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  • ⚡ China's Air Taxis Ascend, Huawei's Charging Revolution & BMW's EV Expansion 🛫

⚡ China's Air Taxis Ascend, Huawei's Charging Revolution & BMW's EV Expansion 🛫

China Insights Weekly: Unpacking China’s Economic and Technological Advances

2024-04-28 | subscribe | homepage | read online

Welcome to this week’s edition! We've sifted through hundreds of sources to bring you the latest business and tech insights on China in under 5 minutes.

If you have any feedback or special requests, please let us know in a reply or in the comments online! Let’s jump right into this week’s top stories.

China’s EV sales are now over 50% of new car sales (link)

History has been made over the period April 1-14, sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs) exceeded half of all car sales in China. Retail sales during the period were 516,000 and of these 260,000 were NEVs which is an increase of 32% year on year and 2% month on month. This makes the NEV share of sales 50.39%. Previously the Economist Intelligence Unit predicted that NEVs wouldn’t make up over half of sales until 2028.

BMW to further invest $2.8 billion in North East China production base (link)

German carmaker BMW announced on Friday an additional investment of 20 billion yuan (about USD 2.8 billion) in its production base in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province. This new infusion of capital is set to facilitate the production of BMW’s ambitious Neue Klasse EV-only lineup, starting in 2026. Furthermore, BMW is also advancing a 10 billion (about USD 1.4 billion) yuan sixth-generation battery project at the same site.

Huawei, 11 Chinese NEV makers form 'supercharging' alliance (link)

Huawei Technologies and 11 new energy vehicle makers have established a 'supercharging' alliance, with the Chinese tech giant planning to build more than 100,000 of its SuperCharge charging piles around China this year. Among the NEV makers joining the alliance are BYD, Huawei's car-making partner Seres Group, Avatr Technology, and well-known EV startups Hozon Auto, Xpeng Motors, and Li Auto. The NEV units of conventional vendors, including BAIC Group, JAC Motors, Great Wall Motors, GAC Group, and Chery Automobile, will also take part.

Chinese flying taxi sector claims global lead thanks to regulatory support (link)

The total market created by electric vertical take-off and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft is forecast to be worth USD 1.5 trillion a year by 2040 in a base-case assessment by Morgan Stanley analysts, with potential customers across airlines, logistics, emergency services, agriculture, tourism, and security operations. China’s AutoFlight Group, backed by German tech investor Team Global and US fund TDK as well as Chinese investors, won airworthiness certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China in late March for the design and parts for its unmanned CarryAll aircraft — a global first for an eVTOL weighing more than 1 tonne being cleared by regulators. The industry is attracting “significant commercial interest” with a backlog of about 10,000 aircraft orders totaling more than $60bn.

Toyota and Nissan pair up with Tencent and Baidu for China AI arms race (link)

Japan’s Toyota Motor will pair up with China’s Tencent while Nissan will team up with Baidu, the companies said on Thursday. Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker by volume, will include technology from tech giant Tencent technology in a China-made passenger vehicle that will go on sale this year. Nissan and Baidu signed a memorandum of understanding to research AI and so-called “smart cars”. Nissan will use Baidu’s generative AI on its platform to study the feasibility of future tech development.

China is winning the AI patent race with 61% of total patents (link)

China first overtook the US in 2013. Since then, the country has seen enormous growth in the number of AI patents granted each year. In 2022, China was granted more patents than every other country combined. These figures come from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), accessed via Stanford University’s 2024 AI Index Report. AI patenting in China is more distributed across government organizations, universities, and tech firms (e.g. Tencent). China’s patents are typically related to computer vision, a field of AI that enables computers and systems to interpret visual data and inputs.

SenseTime and MiniMax are among hundreds of AI firms to move into China's first LLM developer hub (link)

The Shanghai Foundation Model Innovation Center, the country's first industry hub for developers of large language models, has attracted renowned artificial intelligence firms such as SenseTime Group and startups such as MiniMax. More than 60 LLM startups and over 200 firms along the industry chain have joined the hub, located in the Xuhui district. Shanghai Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, which cooperates with Tsinghua University and Shanghai Jiaotong University, is also present. Training LLMs is costly so the hub has gathered 41 investment institutions to provide startups with funding support. The goal is to have 100,000 square meters of office space, attract hundreds of innovative enterprises, and achieve thousands of industry applications and an industry scale of CNY1 trillion (USD138 billion).

Digital control system installed at China’s Linglong One, the world’s first small modular reactor (link)

Earlier this month, the first digital control system was put in place at Linglong One, a small modular reactor (SMR) demonstration project being built at the Changjiang nuclear power plant in Hainan Province. Digital technologies can be used to combine safety functions along with improved control and increased operational efficiency in nuclear reactors. The first cabinet of Linglong One’s digital control system—known as the “nerve center” of the plant—was installed on April 10 and could pave the way for similar systems to be used around the globe. Linglong One, an ACP100 reactor, is expected to generate about 1 billion kilowatt-hours annually, enough for about 526,000 households. It is the world’s first SMR to get approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

🎁 Bonus Stories

Indonesian billionaire Tanoto expands China presence with a USD 1.5 billion Investment in a New Fiber Plant (link)

Sukanto Tanoto’s Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) plans to construct an 11 billion yuan (USD 1.5 billion) facility in Shandong province to manufacture lyocell fiber. The facility, expected to produce 600,000 tonnes of lyocell fiber annually, will be a key raw material for paper and textiles. This move follows RGE’s recent acquisition of Chinese tissue paper giant Vinda International Holdings, consolidating its presence in the country. RGE has been steadily increasing its operations in China, with its unit Asia Symbol already operating manufacturing plants in Shandong and Guangdong provinces. These facilities produce a wide range of products including pulp, fine paper, paperboard, and tissue paper.

Vietnam aims to start work on high-speed rail lines to China by 2030 (link)

One of the planned high-speed lines would run from Vietnam’s port cities of Haiphong and Quang Ninh through Hanoi to Lao Cai province, which borders China’s Yunan province. The other would run from Hanoi to Lang Son province, which borders China’s Guangxi region. Vietnam said it was seeking to learn from China to develop its first high-speed railway network and had sent its officials to work with Chinese railway companies. Trade between Vietnam and China in the first quarter of this year rose 22% from a year earlier to $43.6 billion.

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