New Film Gives Renewed Hopes For Chinese Cinema

"A Road to Spring," newcomer director Li Ji's film about a wrongly accused worker becoming an unlikely detective to prove his own innocence, has had its cinematic release rescheduled for August 14, according to state media reports.

The film was originally slated for release in March, but that was delayed due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

While the film won positive reviews at its festival debut in Busan in October 2019 and co-stars Suxi Ren, who gave strong performances in the 2019 independent black comedy "Cold Fish" and the patriotic blockbuster "My People, My Country," this film will likely be a more modest entry among Chinese cinematic hopefuls.

Perhaps one of the reasons "A Road to Spring" was able to land an opening spot in cinemas at such a relatively early date is because its runtime is just 98 minutes, which falls under the Chinese state film regulator's COVID-19-induced mandate that films must now be under 120 minutes in length. Many other local films awaiting approval apparently cross the two-hour mark.

Cinemas opened last week across much of China, and screen operators hailed revenues of the first opening weekend since the lockdown. While 4,900 cinemas, accounting for approximately 44% of domestic screens opened, occupancy remains capped at 30%. The Hollywood hit "Doolittle" led the weekend with a take of US$4.71 million, with "Bloodshot" taking second place with US$2.61million, according to data provider EntGroup.

Cinema operators hailed a faster than expected recovery, with a box office total of about RMB100 million (US$14.29 million) and ticket sales of over one million across the six days since theaters reopened.

Meanwhile the CGI-packed Chinese fantasy action film "Double World," budgeted at US$43 million, revealed that it would skip a cinematic opening and instead premiere online via iQiyi and Netflix as it seeks a wider audience and a quick recoup of investment, said producer Amu Zhang.

International Renminbi Trade Reaches Record High

The Chinese renminbi's use internationally reached new heights in the first half of the year, according to a recently released report. The renminbi is expected to represent 5 percent of global trade, investment and foreign reserves in the first half of this year, rising from a 3.03 percent share in 2019, according to the International Monetary Institute of Renmin University.

In 2009, China launched a pilot program allowing yuan settlement in cross-border trade involving some eastern coastal cities – a historic move in the internationalization of the yuan. By 2010, the renminbi was used in just 0.2 percent of global transactions.

The increased use of the renminbi for foreign direct investment on the Chinese mainland and the opening of the onshore bond market to foreign investors have contributed enormously to the renminbi's rising international position, although global trade has contracted amid escalated trade tensions, the report said.

More time is needed for the renminbi to become a global currency, according to the report, but China's efforts to move in that direction continue apace. More of the country's cross-border trade has been settled in renminbi, and it has become widely used to price financial instruments in global markets. The inclusion in central banks' international reserves has reached a record high but further exchange rate reforms are needed to continue internationalization of the currency, the report stated.

China Mobile Web Users Nearly A Third Of Global Total

China's 1.32 billion mobile internet users accounted for 32.17 percent of users worldwide by the end of last year, according to a report from the 19th China Internet Conference, which was held online last week and ended on Sunday.

China's total e-commerce sales hit 34.81 trillion yuan ($4.98 trillion) in 2019, making it the top nation in the online payments market, with total transaction volume in the online payments market reaching 249.88 trillion yuan. The digital economy reached 35.8 trillion yuan in added value, the second-largest amount worldwide.

China will continue to promote 5G rollout, cloud computing services, big data, artificial intelligence and other technologies to innovate and integrate into applications, Miao Wei, minister of industry and information technology, told the online conference. 

The online internet event included over 30 online forums, exhibitions and special activities focusing on topics including 5G, AI, industrial internet and blockchain.

Domestic Vehicle Sales Rebound 

Vehicle sales in China continued to recover in June, rising 1.8% year-on-year amid an overall first-half drop due in large part to COVID-19, an industry group reported Friday.

Though June sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans in the industry's largest global market rose to 1.8 million units, sales in the first half of the year were down 22.4%, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Auto production and sales in the first half were 10.11 million units and 10.26 million units, respetively – down 16.8 percent and 16.9 percent year on year.

During the first half of the year, China's auto production and sales stood at 10.11 million units and 10.26 million units, down 16.8 percent and 16.9 percent year on year respectively. In 2019, passenger car production reached 21.360 million units, reflecting a decrease of 9.2 percent compared to 2018. Sales of passenger vehicles totaled 21.444 million units, reflecting a 9.6 percent year-on-year decline as part of an 18-month slide.

Sales by Chinese brands fell 11.6% in June from a year ago to 590,000 units. Their market share shrank 5 percentage points from the same time a year ago to 33.5%. CAAM said Beijing was extending subsidies on electric vehicles through the end of 2020 to support domestic manufacturers that have invested heavily in developing the global electric vehicle market. China accounts for 50 percent of EV sales volume. 

5G Rollout Continues Amid Huawei Controversy

China built 257,000 new 5G base stations in the first half of the year, bringing the domestic total to 410,000 by the end of June, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Shipments of 5G phones reached 86.23 million units in China, with 5G package users hitting 66 million by the end of H1, said Wen Ku, an official with the ministry.

The value-added output of information transmission, software and information technology services rose 14.5 percent year on year, 1.3 percentage points faster than the first quarter.

To fully develop the robust growth and potential in the 5G market, there should be enhanced policies supporting 5G, Wen said, adding that international cooperation in 5G technology, industry and applications should be strengthened. 

This comes amid U.S.-led security concerns over Huawei, the Shenzhen-based global telecom giant. After U.S. President Donald Trump last month confirmed a ban on all Huawei telecom equipment through May 2021, the United Kingdom followed with its own ban on Huawei 5G equipment in mid-July.  

The EU Commission announced on Friday that countries in the bloc must take urgent action to diversify their 5G suppliers in the name of cybersecurity. This was a move to reduce reliance on Huawei following the UK ban and ongoing U.S. pressure to remove Huawei from 5G networks. The report cited support for the capacity of Finland's Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson to supply 5G needs within the EU and globally.