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SERVICES SECTOR

1.China’s services sector expands at fastest rate in 14 months

Activity in China’s services sector accelerated to a 14-month high in March, according to a Caixin and IHS Markit survey, said the Financial Times.

The Caixin Chinese services business activity index rose to 54.4 in March from 51.1 in February, the fastest increase since January 2018. Readings above 50 signify expansion.

The improved outlook for the services sector comes after Caixin’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index showed the sector returned to growth in March. 

Zhengsheng Zhong, the director of macroeconomic analysis at CEMB group said China’s economic fundamentals showed improvement in March but that sentiment remained cautious. He added that more evidence was needed “to determine whether the Chinese economy has stabilized.”

BRI



2.China works to define BRI for the first time

China is drafting rules for overseas investments to be considered part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, as a step to better define his signature policy, said Bloomberg.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is reported to be working through a list of government-approved Belt and Road Initiative projects to help authorities improve project regulations, said a Bloomberg source.

Beijing’s step to further define the infrastructure scheme is aimed in part to counter growing criticism that BRI has increased debt burdens, leaving governments vulnerable to Beijing’s broader strategic goals.

China is preparing to host more than 40 global leaders at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in late April.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

3.China tripled investment in Asian developing countries last year

Chinese companies tripled their greenfield investments in developing countries in Asia last year, in the latest sign of how the commercial landscape of the region is being reshaped by the trade war between Beijing and Washington, said the Financial Times

Data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed that greenfield investment by Chinese companies in the 44 Asian countries, reached $54.9 billion in 2018, up 198% over 2017.

China’s greenfield foreign direct investment centered on Southeast Asia and covered a wide range of sectors, including machinery and electronics in Vietnam and Malaysia, software and electronics in Singapore, metals and hydrocarbons in the Philippines and textile production in Kazakhstan and Bangladesh, reported the Financial Times.

GOVERNMENT

4.China shames local governments for mistreating foreign investors

China has publicly named and shamed dozens of its local governments for mistreating foreign businesses in its latest effort to validate itself to overseas investment with the country’s role in the global value chain under threat from the trade war with the United States, said the South China Morning Post.

The National Audit Office’s quarterly report showed that it had found 45 local authorities who had committed violations relating to levying unauthorized fees and delays in granting business licenses.

For example, the Hunan provincial government continued to demand service charges from foreign businesses even after they had been officially removed by the central government in March 2016, collecting RMB 4.77 million (US$710,000) from 46 foreign companies as of the end of 2018.

The quarterly audit is a review on whether local governments are implementing Beijing’s rules and policies covering poverty reduction, pollution control, financial risk management, reducing business costs and improving business environment.

Foreign investment has been identified as one of the top six economic priorities by the Chinese government, as the world’s second largest economy is concerned about gradually losing its attractiveness due to rising costs as well as criticism over its increasingly intrusive state. 

TRADE WAR

5.Tariffs take centerstage in endgame China-US trade talks

The Trump administration’s demand that punitive tariffs remain to ensure Beijing enacts genuine overhauls has emerged as one of the biggest sticking points as US and Chinese trade negotiators meet in a new round of trade talks aimed at a deal, said the Wall Street Journal.

The delegations met in Washington, seeking to finalize an agreement that President Trump and President Xi could approve, as failure to reach an accord threatens to rattle financial markets and further strain relations between the world’s two largest economies.

“Without tariffs being removed, it’s highly unlikely there will be a deal anytime soon between China and the US,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce.

US trade negotiators look at tariffs as a way to make sure China lives up to its commitments in a trade deal, to ensure real progress.

Other stories:

Ford to launch 30 new models in China

Ford Motor will launch 30 new models in China over the next three years in an effort to amend its plummeting sales in the world’s largest car market.

Beijing introduces policy to lower economic burden on businesses 

Following Premier Li Keqiang’s pledge in this year's government work report to take reform measures for lowered business-related charges, Beijing will work to reduce government-levied charges and operating service charges in order to lessen the burden on businesses and individuals.

Legacy Group Holding Yahoo urged to sell Tencent shares

The London-based activist investor TCI has called on Altaba, the company containing the legacy assets of Yahoo, to sell off its $76 billion holding in China’s Alibaba.

China threat rises to NATO agenda

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is focusing attention on potential security threats from China, a challenge for the alliance whose members have conflicting attitudes about Beijing.

Beijing to roll out P2P registration system in second half

China is expected to start the long-anticipated pilot program for the registration of the country’s remaining peer-to-peer (P2P) online lending platforms during the second half of this year.

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