China Watching

2020-09-01 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

Pinduoduo: The New Chinese E-Commerce Giant

Colin Huang is not a name known outside of China. Yet he is the man who together with Jack Ma of Alibaba and Pony Ma of Tencent (and thus WeChat) is competing for the top spots among China’s millionaires. Born in 1980, Huang comes from a working-class family and grew up in the suburbs of Hangzhou, the city in Eastern China where Jack Ma is also from, and where Alibaba has its headquarters. The company Huang created in 2015, Pinduoduo, has exceeded the value of the oil giant Shell in just five years. It is an e-commerce platform that competes directly with Alibaba and JD, but that uses messaging ...

2020-07-09 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The Solitude of the WHO

"They’re giving [the information] to us 15 minutes before it appears on CCTV," the Chinese state channel. This, according to Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Beijing. His words clearly describe the UN agency's frustration toward China at the beginning of January, with the attempt to scrape up the little information available on the new coronavirus, the one that has now infected almost 12 million people around the world, provoking over 550,000 deaths. This statement is part of an account by the United States news agency Associated Press[1] that confirms the ...

Palazzo del popolo_Pechino
2020-05-28 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

Beijing’s Iron Fist

With a minute of silence and two months late, the lianghui began, literally the “two sessions.” This is the most important political appointment in the People’s Republic of China: almost five thousand government representatives arrive from all over China to “discuss” and ratify the budget and laws for the next year. The assembly takes place every March, but was postponed this year due to the pandemic. The members of the National People’s Congress, the body that comes closest to our Parliament, are all wearing masks. Only those in the first row have their faces uncovered. That is where ...

2020-05-04 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

China’s Difficult Phase 2

For Beijing, announcing the date of the only annual meeting of the National People’s Congress means affirming that the epidemic is under control. So when the date was officially set for May 22, after a delay of two and a half months, for many it was confirmation of a return to normalcy. People have in fact resumed taking public transportation and moving around the country, provided that the health code of the potential travellers - assigned by a complex algorithm that combines the medical history, travel, and contacts of each single citizen - is green. This system functions with at least a hundred ...

2020-03-25 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

Mask Diplomacy

They are already calling it “mask diplomacy.”[1] Selling medical devices in the time of Covid-19 is highly profitable, and China is starting to convert its economy. In just one month, it has gone from 20 to 116 million masks a day. And that’s still not enough. The new business involves both state-owned companies and small factories, incentivized with subsidies and tax reductions, interest-free loans and preferential channels to obtain the necessary documents and approvals. The result? Sinopec, that we could define as a state-owned multinational in the petrochemical field, has inaugurated ...

2020-02-24 Emanuele C. Francia

The Chinese Model of Internationalization. The case of ChemChina-Pirelli

Despite a slowdown in direct investment in the past two years, China's international expansion activities will continue at a strong pace[1] due to both the activism of large Chinese groups (that are often state-controlled), and due to the effect of the super-ambitious plan renamed the BRI-Belt and Road Initiative (or the "New Silk Road"). This advance is often perceived by foreign companies and their managers as a true attack on their economic system. In that regard, it is proper to ask whether this represents only a threat, or whether opportunities exist as well. The Chinese economic system is ...

2020-02-12 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The Economic Consequences of the Coronavirus

"When China sneezes, the global economy catches a cold," it was said in Napoleon's time. And now, faced with a epidemic that the People's Republic of China is attempting fight by limiting the movements of 1.4 billion people as much as possible, the entire world is waiting with bated breath. The numbers of people infected and deaths have exceeded those of the nine months that between 2002 and 2003 shook East Asia with the SARS epidemic (1). People try to make comparisons today, but at the time China had just joined the WTO, while today it is the second largest economy in the world, representing ...

2020-01-29 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

Coronavirus: What Beijing Isn't Saying

Almost three thousand cases in 16 countries and over 80 deaths. (1) 16 cities under quarantine, for a total of approximately 56 million people cordoned off (slightly less than the total of the Italian population, to get an idea). In Wuhan there are complaints of empty supermarkets (2) retail prices that have tripled, face masks and disinfectants now impossible to find, overflowing hospitals (3), and insufficient beds and medical personnel. And while state TV celebrates the figure of Liang Wudong, the retired doctor called back to face the emergency, who was infected and died "on the field," social ...

2019-12-23 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

Digital Surveillance

The market for surveillance technologies will have a value of 62 billion dollars by 2023 (1), and it seems that in this field as well, China will be dominant. Eight of the ten most surveilled cities in the world are in the People's Republic (2) where facial recognition is already used in many rail stations, banks, airports, in some school buildings, many hotels, and in subway systems. And that is not all: starting this month, whoever wants to a SIM card will be required to submit to a facial scan (3). This is the result of an ambitious government program launched in 2017 (4) that foresees covering ...

2019-12-03 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The Dark Side of Beijing

When a semester ends, Chinese students usually return to their home regions to spend time with their families. For some years, though, those who return to the extreme western region of China, Xinjiang, find that friends, relatives, and neighbors have disappeared. "They are in a training school set up by the government," the police and Communist Party officials explain, also stressing that the interned people cannot leave, despite not being criminals. The officials then have to add: "I'm sure that you will support them, because this is for their own good, and also for your own good." These recommendations ...