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News from China
Global travel spending growing at slower pace
23rd August 2016

 GLOBAL travel spending is still growing, although at a slower pace, despite weakening economies and fears over terrorism.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, a group backed by travel providers with the mission to promote tourism, said in a report yesterday that global travel spending for 2016 is expected to grow by 3.1 percent. That is down from a March forecast of 3.3 percent but still outpacing global economic growth, which the group expects to be 2.3 percent.

Macroeconomic problems have a much bigger impact on travel than terrorist attacks, according to the group’s President David Scowsill.

“Travelers aren’t going to allow isolated terrorist attacks to put them off traveling,” he said. Tourists worried about safety in France have chosen Spain or Italy instead.

He said destinations with tourist-specific attacks usually take two years to recover, while other types of attacks lead to a faster resumption of travel.

Other travel groups are also seeing the slowdown in travel spending.

The International Air Transport Association has noted that while more people are flying, the upward trend “has moderated since January” and the percent of seats occupied has actually slipped slightly.

“The fragile and uncertain economic backdrop, political shocks and a wave of terrorist attacks are all contributing to a softer demand environment,” said IATA’s head, Tony Tyler, in a statement.

And in April, the Global Business Travel Association warned of slowing volume from US-originating business travelers.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 23, 2016
Uber set to carry passengers in autonomous cars
19th August 2016

 RIDE-HAILING service Uber says it will start hauling passengers with self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh in the next several weeks.

The company says its autonomous Ford Fusions will have human backup drivers but will carry passengers just like normal Uber vehicles.

Uber has a self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh and is working on autonomous technology.

Also yesterday, Uber and Volvo announced a US$300 million deal for Volvo to provide SUVs to Uber for autonomous vehicle research. Eventually the Volvo SUVs will be part of the self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh. Volvo will develop base vehicles for research and both companies will develop autonomous vehicles on their own.

The ride-hailing company also announced that it is acquiring a self-driving startup called Otto that has developed technology allowing big rigs to drive themselves.

The maneuvers are intended to significantly accelerate Uber into the quest to deploy self-driving vehicles to the public. It’s also the latest tie-up between Silicon Valley, ride-hailing firms and major automakers.

Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, has said the ride-sharing company’s future — indeed, the future of all transport — is driverless. The deals are a bold down payment on that vision, one characteristic of Uber, a firm valued in the billions.

With the acquisition of Otto, Uber gets a fast infusion of self-driving expertise, including the co-founder of Otto Anthony Levandowski.

Self-driving technology is not ready for the masses. Hurdles include software that is not yet good enough for public rollout, safety concerns raised by state and federal regulators, and uncertainty over society’s readiness to trust robot drivers.

But the race is on. Large tech and auto firms suggest they could start selling self-driving cars within three to five years.

If history is any guide, that push will begin with high-end models that few people can afford. Uber’s vast on-demand auto fleet could presumably bring the technology to ordinary people more quickly.

Uber, however, isn’t alone in the race for autonomous vehicles. It’s not even a leader.

The company’s primary US competitor, Lyft, received a US$500 million investment from GM earlier this year. Those two companies said they plan to put self-driving vehicles into Lyft’s fleet on a small scale sometime in the next year. GM also bought itself some self-driving expertise in March with the acquisition of a company called Cruise Automation.

This week, Ford Motor Co announced — in Silicon Valley, not Detroit — that it intends to have a self-driving vehicle on the road by 2021. The car will have neither a steering wheel nor pedals and will be rolled out for commercial ride-hailing services, not directly to consumers.

Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc is even further ahead in pursuing driverless cars that offer passengers little control beyond an emergency stop button.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 19, 2016
China’s services trade and ODI shine
18th August 2016

 CHINA’S non-financial outbound direct investment and services trade have emerged as shining spots in otherwise lackluster foreign trade figures.

China’s ODI soared to 673.24 billion yuan (US$102.75 billion) from January to July, a 61.8 percent year-on-year increase, said Shen Danyang, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce, at a press conference yesterday.

July’s ODI reached 91.01 billion yuan, down 9.5 percent month on month, according to the ministry.

During the first seven months of the year, China’s ODI surpassed its foreign direct investment, meaning it was a net capital exporter, Shen said.

During the same period, China’s FDI rose 4.3 percent year on year to 491.51 billion yuan, according to the ministry’s data.

US, Germany popular

The United States and Germany were among the most popular investment destinations for Chinese companies. During the seven-month period, ODI in both countries more than doubled from a year earlier.

Large overseas mergers and acquisitions contributed to the ODI growth. From January to July, China’s overseas M&As totaled US$54.3 billion, accounting for more than half of the total ODI.

The M&A value in the first seven months of 2016 surpassed the volume registered for the whole of 2015. From January to July, there were M&As by Chinese enterprises in 63 countries and regions, covering 15 sectors including information transmission, services, software and manufacturing.

By the end of July, China’s accumulated investment under the Belt and Road Initiative hit US$51.1 billion, taking up 12 percent of the country’s total ODI.

Launched in late 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative is an umbrella term for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It will be a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, along ancient trade routes.

The ministry also revealed at the press conference that China’s services trade totaled 2.53 trillion yuan during the first half year, up 21.5 percent year on year.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 18, 2016
Curbs cause mortgages to decline again
17th August 2016

 NEW home loans in Shanghai fell for a second month in July after the government acted to curb soaring housing prices in the city, the Shanghai headquarters of the People’s Bank of China said in a statement yesterday.

Banks in Shanghai lent 25.5 billion yuan (US$3.9 billion) in mortgages to individuals last month, down 10.3 billion yuan from June, said a statement on the central bank’s website. However, mortgages last month still rose 12.3 billion yuan from the same period last year, the statement said.

“Home loans have been declining for two straight months in a sign that government policies to cool the housing market have taken effect,” the statement said.

Over the past few months Shanghai has unveiled policies to curb the city’s overheated property market, including tighter restriction for non-local buyers and raising the down payment for certain second-time buyers.

Total loans to land and property developers fell 22.4 billion yuan last month, narrowing from a drop of 48.9 billion yuan in June. Loans for affordable housing development surged by 320 million yuan last month.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 17,2016

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