Hello Interconnected Readers:
I’ve been spending the last week in Reno, Nevada, doing volunteer work for the US election during this final phase. (Nevada is the swing state closest to me.) Thinking back, I’ve spent every single Election Day, both presidential and mid-term, since 2008 in a political campaign setting except for 2014; that was my 1L year in law school.
[If you’d like to skip ahead to the six news stories and commentaries – three from English language sources, three from Chinese language sources -- here are this issue’s items:
- “China's Hopeless Twitter Influence Operations” (English Source: ChinaTalk)
- “Amazon Catapults Over Alphabet on Capex Spending” (English Source: The Information)
- “Apple's earnings in China drop nearly 30% in Q4” (English Source: Apple Insider)
- “Meituan’s number 1 startup project: ‘This battle must be won,’ says Wang Xing” (Chinese Source: 36Kr)
- “Who is paying for Hong Kong’s crazy IPOs?” (Chinese Source: China Venture)
- “Modi uses "trillion subsidies" to invite Tesla to build a factory, but will the Indian people like it?” (Chinese Source: Youniu Financial News)]
Going down memory lane stirred up quite a bit of nostalgia. The thing I’m most nostalgic about when it comes to political campaigns are the strangers -- volunteers, voters, random pedestrians even -- with whom you can strike up an instant bond, because of the joint purpose that brought you together and the assumption that you have to work together to bring that purpose to life.
This picture from November 3, 2008 (the day before Election Day) in Charlotte, North Carolina, captured that feeling:
The person in the lower-middle is likely the only person you’d recognize. A much younger version of myself -- the only Asian guy in the picture -- is slightly above him. Everyone else was a volunteer, who’ve spent hours everyday for months on end for a joint purpose. A few of the ladies drove from Tennessee. The gentleman in the lower right corner was a city council member in the UK and flew across the pond to help. What made this picture special for me was how tightly we grasped each other, not just the future president…
Fast forward to 2020, that physical proximity is no longer possible. We all stand far apart from each other with masks on, but that feeling is still there.
Regardless of who wins the American presidency, people must find a way to work together again -- between parties, between countries, between opinions and preferences.
One anecdote from a few days ago gave me a slice of hope. A grandmother drove up with her grandson looking to get a Biden yard sign. I showed them where the signs were and the grandson jumped out of the car to grab one, while telling me that someone stole his grandma’s sign, and he’s very mad that people are messing with his grandma. Assuming he might’ve been a Biden supporter, I asked him if he’d want to do some volunteer work. He very politely declined, telling me that he’s actually a Trump supporter! But he’s here to help his grandma. While we were having this conversation, the grandmother, still in the car, was yelling half jokingly that his grandson “needs to get educated!”, while he laughed. After grabbing a couple of yard signs and Biden-branded buttons for good measure, the grandson thanked me profusely for making his grandma’s day, and they drove off.
If you watch a lot of news, you’d think that people are born to hate each other. (And if you watch too much news, you may actually become that way.) I don't think we are. We can, and we must, be able to have differences in opinions and still help each other, work with one another, to achieve larger purposes that we cannot accomplish on our own. If not, we can at least be cordial about differences -- the young Trump supporter and his grandma.
That’s the task we all have to focus on after Election Day.
The summary below covers the period between October 26 - November 2, 2020 of six news stories – three from English language sources, three from Chinese language sources. Disclaimer: all translated article titles are done by me, not official translations from the media outlets.
Before you go on, please check out last week's deep dive post: "Wall Street Blunts the “Delisting” Hype"
“China's Hopeless Twitter Influence Operations” (English Source: ChinaTalk)
My Thoughts: This analysis by Jordan Schneider of ChinaTalk on China’s Twitter game is fun and fascinating to read. The overall conclusion may not surprise you: China does not have much of a Twitter game and is a long way from matching Russia’s sophistication in using social media manipulation to affect American public opinion and politics. The crudeness in which China has applied its tactics on Twitter -- buying random accounts with only some following, writing most tweets during China’s working hours while Americans sleep -- is both comical and sad. I hope similar studies are being done on China’s influence game on Facebook and YouTube. Highly recommend you read this entire analysis, lots of good tidbits and food for thought.
“Amazon Catapults Over Alphabet on Capex Spending” (English Source: The Information)
My Thoughts: Amazon is known for its massive investment for long-term growth and moat-building, while trading off short-term profit-taking. So the big increase in capex revealed in this report is directionally consistent, though the size is still astounding. What’s more remarkable is that both Alphabet and Apple’s spendings are decreasing. While these three companies have some overlap in product and business lines, they also occupy their own respective corners in the tech industry. The global economy is still volatile, which usually reveals which companies are aggressive for the long run, while others shrink to become conservative.
“Apple's earnings in China drop nearly 30% in Q4” (English Source: Apple Insider)
My Thoughts: Speaking of Apple, its 28.9% drop in its Greater China sales produced a lot of headlines when it released earnings last week. 2020 is such a weird year that I’m not ready to derive too much meaning out of this drop just yet. Whether it’s caused by COVID-relate delays, lack of a new iPhone in the September quarter (Tim Cook’s official explanation), or an aggressive torque towards “patriotic buying” by Chinese consumers to support Huawei is a thread worth watching when next quarter’s earnings roll around. There will be no more “no new iPhone” excuses by then.
“Meituan’s number 1 startup project: ‘This battle must be won,’ says Wang Xing” (Chinese Source: 36Kr)
My thoughts: Meituan’s entrance into the already-crowded “community group-buying” business in China, currently led by Pinduoduo, Alibaba, and JD may end up fueling an already capital-intensive blood bath. This form of e-commerce is popular in China, while largely non-existent in the US. Wang Xing is known to be an aggressive and competent leader. Taking Meituan from a Groupon copycat to a superapp that is now a Hong Kong-listed public company with a 200 billion USD market cap speaks for itself. They definitely have the money and will to win this battle.
“Who is paying for Hong Kong’s crazy IPOs?” (Chinese Source: China Venture)
My thoughts: The US IPO market is not the only one being active this year; Hong Kong is having quite a year as well. (Below is a chart tracking the amount raised by month in Hong Kong from January 2019 to September 2020 in Hong Kong dollars.) Combined with rule changes in 2018 -- allowing non-profitable biotech companies, certain dual-structure companies (Xiaomi and Meituan) and second listing from companies with a primary listing in New York and London -- the exchange is gaining new life. Large funds armed with Fed-induced cheap capital, like Temasek and Hillhouse Capital, are pouring money into the Hong Kong capital market as more (in terms of both quality and quantity) companies list there. The New York-Hong Kong exchange rivalry could become a real thing.
“Modi uses "trillion subsidies" to invite Tesla to build a factory, but will the Indian people like it?” (Chinese Source: Youniu Financial News)
My thoughts: Where Tesla builds its factory has become the golden stamp of approval for a country seeking to prove its manufacturing and technological capabilities. So far, Tesla’s facilities span the US, Germany, and China. Elon Musk has been particularly positive about its Shanghai Gigafactory and gushed about his Chinese employees’ work ethics. It’s understandable that India would crave that status too, as Modi’s Hindu-nationalistic India becomes increasingly competitive with China. As I noted in “iPhone: ‘Made in China -> India?’”, some higher-end manufacturing is moving to India faster than I anticipated. But can the country produce at scale with high quality is a huge question. And a Tesla Model S is much more complicated than an iPhone 12.
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- “中国令人绝望的Twitter‘煽动’行动”（英文来源: ChinaTalk）
- “亚马逊在资本支出上快速超越Alphabet”（英文来源: The Information）
- “苹果公司第四季度在大中华区收益下降近三成”（英文来源: Apple Insider）
- “美团头号创业项目：王兴发话「这场仗一定要打赢」” (中文来源: 36氪）
- “疯狂的港股IPO，谁在买单？” (中文来源: 投中网）
- “莫迪“万亿补贴”盛邀特斯拉建厂，但印度民众却不一定买账” (中文来源: 有牛财经）】
沿着记忆的轨迹走，激起了不少的怀旧情绪。说到竞选，我最怀念的是那些陌生人 -- 志愿者，选民，甚至大街上的过路人。因为大选把大家聚集在一起去为一个共同目标工作和奋斗，瞬间把一群陌生人紧紧地联系在一起。
无论谁是美国下一位总统，人们都必须要找到一种方式来重新合作 -- 党派之间、国家之间、观点和偏好之间。
几天前的一则轶事给了我一丝希望。一位老奶奶带着她的孙子开车来里诺的大选办公室找拜登的宣传牌子。我告诉了他们拿牌子的地方，孙子一边跳下车去拿牌子，一边告诉我，有人偷了他奶奶的牌子，他很生气有人惹他奶奶。我默认他可能是拜登的支持者，问他是否愿意做点志愿者工作。他非常礼貌地拒绝了，跟我说他其实是特朗普的支持者! 但他是来帮助他奶奶的。当我们聊到这里的时候，这位老奶奶还在车上半开玩笑地嚷嚷着，说她孙子 "需要接受更好的教育！"，孙子随之也笑了。他拿了几块前院牌子（Yard Signs）和一把拜登纽扣做纪念后，对我大加感谢，感激我让他奶奶今天这么开心，然后开车远去。
如果您看很多新闻，会觉得人天生就是互相仇恨的。(如果您看太多新闻，可能真的会变成那样！) 我不认为我们是这样的。我们可以，也必须，能够有不同的意见，同时仍然可以互相帮助，互相合作，一起达到个人达不到的共同目标。如果不能合作，我们至少可以友好地尊重分歧 -- 就像这位支持特朗普的年轻人和他的奶奶一样。
还希望大家有空看看我上周最新的深度分析文章：《华尔街钝化 "退市 "》
我的想法: ChinaTalk的司马乔丹（Jordan Schneider）写的关于中国的Twitter煽动行动的分析很有意思，读起来也很吸引人。大致结论可能不会让您惊讶：中国玩Twitter的能力还很差，远远达不到俄罗斯政府利用社交媒体来操纵影响美国舆论和政治的能力。中国在Twitter上用的简单粗暴的策略 -- 随意购买只有少数关注者的账号，在中国的工作时间写下大部分推文（美国人都在睡觉）-- 既滑稽又可悲。我希望有人对中国在Facebook和YouTube上的“煽动”行动进行类似的研究。强烈推荐您读完整篇分析，有很多有意思的段子和值得思考的地方。
“亚马逊在资本支出上快速超越Alphabet”（英文来源: The Information）
“苹果公司第四季度在大中华区收益下降近三成”（英文来源: Apple Insider）
我的想法: 说到苹果，其上周发布的财报里，大中华区销售额大跌28.9%，上了很多新闻的头条。2020年是奇怪的一年，所以我还不准备从这个大跌里做出任何判断。无论是由于与疫情有关的延迟、9月份季度里没有新款iPhone（Tim Cook的官方解释），还是中国消费者为了支持华为做出了更多的 "爱国购买 "，要等到下一季度的财报里去找更多线索了。届时将不再有 "没有新iPhone "的借口。
“美团头号创业项目：王兴发话「这场仗一定要打赢」” (中文来源: 36氪）
我的想法: 美团冲进目前由拼多多、阿里和JD领头的 "社区团购 "业务，会助长一场已经很烧钱、靠资本的“血战”。这种网购形式在中国很流行，而在美国基本不存在。众所周知，王兴是一个强势而能干的企业家。把美团从一个Groupon的模仿者变成了一个Superapp，到今天成为一家在香港上市，市值2000亿美元的公司，就是最好的证据。美团绝对有资本和意志打赢这场战。
“疯狂的港股IPO，谁在买单？” (中文来源: 投中网）
我的想法: 今年不只有美国的IPO市场活跃，香港的IPO市场也相当活跃。下图是2019年1月至2020年9月香港股市每个月的融资额，以港币计算）。结合2018年的港股的规则变动 -- 允许非盈利的生物科技公司、某些双结构公司（小米和美团）以及在纽约或伦敦上市了的公司在香港二次上市 -- 交易所正在获得新生机。随着更多的、更好的公司在香港上市，被美联储诱导的廉价资金武装起来的大基金，如淡马锡和高瓴资本，正在大胆涌入香港资本市场。纽约vs香港交易所的竞争可能在不久的未来成为现实。
“莫迪“万亿补贴”盛邀特斯拉建厂，但印度民众却不一定买账” (中文来源: 有牛财经）
我的想法: 特斯拉在哪里建厂，已经成为一个国家寻求证明自己制造和技术能力的金牌认可。到目前为止，特斯拉的工厂横跨美国、德国和中国。Elon Musk对其上海Gigafactory的评价尤为积极，并对中国员工的敬业赞不绝口。随着莫迪的印度教民族主义主导的印度与中国的竞争越来越激烈，印度也渴望这种地位，这是可以理解的。正如我在 《iPhone：'中国制造->制造印度？’》一文中指出的，一些高端制造业已经向印度转移，其速度比我预想的要快。但印度能否大规模、高质量地制造产品还是一个巨大的未知数，毕竟特斯拉的Model S可比iPhone 12复杂得多。