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Dr. Jean-Marc F. Blanchard's picture

The Digital Silk Road, part II-Dialing Down the Hyperbole

My last blog supplied a basic overview of China’s Digital Silk Road (DSR) initiative, part of its larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This blog represents a first cut at detailing the DSR. Unfortunately, as with the BRI, it is quite challenging to do so well. Reasons include the non-existence of a public, official list of DSR projects, the misclassification of technology-related foreign direct investment (FDI) in areas such as smartphone manufacturing and semiconductor packing and testing operations as DSR-space FDI even though they have nothing to do with connectivity, and the unwillingness of participant countries to disclose the terms of their contracting deals with China.

Dr. Jean-Marc F. Blanchard's picture

The Digital Silk Road, part I-Cloudy Networked World Calling

China’s Digital Silk Road (DSR), which is part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), came into being in 2015 and accelerated after 2017. Broadly speaking, the DSR promotes connectivity in the information and communication technology (ICT) space and encompasses projects relating to artificial intelligence, cloud computing, fintech (e-payments), smart and safe cities, and telecommunications. It is not entirely clear how many countries are participating in the DSR, though it has been reported that 16 countries have signed DSR Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with China.

MNCs in the News-2021 March

China Ministry of Commerce spokesperson says China’s new foreign investment security review will not impose unnecessary burden on normal foreign businesses. China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee Chairman says China will press forward on efforts to combat the extraterritorial application of foreign sanctions. China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission gives foreign investors the right to acquire a 51+ percent stake in Chinese insurance companies. China’s economic sanctions against members of European Parliament threaten to disrupt the ratification process of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). Sweden’s H&M faces backlash because of its stance of working with factories in or products from Xinjiang. Chinese executives in state-owned enterprises in Myanmar say turmoil in the country has not affected Belt and Road Initiative projects. Brexit has adversely affected Japanese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United Kingdom. The head of SBI Holdings says he will move the firm’s brokerage out of Hong Kong due to the evolving political situation. Line takes steps to limit the access of Chinese affiliates and contractors to Japanese data and shift data from Korea to Japan. Japan’s Fast Retailing suffers disruptions due to fires set at two of its Myanmar suppliers in wake of military coup. Korea advances industrial cluster scheme to increase its local production capabilities in the wake of tensions with Japan and Covid-19 related disruptions. In response to complaints, Google Korea will lower in-app purchase commission for smaller app developers. South Korean companies partnering with Chinese internet platform and fintech firms worry that Beijing’s increasing regulation of the latter may adversely affect their joint ventures. The governor of Georgia asks US President Biden to overturn a United States International Trade Commission ruling that threatens a SK Innovation factory in Georgia.

MNCs in the News-2021 January

China receives the largest amount of inward foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020. China’s 2020 revised catalog of encouraged FDI takes effect increasing the number of encouraged sectors. China issues rules to counteract foreign extraterritorial sanctions affecting its nationals and companies. Renewable energy investments dominate China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) energy infrastructure investments in 2020, though coal remains prominent. India makes ban on dozens of Chinese mobile phone apps permanent due to national security and data privacy concerns. China asks India to clarify its permanent ban against Chinese mobile apps. Japan creates English-language, one stop shop to help foreign financial firms set up operations in Japan. United States (US) sanctions against Huawei and limits on Huawei’s involvement in foreign telecommunications infrastructure projects led Japan’s Sumitomo to turn elsewhere for business. Brexit deal between United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) will keep Nissan producing electric vehicles in the UK. Japan unconvinced Korean President Moon Jae-In’s labeling of a 2018 Supreme Court decision on corporate assets as “undesirable” will solve anything. The head of GM Korea emphasizes labor issues as one of the factors that reduce South Korea’s appeal as a destination for FDI. SK Innovation to invest $895 million into a battery plant in Georgia, a move some feel is about winning a case before the US International Trade Commission. Daewoo Engineering & Construction wins major port facility contracting deal in Iraq. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power gets contract for major dams in Pakistan.

MNCs in the News-2020 November

Foreign direct investment (FDI) into China continues to surge despite Covid-19 and other challenges. China’s Ministry of Commerce says China will take further measures to liberalize ownership restrictions for foreign firms in the service sector. Shanghai shows strength in attracting inward FDI (IFDI) and adds to its regional headquarters and research and development center totals. India moves to ban an additional 43 Chinese phone apps including Aliexpress due to concerns about consumer privacy and national security. China states it will continue to support the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Malaysian state government of Melaka terminates $10.5 billion Melaka Gateway project. Nissan moves to sell only electric vehicle (EV) or hybrid cars in China to meet Beijing’s goal of all new vehicles being eco-friendly. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is expected to have notable impacts on Japanese FDI as well as supply chains given its provisions relating to tariffs, rules of origins, and intellectual property. Brexit may lead the European Union (EU) to slap tariffs and other requirements on EVs which have significant adverse effects on Japanese EV production in the United Kingdom. Tokyo Gas and Marubeni will construct a liquefied natural gas fired power plant in Vietnam. Korea’s Fair Trade Commission reportedly has come to the conclusion that Google abused its market position to prevent modified Android operating systems. The labor union at IKEA Korea strikes for similar wage treatment to workers at IKEA workers elsewhere. Some Korean steelmakers return back home due to government subsidy program. Korean consortium wins engineering, construction, and operations contract for $1 billion bridge project in Bangladesh.

MNCs in the News-2020 August

On October 1, China will establish a new compliant mechanism that, among other things, will allow foreign business associations to raise concerns about the investment environment. China’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission has given permission for a second foreign asset management joint venture (JV), involving BlackRock and Temasek. Looking to exploit China’s financial sector opening, JPMorgan will spend a huge amount of money to take full control of its China mutual fund JV. Foreign pharmaceutical companies fail to win public hospital bulk medicine purchase contracts in China due to an apparent unwillingness to cut prices to near zero. China based firms such as Foxconn reportedly looking at expanding their presence outside China in countries such as Mexico due to troubled political economic environment. Sino-Indian tensions drive Alibaba to suspend plans for new investments in India. US backlists 24 Chinese firms because of their role in the building of South China Sea artificial islands. Chinese outward foreign direct investment (FDI) in Belt and Road countries jumps nearly 29 percent for the first seven months of 2020 year-over-year. Japan will move to improve administrative procedures, such as allowing English paperwork, to draw in more FDI and improve Japan’s prominence as a financial center. Japan is considering tax and other measures to enhance Japan’s role as an international financial center. A Japanese ruling party official raises concerns about TikTok with respect to data privacy and national security. Japan, Australia, and India are discussing a supply chain resilience initiative. South Korean regulators are watching what the US, Japan, and India do vis-à-vis TikTok before they decide how to address relevant data privacy and national security concerns. India’s exclusion of Chinese telecommunications players like Huawei and ZTE from its 5G network may create openings for Korean players.

MNCs in the News-2018-12-14

Inward foreign direct investment (FDI) into China for the first 11 months of 2018 year-over-year relatively stable. Beijing stops requiring its local governments to support the Made in China 2025 policy. European Union Ambassador to China calls on China to stop requiring companies to transfer technology for market access. Apple considers moving some production out of China due to possibility of increased tariffs on its China-produced smartphones and laptops. 2018 proves a tough year for Chinese outward FDI (OFDI) in the oil sector. Huawei accepts various UK technical requirements “to address risks in its equipment and software.” Following a Japanese government’s decision that effectively excluded China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. from public procurement, Japan’s three major mobile phone carriers Softbank Corp., NTT Docomo Inc., and KDDI Corp. plan to stop using various products from these companies. Japanese expert panel calls on Tokyo to take measures to protect the usage of consumer data. Korea Electric Power Corp. report on Northeast Asia power grid notes it would face serious challenges because of sanctions on North Korea. Beginning July 2019, Korea will impose a value-added tax on a wider range of services provided by global technology giants to level the playing field for Korean firms.

MNCs in the News-2018-09-21

China takes a softer stance on dominating the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector at the World AI Conference in Shanghai. Summer Davos observers and participants stress the progress of the [China] Greater Bay Area in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). Alibaba’s Jack Ma retreats from promise to create 1 million jobs in United States (US). Germany looks to pursue more measures, including a billion euro investment fund, to control Chinese FDI flows into the country. Japanese chemical firms boost FDI in Southeast Asia to ramp up production to fill the space flowing from reduced production of Chinese firms that cannot meet China’s environmental requirements. Building upon the foundation created by Japanese and Indian leaders, Japanese companies and investors are pouring money into India to support IT startups. South and North Korea agreed to take steps to reconnect infrastructure links and restart discontinued inter-Korean projects. South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering signed Memoranda of Understanding with Indonesian officials regarding the expansion of its industrial facilities and the construction of a hydroelectric power plant there.

MNCs in the News-2018-07-06

There is some evidence China has started sanctioning American firms in China as a way to retaliate against American tariffs against Chinese goods. Foxxconn breaks ground on potential multi-billion dollar display screen plant in Wisconsin that allow it to profit from incentives and satiate Donald Trump’s America First campaign. United States (US) Department of Commerce allows ZTE limited duration, partial reprieve on seven-year comprehensive supply purchase ban. Pakistan seeks new funding from China, warning that failure might force it to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which might result in the end of some of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. Value of new Japanese FDI in US increases by 70 percent as President Trump pushes to expand employment. Japan and Kazakhstan to implement seven joint projects worth approximately USD $2 billion in areas like nuclear energy, transport and water supply. South Korea working with the US and the United Arab Emirates to win $19 billion power project in Saudi Arabia. Samsung urges Chinese officials to cancel discriminatory policies against foreign businesses. Malaysia and China are discussing a future visit to Beijing by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir in the wake of Kuala Lumpur’s suspension of Chinese projects valued over $20 billion. Malaysian senior trade official says country is open to more value-added investments from China.

MNCs in the News-2018-06-22

China to release two enhanced negative list for inward foreign direct investment (FDI) in July. Australia keeps hanging up on Huawei despite the latter’s efforts to gain new business opportunities. British officials seem reluctant to let a Chinese-owned British firm’s deal for a small airplanes part maker take off. Warming political relations between China and India provide a fertile environment for the growth of Chinese outward FDI (OFDI) in Indian start-ups. Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association stresses Japanese carmakers’ investment contribution to the US in move to undermine criticism from President Donald Trump. Japan’s financial regulator tells Japanese banks to report suspicious money transfers involving ten Japan-North Korea joint ventures. Chinese government to give LG Display approval to launch USD $6.7 billion OLED plant in Guangzhou, though partnerships with Chinese competitors may be required. SK Engineering & Construction signs letter of intent with Manila on USD $2 billion investment plan for environmentally friendly coal-fired power plants. Mahathir says Malaysia could extend new tax incentives for foreign investment in areas such as technology and research and development. Malaysia seeks to recoup USD $4.5 billion of funding that was potentially lost through 1MDB corruption scandal

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