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News from China
Food delivery start-up faces fines, investigation following expose
17th March 2016

Online food delivery service ele.me is facing fines and an investigation by Shanghai's food and drug watchdog following a state media expose on Tuesday showing unlicensed vendors have been selling food through its mobile app.

The Shanghai-based online food delivery start-up was among a group of companies named and shamed on state broadcaster CCTV's annual World Consumer Rights Day program.

The Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday that it launched a probe into the start-up in November over suspicions that it allowed unqualified food vendors to operate via the app.

The watchdog issued a fine of 120,000 yuan (around 18,408 U.S. dollars) and announced a new investigation into the problems revealed in Tuesday's expose.

The report revealed ele.me's lax efforts in screening vendors seeking to sell food via the app. Ele.me's failure to ensure sellers have proper certifications and licenses has created potential health hazards for consumers.

China's new food safety law, effective since October, requires online food sales and delivery platforms to register vendors under their real names and review their qualifications.

Some vendors on ele.me that advertise themselves as clean, modern restaurants are in fact nothing more than small, dingy kitchens without proper food licenses.

Although e-commerce is one of the few bright spots in China's slowing economy, online services are coming under increasing scrutiny from media and regulators as existing regulatory frameworks have proved less than effective in supervising new business activities.

Regulators have urged online retail services to exercise due diligence in reviewing vendor eligibility and operating standards.

Online sales accounted for more than 12 percent of total retail sales in China last year and are expected to grab an even bigger slice as e-commerce grows.

Ele.me counts major Chinese Internet firms among its backers. In December, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba invested 1.25 billion U.S. dollars into ele.me for a 27.7-percent stake, making it the start-up's biggest shareholder.

In addition to exposing sloppy kitchens, CCTV also revealed that ele.me's market specialist in north China's Hebei Province knowingly assisted an undercover reporter, posing as an unlicensed food vendor, in setting up shop on the platform.

Following the expose, local watchdogs raided some of the unlicensed restaurants operating on ele.me, according to local media reports.

Ele.me also said on Tuesday night that it has removed all unlicensed food businesses involved in the expose and will review the qualifications of all vendors on its platform.

Nearly 500,000 restaurants and vendors have signed up on ele.me's online platform to offer food delivery to 40 million users in more than 300 Chinese cities.

A survey conducted by the Shanghai Consumer Council late last year found that substandard service is a shared problem among leading online food delivery services.
 

Source: Xinhua
Chinese companies embrace digitalization at IT exhibition
16th March 2016

Chinese companies are making tremendous headway in embracing the era of digitalization, as shown by the strength and dynamism of the 500 Chinese companies at an ongoing IT exhibition here, experts say.

Out of the more than 3,000 companies from around the world at CeBIT 2016, one of the largest IT exhibitions globally, the Chinese companies have made a strong presence, unveiling the latest IT products and solutions and at the same time signing deals with leading service providers.

Chinese telecom giants such as Huawei and ZTE are no strangers at the event. "This year marks Huawei's sixth consecutive and most significant appearance at CeBIT. Its exhibition area at the show will span 2,500 square meters - twice the size of its space last year," Huawei said in a press release.

The company is showcasing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) products and solutions in the fields of cloud computing, big data, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Among all the products and technologies, Huawei highlighted a new server called Kunlun.

According to Huawei, Kunlun is the world's first 32-socket x86 mission critical server which sets a new standard in mission critical computing and can "deliver superior performance and reliability to support enterprises' mission critical applications on a huge scale."

Kunlun was unveiled on Monday when CeBIT 2016 opened. At a press conference held here on Monday, Huawei announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with German robot technology company KUKA, under which the two partners will work together to develop smart manufacturing solutions for industrial markets in Europe and China.

Huawei and Deutsche Telekom announced at the press conference the launch of Open Telekom Cloud, an enterprise public cloud based on German data and privacy protection laws. Operated by T-Systems, the new public cloud platform will provide European enterprises of all sizes with on-demand, pay-as-you-go, secure cloud services to respond to fast changing market conditions.

ZTE is presenting a wide range of products and solutions as well. Under the theme "Enabler@M-ICT", ZTE displayed its ICT solutions for smart cities based on big data and IoT technologies.

Inspur, a leading Chinese cloud computing solutions provider, has been approached by some leading software provider in Germany.

Guo Jintong, General Manager of Inspur Overseas Marketing Department, said his company's competitive edge both in software and hardware had made it popular at the exhibition.

Chinese companies have an access to the biggest market in the world, which makes it possible for Chinese IT companies to test their products and solutions in a quick way, said Guo.

Zhang Cirui, CEO and Founder of a smart lighting network company Lettin in China, is convinced that smart home appliances should make people's life easier.

With the help of IoT and other technologies, Zhang is producing smart bulbs, which enable people to adjust the lights at their home by a simple click on the screen of their smart phones. The bulb is smart in the sense that it can serve as a bridge of WiFi signals with an additional part attached to it, Zhang said.

The progress made by Chinese IT companies has been recognized by their counterparts in Europe. At a summit held during CeBIT 2016 which was attended by officials from Switzerland, Germany and other countries on Monday, China and the United States have been identified as two countries with which Europe is trying to catch up in terms of digitalization.

Source: Xinhua
Silver lining in China's lackluster economic data
15th March 2016

Downward pressure on China's economy may remain, but indicators are starting to show the economy stabilizing and the effects of supportive measures are beginning to be felt.

Mixed economic data for the first two months was released on Saturday. Industrial output grew below expectation, house sales improved and a fixed-asset investment picked up. These are good signs in an economy which has been slowed to allow for restructuring while overcapacity is slashed.
 
"January and February activity data were mixed, but showed signs of growth stabilization and even a quicker recovery than expected in some pockets of the economy," said Julia Wang, an HSBC economist.
 
Wang's research note described the recovery in the property market as the "most positive sign." Sales of residential property jumped 28 percent in terms of floor space, and 43.6 percent in revenue terms, which compares very favorably with last year's gains of 6.9 percent and 14.4 percent in the same period. Property investment grew 3 percent year on year in the first two months, compared with a 2.1-percent decrease in December.
 
"Property investment appeared to have bottomed out, while infrastructure investment grew at a robust pace," said Wang.
 
She expects urbanization policy to play a key role in destocking in third and fourth tier cities, maintaining the recovery in housing investment.
Shen Jianguang, chief economist of Mizuho Securities, attributed the rebound in property market mainly to the cuts in transaction taxes and interest rates.
 
Growth of fixed-asset investment as a whole, which picked up very slightly to 10.2 percent in the first two months, also showed "tentative signs" of stabilization.
 
"Given strong commitment to a more expansionary fiscal policy and a large backlog of approved projects, we expect infrastructure investment to remain a key growth driver in 2016," said Wang of HSBC.
 
However, industrial production and retail sales data came in weaker than expected, with the former posting the lowest monthly growth since November of 2008, but behind the relatively weak data is some encouraging news.
 
Source: Xinhua
Chinese yuan weakens to 6.4913 against USD Monday
14th March 2016

The central parity rate of the Chinese currency renminbi, or the yuan, weakened 8 basis points to 6.4913 against the U.S. dollar on Monday, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trading System.

In China's spot foreign exchange market, the yuan is allowed to rise or fall by 2 percent from the central parity rate each trading day.
 
The central parity rate of the yuan against the U.S. dollar is based on a weighted average of prices offered by market makers before the opening of the interbank market each business day.
Source: Xinhua

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