Wine night in Nanning

When Luca Famiglietti, a 45-year-old Italian wine supplier, first came to China in 1995, he never thought he would end up selling wine from his motherland in Qinzhou Port, Guangxi province two decades later.

But despite the allure of richer trade areas, Qinzhou, China’s sixth “free-trade port”, is emerging as a trade hub for the poorer southwestern Chinese region, including the provinces of Guangxi, Yunnan and Guizhou. 

Unlike many mainland Chinese shoppers, Hu Yunfeng, a 36-year-old man, took the overnight train from Beijing to Hong Kong not for Rolex watches or Louis Vuitton bags, but for books.

Hu is one of several hundred thousand mainland Chinese expected to make the journey to Hong Kong’s annual book fair, held this year from July 17 to 23. It is the biggest event in the Hong Kong summer and the world’s largest book fair in terms of visitors – more than a million people are expected in total. 

Hong Kong is considering withdrawing its months-long restrictions on exports of baby milk formula in October, as supply has stabilised.

Ko Wing-man, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health, said on Saturday the government would conduct stress/pressure tests on supplies of baby milk powder in October and lift its restriction if measures to crack down on smugglers and stabilise supply prove to have been effective and sustainable. 

If anyone asks what the hottest economic concept is in China at the moment, the answer must be: Likonomics, a term coined by Barclays in late June to refer to Premier Li Keqiang’s economic policies as he completed 100 days in office.

Likonomics apparently has three key pillars: no stimulus, deleveraging and structural reform, and it stands for trading the economy’s short-term pain for long-term gain. But not everyone is happy with the new phrase. 

French food products group Danone has said it will cut prices of its infant formula products in China by up to 20 per cent, after the Chinese government launched an investigation into possible price-fixing and anti-competitive practices by foreign manufacturers.

But the government crack-down is unlikely to restore confidence in domestic Chinese brands of infant formula, a commerce ministry official warns. 

Apart from the sunshine, beaches and tender sea breeze, there’s now another reason to head for Hainan, China’s southernmost holiday island: duty-free shopping. 

It’s not just Apple that can generate sales buzz in China for new devices. A couple of weeks on from Amazon’s Kindle launch in China, and the new e-reading devices are becoming hot properties. 

When the 29-year-old former CIA employee Edward Snowden leaked top secret information about US surveillance programmes, he might not have expected this – sales of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four have been soaring – in China.

As of Friday, the book’s most popular Chinese translation edition is ranked 36 on Amazon China’s top 100 best-seller list, with a 61 per cent increase in sales over the last 24 hours. 

Gu Shanhai, a 51-year-old from the Zhoushan archipelago in China’s Zhejiang province, has been a fisherman for more than 30 years and has never thought of doing anything else.

But now it seems he will have to. “There’re no big fish in the East China Sea. No business for me at all,” Gu told beyondbrics. 

Commodity markets may have lost their lustre as many investors have gone elsewhere. But there’s often a chance of a profit for those who know where to look.

Pu’er, a strong, earthy tea produced in China’s Yunnan province has seen its price rise by as much as 80 per cent over the past six months – even as prices for other Chinese teas have remained stable. Pu’er traders have seen it before – in a speculative bubble that burst six years ago. This time the run-up in prices has been more modest – so far. 

and so 1990s

While many Chinese of a certain age are reliving their college days through the movie “So Young”, the country’s students of today are facing the fiercest ever competition for jobs, with a record high number of nearly 7m graduates this year.

“So Young” – a nostalgic look at student lives and loves of the 1990s from actress-turned-director Zhao Wei – has successfully captured the collective memories of those who left campus all those years ago. But when they look at the pressures facing today’s graduates, they may be glad their own student days are in the distant past. 

Langfang, a small inland city in Hebei province, is emerging as an information technology services hub in northern China, with a large number of big data centres.

For years, this gritty industrial centre, lying about 50 km away from Beijing and 90 km from Tianjin, found it impossible to compete with these two modern metropolises.

But recently it has taken advantage of its location between them to develop high-end industries, such as data storage and cloud computing. 

Chinese people are used to hearing about the extraordinary benefits enjoyed by employees of big state-owned enterprises. But the size and scope of such benefits still delivered a shock when the National Audit Office released its annual reports on 10 SOEs and further exposed the extent of the problem.

Among the 10 were China Mobile, China Huaneng Group, China Publishing Group and other SOEs and, notably, their subsidiaries. They were found to have violated financial regulations by offering staff a variety of “invisible benefits”, according to audit reports for 2012 on the NAO’s website. 

The news that Guangzhou is to start building a costly cemetery exclusively for revolutionary heroes and government officials this October has stirred up something of an online controversy.

With the cost of cemetery space far higher than housing, it has highlighted the increasing inequality in Chinese society – in death, as well as in life. 

After sending tourists flocking to Japan two years ago with a hit rom-com, Chinese film-makers now seem to have done a similar favour to Thailand.

The country has become the the top foreign destination for Chinese tourists during the current May Day holiday, thanks to Lost in Thailand, a low-budget road comedy turned box-office success