China sees increasingly fierce NEV competition for market leaders

Consumers browse NEVs at a car fair in Shanghai on March 23, 2024. Photo: VCG

Consumers browse NEVs at a car fair in Shanghai on March 23, 2024. Photo: VCG

Competition in China’s new-energy vehicle (NEV) industry has intensified as local and international brands rush to announce price cuts and release new models to seek more market share. 

Industry analysts said that the fierce competition comes amid the transition of China’s NEV sector from a period of a large number of investments to a mature market, and the entire market will be further concentrated on a couple of leading firms.

Rather than hyping “overcapacity” in China’s NEV sector to contain China’s high-tech development, Western politicians and media outlets should acclaim China’s contribution to the world because the country’s advantages such as continuous innovation, complete industrial chains and full competition have made NEVs cheaper and more popular around the world.

On Monday, Chinese automaker Li Auto announced price cuts of about 5 percent on four of its models and the company said it would refund the difference to owners who bought those models earlier this year.

The move came one day after US automaker Tesla on Sunday trimmed the price of its Model 3 from 245,900 yuan ($34,630) to 231,900 yuan. It now offers the Model Y from 249,900 yuan onward, compared with 263,900 yuan previously, according to the company’s China website.

So far in April, more than 10 NEV brands have reportedly announced price cuts or other promotional activities.

“In the first quarter [of 2024], the number of car models that had price cuts exceeded 60 percent of the number in all of 2023, most of which were NEV models such as all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids,” Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, told the Global Times on Monday.

This will be a key year for NEV makers to gain a firm footing in China’s auto market, so competition will be extremely fierce, Cui said. 

However, he said that Chinese NEV makers will likely have more scope to make a profit this year due to price declines in raw materials like lithium carbonate and economies of scale amid the rapid development of the market.

China’s NEV market is undergoing a structural adjustment from a period when companies made a large number of investments to a mature market, and thus competition has become extremely fierce, Cao Heping, an economist at Peking University, told the Global Times on Monday.

However, this does not mean there is “overcapacity” in China’s NEV sector, and the US vehemently hyping “overcapacity” in the Chinese sector is a political trick to build “a small yard, high fence” around the high-tech sector, Cao said.

“Washington is petty and small-minded,” Cao said. In the 1980s, US companies produced a lot of products like computers and digital devices in China. At that time, the US didn’t blame China for “overcapacity.” 

Seeing that China’s industrial chain is climbing from the lower end to the middle and high end today, the US has started to crack down on China by breaking market economy rules, he said.

Washington’s attempt to outcompete China is not benign competition, but vicious competition, in which the US sets traps for the competitor at every turn, according to Cao. He urged the US to maintain an open and cooperative attitude toward China so as to jointly contribute to global technology advance.

China’s vehicle market got off to a good start in the first quarter of 2024, with production and sales each exceeding 6.6 million units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The market share of NEVs remained above 30 percent, the data showed.

Amid the rapid development of the NEV industry in China, the penetration rate of passenger NEVs exceeded 50 percent in the first half of April, as reported by China Central Television on Sunday, outperforming traditional fuel passenger vehicles.

With the approach of the Beijing International Automobile Exhibition on Thursday, domestic automakers have been intensively releasing new models, which are expected to drive up domestic sales in the second quarter. 

After a hiatus of four years, the exhibition will see the global debuts of 117 models, including 30 from multinational producers. Exhibitors include international brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, and new car brands like Nio, Xpeng and Xiaomi, according to the official website of the exhibition.

The event, along with policies to support trade-ins, will be a catalyst for domestic car spending, Cui said, expressing positive projections for China’s auto market in the second quarter.

US embassy denies election interference in Solomon Islands, experts skeptical

Scenery of Solomon Islands Photo: IC

Scenery of Solomon Islands Photo: IC

The Solomon Islands is set to hold general elections on Wednesday, a significant event that follows the establishment of diplomatic ties with China in 2019 and the subsequent shift in regional dynamics. This election is not just a domestic affair but has attracted international attention, particularly due to the alleged interventions and influence exerted by foreign powers.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US Embassy in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands labeled recent accusations of its alleged interference in the Solomon Islands’ election as “questionable” and “disinformation.” 

Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, shed light on the historical pattern of US involvement in foreign elections, stating, “It is a traditional and deeply-rooted practice that when the US claims non-interference, it’s either hard to believe or astonishing.” 

He further suggested that recent media focus on China’s role in the election could be attributed to US machinations, aligning with its long-standing modus operandi of meddling in other nations’ affairs.

The statement issued by the US Embassy came after an investigative article published by Russia’s Sputnik news agency criticized the US’ role and intentions in the Solomon Islands’ elections, suggesting that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) might be attempting to influence the election outcome through “democracy promotion” activities, in order to counter China’s influence in the region.

The article detailed USAID activities in the Solomon Islands, including engaging with local community political leaders, civil society organizations, and influential individuals, as well as funding surveys and training programs to bolster anti-government sentiment. An anonymous source disclosed to the Sputnik news agency that they fear the US might incite another riot during the upcoming elections to achieve its geopolitical goals.

Amid growing cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands, the US announced  the reopening of its embassy in Honiara in February 2023. According to AFP, the embassy had been closed since 1993, following the end of the Cold War. 

With the elections fast approaching, the US Ambassador conspicuously arrived in Honiara in March.

With the looming elections, international media outlets have increasingly highlighted China’s influence, focusing on opposition figure Daniel Suidani, who has closely aligned himself with the island of Taiwan in the past. Suidani expressed concerns to the AFP over China’s “increasing control” in the Solomon Islands, describing it as alarming. 

In response, Lin Jian, a spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry, at a daily press conference on Tuesday, emphasized that China upholds the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and supports the people of the Solomon Islands in choosing a development path that suits their national conditions.

National sentiment in the Solomon Islands toward China’s involvement is largely positive. 

On the Chinese Embassy in Honiara’s Facebook, comments from local netizens reflect appreciation for the aid and grants provided by China, with posters expressing their desire for continued support and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Voting in the Solomon Islands general elections is set to take place on Wednesday. It is the first election cycle since China and the Solomon Islands established diplomatic ties on September 21, 2019. Half a month later, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare paid his first visit to China, during which the Solomon Islands officially joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Since establishing diplomatic ties with China, the Solomon Islands has seen improvements in infrastructure, livelihoods, and social stability, with the successful hosting of the Pacific Games in a stadium built with China’s assistance. 

Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries of Liaocheng University, highlighted the positive outcomes of China’s cooperation with the Solomon Islands, noting the increase in employment rates and the establishment of joint and wholly-owned enterprises. These developments have not only benefited the local population but also served as a model for other Pacific Island nations, prompting closer cooperation with China.

Global Times