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News from China
China's inflation eases to 3.3% in April
12th May 2020

 China's consumer inflation eased in April on falling food prices as the country fast-tracks restoration of economic activities amid consolidated epidemic containment efforts, official data showed Tuesday.

China's consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, grew 3.3 percent year on year last month, moderating from the 4.3-percent gain in March, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
On a monthly basis, consumer prices went down 0.9 percent. Food prices, which account for nearly one-third of weighting in China's CPI, dropped 3 percent last month.
In breakdown, vegetable prices fell 8 percent from March over rising supplies as the weather warms, and pork prices continued to retreat amid recovering hog production. Prices of the staple meat in China dropped 7.6 percent in April from a month earlier.
Compared with the same period last year, food prices remained the main driver of consumer inflation in April, while its growth rate tapered from March to 14.8 percent.
In the first four months of this year, CPI went up 4.5 percent year on year on average.
Tuesday's data also showed China's producer price index, which measures inflation at the factory gates, fell 3.1 percent year on year last month.
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 12, 2020
China's top legislature to open annual session on May 22
29th April 2020

 The 13th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, will open its third annual session in Beijing on May 22.

The decision was adopted Wednesday at the 17th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee held from April 26 to 29.
Under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, and through the hard work of the whole country and the people, the COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control situation in China is improving steadily and the normal economic and social life is gradually resuming, according to a statement issued by the NPC Standing Committee.
With various factors taken into consideration, the conditions for convening the NPC annual session at an appropriate time are ready, said the statement.
The 15th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee in December 2019 made the decision to convene the annual session of the 13th NPC on March 5 and made recommendations for the agenda. The NPC Standing Committee has since made a series of preparations for holding the annual legislative session in accordance with the decision.
In light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, the 16th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee in February 2020 made the decision to postpone the annual session of the 13th NPC in order to implement the major decisions and arrangements made by the CPC Central Committee on coordinating the epidemic response with economic and social development, to continue the containment efforts and to protect people's lives, health and safety.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 29, 2020
Xi backs reforms of ChiNext's IPO system
28th April 2020

 China on Monday kicked off a reform to fast track initial public offerings on Shenzhen’s startup board ChiNext to deepen capital market reforms.

The scheme to launch a registration-based IPO system on ChiNext was approved during a meeting overseen by President Xi Jinping, who stressed the need to counter economic headwinds with structural reforms. China is stepping up efforts to channel much-needed capital into coronavirus-hit companies and innovative startups.
Reforming the ChiNext is a key step toward building “a disciplined, transparent, open, vibrant, and resilient capital market,” according to a statement released after the meeting. It did not give a timeline for the new system to be adopted.
China first introduced the registration-based IPO system in Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market, launched last July, and plans to replicate the board’s success in other markets.
Under the new listing mechanism, companies seeking an IPO no longer need approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission, greatly shortening the waiting period.
Instead, the stock exchange will vet ChiNext IPO applications based on disclosure rules, expected to be revamped under the new mechanism. The market will decide on the pricing and timing of new share sales.
Once the reforms take effect, there will be no up and down limit for the first five days after a company lists on the stock exchange. After that, the up and down limit will be adjusted to 20 percent from the current 10 percent level.
Experts predict that ChiNext could see its first initial public offering under the registration-based system later this year.
The reform also included a series of specific rules in the areas of ongoing disclosure, corporate governance, equity-based incentives and reduction of holding stocks.
A streamlined listing process would make China’s IPO market more attractive to tech startups. ChiNext, launched roughly a decade ago, is currently home to 807 companies with total market capitalization of 6.78 trillion yuan (US$958 billion).
The meeting also highlighted the timely measures taken to cover the medical fees of COVID-19 patients and called for building a preventive mechanism for a healthcare fund that features all areas and all procedures for “the sustainable development of China’s healthcare system.” Officials urged the improvement of the ability to gather medical supplies and resources in time of public health emergencies like the COVID-19 outbreak.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 28, 2019
Let us keep an open mind on 'vegan' meat
27th April 2020

 When is a hamburger not a hamburger? That’s the question many are asking as plant-based proteins are beginning to replace meat on some menus.

KFC fried chicken made of soybean, pea and wheat protein hit the headlines even before anyone really got a chance to taste it. The restaurant chain limited servings to several thousand for just three days.
The “surrogate chicken” meal cost only 1.99 yuan (28 US cents).
Starbucks is rolling out dishes on a larger scale, using materials from Beyond Meat and OmniPork for main dishes. It is also offering five drinks using oat milk.
The new trend is not particularly surprising. Producers of plant-based protein products have made long-term investments in the sector.
And it may be no coincidence that mass market quick-food chains are launching meatless meal alternatives amid the increased health awareness triggered by the coronavirus crisis.
Michelle Huang, RaboBank China’s consumer foods analyst, said alternative meat may still be far from mass market acceptance, given the public’s long love affair with animal meat and the higher prices and often less-favorable texture and taste.
“Quick-service restaurants are an efficient channel for plant-protein suppliers to push their products into the mass market and gather feedback from those who might never have paid much attention to alternative protein,” she said.
Huang added, “Fast food and coffee chains can raise mass consumers’ awareness about alternative meat, but it could take a long time for the general public to embrace it wholeheartedly.”
“KFC’s new fried chicken was sold out so fast that I couldn’t give it a try,” said Shanghai financial advisor Sophia Liu. “I will keep an eye out for it to come back and try it then.”
Dozens of plant-protein companies are providing raw material to eateries and fastfood chains.
Many of them appeal to public conscious about the environment, based on studies showing that eating less meat would help curb global warming and protect the planet’s ecosystem.
Some local startup firms in the sector are attracting the attention of millennial consumers who embrace an alternative, more eco-friendly lifestyle.
“Most consumers are not yet well informed about nutritional and other benefits of plant-based protein,” said independent food industry analyst Zhu Danpeng. “Though they may seem to embrace the concept, they still have concerns.”
“It sounds dubious and scary when you call something 'meat' that’s not meat,” said Shanghai accountant Lillian Li. “I think I will wait until friends try it and tell me what it really tastes like.”
Zhu said he believes the plant-protein industry sits at the onset of a large-scale trend.
Accent on health
The coronavirus pandemic has put personal health at the forefront of public concerns.
Many people, especially vegetarians, believe that alternative protein is healthier than meat consumption.
Foot traffic at restaurants isn’t expected to fully return to normal levels until the fourth quarter.
Could plant-protein meals help draw back diners by offering new tastes? Any change in dining habits takes a while to catch on, so the plant-protein sector may have to wait a while to see any returns on investment.
But the signs of change are appearing.
Yantai Shuangta Food Co shares surged 24 percent last week after saying its pea protein is used in KFC’s "vegan ried chicken.”
Ding Lan, a Shanghai marketing consultant, gives a thumbs-up to the alternative meat initiative, even if it doesn’t taste right with the first bite.
“As an animal protectionist and vegetarian for more than a decade, I support KFC,” she said. “It will give people pause to pay more attention to vegetarian demand.”
Western-style food chains in China generally lag behind Western counterparts in the introduction of vegan menu options.
Are those who try "vegan" chicken at KFC just doing so out of curiosity? Will they want the meal again if it costs more than the original fried chicken?
Analysts said KFC needs to consider those factors if it chooses to continue to offer vegan alternatives.
OmniPork, which claims its plant-based pork is nutritional superior to the real thing, is offering specialty dishes through a half dozen local food chains, after first marketing the products on an online Tmall store last year.
People who tried the vegan alternative said it was surprisingly tasty but the price of 40 yuan a serving was too expensive.
Mintel said a survey it took last year found that two-thirds of consumers doubted that plant proteins could provide their daily nutritional needs.
Educating consumers about nutritional benefits may might be the next challenge for players in the sector.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 27, 2020

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