Leslie Hook

Leslie Hook joined the Financial Times in June 2010 as Beijing Correspondent covering Chinese energy and commodities. She was previously an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal and began her journalism career at the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong.

By all accounts, the data from the Chinese economy over the weekend was dour. As Simon Rabinovitch wrote in the FT, “Trade growth tumbled, imports fell, inflation slowed, investment weakened and bank lending also declined.”

But could a counterintuitive case for optimism be made from China’s May import numbers? A parsing of the commodities import figures – which are a key barometer of industrial activity and sentiment – paints a picture not quite as pessimistic as the headlines suggest. Read more

Even though it lies more than 6,000km away, Western Australia is already feeling the shift in the Chinese economy away from investment in heavy industry towards consumption.

The state accounts, which accounts for half China’s annual imports of iron ore, senses a change in favour of other commodities, including natural gas and agricultural products. As Western Australia’s premier Colin Barnett said during a visit to Beijing: “Iron ore maybe has had its golden days.”

The state, which has its own trade offices in China to manage bilateral trade worth more than A$58bn annually, is focusing on diversification. Read more

If a company suspends shares once amid fraud accusation, it could be merely unlucky. When it does it again six months later, it starts to look like a trend.

That is the unfortunate situation that Zoomlion, China’s second largest maker of heavy machinery, finds itself in now. Back in January, newspaper offices around the world received an anonymous letter accusing Zoomlion of falsely inflating sales, backed up by 76 pages of purported sales records. Zoomlion rejected the accusations as “false” and “groundless”. Its share price fell more than six per cent when trading resumed. The events of this week are eerily similar. Read more

Shares in Mengniu, China’s largest milk seller by volume, soared more than nine per cent on Monday on news that Danone of France was set to invest €325m in two joint ventures with the Chinese company.

Danone will take a four per cent indirect stake in Mengniu through a joint venture with Cofco, a state-owned agricultural company that is Mengniu’s largest shareholder. Danone is also purchasing a 20 per cent stake in Mengniu’s yoghurt businesses, subject to regulatory approvals. Read more

Sometimes an abundance of riches can be a headache.

That has been the problem facing Mongolia as it sorts out what to do with a huge coal deposit in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Read more

The share price of Suntech, the Chinese solar giant now in bankruptcy court, jumped 15.6 per cent in New York on Monday after a Chinese media report said Warren Buffett might invest in the struggling company.

It’s the latest twist in the saga of Suntech’s spectacular demise. The company has gone from being the world’s largest solar company in 2011, to defaulting on international bonds worth $541m in March 2013, to landing in Chinese bankruptcy court late last month. Read more

In China, saying sorry is a big deal. So it made national news on Tuesday when Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, issued a public apology to Chinese consumers for any “concerns or misunderstandings” they might have had due to poor communication over Apple’s warranty policies.

After a coordinated attack on Apple from state media and regulators during the past two weeks, it seems the US tech company had little choice but a public show of contrition. After all, China is the world’s largest smartphone market, and accounted for 16 per cent of Apple’s sales in 2012Read more

Should gold traders be paying attention to Chinese pork prices? It may sound outlandish, but new research has uncovered an interesting link between global gold prices and Chinese inflation (which in turn is often driven by pork prices). Read more

China’s state-owned enterprises this week got a new boss. Former oil chief Jiang Jiemin (pictured), who was president and later chairman of CNPC for the past seven years, will be the new head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (or Sasac for short).

Jiang’s change of sides, from oil chief to top regulator, follows a long line of top oil bosses who have gone on to prominent political roles. With reform of state-owned enterprises being one a top task facing the new government, the chairmanship of Sasac should be an important – and very political – position. Read more

Nothing spells trouble like dead pigs in a river. This week, more than 6,600 pig carcasses have been pulled from the river that runs through the heart of Shanghai, China’s financial hub, eliciting public disgust and anger.

However the dead pigs of Shanghai are hardly the worst thing to hit China’s rivers. After all, more than 39 per cent of the water in China’s main rivers is already so toxic that any human contact should be avoided, according to a 2011 government study. Shanghai’s main river, the Huangpu, is pristine by comparison – with or without a few decaying pig bodies. So perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising that city authorities swiftly declared that the little porkers had not affected the safety of Shanghai’s tap water. Read more

Recently there has been a lot of attention paid to an essay on tax reform by the head of the tax department at the Ministry of Finance in Beijing, which mentions two hot-button words: carbon, and tax.

But does this mean that China, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon, will adopt a serious carbon tax? According to Su Wei, director general of climate change at the powerful economic planning ministry, the answer is: probably not anytime soon. Read more

The toxic smog that has descended on much of northern China this winter has had many astonishing side effects: pollution domes being built over sports facilities, fresh air sold in cans on the streets of Beijing, and fewer fireworks to celebrate Chinese New Year.

But what does the smog mean for China’s heavy industry? Even before “airpocalypse”, Beijing had announced proposals to cap emissions from high-polluting industries under the current five-year plan. This programme got a further boost this week, when the Ministry of Environmental Protection unveiled a new accelerated timetable for the changes. Read more

What is it like to live in a place where you can’t breathe the air? In Beijing, people are already finding out—and finding new ways to cope.

The latest trend at Beijing’s posh international schools is pollution domes—giant pressurised canopies that can cover sports fields, playgrounds or tennis courts—so that children can have recess and play sports outside without breathing the toxic air. Read more

The vast deposits of copper, coal, gold and silver under Mongolian soil could soon be governed by a radically different regulatory framework — if a new draft of the country’s Minerals Law is passed in its current form. Read more

Students pour sugar into a coffee, as they learn about western diet in Chinese vocational schoolA mysterious white substance is being smuggled over the border from Vietnam to China in growing quantities.

But it is not quite as illicit as you might think. Sugar, the sweetener added to everything from mooncakes to ketchup, is increasingly in demand in China due to urbanization, changing diets and rising incomes. Read more