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News from China
Didi reforms ordered after Hitch passenger killed
27th August 2018

 China’s police and transport ministry said yesterday that the country’s largest ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing had “unshirkable responsibility” for a ride-sharing passenger being raped and killed by a driver in the eastern city of Wenzhou.

The company met with both ministry officials in Beijing and the nearby port city of Tianjin and was ordered to carry out a complete reform of its platform to ensure safety standards, Xinhua news agency reported.
A Didi representative said the company felt deeply responsible and would complete by Saturday a new compliance operation to be inspected by the ministries and the public.
Earlier, Didi said it would suspend its Hitch carpooling service from today due to “disappointing mistakes” while the company re-evaluated the product’s business model.
Huang Jieli, Hitch’s general manager, and the company’s vice president for customer services, Huang Jinhong, have been removed from their positions, Didi’s statement said.
The suspected murder of a 20-year-old woman, who Wenzhou police identified only with the surname Zhao, is the latest in a series of violent crimes that have fueled safety concerns about the service.
Zhao got into a Hitch carpool vehicle at 1pm on Friday, and sent a message to a friend at around 2pm seeking help before losing contact, according to a local police statement.
A 27-year-old driver named Zhong was detained at about 4am on Saturday and confessed to raping and killing the passenger, the local police statement said, adding that the victim’s body had been recovered and an investigation was continuing.
Didi said yesterday that the suspect had no prior criminal record, had provided authentic documentation and passed a facial recognition test before starting work.
But the company said on Saturday that there was a prior complaint made against the driver on Thursday by a passenger who alleged the driver took them to a remote place and then followed the passenger after she got out of the car.
“The incident shows the many deficiencies with our customer service processes, especially the failure to act swiftly on the previous passenger’s complaint and the cumbersome and rigid process of information sharing with the police,” it said in yesterday’s statement.
Didi is the biggest ride-sharing firm globally by number of trips.
The company has increased its safety measures for Hitch after the murder of a flight attendant during a Hitch ride in May sparked outrage. These included limiting Hitch drivers to only picking up passengers of the same sex during early morning and late evening hours.
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 27, 2018
China, US hold 'constructive, candid' talks on trade issues
24th August 2018

 At the invitation of the US side, a Chinese delegation has held "constructive and candid" exchanges on economic and trade issues of mutual concern with the US counterparts in Washington from August 22 to 23, an official statement said on Friday.

"Both sides will keep in contact about the future arrangement," China's Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its website.
The Chinese delegation was led by Vice Minister of Commerce and Deputy China International Trade Representative Wang Shouwen, while the US delegation was led by David Malpass, Under Secretary for International Affairs of the US Department of the Treasury.
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 24, 2018
Liquidity pledge as PBOC rejects strong stimulus
22nd August 2018

 China’s central bank said yesterday that it will not resort to strong stimulus to support the economy but will keep liquidity reasonably ample and offer more help to companies which are having trouble obtaining financing.

Officials also reiterated that China will not use the yuan as a weapon to deal with trade frictions.
Policies will be made more forward looking, flexible and effective, the People’s Bank of China said in a statement issued at a briefing in Beijing.
Smaller companies, in particular, are having a tough time securing loans and are grappling with rising borrowing and operating costs, fueled in part by a lengthy official clampdown on riskier lending like shadow banking.
“For companies facing temporary difficulties, we encourage financial institutions not to cut off loans,” said Ji Zhihong, the head of the PBOC’s financial markets department, when asked about support measures for exporters impacted by rising trade protectionism.
“If the product has a market or future, we support banks to provide reasonable support.”
The PBOC said it will “effectively ease” companies’ financing problems and improve coordination with other agencies to ensure monetary policy measures are being transmitted into the broader economy.
Though it did not give details, analysts expect further cuts in corporate taxes and fees. The central bank has also specified that some funds freed up from reductions in banks’ reserve requirements should be earmarked for loans to smaller businesses.
PBOC Vice Governor Zhu Hexin also told the briefing that authorities will stay the course in their multi-year campaign to reduce risks in the financial system.
“The direction of structural deleveraging won’t change,” said Zhu.
The campaign is already paying dividends, with the macro-economic leverage ratio stabilizing and growth in the household debt ratio slowing, he added.
“The effectiveness of deleveraging needs to be improved. It’s the bad, inefficient leverage that needs to be gotten rid of. Some departments with high efficient leveraging can still add more debt.”
Analysts at Julius Baer agree Beijing is unlikely to repeat its large-scale stimulus of the past, predicting it will opt for a more measured response.
“We doubt that this (heavy spending) is in the government’s interest, as it is aware of the risk that its massive mountain of debt presents and will likely not want to jeopardize deleveraging and reform efforts made over the past two years,” they said in a note yesterday.
As for the recent fluctuations of the yuan exchange rate, Li Bo, a senior PBOC official, said at the press briefing that the yuan exchange rate is mainly decided by market supply and demand, and its flexibility has improved notably since last year.
“China will let the market play a bigger and more decisive role in exchange rate formation, and refrain from competitive currency devaluation and using the yuan exchange rate as a tool to cope with trade disputes,” said Li, adding that the country’s stable and positive economic fundamentals will provide strong support for the yuan.
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 22, 2018
Officials questioned on house price rises
21st August 2018

 Leading officials of five cities were questioned by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development on whether they had strictly followed the tightening policies on the property market, indicating that the central government won't loosen its grip on the housing market in order to prevent excessive price hikes and other irregularities.

Officials from Haikou and Sanya in Hainan province, Yantai in Shandong province, Yichang in Hubei province and Yangzhou in Jiangsu province addressed questions from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development last Friday, according to a report in People's Daily.
The officials from the cities were asked to explain whether they had strictly followed the central government's guideline in tightening the real estate sector, carried out measures to combat speculation and rectify the irregularities in the market, and prevent house prices from rising too rapidly.
This is the second time that Haikou and Sanya's leading officials were questioned by the ministry in four months. The two cities took the lead in home price growth in the past six months, with Haikou ranking as one of the top three cities for month-on-month new house price growth for four consecutive months.
In its latest report on 70 cities' home prices, the National Bureau of Statistics said Sanya topped the new home price ranking with month-on-month growth of 3.7 percent in July, and Haikou ranked ninth with 2.3 percent.
Haikou's new house prices rose 2.1 percent in March from a month ago, 0.7 percent higher than second-ranking Qinhuangdao in Hebei province.
During the May Day holiday, leading officials from Haikou and Sanya, along with their counterparts from Chengdu, Taiyuan, Xi'an, Changchun, Harbin, Kunming, Dalian, Guiyang, Xuzhou and Foshan were questioned by the ministry.
In April, Haikou and Sanya both ranked second for new house price growth from the previous month with a rise of 1.9 percent; and the two were in third and second place in May with month-on-month growth of 2.1 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.
In June, Haikou again became the city with the greatest single monthly growth from May of 3.9 percent, and Sanya was ranked fourth with growth of 3.2 percent.
Similarly, Yantai and Yichang's new house prices grew 2.9 percent from the previous month in July, and Yangzhou's rose 2.8 percent.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said at a work conference in Shenyang in Liaoning province in early August that all local governments should systematically analyze the problems and major risks in their property sector, and ensure the stabilization of house and land prices.
The ministry will create a market monitoring system to measure the fulfillment of local governments' property measures, and those failing to meet their targets will be held accountable.
Analysts said a mechanism for the ministry to question cities with higher house price growth is being formed, which will drive local governments to maintain strict controls to rein in house price growth.
"House prices will be at the center of the housing ministry's work in the second half of this year, and the questioning of the five leading officials is merely the start," Zhang Bo, chief analyst with Anjuke, was quoted as saying by Securities Daily.
More than 60 cities announced more than 70 real estate tightening measures in July, and more than 25 cities have followed suit so far in August.
"Cities with higher house price growth would all be under strong pressure, and it is highly likely for these cities to announce stricter tightening measures in the property market," said Zhang Dawei, chief analyst at Centaline Property Agency Ltd.
More severe policies such as setting a home price limit or capping growth of home prices could possibly be introduced, and a tightening policy environment will become the new normal for the housing market, added Zhang.
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 21, 2018

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