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News from China
China Eastern nurtures ‘Aerial Silk Road’ connectivity
26th May 2017

 CHINA Eastern Airlines, which operates 131 international routes to 45 cities in 21 countries located along the Belt and Road, plans to create an “Aerial Silk Road” to facilitate the nation’s initiative and help the carrier expand its global network.

The flight capacity on the Belt and Road nations has increased by 45 percent for the past three years, the airline said.
Proposed in 2013, the Belt and Road initiative is a grand plan to connect Asia with Europe and Africa along, and beyond, ancient trade routes by putting in place an unparalleled trade and infrastructure network. The project calls for expanding trade across Asia, Africa and Europe by investing in ports, railways and other facilities.
China Eastern aims to form an Aerial Silk Road, said Liu Shaoyong, president and Party secretary of the China Eastern Airlines Group. The carrier will not only enhance the transport capacity but also develop supporting industries overseas including aircraft manufacturing, aviation hub, maintenance and finance, Liu added.
Ma Xulun, the airline’s general manager, said the carrier plans to open routes to all the nations along the Belt and Road.
In June 2016, the airline opened four international routes within 8 days from Shanghai to St Petersburg, Prague, Amsterdam and Madrid to expand the European market.
Since it started flying on June 23, 2016, from Shanghai to Prague, the route has an average load factor of over 80 percent, the airline said.
Besides Shanghai, the airline has also developed Xi’an in Shaanxi Province as a new hub for the Aerial Silk Road. The northwestern city once served as the starting point of the ancient Silk Road.
The airline’s northwest branch also flies to Sydney and Moscow using the Airbus 330 wide-body aircraft. It plans to open new routes this year between Xi’an and St Petersburg, Irkutsk, Prague, Vancouver and Saipan to help cement Xi’an as a starting point again for the new Silk Road in the air, China Eastern Northwest Co said.
Other regional transport hubs for the Belt and Road initiative include Kunming in Yunnan Province and Fuzhou in Fujian Province.
The carrier has trained a batch of foreign crew members from Japan, South Korea, France, Germany and Italy to serve passengers along the routes.
China Eastern has operated an average of 63,000 passengers’ seats daily in 2016 on international routes, up 45 percent from that of 2013. The capacity for flights to European, Australian and US destinations has increased by 87 percent from 2013. The Southeast Asia capacity has taken off by 40 percent, according to the carrier.
To facilitate the expanding network, the airline has retired over 100 passenger aircraft and purchased new planes, making the average age of the fleet around five years, younger than most fleets of international carriers.
The airline has also invested heavily to expand the cargo transport network to implement the Belt and Road initiative.
A global cargo transport network has been established with Shanghai serving as the core hub with Tianjin, Zhengzhou in Henan Province, Xi’an, and Ningbo in Shanghai’s neighboring Zhejiang Province, becoming supportive hubs, the carrier said.
China Eastern has also inked several agreements for international cooperation to give the Belt and Road initiative a huge boost. Delta, the world’s third-biggest carrier, said in September 2016 that it would buy 465.91 million Hong Kong-listed shares of China Eastern. The cooperation has helped the Shanghai-based airline to further expand in Oceania and America.
China Eastern has also collaborated with Ctrip, China’s top online travel agency, in selling air tickets and operating a budget carrier.
China Eastern is a partner with the Shanghai Disney Resort
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 26,2017
Progress seen in mixed-ownership reform in SOEs
25th May 2017

 CHINA’S mixed-ownership reform in centrally administered state-owned enterprises has made steady progress, the country’s top economic planner said yesterday.

Two groups of about 20 central SOEs have piloted the mixed-ownership reform scheme and made smooth progress, the National Development and Reform Commission said.
“The scope of the third group of central SOEs chosen to conduct the reform will expand, and priority will be given to enterprises in provincial-level regions,” an online NDRC statement said. “Mixed-ownership reform, conducted through diversifying the shareholding structure of SOEs, is an icebreaker for overall SOE reform.”
The reform includes bringing in multiple types of investors to central SOEs, exploring flexible and market-based salary systems and selling shares to SOE employees.
The reform has taken substantial steps in electricity, oil, natural gas, railway, civil aviation, telecommunications and military industries.
China has 102 central SOEs, which manage the bulk of the country’s state assets. But their monopolies in many sectors shut out smaller market entities and lead to low efficiency and poor service.
Mixed-ownership reform appears to be the most significant means to improve the efficiency of central SOEs.
The companies saw their combined profits and revenues both return to growth in 2016. Total profits climbed 0.5 percent year on year to 1.23 trillion yuan (US$179 billion), while revenues rose 2.6 percent to 23.4 trillion yuan.
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 25, 2017
Consumer confidence climbs in Q1
24th May 2017

 CHINA’S consumer confidence climbed to the highest level in two years, edging up 2 points from a quarter earlier to 110 points at the end of the first quarter, Nielsen said in a report yesterday.

The rebound of the Nielsen’s Consumer Confidence Index suggests a recovery of consumer confidence along with the stable growth of individual income.
“China’s consumption upgrade trend has fueled people’s spending intentions,” said Vishal Bali, managing director of Nielsen China. “When people’s basic needs such as food, clothing and transportation have been satisfied, the consumption upgrading will aim at high-end development and services and this trend will further stimulate spending intentions.”
Bali said employment opportunities and personal financial situation “are translating into demand for premium pro­ducts and services.”
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 24, 2017
China slaps 3-year duties on sugar imports
23rd May 2017

 THE Ministry of Commerce yesterday announced the final ruling on an investigation into sugar imports, deciding to begin three-year duty on out-of-quota shipments to protect the domestic industry.

But experts said the ruling may not go far enough to stem the flow of lower-priced sweetener into the world’s top importer.
China now allows 1.95 million tons of imports at a tariff of 15 percent as part of its commitment to the World Trade Organization.
Imports beyond this attract a 50 percent levy.
Yesterday’s ruling will add an extra 45 percent duty to these imports from yesterday to May 21, 2018, the ministry said in a statement. The duty will be reduced to 40 percent, then 35 percent in each subsequent year, according to the statement.
The investigation, launched last year in response to pleas by the domestic industry, found that increasing imports were causing serious harm to local producers.
WTO members may take measures to protect their domestic industries from any increase in imports which causes, or threatens to cause, serious problems for local producers.
The move could dent imports from top growers such as Brazil and Thailand as it will close the big gap between Chinese and international prices. Chinese sugar prices are around double those on the London market.
But traders said the higher tariffs will also likely spur increased smuggling across China’s porous southern border, while some imports from major producers may be shipped through third-party nations excluded from the tariffs.
Sugar is one of the few sectors in which China struggles to compete given the higher costs of its smallholder farmers, who produce about 10.5 million tons of cane and beet sugar a year.
The country imports another 3 million tons of the sweetener a year, while China has been trying to crack down on illegal shipments of as much as 2 million tons a year, sources have said.
“While smuggling has temporarily slowed, there is a risk that the incentives for smuggling are still strong and in fact could increase if domestic prices rise,” said Tom McNeill, director of Green Pool Commodities in Brisbane.
The latest ruling exempted about 190 smaller countries and regions from the new duty, including smaller producers such as the Philippines and Pakistan as well as Myanmar on its southern border.
“Of course it will support the domestic industry for a short time,” said a China-based trader. But “the global raw sugar market just needs to drop a little below 15 cents” to make it profitable to import into China.
The measures, which will affect about a third of China’s annual sugar imports, may also increase pressure on Beijing to sell more of its state reserves to prevent supplies tightening and prices spiking.
Last year, China imported 3.06 million tons of sugar, down 36.8 percent from 2015.
Thailand, the world’s third-largest producer, played down the impact of the duty.
Its millers have a much lower shipping cost to China than rivals Brazil and Australia, said Viboon Panitwong, chairman of the Thai Sugar Millers Corp, who did not expect the duty to sharply affect sugar exports.
Thailand exports 300,000 tons to 400,000 tons of sugar to China a year, but sells much more to Cambodia and Myanmar, which then re-export sweetener to other countries.
Source: Shanghai Daily, May 23, 2017

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