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James Kynge

James Kynge is the FT's Emerging Markets Editor and an Associate Editor. Until the end of 2013, he was Principal of FT Confidential, the Financial Times' premium research service on China, South East Asia and Latin America. He has been based as a journalist in Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Russia and former Soviet Central Asia over the last 27 years. His book, China Shakes the World, was an international bestseller, translated into 19 languages.

Now that the football is finished, there is time to ponder the cultural legacy of the World Cup. For Chinese, some of it may be written in characters.

The Chinese characters inked as tattoos onto footballers’ bodies – no matter how bizarre or bewildering their message – are being seen in some quarters as indicative of a great power’s cultural projection.

“Cultural differences lead to funny misunderstandings, but they still help spread the culture,” Wang Qingyuan, head of the China Association of Tattoo Artists was quoted by the state-run China Daily European Weekly as saying. Continue reading »

Banks intensified their squeeze on mortgage borrowers in China in June, contributing to another sharp decline in real estate sales for the month and ratcheting up the pressure on several city government finances.

Data collected by China Confidential, a research service on China at the Financial Times, showed that only 5 per cent of first time buyers were able to secure a mortgage below the benchmark interest rate. This compared with 8 per cent in May and 39 per cent in June 2013, according to China Confidential’s monthly survey of 300 real estate developer sales offices in 40 cities across the country. Continue reading »

China said on Tuesday it will tighten curbs on journalists to prevent the disclosure of state secrets, commercial secrets and “unpublicised information” as the administration of Xi Jinping reinforced controls over information amid outpourings of anti-Beijing sentiment in Hong Kong.

Xinhua, the Chinese official news agency, said that rules published by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television prohibit disclosure of “various information, materials and news products that journalists may deal with during their work, including state secrets, commercial secrets and unpublicised information.”

None of the key terms used – including state secrets, commercial secrets and unpublicised information – were defined, leaving them open to interpretation by China’s army of censors both within media organisations and in several state bodies charged with regulating information industries. Continue reading »

How do you bank the “unbankable”? The question could hardly be of more importance to small businesses in emerging markets, an estimated 200m of which are starved of the finance they need to grow.

One somewhat unlikely – but increasingly popular – answer is through psychometric tests. By yielding profiles of loan applicants’ honesty, intelligence, aptitude and beliefs, the tests facilitate lending to otherwise “unbankable” borrowers who do not possess a credit history, collateral or accounts.

Artful questions are key to the tests’ efficacy, say finance executives and industry experts. For example, if you want to assess a prospective borrowers’ honesty, it would be naïve to simply ask if they are honest, or if they prize integrity. Continue reading »

Geopolitical risks rank as the top worry among global investors, eclipsing economic concerns such as a weakening Chinese economy and slowing emerging market (EM) growth, according to a survey of 941 investors announced by Barclays on Tuesday.

The survey, conducted in the second quarter of this year, contrasted with surveys in the first quarter of this year and fourth quarter of 2013, which showed China/EM growth and the tapering of monetary stimulus by the US Fed as top worries for the following 12 months (see chart).

The survey also found that EM investors favoured equities, local currency debt and high yielding benchmark bonds as investment choices. Continue reading »

More bad news for China’s property market. Not only is the People’s Daily quashing hopes for a real estate stimulus, but data from 42 of the country’s most significant cities is showing a declining trend for property sales in the first half of June.

Home sales from the 42 cities, monitored by China Confidential, fell 16 per cent in the first 15 days of the month from the same period in May. This followed some signs of recovery in May, when transactions rose 4 per cent month on month.

On a year on year basis, property unit sales fell 29 per cent, representing a deepening of the declining trend seen in May – when sales were down 14 per cent year on year – and in April, when sales were down 23 per cent. Continue reading »

Accelerating urbanisation – especially in India and China – is set to boost emerging Asia’s share of global spending on infrastructure and capital projects over the next decade, slashing the developed world’s market share by 2025, according to a PwC report released on Monday.

The report, for which Oxford Economics researched trends in 49 countries on six continents, estimates that the world’s urban population is currently swelling by around 1.5m people a week, mostly because of rural-urban migration in the emerging world. In India, for example, the urban population is likely to rise by some 500m over the next four decades. The Pakistan city of Karachi grew by 80 per cent to 13m in the decade to 2010. Continue reading »

Several big risks – including China’s cooling property market, instability in Ukraine and the prospect of tighter global financial conditions over time – still stalk emerging markets (EM) in spite of a reduction in overall risk levels compared to last year, the World Bank said in a report on Tuesday.

In the 154-page report, Global Economic Prospects, the World Bank trims its global GDP forecast for this year to 2.8 per cent year-on-year, down from 3.2 per cent previously. But, it adds; “Despite the early weakness, growth is expected to pick up speed as the year progresses and world GDP is projected to expand by 3.4 per cent in 2015 and 3.5 percent in 2016.” Continue reading »

The ingenuity of Chinese netizens seeking to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen massacre in defiance of the country’s “Great Firewall” of censorship is reaching new heights.

Armed with little but the remarkable flexibility of Chinese characters, the more daring among 618m internet users are finding an endless string of linguistic ruses to outfox – at least temporarily – the world’s most formidable forces of online control to get their messages out. Continue reading »

It is the monetary equivalent of what Chairman Mao called “bombarding the headquarters”. China’s renminbi is rapidly displacing the US dollar as a trading currency not only in Asia and Europe but now also in the US home market.

The value of renminbi payments between the US and the rest of the world rose by 327 per cent in April this year from the same month a year ago (see chart) as more US corporations switched to using the Chinese currency to pay for imports from China, according to data from SWIFT, the international currency settlement firm. Continue reading »

Stronger readings in China helped drive a marginal uptick in emerging market (EM) manufacturing activity in May, breaking a declining trend that has lasted for five consecutive months, according to purchasing manager index (PMI) data aggregated by Capital Economics.

The Capital Economics data, which showed an EM manufacturing PMI for May of 50.1 compared to 49.6 in April, coincided with a slight upswing in investment bank sentiment toward the Chinese economy. Nomura raised its China GDP forecast for the year, while Barclays saw a further easing in Beijing’s monetary policy. Continue reading »

As Jamil Anderlini, the FT’s Beijing bureau chief, wrote this week, China’s property bubble is on the point of bursting. But what is likely to happen next? Some bubbles expire with a resounding pop, others fizzle after a few pyrotechnics while still others deflate in a more stately manner over time.

The denouement of China’s real estate exuberance could play out in several ways and Beijing, as ever, can do much to influence events. But here is an attempt to isolate three particularly combustible areas – or “time bombs” – which could turn incendiary and detonate with a shower of collateral damage. Continue reading »

Economic growth in emerging Europe surged in the first quarter as Germany’s dynamism drove manufacturing output and fears of that the Ukraine crisis would exert a damping did not materialise, data announced on Thursday showed.

“In spite of fears of spillovers from the crisis in Ukraine, there are no signs (so far a least) that this has affected the recovery in Central and South Eastern Europe,” said William Jackson, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London.

Four out of six emerging European countries to report preliminary GDP growth data showed a significant expansion in the first quarter year-on-year (see chart). Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic posted an acceleration in GDP growth, while Romania and Bulgaria slipped back. Continue reading »

Indicators designed by the OECD to give a six-month lead in identifying shifts in the business cycles of key economies are showing an increasingly gloomy outlook for all four of the Bric counties – Brazil, China, Russia and India.

The most negative outlook is for India, followed by Brazil and China – while Russia’s performance may only be starting to slow, according to the Composite Leading Indicators (CLI) compiled by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development. Continue reading »

How do you invest in emerging markets (EM) at a time when the wheels appear to be coming off the “Washington consensus” in several parts of the world?

This is the key challenge for Gary Greenberg, head of EM at Hermes Fund Managers. Like many investors, his basic long-term bet has been that developing countries would continue to implement free-market economic reforms over time. Continue reading »