World Newsletter

25 February 2020


Sina Karami from Iran is a barista at a café named Wakanda in Wuhan, Hubei province.

There are several hospitals near the café treating patients with novel coronavirus. His cafe delivers coffee to nearby hospitals free every day, offering support to medical staff.

This year is the second year Sina and his brother have lived in Wuhan. After the coronavirus outbreak, the Iranian government dispatched charter flights to Wuhan to repatriate nationals. Sina's brother decided to go back to Iran and wanted Sina to go with him, but Sina's choice was to stay. Xina said he would not leave Wuhan at this difficult moment.

Sina also said despite the risks brought by the epidemic, the fearlessness of medical staff also impresses him, and he will not retreat — instead, he will continue to provide help to medical staff.



Huawei Technologies Co unveiled its latest foldable smartphone Mate Xs on Monday in a push to improve the product category widely seen as an important trend in the smartphone industry.

Priced at $2,700, the handset is also part of Huawei's broader push to maintain the growth momentum of its smartphone business, despite the US government's restrictions.

Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, said the company had already shipped 10 million units of 5G smartphones by January, and Mate Xs marks an important update to its first foldable smartphone Mate X, which was unveiled a year ago.

The new foldable phone comes with the Kirin 990 5G chipset, upgraded hinge structure, and improved cooling system, while the screen, cameras and overall design remain virtually unchanged.

The move comes as Huawei safeguarded its reputation as the world's second-largest smartphone vendor last year amid the US government's efforts to ban it from using Google's Android operating system in its mobile devices.

In 2019, Huawei shipped more than 240 million handsets, a rise of nearly 17 percent on the 206 million in 2018.

To cope with Washington's restrictions, Huawei has developed its in-house operating system Harmony, and it has been working hard to build the ecosystem for Huawei Mobile Services, the foundation for its ability to sell smart devices in overseas markets.

Huawei said it will invest $1 billion to encourage software developers to be part of Huawei Mobile Services, or the HarmonyOS ecosystem, with 80 percent of the money going to applications for overseas countries. Foreign consumers are accustomed to Google's Android system, Google Maps and YouTube, but Huawei can't access the updates of these services in its existing smartphones and future models amid the US ban.

Huawei is determined to go all out to cultivate a robust ecosystem for the Huawei Mobile Services to reduce the fallout of Washington restrictions.



The Central Military Commission, China's top military authority, recently published a document tightening rules governing the connections military personnel have with nonmilitary organizations and civilians.

The document was jointly drafted and issued by the commission's Political Work Department, Logistic Support Department and Discipline Inspection Commission. It aims to close loopholes regarding interactions between military and civilian entities.

It includes 13 types of banned activities such as receiving money or securities from nonmilitary organizations or individuals during their visits to military units; asking nonmilitary organizations or individuals to provide money or commodities; irregularly giving gifts or souvenirs to nonmilitary organizations or individuals; offering housing, car or personnel to nonmilitary organizations or individuals; and using military assets to attract investment or publish advertisements.

Such activities have been common among some military units, leading to corruption and the risk of misconduct, observers said.

A sweeping anti-corruption campaign over the past several years has brought down more than 100 senior officers at the rank of major general or higher, including Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, both former vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission.

The Chinese military also stopped all commercial activities before 2019 to eradicate the risk of corruption and focus all of its attention on combat training.



China's steel industry, which has been facing a rough time due to rising inventories and falling product prices due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, is expected to recover rapidly during the second quarter of this year, experts said.

"Many steel companies will slash output as inventories pile up, but a vigorous revival of market demand in the second quarter of this year is expected, given that the Chinese authorities have rolled out a slew of measures to stabilize economic growth and the epidemic hopefully will taper off," said Luo Tiejun, vice-chairman of the China Iron and Steel Industry Association.

The outbreak has disrupted the whole industry chain, including raw material supplies and product transportation, while crimping downstream demand due to prolonged holiday shutdown of factories. This has led to a sharp rise in the current inventories, slump in steel product prices, and a highly probable decline in first-quarter exports that will perhaps see a reverse during April and May, he said.

According to statistics provided by the CISA, steel product inventories of key steelmakers the association surveyed stood at 18.51 million metric tons by early February, up 41.7 percent from late January, and 94.2 percent from early this year.

The China steel price index, issued by the CISA, stood at 100.55 points for Feb 17 to 21, the lowest since early 2019, without an observed start of trading recovery. The figure was respectively down 1.4 points, 4.93 points and 3.31 points from the previous month, and the week before and after the Spring Festival.

As for exports, despite the completion of production of contracted products to be delivered during March, the shipments are facing uncertainties.

Luo said steel-makers' inventories are likely to grow further, because the outbreak has a higher influence on demand than production.

Exports in February are expected to drop sharply year-on-year during the quarter, he said.

However, with an increasing number of steel-makers trimming production to cope with the situation and amid steady progress in resumption of work at the downstream sectors, a steady recovery in demand is likely in the second quarter, he said, adding financial stress on steel companies will ease as prices of steel products are likely to stop falling.

He mentioned crude steel output of key enterprises was about 1.94 million tons daily earlier this month, decreasing 2.68 percent from the previous month, although increasing 3.16-percent year-on-year.

By Friday, a total of 73 blast furnaces in China have been shut down, reducing molten iron production to 210,000 tons daily.

China Baowu Steel Group, the largest steel producer in China, said it will cut 1 million tons of output in the first quarter of this year.

Chen Kexin, chief analyst of industry information provider, the Lange Steel Research Center, estimated demand for steel will increase after the epidemic, due to a highly likely V-shaped recovery in the Chinese economy, boosted by government measures such as countercyclical adjustments.

"The restoration of normal economic activities, together with a prudent monetary policy and liquidity at a reasonable and ample level, will likely lead to a strong rebound in the economy," Chen said.

"Investment in fixed assets is likely to increase, especially in infrastructure construction in sectors associated with people's livelihood, health, science and technology, environmental protection and transportation, which will certainly stimulate steel demand significantly."

However, he said the explosion in steel demand will not cause any price increase, due to the high level of existing inventories and advanced capacity.



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