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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.

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 October

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) says that inward foreign direct investment (FDI) increased 5.2 percent for the first nine months of 2020 when compared to the same period the prior year. China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee approves revised export control law. Germany says reciprocity needed if there is to be a European Union-China investment agreement and notes barriers facing European companies in China remain too high. State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the State Council points out Central State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) contribution to China and the realization of is 13rd Five-Year Plan. Sweden bans Huawei and ZTE from its core 5G mobile networks. Italy prevents Fastweb, the Italian unit of Swisscom, from using Huawei equipment in its core network. Japan will not participate in US initiative to block Chinese companies from participating in its telecommunications systems. Japan’s NEC Corp. will support United Kingdom government in its effort to develop a next generation 5G wireless network. Consortium led by Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. will develop massive $4.29 billion smart-city project in Hanoi. Mitsubishi Motors will work with Thailand agency to develop system that would allow electric vehicle batteries to power homes. Korean Fair Trade Commission to set up plan to investigate Google for potential abuses of its mobile operating system. Seoul to require Korea Resources Corp. to sell off certain assets to improve its financial condition. Samsung Fire & Marine and Samsung Life face criticisms for support of coal projects and investments through project financing, bonds, and insurance underwriting. Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction signs $2.2 billion contract with Vietnam’s VAPCO for massive coal power plant.

MNCs in the News-2020-September

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) issues rules relating to China’s long-discussed “unreliable entities” list. MOFCOM tells foreign companies not to worry about unreliable entities list as it is not targeted at any specific country or company. China’s State Administration for Market Regulation is preparing to launch an antitrust investigation into Google relating to Google’s alleged abuse of the Android mobile operating system’s dominant position. MOFCOM, China’s National Bureau of Statistics, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange issue report showing Chinese outward foreign direct investment (FDI) fell 4.3 percent year-over-year in 2019. Chinese outward FDI (OFDI) in the United States (US) plummets to record lows because of Covid-19 and US-China political frictions. Indian Minister says there will be no blanket ban on all Chinese mobile apps, nor will Chinese companies be excluded from 5G contracts for wireless equipment. The tightening of US restrictions on the export of semiconductors will have potent adverse effects on Japanese companies. Frictions relating to the fees Apple takes in conjunction with its App stores have sparked regulatory attention in Japan. Covid-19 and the resignation of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo are hindering the expansion of Japanese OFDI in Africa. Hitachi may terminate its multi-billion-dollar project in the United Kingdom (UK) to build two nuclear reactors because of a failure to obtain UK government support to cover rising project costs. Korean semiconductor firms will suffer big loss of business due to new US restrictions on the export of semiconductors to Huawei. Korea Fair Trade Commission apparently sends signal to Google that it is being watched for its app store fee collection practices. Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction led consortium wins $573 million railway project in the Philippines.

MNCs in the News-2020 July

Chinese President Xi Jining courts foreign direct investment (FDI) in encouraging letter to the Global CEO Council. China plans to impose sanctions on United States (US) company Lockheed Martin because of the latter’s weapons sales to Taiwan. China’s new, strict cybersecurity laws and regulations have driven Morgan Stanley, a US investment banking firm, to block its interns in China from remotely accessing its virtual network. The recent border clash with China has increased the pressure on New Delhi to reduce the country’s dependence on Chinese solar goods. Various special interest groups have called for the US to sanction China’s CRRC after the US Pentagon labeled it as backed by the Chinese military, saying it represents a security threat. Despite calls for a boycott in the wake of India’s border clash with China, many are skeptical Chinese smartphones can be displaced from the India market. Japanese and British trade negotiators agree they will not require encryption keys or the localization of data. Japan’s Mizuho Financial Group faces growing shareholder pressure to stop financing coal projects. Japan helps Japanese companies move to Vietnam and also helps them shift production lines to Japan as well as various Southeast Asian countries. Myanmar gives three Japanese firms permission to build a mega-liquified natural gas power plant. Korea to spend billions to promote an innovation-based economy. European Union to restart review of the merger of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings. Incheon Port Authority joins the United Nations Global Compact. The backlash against Huawei creates some openings for Samsung, though it is unclear if the Korean firm can exploit them.

MNCs in the News-2020 May

China’s recently issued Guideline regarding its economy contains numerous favorable, albeit general, offerings for foreign direct investment (FDI). To retaliate against United States (US) exports controls against Huawei, China readies itself to add US companies to an “unreliable entity list” which may subject them to various sanctions. US Chamber of Commerce decries potentially excessive measures by US government to move supply chains away from China. United Kingdom looks to reduce Huawei involvement in its 5G network with Huawei potentially being removed from all telecommunications infrastructure by 2023. Chinese contractors plan to make substantial progress on Indonesia’s Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail over the balance of 2020. US pressure influences Israel to reject Hong Kong firm’s bid on strategically located, large-scale desalination plant. Japan categorizes firms into three groups as part of its effort to clarify what review processes apply to FDI pursuant to its Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act. New Japanese law requires technology companies operating e-commerce websites and apps to submit annual reports, notifications of contract changes, and establish complaint processes. In quest for supply chain resiliency, Japan will provide subsides to encourage Japanese firms to return to Japan or move to Southeast Asia. Realized inward FDI into Korea in the first quarter 2020 plunges over similar period last year due to shorter worker hours, higher minimum wages, and other factors. South Korean parliament passes legislation that likely forces content providers to share network costs with local internet service providers. US support for the Economic Prosperity Network raises fears among Korean companies they will be pushed to shift FDI to the US. Korean firm to make huge investment in UAE pipeline as part of its consortium’s winning bid.

MNCs in the News-2020-04-24

According to China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), more than 1000 companies including many from the United States (US), Germany, and Japan have registered from the 2020 November China International Import Expo. MOFCOM reports that China’s non-financial outward foreign direct investment (FDI) declined less than 1 percent year-over-year when compared to the 1st quarter of 2019. Many interpreted a recent India notification indicating special government scrutiny of FDI from bordering countries as directed against China as a time when Indian companies might be vulnerable. Canyon Bridge, the Chinese owner of the United Kingdom (UK)’s semiconductor designer Imagination Technologies, says the company’s headquarters will stay in the UK. Japan will add the medical sector to the list of sectors where FDI is subject to review pursuant to the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law. Japan’s NEC wins major deal to supply observation satellite to Vietnam. Korea’s Fair Trade Commission needs more time to review Delivery Hero’s deal to acquire Woowa Brothers due to concerns about the anti-competitive effects of the deal. Korea’s GS Engineering & Construction concludes a roughly $450 million deal with the Singapore’s Land Transport Authority to build an Integrated Train Testing Center.

MNCs in the News-2020-04-10

United States (US) financial giant JPMorgan strikes terms for taking 100 percent stake in its Shanghai mutual fund joint venture (JV). US trade bodies write to US Department of Commerce head to warn about adverse effects of contemplated changes to US export controls of semiconductors and semiconductor equipment to China, stressing for the first time the importance of chips in healthcare equipment. Reported attempted Board coup at United Kingdom (UK) graphic chipmaker Imagination Technologies blocked by UK government. China rejects reported charge that it was donating masks to France on the condition Huawei could participate in France’s 5G network. Japan prepares massive supplemental budget to facilitate Japanese firms leaving China for Japan or Southeast Asia. Indonesia’s partial lockdown in Jakarta drives Japanese firms to temporary shutter their factories there. Korean regulatory authorities will conduct a comprehensive review of Germany’s Delivery Hero’s acquisition of Woowa Brothers, the operator of food delivery app Baemin. India’s Mahindra & Mahindra says it will not inject fresh funding into SsangYong Motor.

MNCs in the News-2020-02-07

China’s Ministry of Commerce pushes Chinese Chambers of Commerce to provide force majeure certificates to Chinese firms struggling to meet their contractual obligations due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis. Wuhan Institute of Virology move to apply for a patent to use United States (US) firm Gilead’s remdesivir to treat pneumonia like symptoms raises intellectual property issues. Huawei’s Chief Representative to European Union (EU) institutions says the firm will build 5G manufacturing bases in Europe. US Attorney General Bill Barr advocates US and its allies taking controlling stakes in Nokia, Ericsson, or both to fend off Huawei 5G challenge. Japan’s Ministry of Defense reveals two new Japanese defense-related companies that suffered cyberattacks, without stating if classified information was leaked. Japanese company plans to cope with Brexit subject to change depending upon trade negotiations between the United Kingdom (UK) and the EU. Japan files petition with the World Trade Organization to challenge planned merger between Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. Panama re-awards Metro Line 3 to Korean consortium, rejecting challenges from Chinese firms and a consortium with a Chinese company.

MNCs in the News-2020-01-17

China’s tax system has been improving and there are hopes this will boost inward foreign direct investment (FDI). Goldman Sachs contemplates major expansion of employees in mainland China if China’s financial sector opening continues and it can take full ownership of its securities joint venture (JV). JPMorgan moves to increase its ownership of its fund management business in China because of China’s financial sector opening and the attractive opportunities present in the sector. United States (US) pressures on the United Kingdom (UK) to shun Huawei’s presence in its 5G telecommunications system lead UK Prime Minister to query what are the alternatives. Lawsuit by various US states threatens to upend merger of Sprint, in which Japan’s Softbank has a huge stake, and T-Mobile. Softbank proposes huge investment in Indonesia’s planned move of its capital from Jakarta. Korea’s Fair Trade Commission action forces Netflix to revise some clauses in its customer agreements. Korea’s Samsung acquires TeleWorld Solutions, a US-based telecom firm, which may open 5G opportunities in the US.

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