Here are this week’s news and highlights for China:
In-Depth: New Foreign Investment Law Goes on Fast Track: China’s three landmark foreign investment laws were created in the 1970s and 1980s, so the sweeping new proposed law to “improve the openness, transparency and predictability of the investment environment” is long overdue. A vote on the bill is set for March 15.
Not Girls, Queens or Goddesses: Calls in China for a Return to the Real Meaning of Women’s Day: In China, March 8 has devolved into a prime time for online sales campaigns and advertising rather than a moment to celebrate the achievements of women. It has also spawned a phenomenon called “Girls’ Day”, that reinforces the social preference for youth and beauty, critics say.
What Italy Stands to Gain by Endorsing China’s Belt and Road: Italy is preparing to become the first G7 country to formerly endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It will be hoping the move wins goodwill from Beijing and builds bilateral commerce, particularly as Chinese investment into Europe dropped 40% last year. Until now the BRI has focused on smaller, riskier, less developed countries, but Italy may be looking to position itself as an alternative to the EU’s larger economies, where scrutiny of Chinese investments has been increasing. Since the launch in 2013, the BRI has seen some 2,220 deals worth $1.2 trillion announced in more than 80 countries, but not all have gone ahead and some have run into controversy [FT Paywall].
Chinese Online Celebrity Incubator Wants to List on Nasdaq: KOL factory Ruhnn operates like a talent agency, spotting emerging online personalities and offering training and monetization services. It had signed 113 personalities by the end of 2018, ranging from fashionistas to gaming stars, with the vast majority of influencer fans being millennial and female. The platform’s revenue comes from sales of online stores opened under the name of its promoted personalities. It also connects Internet celebrities with merchants for advertising and charges service fees. One of its talents, Zhang Dayi, who shares tips on styling, skincare and travel to about 22.9 million social media followers, accounted for more than half of Ruhnn’s $137.8 million revenue in fiscal 2018.
The Opportunity to Cater to Chinese Mums with Quick Meal Solutions: Chinese consumers’ use of traditional frozen ready meals, such as dumplings and buns, have dropped, while frozen full meal sets such as frozen beef noodles have seen the biggest increase. Although Chinese mothers often find their day overloaded, they still want to provide healthy, well-balanced meals for their family.
Food Delivered to the Doorstep is Not So Cheap in China Anymore: Users having food delivered by Meituan and Ele.me have noticed incremental price increases on their meals ordered, with the platforms raising their commission every few months. They are taking more than a 20% cut of orders in some cases. The market was on course to reach ¥240 billion ($35.8 billion) in transactions in 2018 with total users at 355 million – meaning a quarter of Chinese are now ordering food from their phones.
Robot Waiters and Snail Pizza: What US Fast Food Brands Do to Please Chinese Diners: KFC’s Chinese mobile app has more than 160 million users. More than two-thirds of orders in China are paid for through smartphones. Pizza Hut’s efforts to woo consumers with exotic toppings like sea snails and deploying robot waiters fell flat, and they are now fitting some restaurants with bars, open kitchens and larger dining areas to provide a more “modern and fashionable dining experience.” Taco Bell is shy away from ingredients popular in the United States, like refried beans and gooey cheese, with more exotic offerings, like crayfish tacos and Japanese beer.
Three Years of Incubating (Mostly) Good Food Ideas in Beijing: Ranked China’s best expat startup by Technode in early 2017, culinary incubator Hatchery has been validating food innovations for Beijingers and beyond for three years. The incubator has worked with dozens of concepts to help pioneer and challenge what good, sustainable food needs to taste, smell and look like. It’s a great case study of the trials, tribulations and need to constantly evolve when starting a business in China.
How WeChat’s New ‘Wow’ And ‘Top Stories’ Features Have Made The App Worse: Readership of WeChat articles has been going down since 2016 with page views of China’s top 500 WeChat accounts dropping 13.8% in 2018. The new ‘Wow’ feature launched last December and is quite different the former ‘Like’ button, and as it doesn’t show just to friends it is likely to further drive click farms and fake engagement. According to iiMedia research in 2017, 86.2% of WeChat public accounts have purchased page views from service providers to fool readers and advertisers.
Tencent’s WeChat Created 22 Million Job Opportunities in 2018: WeChat created more than 22 million job opportunities in 2018, 5.3 million of which drew the majority of income through the platform, according to a report by Tencent and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. Total job opportunities grew 10% compared with 2017, following steady average growth of more than 2 million positions per year since 2014. WeChat enabled “traditional” industries such as food and beverage, entertainment, and education to scale more efficiently, capturing more than ¥4 billion ($595 million) in 2018. The app accounted for ¥240 billion ($36 billion) or 5% of total spending on “information consumption” during the same period.
Top 5 of China’s Most Popular Short Video and Live Streaming Apps: In 2018, Chinese internet users could download 7.3 million different apps – 900,000 more than the year before. Some stand above the rest, particularly in the live streaming and short video space: Douyin tops the list with daily active users increasing from 118.7 to 138.5 million between September and December 2018. Kuaishou, Xigua Video, Momo and Douyu Livestream round out the top-5.
Something New to Feel Bad About! Social Media Users Take on ‘Thigh-Holding’ Challenge as They Try to Wrap Their Hands Around Their Legs to See if They are Skinny Enough: Along the same vain as the 2015 viral challenge of touching one’s belly buttons by twisting your arm around your back, one of last week’s trending topics on Weibo was ‘Can you wrap your hands around your leg?’, receiving more than 140 million views, with thousands of people having a crack including Chinese celebrities Wang Junkai and Hai Ling.
Catering to Growing Elite, Chinese Airlines Up the Ante: It wasn’t until January 2019 that China officially banned pilots from smoking in the cockpit, but Chinese airlines have been upping their game for a few years to cater for increasingly discerning Chinese travellers. Airline Quality ranks China Southern and Hainan Airlines among its global top 20 (not a single U.S. airline scored that high). Hainan Airlines and Xiamen Airlines have both been among the 10 airlines to receive a 5-star rating by Skytrax. Last year, Chinese carriers took over two-thirds of passengers on US routes.
NBA to Offer Content Across All Alibaba Platforms in Expanded Deal: NBA game highlights, classic games and new content – along with league merchandise – will be accessible to Alibaba’s nearly 700 million consumers across all its platforms through a dedicated “NBA section”. New original programming will cover game predictions, fashion, sneakers, memorabilia and other popular basketball and cultural topics. The NBA also has partnerships with Tencent and ByteDance.
Longboarder Mu Qing Rides into Online Fame with Epic Skills: 1 min video: With over half a million followers on social media, Mu, 21, is one of longboarding’s biggest stars in China. She is among a growing group of young women in China posting videos of their boarding adventures on Douyin and other networks, receiving tens of thousands of views and giving the sport an unprecedented level of exposure.