China’s virus-hit cities start to restore production

A woman wearing a protective mask to help stop the spread of coronavirus walks at an empty shopping mall in the Sanlitun area in Beijing. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 February 2020

China’s virus-hit cities start to restore production

  • Beijing is conscious of striking a balance between stamping out the epidemic which has infected more than 70,000 people and killed over 2,000 people

BEIJING: Big manufacturing hubs on the Chinese coast are starting to loosen curbs on the movement of people and traffic while local governments prod factories to restart production, following weeks of stoppages due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Beijing is conscious of striking a balance between stamping out the epidemic which has infected more than 70,000 people and killed over 2,000 people, and shielding the already weakened economy from more damage.

The city of Foshan, a large manufacturer of electronics and household appliances in southern Guangdong province, said late on Tuesday that businesses no longer need to seek prior approval before resuming operations and they need not require returning workers to show proof of their health.

On Monday, the nearby city of Zhongshan similarly lowered such administrative barriers.

In eastern Zhejiang province over the weekend, the cities of Hangzhou and Ningbo also pared back the approval process for companies looking to restart.

“Macro and micro data suggest production activities are resuming at a slow pace in China, reaching 60-80 percent of normal levels by end-Feb and normalizing only by mid-to-late March,” Morgan Stanley wrote in a research noted.

“If the spread of the virus is not contained within the next two weeks, the disruption to production could extend into the second quarter.”

Analysts polled by Reuters expect China’s economic growth could slow to 4.5 percent in the first quarter from 6 percent in the previous quarter, but some recently downgraded forecasts again into the 3-4 percent range, citing delays in resuming production.

Some cities in Guangdong and Zhejiang this week organized buses and trains to ferry workers back from their hometowns.

The city of Taizhou, in Zhejiang, even arranged for several planes to pick up migrant workers from Chongqing, Guiyang, Chengdu, Kunming and Xian, with the local government of Taizhou footing a third of the bill.

The outbreak has also chilled consumer demand and hammered the services sector, with restaurants, hotels, cinemas and travel agents among the segments most visibly hit.

China’s auto market is likely to see sales slide over 10 percent in the first half of 2020 because of the epidemic.

In a bid to revive consumption, Foshan announced stimulus measures for its auto market, the first city in China to do so amid the outbreak.

The city government will offer subsidies of 2,000 yuan ($285) for purchases of new cars and 3,000 yuan for replacement of existing cars, according to a document published on Feb. 3 on its website.


Saudi imports from China up 17.8 percent in 2020 to $28.1 billion

Updated 24 January 2021

Saudi imports from China up 17.8 percent in 2020 to $28.1 billion

  • Bilateral trade between the two countries remains steady amid the ongoing global health crisis

RIYADH:  Saudi imports from China rose 17.8 percent year-on- year in 2020 to $28.1 billion, according to a report from Mubasher, citing figures from China Customs.

Despite this increase, the Kingdom’s overall trade surplus with China was down 63.9 percent last year to $6.2 billion, the report said.

Trading between the two nations has remained steady.
On Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported that Chinese govern- ment data showed the Kingdom was still the world’s biggest oil exporter, as well as beating Russia to keep its ranking as China’s top crude supplier in 2020.

Oil demand in China, the world’s top oil importer, remained strong last year despite the challenges brought on by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Chinese imports rose 7.3 percent to a record 542.4 million tons, or 10.85 million barrels per day (bpd).

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Saudi shipments to China in 2020 rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier to 84.92 million tons.
  • The Kingdom’s overall trade surplus with China was down 63.9 percent last year to $6.2 billion.
  • In 2020, China became the GCC’s top trading partner, replacing the EU for the first time

Saudi shipments to China in 2020 rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier to 84.92 million tons, or about 1.69 million bpd, data from the General Administration of Chinese Customs showed.

Political commentator Zaid M. Belbagi wrote in an Arab News opinion piece that, with the increased importance of land and sea routes connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, China increasingly saw relations with the Arab world as “central” to its geostrategic ambitions.

“There is, however, a disconnect between the expansion of Chinese involvement in the region across the political and economic realms and the cultural and diplomatic connectivity required to deepen ties that will not only ensure Chinese interests, but also encourage Arab states to partake in the new world China is building in its own image,” he said.

Saudi-China relations have strengthened over the years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ties were further strengthened with the two countries offering each other assistance and staunch support.

The past three years have marked a rapid increase in Saudi- China links. King Salman visited the country as part of a six-country Asian tour early in 2017, setting the seal on a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two
countries when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A joint high-level committee was established to guide future economic development strategy.

That was followed by a later visit by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, adding greater depth to the relationship and further aligning the two countries’ main economic development plans — the Belt and Road Initiative by which China seeks to play a leading role in regional development, and the Vision 2030 strategy aimed at diversifying Saudi Arabia away from oil dependency.

China has also become the top export destination of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) petrochemicals and chemicals, accounting for about 25 percent of GCC exports.


At $180 billion, the GCC (GCC) trade with China accounts for over 11 percent of the bloc’s overall trade. In 2020, China became the GCC’s top trading partner, replacing the EU for the first time.

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