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China Strikes Back on the Trade Front against the U.S.

Well-known Chinese news site Sina recently reported that China started taking steps to strike back after several U.S. anti-China trade investigations took place. On February 4, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced its anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations against U.S. sorghum exports to China. China is the biggest buyer of U.S. sorghum and soybeans. About three thirds of the U.S. sorghum exports go to China, which is around 4.8 million tons of sorghum, worth of US$1 billion. This is a high-profit item in the portfolio of U.S. exports to China. The investigation is expected to hurt the business of some American farmers who are considered one of the “cornerstones” of the Trump voter base. The Chinese investigation may take around one year and some bad news may be right in time for the up-coming mid-term election in November. It is possible the Trump administration may react strongly against this Chinese move. However, the total dollar amount of the sorghum investigation is a very small percentage in the US-China trade volume. China is just taking this opportunity to remind the U.S. of the mutual dependency relationship in trade.

Source: Sina, February 6, 2018
http://news.sina.com.cn/c/nd/2018-02-06/doc-ifyrhcqz3042688.shtml

South Korea Notified U.S. Only Hours before Its Negotiation with North Korea

Well-known Chinese news site Sina recently reported that the South Korean leadership team had a very hasty discussion right after Kim Jong-un, in his New Year’s Day speech, expressed the intent to participate in the Winter Olympics. The United States was not in the loop regarding the decision making to send a quick and friendly response. To the surprise of the U.S. officials, South Korea notified its U.S. ally only hours before they officially proposed to North Korea that they start a negotiation session. This caused tension between South Korea and the United States, although both emphasized their unity publicly thereafter. Anonymous sources said the officials from the U.S. Embassy in South Korea expressed their unhappiness. South Korea explained that they had an extremely tight window of time to accommodate the sudden change, which left them no time to go through formal communications. A South Korean government official also expressed the hope that, when U.S. Vice President Pence visits South Korea for the Winter Olympics, he could talk more about peace.

Source: Sina, February 6, 2018
http://news.sina.com.cn/w/2018-02-06/doc-ifyremfz5586584.shtml

Sinchew: American Oil Is Sweeping the Global Market

Major Singapore newspaper Sinchew recently reported that, ever since the U.S. lifted the ban on its oil exports, U.S. oil has been flooding the world from large countries like China and India to small nations like Togo in West Africa. With the U.S. “Shale Oil Revolution,” American oil nowadays has caused a decrease in the global oil price and weakened the influence of OPEC. The U.S. oil output is now equal to Saudi Arabia and is only behind Russia. A large portion of U.S. oil exports go to China. In fact, since November last year, China has been the biggest importer of U.S. oil. Starting in October of last year, U.S. oil also entered the Indian market, which is the third largest oil importer in the world. Starting last November, the U.S. quickly became the fifth largest oil supplier of France. Ports in Texas and around the Gulf of Mexico are undergoing heavy construction in order to expand.

Source: Sinchew, February 9, 2018
http://www.sinchew.com.my/node/1726895

VOA: Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Students’ Verdict Foretells Harsh Punishment for Future Civil Disobedience Movements

VOA reported that, on Tuesday February 6, the Court of Final Appeal announced that the three Hong Kong student pro-democracy leaders of the 2014 Umbrella movement, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, won their appeal. After the three students stepped out of the courthouse, they told the media that the court verdict was just like a “sugar coated harsh verdict.” They disagreed that the protest in the Civic Square was violent. They said that the high court has tightened the interpretation of the civil non-violent disobedience movement. It was an indication that participants in any similar movement in the future could face several months or even years of imprisonment. Therefore it was not worth any celebration.

According to the article, the Court of Final Appeal announced the verdict of the three Hong Kong Umbrella Movement students at 4:00 p.m. on February 6. The verdict stated that the case in Civic Square incurred lighter violence. According to the new sentencing guideline introduced in August 2017, the Court of Appeal has the power to impose imprisonment for violent and illegal large size gatherings. Any leader who allegedly incites others or anyone to use violence could face a more severe legal consequence. However, since the new guideline does not apply to previous cases like this one, the students won the appeal. In August 2017, the three student leaders had been convicted and jailed for their roles in the occupation of Civic Square in 2014.

Source: Voice of America, February 7, 2018
https://www.voachinese.com/a/news-top-court-ruling-having-chilling-affect-20180207/4242689.html

Sohu: Average Chinese People Face Heavy Housing Debt and a Housing Surplus in Small to Mid-sized Cities

Sohu published an article on China’s housing market stating that average Chinese people face heavy housing debt. It predicts that a surplus in the housing market will develop in many small to mid-sized cities and in the countryside. A translation of two major points contained in the article follows:

1) For an average Chinese family the value of their house accounts for the largest portion of their wealth. According to a 2017 Wealth Research report that The Economic Daily published, the value of a family’s property accounts for 70 percent of their total assets. Those wealthy families who sit at the top of the pyramid find it very affordable to pay cash for their housing. However, an average family can only afford such a purchase if they take out a loan and borrow money. As they enjoy an increase in wealth they also have to bear a heavy debt payment on their loan. For cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shen Zhen, a house can easily cost over tens of millions of yuan. For an average middle income family that has an income of 30,000 to 50,000 yuan per month (US $4,760 to US $7,934 a month), many take out home loans in the millions of yuan. They only have 10,000 – 20,000 yuan (US $1,587 to US $3,174 a month) left to spend each month and they still have a child to raise. Their money situation is so tight that they live like poor people but sit on a high priced property.

2) We don’t need to wait for a sharp decrease in population to see signs of a housing surplus in China right now. The signs are here. For example, in Northeastern cities, where the population is decreasing and the economy is declining, the real estate market is very slow. There is a serious housing surplus in those regions. In the third or fourth tier small to middle sized cities, largest numbers of houses are vacant. For those who were born after 1980, 1998, or 2000, if they live in fourth and fifth tier cities, they may own at least two pieces of residential property. One is their own house and the other one is the house they inherited from their parents. Many of them may own as many as three or four houses. It is expected that, after decades, as the population in China drops rapidly, other than those top 20 big cities, the rest of the small to middle sized cities and the countryside will have a surplus of housing.

Source: Sohu, February 8, 2018
http://m.sohu.com/n/530472818/

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