It is safe to assume that most Americans would consider Amazon and Target to be the most popular online retailers, along with some other well-known conglomerates. And until the Super Bowl last Sunday, that stood true. But now, in a surprising turn of events, a new online shopping platform has become the most downloaded app in the United States, surpassing even the biggest names in the industry.
Temu is an online shopping destination for just about everything, including clothing, houseware items, electronics, and much more. Based in Boston, it shares the same parent company as the Chinese e-commerce icon, Pinduoduo. The target market is anyone looking for great deals. And, with prices like $11 for a smart watch and $8.50 for wireless earphones, it’s not hard to understand the ultra-quick popularity Temu has gained.
In its 30-second Super Bowl slot, word about Temu reached millions of US homes. The ad focused on bargain prices yet feeling like a billionaire. The background song played: “The prices blow my mind. I feel so rich. I feel like a billionaire.”
According to Sensor Tower, since its release in September, the Temu app has been downloaded 24 million times.
The Biden administration warned China Tuesday that the United States would not “leave Australia alone on the field” in its ongoing economic clash with Beijing.
China and Australia have been at odds since 2017, first when parliament outlawed foreign political donations in order to stem Chinese influence in Canberra, and later when Australia locked Chinese tech giant Huawei out of its 5G network.
Beijing responded by imposing a series of punishing tariffs and limits on a range of imports from Australia including coal, wine, barley, live seafood, beef and timber.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner by far, with bilateral trade growing from $132 billion in 2014-15 to $231 billion for 2019-20. Australia is also one of the few countries to maintain a trade surplus with China, with Canberra exporting $150 billion to China against $81 billion in imports.
To date, the United States has not intervened in the standoff. The issue did not play a role in former President Donald Trump’s policy vis-à-vis China.
But speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald ahead of a meeting between American and Chinese officials, who are scheduled to convene in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, Kurt Campbell, President Biden’s point man for the Indo-Pacific region said the new administration would link its China policy with Beijing’s treatment of U.S. allies.
“We have made clear that the U.S. is not prepared to improve relations in a bilateral and separate context at the same time that a close and dear ally is being subjected to a form of economic coercion,” Campbell told the newspaper on March 16.
Last year, Britain’s The Guardian reported that sanctions have cost the Australian economy $19 billion, but predicted that the number could grow to $28 billion if travel by Chinese nationals to Australia does not rebound after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
As a result of high-level trade talks a week ago, China has agreed to purchase 600,000 tons of soybeans grown in the USA. As a result of the purchase, the price of soybean futures in the US climbed by more than 1 percentage point on the Chicago Board of Trade.
The deal will result in the shipment of about 10 boatloads of soybeans, which will be spaced over the time period between October and December, all heading off to Chinese shores.
The announcement about the soybean purchase came on the heels of the bad news that Chinese trade officials had cancelled a scheduled visit to US farm states. Except for this one decision, trade talks had proceeded positively. More negotiations between the US and China are scheduled for October has the trade war between the two powerful global economies continues.
In early September this year a Chinese state news agency reported that some farm products, pork and soybeans, were no longer subject to additional tariff increases. The announcement helped to reduce tensions between the trading partners and make way for the recent soybean deal.
In the United States online consumers let loose on Cyber Monday; and in China shoppers
run wild on what is known there as “Singles’ Day.” This year Singles’ Day saw online shoppers shell out over $14 billion within only the first two hours of commencement, flying past last year’s record of $25 billion in sales for the entire 24 hours.
Singles’ Day began ten years ago as a bit of a joke when unmarried students honored choose November 11, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, or also known as “Double 11” day to celebrate their own single status. The ad hoc holiday was co-opted by retailers, creating a day of online buying and sales.
China’s own version of Twitter, Weibo, was swarming wit
h posts about Singles’ Day; some saying how proud they were to have resisted the temptation to make a purchase, while others bragged about the great deals they got.
Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, the platform where the crazy commerce took place, said that Singles Day is “not a day of discounts, but rather a day of gratitude. Speaking in a video which was shown at the start of the party celebrating the event he added, “It’s when retailers use the best products and best prices to show their gratitude to our consumers.”
Not everyone agrees that Singles’ Day is a day of gratitude. One economics professor, Hong Tao of Beijing Technology and Business University, said that the event encourages consumers to prefer cheap prices over high quality, causing them to buy things they definitely do not need.
“People are swept up in the festivities,” Hong said in a phone interview. “This burst of consumption, confined to just one day, can be exhausting for both buyers and sellers.”
There is also a negative environmental impact to all the unneeded buying. Although Alibaba and its close competitor JD.com have both promised to use packaging that is recyclable, research done by Greenpeace East Asia said much of the plastic that is marked as biodegradable and used by Chinese online sellers, really needs extremely high temperatures in order to fully break down. Those recycling facilities are scattered across China, and in small numbers. Greenpeace said that they are forecasting that within just two years this so-called “biodegradable” packaging might account for about 721 truckloads of garbage produced every single day in China.
President Donald Trump announced that he will seek 25% tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods coming into the United States. The tariff was set to be 10%, but the White House is seeking to increase pressure on China to adhere to fairer trade policies.
On July 10 the administration said it would ask for 10% tariffs on thousands of Chinese products. Those imports include consumer goods such as furniture, dog food and baseball gloves to manufacturing materials like chemicals, steel and aluminum.
Before the tariffs can be imposed the proposal must wind through a period of public comment. The US Trade Commission has set the deadline for such comments to be filed by August 30 with hearings scheduled for August 20-23.
It is expected that a 25% tariff will be greeted with even less enthusiasm than the already beleaguered 10% tariff has been subjected too. It is expected that a 25% tariff will seriously escalate the trade war now already in progress.
Back in July China accused the US of bullying and threatened to hit back with tariffs of its own. Investors are afraid that a full-blown trade war could slow down global growth. Many key US business groups have criticized harshly Trump’s tariff policy.