Asia

By Renata Legierska, Alaco

Over the past five years, few other countries have experienced the highs and lows of the global economy as acutely as Mongolia. In 2011 the country was on the radar of virtually every investor interested in Asian emerging markets.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that Mongolia’s GDP would grow by 17.5 per cent that year – largely on the back of the Oyu Tolgoi (OT) project, a gigantic copper and gold mine operated by Rio Tinto – and continue at 14 per cent through 2016.

The mining boom spurred growth in several other sectors, including financial services and construction. By 2012 Ulaanbaatar was a booming town with rapidly rising skyscrapers and a growing expat community. The atmosphere was intoxicating. Read more

In a surprising recent move, India has served notices to 57 countries including the UK, Germany, France and Sweden seeking termination of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) whose initial duration has either expired or will expire soon.

For the remaining 25 countries with similar treaties whose initial duration will expire from July 2017 onwards, such as China, Finland, Bangladesh and Mexico, India has asked for joint statements to clarify ambiguities in treaty texts, to avoid expansive interpretations by arbitration tribunals. Read more

By Lee Cashell, Asia Pacific Investment Partners

Amidst the chaos sown by Brexit, one country’s protest vote is being greeted with relief by investors. In a landslide election, 3m Mongolians opted to end an era of policies that contributed to a fall off in foreign direct investment and economic growth.

After clinching an 85 per cent majority in the election, the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) hopes to reinvigorate the economy through a more permissive operating environment and friendlier attitudes toward investors. Read more

By Sebastian Heilmann, Mercator Institute for China Studies

A wave of investment from China is breaking across Europe. Chinese takeovers of technological leaders have raised fears of a sell-out of our economies’ competitive advantage. In Germany, the Chinese Midea group’s offer to buy a controlling stake in the Bavarian robotics manufacturer Kuka has triggered fierce resistance.

Midea is the wrong target for the current backlash. But the debate over how to deal with Chinese investors is overdue. China’s state-guided outbound industrial and technology policies, aimed at technological leapfrogging through acquisitions, pose a formidable challenge to national investment regimes and EU competition policy. Read more

While China’s rapidly rising debt incites worries among many, China’s leadership seems so determined to meet overly ambitious GDP growth targets that leverage is set to continue to increase steadily. The government targets credit growth of 16 per cent this year, once changes in local government financing are taken into account, and credit expansion so far this year has broadly been in line with that target. Read more

Every country is touchy about some topics, especially when raised by a foreigner. Living in China for almost seven years now, and having been a student of the place for the last forty, I thought I knew the hot buttons not to press. Apparently not.

The topic at hand: high-tech innovation in the People’s Republic of China and why it seems to lag so far behind that of neighboring Taiwan. The current issue of one of China’s leading business publications, Caijing Magazine, published a Chinese-language article I wrote together with China First Capital’s COO, Dr. Yansong Wang, about Taiwan’s outstanding optical lens company Largan PrecisionRead more

China continues to dominate discussions about the health of the world economy. Many are concerned about the country’s slowing growth and its ability to manage the difficult transition from a controlled economy dominated by manufacturing to a more open economy with greater reliance on domestic consumption. Some policy decisions last year also scared the market.

While the risks are many and real, they are manageable and well-understood by China’s policy makers. This is not the time to sell China short. Read more

In a world where financial transactions and capital flows move in milliseconds, getting the right information about the state of a country’s economy is critically important. Unfortunately, the standard and still most reliable measure of the health of an economy, gross domestic product (GDP), has not kept up with the speed of financial markets. This puts emerging market countries at risk from financial gyrations, regardless of the underlying fundamentals of their economies.

Take for example Indonesia, one of the largest and most influential emerging market economies. Its GDP data is reported quarterly with about five weeks’ delay. This means that economic activity that takes place in January is not reported until the first week of May. While Indonesia is no outlier in its delay, it is still late for a real-time assessment of the strength of economic activity. Read more

Speculation is rife that Amazon is soon to establish itself as a global shipping and logistics expert, in a move coined internally as project ‘Dragon Boat’.

While this bold strategy has the potential to significantly increase margins and position Amazon as Chinese businesses’ gateway to the West, a considered and phased implementation is essential if the firm is to gain share of the cross-border e-commerce market from industry leader Alibaba. Read more

By Ken Wong, Eastspring Investments

There is an even chance that, this summer, China’s A-shares will be included for the first time in a key emerging market investment index operated by MSCI, the index provider. If it happens, it will be a welcome development, for the simple reason that it will make the benchmark a more accurate reflection of the emerging market corporate universe.

While the immediate impact of inclusion would be quite small, the longer-run potential for A-shares – which are the stocks of companies listed inside mainland China – to grow in importance within the index is enormous.

Two obstacles to inclusion have been largely removed – reforms to a quota system on investment inflows from abroad and a shortening of the delay in repatriating capital out of China. Read more

You don’t hear much these days about capital outflows from China. The renminbi seems well behaved, and China’s foreign exchange reserves have stayed stable in the past couple of months. Sure, the economy itself faces a bunch of challenges, as the government hasn’t quite found a way to maintain rapid growth rates without a dangerous degree of reliance on credit. But you don’t get the sense that the Chinese are falling over themselves in a rush to buy dollars.

The Fed might take heart from this. On two occasions in the past year, the US Federal Reserve’s intentions to raise interest rates have been confounded by financial turbulence caused by large outflows from China. The first was last summer, when the Fed was forced to postpone rate hikes following a surge in flows from China after the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) introduced a new regime for fixing the renminbi on August 11th. The second was this winter, when another surge in outflows that coincided with the Fed’s December rate hike made it impossible for the Fed to keep doing so. Read more

By Michelle Chan, VP of Programs, Friends of the Earth US

As chair of this year’s G20, China is mounting an ambitious campaign to promote ways that the banking sector can not only green the Chinese economy, but the global economy too.

Over the past decade, China has prioritised sustainable finance policies as a means of preventing and controlling pollution via its banking sector, leading many to hope that China can lead the world on a greener path towards sustainable finance. The members of the G20 Green Finance Study Group, meeting next month in Xiamen, are certainly betting that China does have something to offer when it comes to green finance.

But have such Chinese finance policies actually led to concrete improvements for the environment? Read more

As a strategically vital trade hub and home to nearly 70m people, Central Asia has for too long lacked representation at the top table of global politics.

To date, no Central Asian country has sat on the UN Security Council. This is despite the increasing prominence of the area, not just as a geopolitical player, but as an emerging power with its own unique identity, relationships and above all experiences. This June will see the decision of the UN General Assembly on five non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018. We hope that Kazakhstan will be given the honour of being one of these new members. Read more

For some, China represents a positive scenario of structural reforms returning the country to its position as the engine of world growth. Not only do we think this is unlikely, we actually believe China poses a systemic risk of historic proportions.

It is now clear that China is not smoothly passing its growth baton from exports and investment to the service sector. Official GDP data still show growth, but this has decelerated significantly despite numerous interest rate cuts and massive fiscal support. Read more

Kazakhstan’s 25 years of political stability owe much to the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, making the prospect of the septuagenarian’s departure a significant source of the jitters for investors in the country.

Yet now, personnel movements and investment activities involving members of the Nazarbayev family, alongside institutional reforms, indicate that preparations for his succession may finally be in the offing. The handover of power, when it comes, threatens to unbalance the predictability of the political environment and fuel uncertainty over the future direction of government policy. Read more

By Sarah Lain, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies

The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) builds on China’s long-standing economic investment in Central Asia, and it has the potential to further develop Central Asian economies. However, China’s historical track record of investment engagement in the region raises concerns that the SREB could instead exacerbate economic inequalities and poor governance.

China has long been a key driver of infrastructure investment and construction in Central Asia, covering a wide range of sectors. It has invested heavily in the region’s natural resource extraction, with gas, oil, uranium, gold and copper making up key exports from the region. Read more

By Philippe Le Corre and Joel Backaler

This year has all signs of becoming another bumper year for Chinese overseas mergers and acquisition activity. In the first three months alone, the total value of cross-border deals nearly reached 2015 annual totals ($101bn and $109bn, respectively).

High-profile deals from the last three months include: Dalian Wanda’s $3.5bn acquisition of Legendary Pictures, a US media company, Haier’s $5.4bn takeover of GE’s appliances unit and most notably ChemChina’s record-setting $43bn bid for Syngenta, a Swiss-based agri-business group.

However, all of this overseas business activity is occurring against a backdrop of a Chinese domestic economy that is facing myriad challenges with a slower GDP growth forecast of 6.5 per cent, reduced domestic demand and decreasing industrial profits not to mention industrial overcapacity. Read more

Every day an estimated 150,000 new Chinese shoppers join the ranks of the hundreds of millions in the country who have discovered ecommerce. Penetration will double by 2020, according to our estimates, with the total value skyrocketing to Rmb 10tn ($1.5tn).

But this dramatic adoption of online shopping is not the biggest news to emerge from Bain & Company’s latest study of China’s ecommerce market, conducted in partnership with AliResearch, Alibaba Group’s research arm. The unexpected finding is how ecommerce is shaping consumer behaviours and the profound influence those shoppers are having on online sellers. Despite its massive growth, China ecommerce is rapidly evolving to become more than a numbers game for both consumers and sellers. Read more

Markets used to cheer when China’s exports rose, believing this showed the global economy was in good shape. They are still hopeful today, despite the 25 per cent fall in February’s exports. But closer analysis of China’s important refining and petrochemical sector shows that a paradigm shift is under way.

No more is China’s economy based on importing raw materials and exporting low-cost manufactured goods. Instead, the focus is on using the new capacity built during the 2009–13 stimulus period to maintain employment and boost China’s self-sufficiency. Read more

US penalties handed down on ZTE, the Chinese telecoms giant, are a reminder that despite January’s partial lifting of sanctions on Iran after UN nuclear inspections, they can still bite.

Previously, the Bank of Kunlun, set up to handle oil for loans and infrastructure deals between Beijing and Tehran during the embargo, had been cited for violations. Chinese commercial and policy banks nonetheless were gearing up last year for legal business, supported by a flurry of official initiatives.

 

China’s “One-Belt One-Road” outward investment campaign envisions a tenfold increase in Sino-Iranian economic engagement over the next decade to $500bn; Iran took a tiny 2 per cent founding share in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; and the countries discussed bilateral currency swap lines. Read more