Finbarr Bermingham

Finbarr Bermingham

Production Editor, Political Economy

Finbarr Bermingham is a contributor to Inkstone. He is a production editor at the South China Morning Post focused on China’s political economy.

Language spoken
English
Areas of Expertise
Trade, economics, geopolitics
Inside China’s race to sell coronavirus testing kits to the world
As the horror of the coronavirus outbreak in China was unfolding over January’s Lunar New Year holiday, a group of technicians were holed up in a Nanjing facility with a supply of instant noodles, working long hours to develop testing kits for diagnosing the virus. Already at that point, the coronavirus had ripped through the city of Wuhan and was spreading rapidly around China. A handful of diagnostic tests had already been approved by the central government in Beijing, but hundreds of firms in China were still scrambling to develop new ones. “I did not think about applying for approvals in China,” said Zhang Shuwen, founder of Nanjing Liming Bio-products. “The application takes too much ti
China's economy fell off a cliff during coronavirus lockdown
The coronavirus’ impact on China’s economy was made plain in new numbers released on Monday, which showed a collapse across the board. Strict containment efforts, including the full-scale lockdown of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first reported, has led analysts to downgrade their outlook for the Chinese economy, with most now expecting a historic contraction in the first quarter. On Monday, newly released economic data points fell dramatically further than analysts had predicted. For example, retail sales,  a key metric of consumption in the world’s second-largest economy, fell by 20.5%, the first decline on record.  The median forecast of a group of analysts, conducted by Bloomberg
How face masks are reminding the world of China's manufacturing dominance
The Liu family factory has been making diapers and baby products in the Chinese city of Quanzhou for over 10 years. In February, for the first time, it started making face masks, as demand soared spectacularly due to the coronavirus outbreak. The business – which employs 100 people in the southeastern province of Fujian – has added two production lines to make up to 200,000 masks a day. And while the decision was primarily commercial, “encouragement” from the Chinese government – in the form of subsidies, lower taxes, interest-free loans, fast-track approvals for expansion and help to alleviate labor shortages – made the decision an obvious one, said Mr Liu, who preferred only to give his fa
Revealed: China to make huge purchases of US goods in initial trade deal
This story is part of an ongoing series on US-China relations, jointly produced by the South China Morning Post and POLITICO, with reporting from Asia and the United States. China has agreed to make significant purchases of US goods as part of the phase one trade deal to be signed in Washington on Wednesday. The goods will total $200 billion over two years across four industries, according to a Trump administration official and two other sources briefed on the matter. Beijing has agreed to buy manufactured goods worth around $75 billion, $50 billion of energy, $40 billion of agricultural goods and $35 billion to $40 billion in services, the three sources said. Perhaps in reciprocation, the U
Why Chinese banks are giving out free pork to new customers
Handing out servings of expensive pork as a reward for opening an account is the latest gimmick being used by a growing number of small local banks across China to lure new depositors. The fact that pork could be seen as a desirable reward for opening a bank account speaks to the country’s massive shortage of its favorite staple meat. On Monday, clients who deposited $1,430 or more in a three-month time deposit at the Linhai Rural Commercial Bank in Duqiao in Zhejiang province were then eligible to enter a lottery to win a portion of pork ranging from one to ten pounds. “The money is still my own, and the interest is good. I’m happy to receive a piece of pork in addition,” one female client,
Trade war: US and China said to agree on interim deal
The US and China have reached consensus on the terms of a “phase one” trade deal, multiple US media outlets have reported. Intended to be the first in a series of incremental agreements to resolve the trade war, the deal has the approval of US President Donald Trump, Bloomberg reported, citing several unnamed people briefed on the matter. As part of the agreement, the US would not only postpone tariffs on around $160 billion of Chinese goods scheduled to go into effect on Sunday, but also make cuts in duties already in place, Myron Brilliant of the US Chamber of Commerce told CNBC, citing US administration sources who had briefed him on the plans. Neither the White House nor the Office of th
China still wants lobsters and pork, just not the American ones
At the start of the summer, a group of officials from Maine wrote to President Donald Trump, urging financial support for the state’s iconic lobster industry. China was once the second-largest importer of Maine lobster, but then Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs hit. In 2018, the market died and US lobster exports to China fell by 80% compared with a year earlier, when Chinese lobster lovers bought $128.5 million of the crustacean.  But China has not lost its taste for the delicacy; it is getting lobsters from somewhere else. The shift illustrates how Trump’s trade war is reshaping the global economy, sometimes in ways that hurt his own country. Over the first half of 2019, Canadian lobster sale
One of China’s most successful investors is quietly leaving
Large South Korean firms have historically been among the most successful investors in China. But, they’ve been gradually withdrawing from the country, in order to avoid tariffs on exports of their China-made products to the US and to head off a repeat of a major political crisis.  Many analysts say the efforts of South Korean firms in China should be essential study material for Western governments and businesses about the political risks of doing business in the mainland. These risks are growing as the US-China trade war threatens to draw in other nations and expand into a broader geopolitical struggle. In 2016, Seoul agreed to a long-standing request from the United States to allow the d
Is this the final nail for US exports to China?
China’s retaliation will kill off US exports to the world’s biggest consumer market, American companies fear, after Washington hiked up tariffs on Chinese goods. The US increased tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods on Friday, with Beijing saying it “will have no choice but to implement countermeasures.” Jaime Castaneda, senior vice-president of the US Dairy Council, said much of his industry was already hit with a 25% tariff by China last year, which caused total dairy exports from the US to China to plunge by 48% in 2018. Any increase on import restrictions would be “a final nail in the coffin for our exports,” Castaneda said: “We don’t know exactly what China is going
US-China trade talks are at the stage where people haggle over every word
As negotiators from the United States and China grow closer to clinching a deal to end the trade war, both sides will be wary of the complications that can arise from issues of language, interpretation and translation during negotiations. While both sides are negotiating in their native tongues with the help of simultaneous translation, the subsequent text will be translated into both English and Chinese. These translations will then be “scrubbed” by lawyers and technical translators in an effort to reach a final text that both sides are happy with. But history shows that this is rarely straightforward. Ambiguity is hard to avoid in international trade deals, while experienced negotiators ha