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News from China
Singles Day nets Alibaba US$25.4b
13th November 2017

 E-COMMERCE giant Alibaba said its Singles Day sales extravaganza hit US$25.4 billion on Saturday, smashing last year’s record and cementing it as the world’s biggest shopping event.

 
Once a celebration for China’s lonely hearts, Singles Day has become an annual 24-hour buying frenzy that exceeds the combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States.
 
As tills shut at midnight on Saturday, Alibaba’s live sales ticker registered 168.3 billion yuan (US$25.4 billion), up 39 percent from 120.7 billion yuan a year earlier. The dollar figure was up more steeply due to the strength of the yuan against the US currency.
 
At the peak, 256,000 payments were being processed per second on Saturday, the firm said, more than 90 percent of them placed via mobile devices.
 
Alibaba’s rival JD.com, whose shopping season kicked off on November 1, reported 127.1 billion yuan of accumulative sales over the 11-day period.
 
Singles Day began soon after a star-studded event in Shanghai late on Friday. As midnight hit, a deluge of pre-orders helped drive a billion dollars of sales on Alibaba’s platforms in the first two minutes and US$10 billion in just over an hour.
 
“In terms of scale it just dwarfs any other event out there,” said Ben Cavender, Shanghai-based principal at China Market Research Group.
 
At just past the halfway mark, the headline gross merchandise volume swept past last year’s dollar total just shy of US$18 billion. Shortly afterward, sales surpassed the 2016 total in the local currency.
 
The event gets shoppers around China scouting for bargains and loading up their online shopping carts, while delivery staff — and robots — brace for an estimated 1.5 billion parcels expected over the next six days.
 
“This is a big event for China, for the Chinese economy,” said Joseph Tsai, Alibaba’s co-founder and vice chairman. “On Singles Day, shopping is a sport, it’s entertainment.”
 
Tsai said rising disposable incomes of China’s “over 300 million middle-class consumers” was helping drive the company’s online sales — and would continue. “This powerful group is propelling the consumption of China,” he said.
 
The final total — more than the GDP of Iceland or Cameroon — leaves other shopping days in the shade. Cyber Monday in the US saw US$3.45 billion in online sales last year.
 
Investors closely watch the headline number, though some analysts say the way it is calculated is too opaque. The US Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into Alibaba’s accounting practices in 2016, including its Singles Day data. That investigation is as yet unresolved.
 
Last year, the sales number rose by nearly a third at the eighth version of the event — though that was slower than the 60 percent increase logged in 2015.
 
At Alibaba’s Friday night gala, the company’s co-founder and Chairman Jack Ma hosted guests including actress Nicole Kidman, singer Pharrell Williams and Chinese musicians and film stars including Zhang Ziyi and Fan Bingbing.
 
The excitement around the shopping blitz, however, masks the challenges facing China’s online retailers such as Alibaba and JD.com, which are having to spend more to compete for shoppers in a broader economy where growth is slowing.
 
“A lot of the lower hanging fruit has been picked and there’s increased competition for a share of consumer spending,” said Matthew Crabbe, Asia-Pacific research director at Mintel.
 
Online retailers are being forced to push offline sales as well as go overseas to attract new shoppers, and the overall online retail market was close to “saturation,” raising questions about whether the current rapid growth can be sustained.
 
“They’re having to spill over out of the purely online realm into the wider consumer market,” Crabbe said.
 
This has sparked deals to buy brick-and-mortar stores in China, and overseas tie-ups especially in Southeast Asia.
 
Alibaba turned 100,000 physical shops around China into “smart stores” for this year’s event. Goods perused by people at the stores, but bought and paid for on Alibaba’s platforms, were added to the sales total.
 
Fu Wenyue, a 23-year-old dresser in Shanghai, said offers this year were smaller but more “personalized” as brands used Big Data to hone their targets. Fu spent 4,000 yuan on clothes, cosmetics and kitchen utensils in pre-event sales, and kept shopping on the day.
 
“I think I spent even more than I did last year,” she said.
 
Environmentalists, meanwhile, accuse Alibaba and other e-commerce companies of fueling a culture of excessive consumption and mountains of waste.
 
Greenpeace said Singles Day deliveries last year created 130,000 tons of packaging waste — less than 10 percent of which was recycled.
 
It said e-commerce is more carbon-intensive than brick-and-mortar shopping, calling Singles Day a “disaster for the environment.”
 
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 13, 2017
China’s jet in long-distance test
10th November 2017

 CHINA’S domestically produced passenger jet, the C919, will make its first long-distance flight today, leaving Shanghai for northwest China’s Shaanxi Province to undergo further tests.

 
It will take off from Pudong International Airport and fly to the Yanliang Testing Base in Xi’an.
 
Cai Jun, who captained the aircraft’s maiden flight, said it will fly at a height of 7,800 meters and complete the 1,400-kilometer journey in around three hours.
 
Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) has said it will produce six test aircraft, with the second expected to make its maiden flight before the end of the year.
 
The first C919 completed its maiden flight in May and has now made a total of five test flights. It will remain at the Yanliang base to undergo more tests to acquire airworthiness certificates.
 
“We have prepared a detailed work plan to ensure the safety of the flight from Shanghai to Yanliang,” Cai said.
 
Global access for the C919 will be boosted by a Sino-US aircraft certification agreement signed last month, COMAC said yesterday.
 
The agreement between the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the US Federal Aviation Administration will widen mutual recognition of each country’s aviation products.
 
“It is an essential step for the C919 to enter the international market,” Wu Yue, C919 project general manager, told China Central Television. “The certification environment for the C919 will surely get better, because FAA certification has been recognized by many nations.”
 
Under the agreement, the FAA will certify the importation of the aircraft or plane parts from China, apart from some technical evaluations, on the basis of CAAC certification documents.
 
The European Aviation Safety Agency has also said it is in the process of certifying the C919.
 
Airworthiness certifications from FAA and EASA have long been the market threshold for the global civil aviation industry.
 
The C919, which has 168 seats and a range of about 5,000km, will compete with the updated Airbus A320 and new-generation Boeing 737.
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 10, 2017
Trump visits China
9th November 2017

 Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday the Sino-US relations are "at a new historic starting point."

 
"China is willing to work together with the United States to respect each other, stick to mutual benefit and reciprocity, focus on cooperation, and manage and control differences," Xi said during talks with visiting US President Donald Trump.
 
Since Wednesday afternoon, the two presidents have had in-depth exchange of views on bilateral ties and issues of common concern, and reached broad consensus, he said.
 
"We believe the Sino-US relations concern not only the well-being of both peoples, but also world peace, prosperity and stability," Xi said.
 
The presidents also agreed that cooperation is the "only correct choice" for China and the United States, and a better future would only be achieved through win-win cooperation, according to Xi.
 
"There can be no more important subjects than China-US relations," Trump said at the talks. "We have a capacity to solve world problems for many years to come."
 
Xi said US President Donald Trump's visit is "successful and historic," and their meetings have "pointed the direction and drawn a blueprint for the future development of bilateral ties."
 
Xi said he and his US counterpart Donald Trump have reiterated firm commitment to achieving denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and solving the nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation.
 
Source: Xinhua   Editor: Wang Qingchu
Source: Xinhua, November 9, 2017
Forex reserves climb for 9th straight month
8th November 2017

 CHINA’S forex reserves rose for the ninth month in a row in October as pressure of capital outflow continued to ease, data from the central bank showed yesterday.

 
Forex reserves had totaled US$3.109 trillion by the end of October, up US$703 million from a month earlier, according to the People’s Bank of China, the central bank.
 
Although slightly below market forecasts, it is the first time the reserves have risen for so long since June 2014.
 
In an online statement, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange attributed the rise to stable cross-border capital flows and balanced supply-demand in the foreign exchange market.
 
Rising asset prices in the global financial market also pushed up the stockpile, the statement added.
 
There had been concerns over capital flowing out of China in the second half of 2016, when the economy was under pressure and the yuan was on a losing streak against the US dollar.
 
In January, China’s foreign exchange reserves fell below US$3 trillion, but as the economy is on a firmer footing and the yuan continues to stabilize, the stockpile has increased steadily since February.
 
China’s economy grew 6.9 percent year on year in the first three quarters, above the government target of 6.5 percent for 2017.
 
The stabilizing growth and improved economic structure have led to more balanced cross-border capital flows, SAFE noted.
 
SAFE said the foundation for balanced flows will become more solid as confidence in China’s economy builds following the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, predicting the reserves to gradually pick up and stabilize.
 
Authorities have tightened controls on aggressive overseas acquisitions by companies including Dalian Wanda, HNA Group Co and Anbang Insurance Group.
 
In August, the State Council said in a document overseas investment in areas including real estate, hotels, cinemas, the entertainment industry and sports clubs will be limited, while investment in some sectors such as gambling will be banned.
 
The document also imposed restrictions on the setting up of overseas private equity funds or other investment platforms without specific projects and limited investment that does not meet technological, environmental, or safety standards of the destinations.
 
The data also showed gold reserves falling to US$75.2 billion by the end of October from US$76 billion at the end of September.
 
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 8, 2017

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