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INSIGHT: BASF's additional fixed and variable cost reductions in Ludwigshafen reflect Germany’s challenges
LONDON (ICIS)–BASF has suffered in Germany and across Europe from energy high costs and poor demand that continue to drive structural change. Much weakened competitiveness is forcing the company to tackle the situation at the upstream businesses by adapting production capacities to market needs. But plants not operating at 80-90% because of weak demand are a drag on profitability and something has to be done to sustain the operations at Ludwigshafen and maintain the cost-effective Verbund structure on which the company relies. “We have to say goodbye to the good old times in Germany,” BASF CEO Martin Brudermuller said on Friday on release of the company’s fourth quarter and full year 2023 financial results. Weak demand is on-going, although BASF believes that chemicals production globally will 2.7% this year compared with a tough 1.7% increase in 2023. Most growth, however, is expected to come in China. The company’s European operations are under significant pressure, and BASF is feeling the impact in its Chemicals and Materials segments where it has major production capabilities. Chemicals segment earnings (before interest, tax and special items) last year were down 82% at just €361m. Materials segment earnings were down 55% at €826m. Chemicals includes the building block petrochemicals while Materials includes engineering plastics and polyurethanes, among other systems, and their monomers. Gas costs in Europe are still twice what they were and four to five times higher than those in the US. Global supply and demand imbalances for major upstream chemicals are damaging structurally as well as in the short term and BASF has to adapt its giant Ludwigshafen production complex to the new realties. There will be plant shutdowns, Brudermuller said on Friday. Ludwigshafen is so big that it is impossible to imagine BASF without it, or at least to imagine a significantly changed production footprint. Nevertheless, against the backdrop of Germany and Europe’s challenged industrial position and an uncertain industrial manufacturing future the way it is transformed over the next few years will reflect the new realities. The complex has lost money recently – although it does bear the costs of the BASF global HQ amongst its overheads. Most of the company’s employees work there. A new cost reduction programme reduction of €1bn, adds to previous recent plans to address high costs. Plants and jobs will be impacted. New technology will be applied, and the company talks about tackling fixed costs and significantly trimming variable costs. "The situation is serious, so we are explicitly not ruling out any measures,” Brudermuller said. Taking carbon reduction plans into account also, the range of chemicals produced at Ludwigshafen is expected to change. The company has to factor into its plans the costs of decarbonisation of assets, some of which are many decades old. Its CFO, Dirk Elvermann said on Friday that the new reality will have an impact on manufacturing industry in Germany. BASF has to change its approach, he added, and adjust the type and dimensions of upstream and downstream assets. There will be a push towards the downstream, more downsizing and materials will be sourced from elsewhere, he indicated. BASF expects global economic weakness to continue this year with chemicals demand, impacted by high interest rates, rising only slowly in moderately growing customer industries. China growth is somewhat stronger, but uncertain. The company does not expect much from Europe while it foresees a slight slowdown in growth in the US. “We can’t do magic here,” Brudermüller said on Friday. That is possibly a phrase that applies to the company's asset footprint in Germany as much as market conditions. Insight by Nigel Davis
US Huntsman expects gradual recovery, seeks to boost prices and volume
HOUSTON (ICIS)–Huntsman expects a gradual recovery to take hold in 2024, in which the company will attempt to pursue higher prices and recover share, the CEO said on Thursday. So far, order patterns indicate that destocking has ended for most of Huntsman's divisions, said Peter Huntsman, CEO. He made his comment during an earnings conference call. Prices and sales volumes seem to be gradually improving, and Huntsman sees signs of green shoots that had been absent during the past 12-18 months, he said. "Prices and volumes look to be gradually improving," he said. Companywide Huntsman expects mid-single-digit growth in the first quarter versus the same time in 2023. In North America, destocking is ending in housing and construction, he said. In China, prospects are improving for infrastructure and automobiles, he said. Construction is having a bit of a rebound. Overall, the pickup in business following the Lunar New Year is stronger than what the company has seen in the last two to three years. Europe will have a gradual recovery, but Huntsman still warned about the risk of de-industrialization for the region. "We haven't made strong cash flow out of Europe in two years," Huntsman said "That's unacceptable and it's unsustainable." With the prospect of a recovery, Huntsman expects to recover some of the sales it had lost in 2023, he said. It will try to recover lost volumes and push for what the CEO described as much needed price increases. Huntsman stressed that the subsequent restocking cycle will be gradual, and it will stretch out through the year. He does not expect a sudden surge in buying. Thumbnail shows polyurethane spray foam, which is made with MDI. Image by Shutterstock.
PODCAST: How Red Sea and Panama Canal troubles influence chemicals and LNG
BARCELONA (ICIS)–Chemicals and liquefied natural gas (LNG) players are switching from a global to a more regional approach to their markets as logistics challenges caused by the Red Sea attacks and Panama Canal drought persist. Red Sea disruption may not end until 2025 Some US chemical prices rising as Panama Canal restrictions continue Poor downstream demand caps increases Europe isocyanates and polyols react to logistics pressures Margins rising for European producers as purchasers switch to local sourcing LNG prices are falling despite logistics disruption LNG markets now becoming more regional LNG globally expected to be oversupplied by 2027-2028 as wave of new capacity starts up In this Think Tank podcast, Will Beacham interviews Ed Cox, ICIS senior editor for LNG, Umberto Torresan, ICIS analyst for isocyanates and polyols, and Adam Yanelli, ICIS senior news reporter. Visit the ICIS Logistics: impact on chemical and energy markets Topic Page. Editor’s note: This podcast is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the presenter and interviewees, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS. ICIS is organising regular updates to help the industry understand current market trends. Register here. Read the latest issue of ICIS Chemical Business. Read Paul Hodges and John Richardson's ICIS blogs.
Asia petchem markets await China's demand signals after holiday
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's petrochemical markets will closely watch China's demand signals after the Lunar New Year holiday amid ongoing concerns about the country’s economic health. Asia markets eye China's post-holiday demand signals China's economic health remains central concern Prices likely to rise amid supply constraints Markets in Asia took a breather in the week of 12-16 February, with Lunar New Year holidays in China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore, while countries such as South Korea, Japan and Indonesia observed public holidays as well. Market participants are cautious about the post-holiday market; while some downstream buyers will restock after the holidays, there is concern that existing inventory held by domestic China producers and distributors will largely satisfy demand until early March. PRICES LIKELY TO RISE AMID SUPPLY CONSTRAINTSPetrochemical prices in Asia are expected to continue to increase in February, supported by capacity losses from outages and run-rate reductions, according to ICIS analysts. Among the 31 major petrochemical commodities covered by the ICIS Asia Price Forecast, average February prices for at least 22 of these commodities are anticipated to increase. Ethylene (C2), butadiene (BD) and styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) are expected to lead in terms of gains. In Asia’s C2 market, end-users who have yet to settle March arrival cargo are expected to hit the ground running once most of players return to the market this week. In the southeast Asia C2 market, demand enquiries were largely heard from Thailand last week, while other end-users in Indonesia have begun to look towards the April window for spot cargo. "The Asia C2 industry is likely to be characterised by tight supply in the weeks to come," said Paolo Scafetta, ICIS senior olefins analyst. "February should see about 7% of total monthly nameplate capacity lost due to downtime unless unplanned events cause further technical hiccups." The upstream naphtha market in Asia should be influenced by a few bearish factors, Scafetta added. These include the shift from naphtha to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as an alternative cracking feedstock and an improvement in supply from March as naphtha cargoes are expected to increase as Middle East refineries return from their maintenance. Asia's naphtha market is likely to be plagued with volatility in the short term as tensions in the Red Sea will continue to disrupt supplies. In Asia’s propylene (C3) market, trade was largely subdued during the Lunar New Year break but picked up towards the close of the week with most market players, except China, returning from their holiday. Talks and discussions in Taiwan commenced at the end of the week after the holidays ended. However, the post-holiday buying sentiment weakened on the back of ample supply, leading sellers to progressively lower their offers and selling indications. With buyers in China largely away from the market, overall business activity during the week was muted. In southeast Asia, while demand was also heard in Malaysia and Indonesia, most buyers continued to hold back from purchases on the expectation that supply tightness might result in an easing in offers down the road. In Asia’s benzene market, post-holiday restocking is expected to pick up in the second half of February amid strong competition for April and May cargoes from global players. February and March benzene cargoes have been already sold out and April cargoes are in strong demand. Benzene buyers based in both Asia and the West had actively sought procurement since end-January, for pre-holiday and pre-summer stocking up respectively. Asia's acetone market looks poised to maintain its strength. This is due to the high prices of benzene, reduced production leading to tighter supply, and a resurgence in trading flows between Asia and the West. A significant increase in demand for Asia acetone from the US market is bolstering this trend. Limited supply in the US, a result of low phenol production and ongoing allocations, is driving this demand. Meanwhile, supply within Asia is also constrained as phenol/acetone producers scale back production in response to unprofitable margins and decreased demand for phenol in China. In the xylene markets, further support in the market will be dependent on downstream sectors after the Lunar New Year holidays, with eyes firmly on China. For paraxylene (PX), there remains optimism for gasoline-blending demand heading into the second quarter, with positive arbitrage window economics for exports to the West. Firm upstream naphtha prices have also provided some support for PX. Several market participants noted there had been pre-buying of mixed xylenes (MX) and toluene by gasoline blenders to the US. Demand and price developments in the downstream purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and polyester sectors will help provide clarity about whether high PX costs can be absorbed down the chain. Asia's butyl acetate (butac) and ethyl acetate (etac) markets are poised to stay afloat on anticipated post-holiday demand, albeit at a gradual pace. Sellers of butac in both China and the region largely maintained their spot offers for March loading prior to the Lunar New Year holiday. Spot butac prices were on a downtrend in the early part of the fourth quarter of 2023 and have climbed since December, in part driven by cost pressures upstream as suppliers worked towards mitigating compressed margins. Asia’s methylene chloride (MEC) market might be bullish after the Lunar New Year holiday, as rising demand is likely to shift the market to a more balanced state. Most buyers were in a wait-and-see mode, monitoring prices and observing what producers would offer after the Lunar New Year break, with market participants in southeast Asia eyeing a rebound in demand through Q2, around the Ramadan period. CHINA'S ECONOMIC HEALTH IN FOCUS ICIS analysts expect most of China's end-use consumption, including in industries such as agriculture and home appliances, to recover from March. The China government's Two Sessions policy meetings, widely seen as the most important political meeting of the year for the country, will be held on 4-11 March. ICIS analysts expect another series of policies to be introduced to stimulate economic growth. Further market and infrastructure investment can boost petrochemicals demand. Latest official data from China is pointing to some recovery from domestic tourism trips and revenues. Domestic tourism trips and revenues during the Lunar New Year holidays in China jumped by 34.3% and 47.3% year on year respectively, with their levels at 19.0% and 7.7% above pre-pandemic levels in 2019, data from the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) shows. "Most official and private media channels have been reporting strong (or even exceptionally strong) Lunar New Year holiday consumption data, and markets risk getting caught up in the euphoria of the moment, under the supposition that China’s economy is suddenly bottoming out, driven by the Chinese people’s hidden passion for spending," research analysts from Japan's Nomura Global Markets Research said in a note. "Although we do see some strength in the data, we urge market participants to exercise caution," it said, adding that China's property sector continued its downward spiral, right before the Lunar New Year holiday, and there was no sign of a recovery during the holiday. "Despite the positive [Lunar New Year] data, we maintain our view that the ongoing economic dip is likely to worsen into the spring," Nomura said. With additional reporting by Josh Quah, Julia Tan, Seng Li Peng, Angeline Soh, Helen Lee, Keven Zhang, Melanie Wee and Samuel Wong Focus article by Nurluqman Suratman Thumbnail photo: Lunar New Year lanterns in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province, on 1 February 2021. Asia will closely watch China's demand signals after the Lunar New Year holiday amid concerns about the country’s economic health. (Source: Xinhua/Shutterstock)
Covestro starts up biomass-to-aniline pilot plant at Leverkusen, Germany
LONDON (ICIS)–Covestro has started up a pilot plant at Leverkusen, Germany to produce aniline using plant biomass instead of petroleum, it said on Tuesday. Large quantities of bio-based aniline will be produced there before the technology is further developed for production at an industrial scale. Aniline is used to produce methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), which in turn is used to make polyurethane foams. Covestro said it had made a seven-figure investment in the pilot plant, which it claims is the world’s first for bio-based aniline. The project was first announced in 2017. “Compared to conventional technology, the process leads to a greatly improved CO2 footprint of aniline,” the polymer materials producer said in a statement.
Europe top stories: weekly summary
LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 9 February. INSIGHT: Europe gets gas cost relief but poor demand, overcapacity weigh heavy With natural gas prices potentially falling towards pre-Russia-Ukraine war levels and possibly below, European chemical manufacturers may soon be rid of the competitive cost disadvantage which has dogged them for several years. Europe TiO2 market relaxed about Venator Duisburg closure, longer term impact to be assessed Reaction to Venator’s imminent closure of its standard TiO2 Duisburg, Germany plant is muted so far, as it had been widely expected for some time and underlying demand remains fragile. Europe toluene demand forecasts better than those for downstream markets and TDI After a slow start for toluene bulk demand and that of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) along with major end user sectors in Europe downstream in 2024, sentiment is more bullish for the former market versus the latter two. Germany chemical production falls to lowest level since 1995 Germany’s chemical production fell 10.6% in 2023, dropping to its lowest level since 1995, the country’s federal statistics agency said. Eurozone construction sees sharpest decline since mid-2020 in January The eurozone construction sector remained in contraction territory in January, with conditions chilling further during the month on the back of weak demand and declines across key markets, with little sign of recovery this year. European PE/PP spot prices continue to rise as contract offers in triple digits European spot polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) prices are still on an uptrend this week, while February contract offers have been made in the triple digits.
PODCAST: Europe polyol imports face hurdles
LONDON (ICIS)–Europe polyols editor Zubair Adam and Asia editor Shannen Ng take an in-depth look at trade flows between Europe and Asia following the Red Sea crisis and discuss the outlook for future trade. Polyols are often reacted with isocyanates to make PU, which is used to make mattresses, foam insulation for appliances (refrigerators and freezers), home and automotive seats, elastomeric shoe soles, fibers and adhesives.
Americas top stories: weekly summary
HOUSTON (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News from the week ended 26 January. US pause on pending LNG projects to damper natgas, ethane prices The pause that US President Joe Biden announced on Friday on pending LNG projects should lower the likelihood of natural gas demand exceeding supply. US Dow expects Q1 sales to be flat versus Q4 Dow expects Q1 sales to be flat versus the fourth quarter as plastic exports remain strong while demand for construction and durable goods remains challenging, the US-based major said on Thursday. INSIGHT: No end in sight for lapse of US chemical anti-terrorism program The US is about to go six months without the authority to implement its main site security and anti-terrorism program for chemical facilities. This shortcoming leaves plants vulnerable to attacks and the industry exposed to states taking matters into their own hands by adopting a mishmash of individual site-security laws. DuPont profit warning hits US chem shares, piles on bad news DuPont's profit warning on Wednesday joined a growing number of companies that are warning about weak economic conditions ahead, sending chemical indices down in what was otherwise a positive morning for US stock markets. Formosa Sunshine project gets appeals court win in permit dispute for US Louisiana complex An appeals court in Louisiana reversed a decision that voided 15 permits that Formosa Plastics Group needed to build a massive $9.4bn petrochemical complex in the state. Huntsman polyurethanes weakness may last into summer 2024 – analyst Weakness in Huntsman’s polyurethanes (PU) segment could persist in Q1 and even into the summer, an analyst said.
General Motors, China’s BYD to invest over $2.0bn in EVs at Brazilian facilities
SAO PAULO (ICIS)–General Motors is to invest Brazilian reais (R) 7.0bn ($1.4bn) in 2024-2028 at its facilities in the country to implement a “complete renewal” of its vehicle portfolio focusing on production of electric vehicles (EVs), the US automotive major said this week. Meanwhile, China’s EV major BYD also announced this week it would invest R3.0bn at its facilities in Camacari, in the state of Bahia. The company purchased the plant from Ford in 2023. The Brazilian government approved at the end of 2023 the so-called Mover program, which envisages tax breaks and incentives for greener mobility. Both GM and BYD’s announcements were made after weeks of talks with the government, although details of the agreements signed have not yet been made public. The automotive boost this week will have been music to the ears of both automotive executives in Brazil and the government presided by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in office since January 2023. For the former, the announcements could be a catalyst for further growth in EVs, a sector in which Brazilian producers are lagging versus other big producing countries. In the past decade, those executives have presided over a sharp fall in output, down the peak of nearly 3.5m units/year in the early 2010s to just over 2.3m units produced in 2023. Brazil’s automotive exporting prowess to the rest of Latin America has dwindled on the back of fierce competition from overseas producers, mainly Chinese. For the government, the announcements will be a relief after the Lula Administration has struggled to show any sign of a revival in manufacturing, a key promise to its core electorate. Manufacturing stayed in contraction territory for most of 2023. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made sure this week to capitalize on both announcements, which were made in Brasilia’s Planalto presidential palace. Earlier in the week, he also presented a 10-year industrial policy plan envisaging incentives for green investments to the tune of R300bn. The Mover program is part of that plan. TURNAROUNDIn GM’s case, the announcement this week is a remarkable turn of events after the company and some of its workers in Brazil were involved in a legal dispute after GM implemented 1,200 redundancies without prior consultation with trade unions. A judge disregarded the redundancies and ordered GM to rehire all workers. GM is a key automotive producer in Brazil. The company operates three production facilities in the state of Sao Paulo: Sao Jose de Campos, Sao Caetano do Sul, and Mogi das Cruzes. The company said the investments would also include research and development (R&D) of “innovative and customized” products for the Brazilian market as well as the “creation of new” businesses. “The factories will also receive developments that will make them even more modern, agile, and sustainable,” said GM. A large part of Brazil’s current vehicle fleet can also run on biodiesel, an element which has greatly helped reduced the country’s emissions from the transport sector but has also made producers rest in their laurels in terms of EV production. “Brazil is strategic for GM’s global business expansion plan. In addition to being a vehicle export hub for South America, it has a large engineering development center and is a market with high growth potential with a vocation for new technology vehicles, in line with the predominantly clean energy matrix of the country,” said Shilpan Amin, president of GM International. The official announcement from GM did not mention EVs but used the wording “sustainable mobility” instead. However, in the ceremony where the investments were announced GM’s vice president for South America, Fabio Rua, said: “Our investments in Brazil are focused on sustainability. Our future is all electric,” as quoted by Bloomberg. The automotive industry is a major global consumer of petrochemicals, and chemicals make up more than one-third of the raw material costs for an average vehicle. The automotive sector drives demand for chemicals such as polypropylene (PP), along with nylon, polystyrene (PS), styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), polyurethane (PU), methyl methacrylate (MMA) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), among others. ($1 = R4.91) Focus article by Jonathan Lopez
INSIGHT: Pre-holiday Asia petrochemicals mixed on cost pressures, bleak demand outlook
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Petrochemical markets in Asia are showing a mixed trend ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, with some product prices rising on a combination of pre-holiday restocking and supply constraints despite general weakness in underlying demand. Red Sea crisis weighs on business decisions amid rising freight costs Pre-holiday restocking muted in most markets Demand recovery post holiday uncertain Prevailing concerns about the global economic outlook, compounded by rising freight costs and supply chain issues continue to weigh on sentiment. In China’s domestic market, pre-holiday restocking has been muted overall as downstream buyers fret over high prices of some products. The Lunar New Year, which falls on 10 February, is celebrated in most parts of northeast and southeast Asia. China will be on holiday for a full week on 10-17 February. COST PRESSURES DRIVE GAINS Some markets in Asia are experiencing an uptick in activity ahead of the holiday amid tight supply conditions. For ethyl acetate (etac), spot negotiations have surged along with market activity as end-users stock up on feedstock. The demand spike, particularly in northeast and southeast Asia, was triggered by concerns over limited vessel space and higher freight costs which were causing delays in cargo deliveries. “The tightness of vessel [availability] becomes a common problem for liquid chemicals at the moment,” said a regional-based market source. In the benzene market, buyers have been restocking throughout January, with a notable increase in demand compared with the previous year, ICIS analyst Jenny Yi said. Supply in Asia is expected to be stable amid limited planned turnarounds in the region in the first quarter, Yi said. In addition, the arbitrage window between Asia and the US has opened given reduced production in North America caused by prevailing frigid temperatures, she added. In the isocyanates market, demand is strong in India as downstream polyurethane (PU) producers are restocking for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI to gear up for peak production season in the first few months of the new year. Import prices are bolstered by tight northeast Asian supply, with major Chinese producers offline for turnarounds. However, post-Lunar New Year demand remains uncertain, particularly in China and southeast Asia, as downstream PU sector recovery is sluggish. For polyols, import prices in southeast Asia and India are rising, tracking upstream propylene oxide (PO) gains. India’s domestic and import prices for polyols are rising on a combination of strong demand and high freight costs. Southeast Asia's market, on the other hand, is quieter but prices were being supported by higher feedstock cost. Adjusting polyols prices to match upstream costs is challenging due to weak downstream demand. In the fatty alcohols market, Chinese buyers have secured their needs until March, leaving Indian buyers more active in the market. “We sell two or three months forward on a CIF [cost, insurance & freight] basis … and the sudden increase in ocean freight will definitely affect our margins,” an oleochemicals trader said. HIGH PRICES DAMPEN DEMAND; SUPPLY TIGHT FOR SOME MARKETS Post-Lunar New Year recovery in demand is uncertain, with little optimism for significant improvement. For methanol, domestic activity in China was tepid with downstream factories likely to shut weeks ahead of the holiday, while those seeking cargoes face higher prices given low availability of supply in the market. The country’s methanol imports in January plunged month on month with plants in the Middle East running at reduced rates during the month. In the plasticizers market, spot import prices in Asia were dragged down by upstream losses and weak buying momentum. Based on ICIS’ Plasticizers forecast, prices are expected to fall in February as the market activity slows down during the Lunar New Year holiday. For 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH), import prices in east Asia were stable amid limited discussions due to a lack of available spot material. Downstream diisononyl phthalate (DINP) spot market is having some support from limited supply of feedstock isononyl alcohol (INA). INA cargo movement from Europe to Asia is being affected by ongoing logistics issues in the Red Sea. WEAK DOWNSTREAM MARKETS TO PERSIST For monoethylene glycol (MEG), slowing textile demand ahead of the Lunar New Year could halt the market uptrend. “Limited restocking activities are seen as buyers and end-users prefer not building high stocks amid concerns on the demand recovery after the holiday. As you know, the global economic outlook seems not rosy,” a regional trader said. In the recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) and recycled polyethylene (R-PE) markets, demand for pellets has been tepid as downstream plants still working through backlogs from last year's purchases. The recycled polymers market has generally struggled throughout 2023, with trade impacted by poor economics. In the PE market, initial spot February import offers in southeast Asia were firmer this week as Middle East suppliers flagged reduced spot allocation and low stocks. Middle East offers to Vietnam – which will celebrate the Lunar New Year from 8-14 February – spiked due to reduced availability of spot export cargoes. The Red Sea crisis has also likely affected some shipments from Saudi Arabia, but this could not be confirmed with the producers. Supporting PE demand is downstream application in packaging, which accounts for 60% of total consumption of the material. “The outlook for packaging is expected to be positive given the anticipation of holiday demand. However, downstream demand destruction in the industry is forecast at 15-20% lower year to date,” ICIS analyst Jincy Varghese said. For acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (NBR), China’s import prices have softened this week, as more local end-users retreated to wind down and prepare for the holidays. “The pre-holiday restocking exercise ended just barely weeks after it started,” a regional NBR maker said, adding that “it was so lame, compared to the previous years”. Insight article by Nurluqman Suratman With contributions from Melanie Wee, Julia Tan, Izham Ahmad, Helen Yan, Judith Wang, Shannen Ng, Keven Zhang, Arianne Perez and Ai Teng Lim Thumbnail image: China's 2024 Year of the Dragon celebrations preparations in Beijing – 25 Jan 2024 (WU HAO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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