about the U.S.–China relationship has been bad. Beginning with the trade war, the Huawei ban, and diplomatic rows over the Hong Kong protests, continuing with a significant escalation of animosity stemming from criticisms of each other’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic, and culminating in mutual closures of consulates — everything points to a rapid descent into a level of confrontation unprecedented since the two countries established formal ties in 1979.
Close U.S. allies also received significantly unfavorable views, though the percentages were generally lower than the corresponding negative views of China reported in the Pew survey. Japan is the second most disliked among the 14 countries listed, with 61 percent of the respondents holding either “very unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” views of that country. Moreover, Japan was the only country other than the U.S. to receive more negative views than positive views from Chinese respondents. The result is not terribly surprising. Relations have at best been lukewarm between China and Japan, with unresolved historical issues surrounding the Japanese invasion of China, and an ongoing territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. In addition, Abe Shinzo’s government was seen as actively seeking U.S. support to counter China’s rise in Asia. However, while only 9 percent of Japanese respondents viewed China favorably in the Pew study, 37 percent of Chinese viewed Japan somewhat or very favorably.
The other three major U.S. allies — Australia, Canada, and the U.K. — received the next three highest percentages of negative views, with 47 percent of Chinese respondents holding “very unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” views of both Australia and Canada, and 46 percent feeling that way about the U.K. Australia, which pre-empted even the United States in banning Huawei from its 5G network, has warned against alleged Chinese attempts to influence its domestic politics, and, much to Beijing’s chagrin, has called for a global investigation into the origins of COVID-19. China’s feud with Canada began last year with the arrest of Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the U.S., and the subsequent developments and associated analysis have dominated the coverage of Canada in the Chinese media. Prior to the episode, Canada was most known in China for being the home country of Norman Bethune, a beloved Canadian doctor who died of infection during the Chinese Civil War while saving lives on the frontline. As for the U.K., its strong and continuing criticism of China’s handling of last year’s Hong Kong protest movement has certainly caught the attention of the Chinese public. Still, more people in China hold favorable than unfavorable views of these three countries.
Continental European countries fared better with the Chinese public than the U.S. and its close allies, despite many of these countries having criticized Beijing’s foreign policies and domestic human rights practices. The majority of Chinese have either very favorable or somewhat favorable views on Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, with Germany enjoying the highest combined positive rating of 69 percent.
A number of factors may explain the warmer feelings. First, several of these countries do not get much coverage on Chinese media, evidenced by the larger than average proportion of “don’t know” answers in the survey. When they do appear in the news, the stories tend to be positive and associated with constructive governmental relations — for example, Italians thanking China for sending an expert team to help fight COVID-19. Second, the Chinese government often puts it in its official media that China and Europe don’t have “fundamental conflicts of interest,” a narrative that might have some purchase among the Chinese public. Third, in the last four years, the EU has not been in lockstep with the U.S. on its China policy, which has been noted by Beijing and widely reported. In fact, with Trump initiating trade conflicts with both China and Europe, the Chinese may feel they are together with Europeans in facing economic uncertainty.
To sum up, while a negative perception of China is dominant in major economies, Chinese people’s views on these same countries are more varied. The negative feelings are mutual between the two largest economies in the world, where the recent plummeting of goodwill has been rapid. Chinese feelings about the United States’ close allies have also soured, though negative views are largely balanced by positive views. Continental European countries fare the best in the eyes of the Chinese people. It is possible that current negativity about Europe is only ephemeral and will soften by the time the pandemic ends, and Chinese people start to travel again, as these same countries are often their favorite destinations. However, the world should be concerned about the mutual antipathy Chinese and the Americans hold toward the other’s country likely outliving the pandemic, and even hardening as geopolitical rivalries persist and deepen.
The Trump administration attempted to draw a distinction between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people, and made clear that the United States is confronting the former. However, our findings suggest that the distinction in all likelihood is lost in the eyes of the Chinese public, who hold just as much antipathy toward the United States as Americans do toward China. It’s unclear this will change after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office. As long as the strategic rivalry continues, mutual negative perceptions are likely to prevail and overshadow what will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world for years to come. Because support from domestic public is more important for the leader on each side than how the country is perceived internationally, an unintended crisis could escalate into military conflict, with both leaders finding it difficult to back down in front of their domestic audiences.
Adam Y. Liu is an assistant professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
Xiaojun Li is associate professor of political science at the University of British Columbia and non-resident scholar at the 21st Century China Centre at UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy.
Songying Fang is associate professor of political science at Rice University.
Source: The Diplomat “What Do Chinese People Think of Developed Countries?”
Note: This is The Diplomat’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
By Gabriel Crossley, Stella Qiu
DECEMBER 21, 202011:08 AMUPDATED 2 DAYS AGO
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s manufacturing recovery, fuelled in part by demand from COVID-constrained consumers abroad, has soared past expectations this year, so much so that factories are now struggling to fill a shortage of blue-collar workers to clear mounting orders.
The country’s output of industrial robots, computer equipment, and integrated circuits has roared back from its coronavirus paralysis – production for the year to November is up 22.2%, 10.1% and 15.9%, respectively.
Much of the manufacturing boom has come from foreign demand, with export growth topping expectations for eight of the last nine months.
The remarkable turnaround comes as China has mostly eradicated the virus and contrasts with the sluggish comebacks seen in major industrialised peers, where factories are still struggling with pandemic disruptions and the hit to demand.
China’s global export share increased to over 13% in the second and third quarters from 11% last year, according to Nomura, the highest for any quarter since at least 2006 when the investment bank started compiling the data.
While emergency stimulus in the United States and Europe pumped money into consumers’ wallets, the fight to contain the virus in those markets fired up demand both for China-made PPE goods and gadgets for westerners stuck at home.
Government data shows that in November there were more people employed in the industrial sector in Jinhua city, which includes the eastern export hub of Yiwu, than there had been at any time since end-2017.
“We laid off about 50 workers in the first half, and now with orders soaring, we’re short of staff and not able to further ramp up production,” said Deng Jinling, who owns a thermal flask factory in Yiwu, selling to the Middle East, United States and Europe.
“We tried hiring dozens of temporary workers but they’re not good enough,” said Deng.
Some workers she laid off have found jobs back home and are not willing to travel back just a few months before the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays in February.
But with clients chasing her heels, Deng bought two automated production lines at the end of November to boost efficiency.
“We’ve never thought about doing this before, but this year has been so busy and we’ve exhausted our options,” she said. “One automated production line is the equivalent of 10 workers.”
A private index by Renmin University tracking demand for blue-collar labour hit a record in the third quarter. Some factory managers have hiked wages by 25% to 10,000 yuan ($1,530) per month, well above the average starting wage for graduates, according to local media.
For China’s bicycle industry, 2020 is the best year in a decade, with consumers abroad craving exercise and ways to avoid public transport, said Liang Xiaoling, general manager at Guangzhou-headquartered Trinx Bikes.
“Our capacity maxed out in September and October, and we hired a lot of temporary workers to catch up with the demand,” said Liang, adding that orders are now stretching into 2022.
His factories now employ about 100 extra temporary workers on top of 1,000 or so regular staff.
Although manufacturing investment was slow to recover, falling 3.5% over the first 11 months, strong export demand helped it rebound in the last quarter.
Investment jumped 12.5% year-on-year in November, up from 3.7% in October, according to research from analysts at CICC, an investment bank.
Zhang Qinming, who owns a company manufacturing speakers for European and American markets, says demand is 25% higher than in previous years.
He’s been paying his normal staff overtime to keep up and has also hired temporary workers for about 18-19 yuan an hour, 20% more than his full-time workers. As a last resort, he’s leased other factories to take the load.
A labour crunch isn’t the only constraint.
China’s lopsided trade balance – exporting three containers for every one imported recently – and delays in containers returning to China due to the pandemic overseas, have created severe shipping bottlenecks, now starting to pinch exports.
The yuan is also hovering near multi-year peaks against the dollar, pressuring profits further. And an official gauge of factory raw materials costs reached the highest level since 2017 in November.
Despite the red-hot demand, Liang, of Trinx Bikes, said profits are being squeezed. “Some of our orders are already seeing some losses,” he said.
But for policymakers, the export boom has been a welcome one in a tough year. The surprising resilience of China’s export sector, which employs around 180 million people, has reduced the need for massive stimulus to revive the economy this year, said analysts.
China hit 122% of its annual job creation target by end-November.
But manufacturers don’t expect this boom to last as other economies ramp up production.
“It started with the pandemic, so it will end with the vaccine rollout,” said Liang.
($1 = 6.5372 Chinese yuan)
Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Stella Qiu; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Sam Holmes
Source: Reuters “China’s stunning export comeback has factories scrambling for workers”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
SCMP says in its report “South China Sea: PLA’s new dry dock in Hainan big enough for Type 002 aircraft carriers, analysts say”, “Satellite images show facility at Yulin Naval Base in Sanya will be able to accommodate the giant warships” so that “The first of China’s next-generation carriers is expected to launch next year”
According to the report, the new carrier will be conventionally powered but equipped with electromagnetic catapults. However, that is not official information but speculation.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be viewed at South China Sea: PLA’s new dry dock in Hainan big enough for Type 002 aircraft carriers, analysts say | South China Morning Post (scmp.com) .