This week’s news and trends in China:
China Set to Report First Population Decline in Five Decades: China is set to report its first population decline since the famine that accompanied the Great Leap Forward from 1959-1961. The latest Chinese census, which was completed in December but has yet to be made public, is expected to report the total population of the country at less than 1.4 billion. In 2019, China’s population was reported to have exceeded the 1.4 billion mark. “The pace and scale of China’s demographic crisis are faster and bigger than we imagined,” says Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization. “That could have a disastrous impact on the country.” [paywall]
The Big Short: How Height Discrimination Hurts Chinese Men: Chinese are getting taller: The generation born after 2000 is already the tallest in East Asia, with the average height of 19-year-old males in China in 2019 being 175.7cm. Over the past 30 years, the average height of 19-year-old males has risen by 7.5cm. For those born after 1995, height is more important than even their finances, family background, or education level when being screened by women. The world ranking of Chinese male heights rose from 150th in 1985 to 65th in 2019.
Blackmores Boss Says Borders a Bigger Headache than Belt and Road Stoush: Blackmores boss Alastair Symington says the country’s closed borders are a bigger headache for the vitamins maker than the potential for rising trade tensions between China and Australia after the axing of Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement with Beijing.
Cracks Emerge in U.S.-Led Intelligence Pact Over China Approach: “The Five Eyes arrangement is about a security and intelligence framework,” Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said at a news conference with her Australian counterpart Marise Payne in Wellington. “It’s not necessary, all the time on every issue, to invoke Five Eyes as your first port of call in terms of creating a coalition of support around particular issues in the human-rights space.” New Zealand’s Five Eyes position reflected its history of taking independent stances sometimes at odds with its US ally – such as its nuclear-free declaration in 1984 and refusal to join the Iraq war two decades later.
China Doubles Down on Regulation of Livestream Ecommerce: China has issued new rules to bring order to the increasingly crowded livestream space dogged by growing consumer complaints, starting May 25. Beijing is also set to tighten copyright on use of movie clips, in potential blow to short video apps such as Douyin and Kuaishou.
How the Chinese Shop Online – Re-commerce: 2:44 vid: In China, ‘re-commerce’ super apps have made it easy to buy, rent or even recycle second-hand items with integration with the main ecommerce apps and even price estimations. Over 300 million people use Alibaba’s Idle Fish app. Whilst second-hand shopping apps in the West are typically transactional, in China they are social with micro-communities based on common hobbies. There’s even a separate channel to buy pre-used items from celebrities.
China’s Swine Fever Lockdown Reshapes $300 Billion Pig Industry: China’s plan to control the transport of live hogs to rein in the spread of African swine fever is set to reshape the market and create regional price differences in the world’s biggest consumer and producer of pork, with lower prices in the main producing areas in the north and higher prices in the south. Some 20% of China’s pigs, or about 140 million live animals, are transported each year, mainly from the northeast to the south to meet demand for fresh meat.
Oatly’s US IPO Prospectus Highlights Risks to its Chinese Backer: Swedish plant-based milk alternative Oatly is pushing for a $10 billion valuation in its Nasdaq IPO. Three years since launching in China, Oatly’s products are now sold in more than 9,500 shops thanks to its 30% ownership from China Resources. As part of its listing prospectus, Oatly has cited the possibility that the US government could make it hard for the group to share information with a state-owned company and might prevent China Resources from placing its representatives on the Oatly board, or even force it to divest. [paywall]
GM Labelling: Chinese Consumers Willing to Pay for Traceability Codes and Allergen Presence for Soybean Oil – Survey: 62% of consumers are in favour of enhanced mandatory labelling of GM soybean oil, and they were willing to pay for traceability codes, followed by allergen presence, and nutrient and compositional change.
Anta Bets Chinese Shopping Nationalism Won’t Last: The Ding family, which controls Anta, have rarely cut stakes since listing 14 years ago, but last week cashed out of $1.5 billion of shares. Sales of its branded products jumped as much as 45% in the first quarter following the Xingjiang Cotton-driven nationalism, pushing Anta shares up 30%. Fellow Chinese shoe brand Li Ning saw sales grow twice as fast as Anta’s in Q1.
Sex Sells: China Farm Area Becomes ‘Lingerie Capital’: Chinese online sales of sex-related products grew 50% in 2019 to $7 billion according to iiMedia. It predicted 35% growth last year, despite fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Most buyers are aged 22 to 25.
‘Chinese Traditional Culture University’ Turns Out to Be Fake: The ‘China Traditional Culture University’ was found to have forged official documents and registration certificates. Besides its main location in Beijing, the institute has 70 branches in various cities across China, including in Tianjin, Guangzhou, Guangdong, and Shenzhen. It had been operating since 2009.
Tesla Assures Chinese Car Owners After Auto Show Protest: Tesla told customers in China that problems with how the company addresses customer issues will be solved after a social media storm caused by a protest at the Shanghai auto show last week. An unhappy customer clambered atop a Tesla at the show to protest the company’s handling of her complaints about malfunctioning brakes involved with a car accident.
China’s Demand for Luxury Goods Gets Own Cargo Route: Cainiao expects to open direct cargo routes to link Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand to Hainan this year to bolster the supply of luxury goods for voracious Chinese shoppers after the pandemic halted global travel. The company is also considering flights to Europe as a longer-term goal, depending on consumer demand and the pandemic.