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DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

China's cultural crackdown

Good morning,

Written by Maria Julia Pieraccioni, associate
Edited by Adam Shaw, associate partner

1 September 2021

Li Guangman Ice Point Commentary was, until yesterday, immune to Google searches.

The Chinese nationalist blogger, whose identity remains a mystery, was an overnight viral sensation on hometurf. Having penned a positive critique of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the fintech sector circulated via the state-run social media WeChat, Li Guangman soon found their views beamed across China’s largest state-controlled media outlets including Xinhua news agency, the People’s Daily and CCTV television network.

The blog in question didn’t hold back. It hailed the government’s actions as a “profound revolution”, that “public opinion will no longer be in a position worshipping western culture.” And that “the cultural market will no longer be a paradise for sissy stars”.

You’d be forgiven for questioning what those words have to do with fintech. Instead, the appearance of the blog and its rapid pick-up by state-run media make it look like a well-timed PR campaign following a bruising week for the government in domestic cultural spheres.

Beijing just yesterday announced it has banned children under the age of 18 from playing video games on weekdays and limited play to just three hours most weekends. This move marks a significant escalation of restrictions, which follows months of reported intimidation tactics in the financial and technology sectors.

The ban was followed by an incendiary commission hearing on the effects of celebrity culture on Chinese youth and the economy. Jian Yu, a researcher for the Development Research Centre of the State Council, told commission members that “profit-chasing capitalism” was solely responsible for the chaotic rise in China’s celebrity culture. He added that culture should be regarded as “an important battleground for thought, culture, and ideology”. China’s crackdown on private education at the beginning of August, which was aimed at returning children to state schools, shows that education and indoctrination are often not too far apart in totalitarian regimes.

Since the start of government crackdowns on tech and private education companies, it is estimated that approximately $3 trillion dollars have been wiped off the market. Whether driven by fears of cultural intrusion, or that perhaps a large private sector could weaken state control or overshadow the Chinese Communist Party’s image, the government’s actions are certainly having an impact.

The researcher’s attitude toward Chinese culture as a ground for indoctrination might be brazen but echoes a much more profound issue in modern-day China. Whether we’re in for a second cultural revolution or just in for a ride, remains to be seen.

News

The UK government has confirmed plans to introduce vaccine passports for crowded indoor venues. The plans were defended on Tuesday following reports suggesting ministers could back away from the proposal in the face of objections from Conservative MPs. 

The US military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban to ensure groups of Americans were safely escorted to the gates of Kabul airport as they escaped Afghanistan, two American defence officials have claimed. The officials also suggested that US special operations set up a “secret gate” at the airport to guide Americans safely through the evacuation process.

Geronimo, an alpaca caught in the legal case between the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs and a British resident, has been put down after testing positive for bovine TB for the second time. Owner Helen MacDonald had requested the government use Geronimo for research and scientific purposes, but the government refused, stating the alpaca risked spreading the disease to surrounding livestock.

Business and economy

The EU is planning a €600 million support package for Afghanistan’s neighbours to accept fleeing refugees in an effort to avoid a repeat of the 2015 Syrian migrant crisis. Although at an early stage of development, the proposal could see the bloc providing cash incentives to neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran, which is currently under international sanctions. (£)

Airbnb is planning to introduce a ground-breaking ‘high risk reservation’ technology to prevent disruptive parties at properties listed on their site before they start. The pilot program in the UK proved successful in blocking individuals without a history of positive reviews from making certain bookings that could have led to disruptive events.

Ryanair’s latest forecasts predict passenger numbers will spike in the autumn, as the airline flew 10.5 million passengers in August. Although the figure remains well below pre-pandemic levels, Ryanair’s chief executive stated he believed the airline will see an 80% recovery in October. (£)

Columns of note

Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the now-defunct healthcare start-up company Theranos, and the woman “once touted as the next Steve Jobs” has finally faced court for her fraud trial. The Economist exposes the various layers to Holmes’ and Theranos’ complex scheme, hinting that one cannot exist without the other. Once the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, Holmes stood to become a heroine in the fight against sexism in Silicon Valley. This piece is a dive into her spectacular fall from grace, but also a reminder that sexism in Silicon Valley is still rampant, making her trial one for the decade. (£)

In The Guardian, Rafael Behr argues that the prime minister could regain his footing in the wake of the pandemic by giving the “transformational legacy” he craves physical form in policy and governing achievements . Behr suggests that the opportunities to do so are plenty: unveiling the UK as a leader in climate activism at COP26; fulfilling the domestic goal of “levelling up”; or even making a positive case for the UK’s retreat from Afghanistan. One thing is clear for Behr: an emergency is needed for Johnson, lest his “negligent style of government unsettle [the character of the times]”.

Cartoon source: the FT

Markets

What happened yesterday?

The London market ended the day in red on Tuesday, with the FTSE 100 closing down 0.40%. Investors retreated amid the latest figures from the Bank of England, which showed an increase in household savings and borrowing in July amidst rising Covid-19 cases. Travel stocks were also hit harshly at close, after the EU recommended a pause on non-essential travel from the US.

The sterling also lost ground to the euro, closing trading down 0.13%, and also slightly against the dollar, losing 0.01%.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 was down 0.5% at close, followed by the German DAX at 0.33% lower and the French CAC 40 at 0.11% weaker. Investors were digesting euro zone data after figures showed inflation in the bloc hitting its highest level for a decade.

In company news

 News of fresh travel restrictions on passengers arriving to Europe from the US sent travel stocks into negative territory, with IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, losing 2.54%. Budget airlines followed suit, with Wizz Air and easyJet losing 2.51% and 1.61% respectively.

Banks were also in decline, with HSBC losing 2.22%, NatWest 2.56%, Barclays 0.48% and Lloyds down 0.71%.

This follows a negative day for British carmaker Rolls Royce, which fell 1.61% after its biggest shareholder, Causeway Capital Management called on the company’s incoming chairman to refresh the board in the wake of a significant downturn for the company.

What’s happening today?

Finals

Arcontech Group

Interims

888 Holdings

Churchill China

Johnson Service

Menzies

Petropavlovsk

Pphe Hotel

Uniphar Plc

AGMs

Appreciate Grp.

Eckoh Technologies

Jupiter Gr.      

Kinovo Plc

Polar Capital Technology Trust

Prime People 

Severfield

Final Dividend Payment Date

Braemar Shipping

Interim Dividend Payment Rate

Blackrock I&g 

Coventry Bs12e

Jupiter Fund Management

Quarterly Payment Date

Jp Morg.chin  

Special Ex-Dividend Date

Kkv Sec Loan C

Kkv Sec Loan

UK Economic Announcements

(00:01) BRC Shop Price Index

(09:30) PMI Manufacturing

International Economic Announcements

(07:00) Retail Sales (GER)

(08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER)

(09:00) PMI Manufacturing (EU)

(10:00) Unemployment Rate (EU)

(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)

(13:30) Personal Spending (US)

(13:30) Personal Consumption Expenditures (US)

(13:30) Personal Income (US)

(14:45) PMI Manufacturing (US)

(15:00) Construction Spending (US)

(15:00) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

(20:30) Auto Sales (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In 2007, Russia planted a Russian flag on the Arctic Sea floor to claim the area as Russian territory.

The Canadian foreign minister at the time responded that “this isn’t the 15th century. You can’t go around the world and just plant flags and say, ‘we’re claiming this territory’.”

Source: @qikipedia

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House of Commons is in recess. The House will next sit on 6 September 2021.

House of Lords 

The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on 6 September 2021.

Scottish parliament 

Parliamentary Bureau Motions

Portfolio Questions

Covid-19 Recovery and Parliamentary Business

Net Zero, Energy and Transport

 First Minister’s Statement

COVID-19 Update

Scottish Government Debate

Supporting Success in Food and Drink in Scotland

Business Motions

Parliamentary Bureau Motions

Approval of SSIs (if required)

Decision Time

Members’ Business

Emma Harper: 100 years of Insulin  

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