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For months, China has been increasing restrictions on private companies operating in the country. Here are the industries facing new measures:
In education, measures began on Saturday barring private, for-profit tutoring companies from raising investments outside the country.
The new rules also said tutoring centers must operate as non-profit organizations. They also cannot offer subjects already taught in public day schools or hold classes on weekends or holidays.
China’s competitive higher education system has made tutoring services very popular with parents. Private tutoring is a $120 billion industry in the country and includes several companies based overseas. But to increase the nation’s slow birthrate, the government has been trying to lower the cost of raising children.
In November, China’s banking regulators put out draft rules calling for stronger controls for online lending. The company Ant Group is a major lender. Ant Group is a part of the larger Alibaba Group, a Chinese company specializing in technology, finance and online product sales.
The rules set limits for online loans between provinces and put a limit on loan amounts for individuals.
In April, the regulator demanded that Ant Group separate its payment business from its personal finance business.
Regulators have also cracked down on traditional online commerce, or product sales.
In April, the State Administration of Market Regulation fined Alibaba Group $2.75 billion. It was the company’s highest fine yet. The regulator says Alibaba had been preventing its product sellers from selling their goods on other websites.
The regulator has also fined smaller companies for their practices related to consumer rights and labor.
In May, it fined the company JD.com 300,000 yuan for publishing false information about its food products. JD.com is a major competitor of Alibaba.
This week, the regulator ordered China’s food drop-off companies to provide better protection for workers.
In June, the Cyberspace Administration of China, or CAC, told top ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing to stop taking new users.
At first, the regulator named violations of consumer privacy as a reason for barring new riders. Later it put out separate draft rules for other Chinese companies to run a security check before listing stocks overseas.
A CAC investigation led to a fine of 500,000 yuan for Didi and other companies for not reporting their takeovers of smaller companies.
In May, three financial regulators widened rules on China’s cryptocurrency industry. They barred banks and online payment companies from use of cryptocurrency for payment or legal settlement.
They also barred companies from providing exchange services between cryptocurrencies and national moneys, among other rules.
In the following weeks came measures from provincial governments to prevent bitcoin mining.
Those measures caused a series of mining closures around the country. Chinese newspaper Global Times predicts that 90 percent of mining operations will soon close.
On Friday, China’s housing ministry and seven other regulators told the property management industry to “improve order.”
China’s economy has improved after a drop in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Officials have increased efforts to stop real estate companies from borrowing too much money this year.
Other regulatory measures include borrowing limits for property developers and limits on property loans from banks.
So, what might come next?
Some experts say the gaming industry is next to face tough regulations. China’s central government has continued to express concern about gaming addiction among young people.
The government will likely target the many games being published without official permissions, or ones that misuse user information. That prediction comes from Rich Bishop. He is a chief executive of the Beijing-based app publisher AppInChina.
In healthcare, last month the State Council urged a reduction in medicine prices for 2021. It also demanded changes to the country’s complex healthcare system.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Reuters news agency reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
Words in This Story
tutoring – n. the act of teaching a single student
draft – n. a version of something (such as a document) that you make before you make the final version
province – n. any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into
fine – v. to make someone pay an amount of money as punishment for breaking the law
consumer – n. a person who buys goods and services
cyberspace – n. the online world of computer networks and the Internet
stock – n. a share of the value of a company which can be bought, sold, or traded as an investment
cryptocurrency – n. a form of digital money that is not regulated by a central bank and whose records are stored in an encrypted computer database
bitcoin mining – n. the process of creating new bitcoin by solving a complex mathematical puzzle
real estate – n. property consisting of buildings and land
addiction – n. a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble)
app – n. a computer program that performs a special function
China’s tightening grip on private companies is forcing international investors to rethink their strategies. This trend could have serious consequences depending on the course charted by the leadership in Beijing.
For 30 years, China’s emerging companies have absorbed funds from global investors looking for high-risk, high-return projects, grown, and then profited investors. Now that virtuous cycle could fall apart.
Since last fall, Chinese leaders have tightened their control over internet giants such as Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent Holdings and Didi Global using antitrust laws, overseas listing regulations, nonbank financial regulations, and rules for handling personal data. They have moved forward in implementing “strengthened antitrust efforts and the prevention of disorderly expansion of capital,” the key policies laid out by the Chinese Communist Party last December.
Furthermore, regulations on private tutoring schools announced by the party and government on July 24 seem to indicate a wider scope of “disorder” and “expansion of capital” to be controlled. “The tutoring sector has been hijacked by capital,” authorities said, criticizing current conditions in which companies profit from education costs, which average households are struggling to pay. Based on this understanding, the government has outright banned for-profit tutoring institutions for elementary- and middle-school students.
A similar sentiment was evident on Aug. 3, when the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper sponsored by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, published an article critical of the gaming industry, describing online games as “spiritual opium” while pointing to Tencent.
There is growing concern in the market that anti-capitalist policies attacking businesses will become more widespread. Industries such as health care and real estate, where there is significant social dissatisfaction and a strong public interest, may be the next to come into regulators’ sights. A medical data company has reportedly frozen its plan to go public in the U.S. for fear of attracting the leadership’s ire.
The stock market has been rocked by the clampdown on for-profit businesses. Prices of listed Chinese stocks have plummeted, and market players have been forced to change how they invest in emerging Chinese companies.
If for-profit businesses are prohibited based on the nature of their operations, the “correctness” of the businesses engaged in by both portfolio companies and potential investment targets needs to be reevaluated. Some also fear the chilling effects on entrepreneurs and existing founders, which may lead to less ambitious business plans. Investors have begun adjusting their portfolios to increase their exposure to India and Southeast Asia.
One investment manager believes that Chinese unicorns — private companies with a valuation of $1 billion or more — are at a high risk of being labeled as pursuing “disorderly expansions.” U.S. hedge funds and private equity funds and SoftBank Group, which hold large amounts of stock in Chinese unicorns, may well be forced to redraw their startup investment strategies.
Understanding the basic rules of doing business in a particular country is fundamental when making equity investments there. With these rules shifting so dynamically in China, investors must be vigilant.
Welcome to Foreign Policy’s China Brief.
The highlights this week: Chinese regulators upend the $120 billion private education industry with new measures, Beijing issues an itemized list of grievances to U.S. diplomats, and a COVID-19 outbreak in Nanjing raises concerns over the delta variant.
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Beijing’s War on Private Education
The Chinese government has issued stringent new regulations for the private education industry. The rules include requiring tutoring and education services firms to convert to nonprofit status, banning core-curriculum tutoring—aimed at passing exams—during weekends and vacations, and forbidding foreign curricula or hiring foreigners outside of China to teach remotely.
The regulatory moves, hinted at for months, have hammered stock prices in the $120 billion sector. New Oriental, a firm that dominates English-language learning, plunged from a high of $19.68 on the New York Stock Exchange in February to a low of $2.18 last Friday. Firms such as VIPKid, whose entire business model was built around offering relatively cheap access to Western teachers via digital learning, now have little choice but a desperate pivot.
It’s tempting to relate the regulations of private education to Beijing’s war on technology companies and monopolies—and regulators are certainly empowered by the government push against private business. But these new measures also reflect a widespread belief in China that the private tutoring sector has bad effects for urban upper-middle-class parents and children, both in costs for the parents and the psychological impact on children.
In China, education hinges on the gaokao, the all-important college entrance examination. Chinese parents can spend thousands of dollars a year on private tutoring just to keep their kids competitive; the stresses of parenthood were even turned into a hit video game. It’s important to remember that these costs were relegated to a relatively privileged stratum. Three in four Chinese children grow up in rural areas where the average annual disposable income is around $2,635 and access to education is severely limited.
The average government official is also a member of the upper-middle class and has experienced the effects of the education race on their own families and children. That’s likely why the measures, while limiting curriculum cramming, try to encourage hobbies and cultural interests after school. Unlike in the United States, where extracurriculars are a key part of college admissions, they play little role in the gaokao system.
If the new regulations work to lessen the cost burden on parents and the strain on children, the government hopes it can reverse demographic decline. The price of raising children in China is a powerful factor restricting family size, even after the government increased family-planning limits. Authorities are concerned not only about growth but also about so-called population quality—they want well-off families, not the rural poor, to have more children.
The measures are also part of growing xenophobia in China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spends a lot of time worrying about ideological education. Measures restricting the study of U.S. and world history, for example, were put in place years ago. As the CCP sees it, banning foreign curricula and foreign teachers could prevent the creeping influence of foreign ideas and discourage Chinese students from applying to overseas universities.
The regulations are not going to stop the very rich, who often have Ivy League ambitions for their children, from seeking out foreign tutoring anyway through discreet personal contacts and U.S. bank accounts. At the high end, the going price for one-on-one tutoring is already $200 an hour, and it may go up after these measures.
The question is whether the same market will emerge for private tutoring for the middle classes—driving up the necessary cost to stay in the race rather than reducing it. South Korea offers a relevant lesson: The dictator Chun Doo-hwan banned private teaching in 1980, but by the time the sector was relegalized in 1991, it was bigger than ever. A second South Korean attempt to crack down on high-cost private education, started in 2011, has had only limited success.
China’s itemized list of grievances. During a contentious visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to Tianjin, China, on Monday, Beijing presented two sets of grievances with Washington. The first consisted of demands that the United States halt its sanctions programs, restrictions on CCP officials, and visa restrictions on Chinese students with military or state ties, and that it drop its extradition charge against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. The second list raised concerns about the targeting of Chinese businesses and anti-Asian racism.
Past presentations of similar grievances with Western countries have not gone well for China. A 14-point list given to Australia last September attracted widespread mockery and anger in the Australian media and hardened attitudes toward Beijing among government officials.
Cooler heads presumably understand the list is likely to produce a similar reaction from the U.S. government. But this kind of denunciation has been part of communist diplomacy since Soviet era. As Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rule deepens and the break with the West becomes more ingrained, it makes political sense within China even if it creates a diplomatic headache.
Flooding fallout. Xenophobia also resonates on the ground in China, as shown recently when foreign reporters attempting to cover the devastating floods in Zhengzhou faced angry mobs whipped up by local officials. The death toll in Zhengzhou, now at 71 and likely to rise, seems to have resulted in part from local businesses and public institutions ignoring flood warnings to keep staff at home. Chinese labor law is strict about working conditions and danger to workers in theory. In practice, it’s rarely enforced.
Delta variant outbreak. A major COVID-19 outbreak—by Chinese standards—in Nanjing is causing worries due to the rapid spread of the delta variant and the possibility that the city’s airport became a transmission zone. Citywide testing and isolation, a well-established routine in China, will probably contain the outbreak. But concerns about the delta variant are likely to constrain a domestic tourism sector that was slowly recovering.
Dissident entrepreneur sentenced. Sun Dawu, an agricultural entrepreneur and multimillionaire who became an outspoken critic of CCP policy, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Wednesday. The sentence is identical that given to Ren Zhiqiang, a retired tycoon who criticized Xi, last year. Sun was a popular figure known for his local philanthropy; he had a sharp eye for the impact of policy on ordinary people, especially farmers.
Targeting dissident businesspeople is a boon for officials: Not only do they remove a potential political threat, but the individual’s financial assets can also be divvied up as rewards for the faithful. Sun’s son hinted at that, saying that an official had recommended several unrelated businesses to take over the Dawu Group.
Evergrande in danger. The Chinese real estate giant Evergrande, whose shaky prospects and massive debts have been a serious concern for months, saw its stock fall by 13.4 percent on Tuesday after the board reversed course on a special dividend announced two weeks ago. Evergrande was the most valuable real estate company in the world in 2018, but its fortune was built atop a mountain of liabilities.
Beijing seems determined to keep it propped up for the moment, fearing that it could turn into Chinese real estate’s Lehman Brothers, with failure prompting a chain of collapse through a debt-laden industry that has been the one of the main drivers of economic growth in China.
Stock market panic. The Golden Dragon index, which tracks Chinese technology stocks, has fallen by 15 percent in the last couple of days amid the introduction of private education regulations and fears of further action against tech firms. Chinese stocks are now the worst-performing in Asia.
It seems like Beijing may have finally crossed the red line for analysts such as economist Stephen Roach, a self-described “congenital optimist” on China who warned this week of “disturbing actions” and the start of a cold war. “China is going after the core of its new entrepreneurial driven economy, and it’s going after their business models,” he said.
Beijing seems spooked by the reaction: The China Securities Regulatory Commission convened an emergency meeting on Wednesday in an attempt to reassure investment banks. As I argued recently, Western financial analysts have underestimated Chinese political risk for years. If that’s snapped, it means the loss of a major pro-China engagement faction in U.S. politics.
Huawei lobbying. The Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which has faced a barrage of restrictions in the West in the last few years, is attempting a concerted lobbying campaign in Washington, hoping that the Biden administration will prove receptive. That seems extremely unlikely: President Joe Biden’s team has continued most Trump-era restrictions, and technology remains at the forefront of the U.S.-China confrontation.
Nevertheless, the firm has recently hired a cluster of new lobbyists, including the once-influential Democratic figure Tony Podesta, whose lobbying group was dissolved in late 2017 after getting caught up in the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
“China Is Using Tibetans as Agents of Empire in the Himalayas,” by Robert Barnett, Foreign Policy
This investigation into the nearly 250,000 Tibetans coerced into new border fortress-villages in the Himalayas follows on FP’s earlier revelation of Chinese annexations in Northern Bhutan. Tibetans, unlike Uyghurs, are seen as useful to the Chinese state rather than an obstacle to Himalayan expansionism. Their historical cross-border ties and cultural adaptation to mountain life make them ideal agents of empire—at the cost of their own choices and lives, as Barnett details.
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Daniel Kardefelt-Winther of the Innocenti research workplace of Unicef, the United Nations’ children’s firm, checked out all the proof he would possibly uncover on how kids’s use of digital expertise affected their psychological nicely-being, their social relationships and their physical exercise, and found rather a lot much less trigger for alarm than is generally steered.
There are plenty of options out there, together with STEAM conferences and programs Whichever you choose, simply be sure that teachers have the ability to learn more about how this approach works and how to use it in their school rooms. Status Examine of Graduate Science Schooling within the United States, 1960-1980. His areas of expertise embrace online learning pedagogy and online teaching and learning finest practices.
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