Chinese Sinopharm vaccine quality inspection, 2020 [Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei]
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US pharmaceutical firms oppose overriding patents for mRNA vaccines, fearing Russia and China may develop new treatments
Under national and international pressure, White House considers temporary waiver of IP rights – backed by 60 countries – but Big Pharma warns that Russia and China could develop other vaccines and cancer and heart treatments
China shifts from oil to minerals, investing US $5.6 billion (2019) in Democratic Republic of Congo, world’s leading cobalt producer
Beijing pledged US $28 million write-off of loans (US $2.7 billion, 2000-19) and pandemic financial relief (US $17 million) to DRC, where Chinese mining activities are deemed minor compared with “giants of Western countries”
Government announces medical insurance reform, covering over 300 million urban workers, to better protect elderly and vulnerable groups
2% of workers’ salary remains in personal funds (around $130 billion in 2019, 40% of total), while employers’ contributions (4-10% of salary) will go entirely to large community funds for public use, addressing healthcare demands
Regulators issue new rules for live-streaming e-commerce industry (US $154 billion), scrutinizing fake products, falsified sales figures and fraudulent behaviors
Starting May 25, live streamers will be required to authenticate their identities and meet age requirement (>16); platforms will need to hire moderators to ensure safety of content
Foreign direct investment in China (US $46.38 billion) surges 39.9% year-on-year in Q1, with 10,263 new enterprises
Investment grew in the less developed Western Region (+91%), services (+51.5%) totalling US $36.6 billion and high tech (+32.1%); ASEAN is largest investor (+60%) and China narrows list of restricted industries to 33 (-17.5%)
Chinese IPOs raised a record US $11 billion on US stock markets, surging 440% this year, despite delisting threat
Though NYSE delisted three state-run telecoms and Washington’s law to delist companies refusing audits, Chinese companies still drawn to US capital markets, offering higher valuations and price-to-earnings ratio (100x for US-listed Chinese firms) versus domestic market (19x)
Agriculture and Environment
Chinese internet giants consume huge amounts of energy (161 billion kWh), still overwhelmingly coal-based (91-97%)
Sector led by Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and Huawei (80% of the market) is expected to increase energy consumption by ⅔ by 2023 – equivalent to Australia’s electricity use – and push towards carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy by 2030
Increased meat demand generates record imports of soybeans and corn (100 and 11.3 million tons, respectively), threatening Chinese food security
Ministry of Agriculture recommends diversification of animal feed (with rice, sorghum, canola, etc.) and development of domestic breeds (95% of the pigs are of foreign origin); China depends largely on US and Europe
People’s Life and Culture
Chinese take five-day holiday for International Workers’ Day, first declared a national day by the newly-formed PRC in 1949
On 1 May 1950, 200,000 workers, peasants, soldiers and students celebrated May Day with Czech, North Korean, Romanian, Hungarian, Polish and Indonesian delegates in Beijing
Turning weekends to workdays to compensate for extended days off, China’s evolving holiday system receives mixed public opinion
Government “borrowed” Saturdays and Sundays to create new holidays (including Labor Day) but intense pressure on travel infrastructure remain; 80% of online poll (2021) and government survey (2013) were unsatisfied with holiday system (11 days off annually)
1 May 1950 workers’ parade celebrated after PRC’s founding, Beijing [People’s Pictorial]