China

By Joel Backaler, Author of “China Goes West”

On March 22, China National Chemical Corporation (CNCC) reached an agreement with the controlling shareholders of Italian tire-maker Pirelli to move forward with a €7bn takeover. If successful, the deal will be one of the largest overseas acquisitions of a European company by a Chinese firm to date.

While CNCC may not have the global recognition of Chinese firms such as Alibaba, Huawei and Lenovo, CNCC and its chairman, Ren Jianxin, are experienced international acquirers. Ren has acquired either directly, or via government driven consolidation, 107 domestic firms and four international businesses in France, Australia and Israel. Read more

By Noor Menai, CTBC Bank USA

In a thinly veiled admonishment, the White House recently accused the UK – our closest ally – of “a policy of constant accommodation” towards China. The parallel drawn to the historical appeasement of Germany by an apprehensive Europe was lost on no one, nor indeed the overwrought nature of the underlying concern.

The proximate cause of this spleen-venting was the surprise breaking of ranks by the UK to join as a founding shareholder the nascent China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB.) This initial $50bn fund has as its’ agenda the financing of overdue infrastructure in Asia. Read more

By Gavin Bowring, Asean Confidential

With the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) gaining support from a growing number of global economic actors, one big question remains. Where will the bank itself be headquartered?

Beijing might seem the obvious choice. But given the political sensitivities surrounding the bank’s formation, it may seek to alleviate fears of Sinocentrism and opt for a neutral, regional destination. A similar calculation resulted in the decision by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – in which Japan is the largest shareholder – to pitch its regional headquarters in Manila. Read more

By David Mann of Standard Chartered

Much of the negativity about world growth prospects at the moment seems to stem from the absence of a credit boom in any major market and worries over the consequences of higher US interest rates for the first time since 2006.

The lack of a credit boom means that growth is more subdued than it was in the run-up to the global financial crisis.

In particular, there are fears about China’s growth prospects, given the recent bad news concerning weak credit demand, high real interest rates and tight liquidity. However, we see three reasons for at least some optimism. Read more

By Dominic Jephcott, Vendigital

The Chinese Government’s decision to embark on a fresh round of industry consolidation as part of a move to strengthen state-owned enterprises (SoEs) and increase their global competitiveness has been a long time coming. It is an understandable response to the slowdown in economic growth, over-capacity in many sectors and poor returns on huge capital investments over the last ten years.

The Made in China 2025 initiative, which was outlined last week at the National People’s Congress, is a 10-year plan for transforming the country’s disparate manufacturing sector in order to create a smaller number of large-scale businesses capable of competing internationally in the higher added-value and strategic industries. Calls to address the endemic inefficiencies of China’s SoEs and increase their global competitiveness are nothing new, of course, but this time it seems there is a clear commitment to make sure it happens. Read more

The International Monetary Fund will hold discussions in May and make a decision in November on whether to add the Chinese renminbi to the four currencies it uses to value its Special Drawing Right (SDR), the international reserve asset created by the Fund.

China is keen for this to happen, as the deputy governor of its central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), reiterated at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday. There is a snag: the renminbi is not and may never be a convertible currency, which is a standard pre-requisite of a reserve currency. But as David Lubin of Citi Research argues in a note also published on Thursday, that consideration is likely to be put aside. Read more

China is no stranger to internet sensations, but a documentary highlighting the scale of the country’s chronic air pollution seems to have shaken the trees all the way to Beijing’s highest branches.

Under the Dome, the 104-minute film made by journalist Chai Jing, has already been seen by 160m people on Tencent’s video page, and garnered praise from government ministers and state media. Investors are also taking note. Read more

The second cut in China’s interest rates in three months reveals key elements in Beijing’s thinking as it tries to reconcile an economic policy agenda beset with conflicting priorities, analysts said on Monday.

The task before China requires some delicate manoeuvres. It aims to wean the country off an extraordinary debt binge (see Martin Wolf ) while keeping GDP growth fairly robust. It hopes to combat disinflationary pressures while preventing the renminbi from sliding too sharply against the US dollar. It wants to curb a dangerous slump in industrial profits without resorting to another round of investment pump-priming. It needs to keep domestic liquidity levels buoyant in spite of a surge in capital flight.  Read more

By Guonan Ma, Bruegel

The Chinese economy is simply too big to remain tied to the once useful monetary anchor of the renminbi-US dollar peg. It is time to let it go.

The Chinese renminbi depreciated 2.5 per cent against the US dollar in 2014, the largest annual fall since 2005 when Beijing timidly started loosening its tight dollar peg. Recently, the Chinese currency has repeatedly tested the weak side of its daily trading band, despite attempts by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) to signal a steadier bilateral renminbi-US dollar rate via its daily fixing (see chart below, left panel).

What has led to the changing fortunes of the renminbi? What lies ahead for the currency in 2015? Read more

Being born under the dragon sign of the Chinese zodiac is considered to be the luckiest start in life one can have. Dragon babies were so sought after in 2012 – the most recent window of opportunity – that some would-be parents went to extraordinary lengths to make sure they had one.

Evidence suggests those endeavours could yet pay off. According to a (not very) scientific piece of research from Wealth-X, dragons are indeed more likely to end up sitting on (or rather earning) vast piles of gold. Read more

By Marty Sun, Goldman Sachs

The launch of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect last November has made it easier for international investors to access China’s equity markets.

The link got off to a smooth start largely thanks to the money from hedge funds worldwide flowing into Shanghai.

But unlike their hedge fund cousins, less than one-third of Hong Kong’s long-only fund managers (who buy stocks hoping their prices will rise) are using the link to buy Shanghai-listed shares, according to a recent survey by the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association (HKIFA). Access from Europe has been even more measured, with only a few Luxembourg funds approved for the programme, even though a fast track application process has been put in place. Read more

Ever fancied a holiday from the internet? Complete peace of mind, a world away from the hyperreality of tweets, email, hashtags, likes, blogs and the other trappings of an ICYMI world?

Welcome to China, where, ensconsed behind the Great Firewall, you can relax, maybe shop on Alibaba, send the odd Wechat message, or fight little bug eyed jumping dragon thingies with a Kung Fu laser sword. But that’s it. No Gmail, no YouTube, no Facebook or Twitter. You’re guaranteed a relaxing disconnect from being a beast of online burden.

But it turns out not everyone appreciates the opportunity. Read more

China faces a monetary policy “wall of worry” as its economy slips towards a deflationary spiral driven by structural forces that are simultaneously dragging prices lower and depressing economic growth, analysts said on Tuesday.

The important insight, the analysts said, behind a decline in consumer price inflation (CPI) to a five year low of 0.8 per cent in January was that it was caused not by isolated or temporary factors but by a confluence of mutually-reinforcing trends that will require a concerted and accelerated easing in monetary policy if China is to avoid a deflationary cliff. Read more

By Ali Wyne, Wikistrat

This September will mark the ten-year anniversary of two documents that have been highly influential in framing contemporary analysis of America’s relationship with China: an essay by Zheng Bijian in Foreign Affairs explaining how China would achieve a “peaceful rise,” and a speech by Robert Zoellick advising China to serve as a “responsible stakeholder” in the evolution of world order.

Today the two countries are struggling to define a framework of partnership that reconciles the imperative of enduring cooperation with the inevitability of mutual suspicion. Meanwhile, initially shared enthusiasm over adopting a “new type” of great-power relations has waned, in part because of the difficulties in bringing such an abstract and ambitious ideal into existence. Read more

China’s currency policy dilemma sharpened on Monday as the country announced a record January trade surplus in spite of falling exports and reported dismal imports in spite of a strong appreciation of the renminbi against the euro and yen.

Exports contracted 3.3 per cent year on year in January, down from an increase of 9.7 per cent in December. Meanwhile, imports also declined 19.9 per cent, falling from a 2.4 per cent contraction in December. This produced a record merchandise trade surplus of $60.0bn, up from $49.6b a month ago (see chart). Read more

By Achilles Risvas, Dromeus Capital Management

Could changing tides in “carry trade” capital flows suddenly drain value from Chinese property and equities, causing the renminbi to depreciate rapidly and darken investor perceptions of China’s prospects?

Such an outcome is more likely than generally realised.

China has undeniably boomed in recent decades, thus engendering a general bias that Chinese state planners will prevail or triumph – as suggested by the more than 60 per cent run-up in the Shanghai Composite Exchange Composite Index since mid-2014. Read more

By Rodrigo Zeidan, Fundação Dom Cabral

The debate over the minimum wage in the US is an interesting one. Wages have been falling in real terms for the last 30 years but there is strong resistance to any kind of increase in the federal minimum wage. The social contract in the US calls for a flexible labour market, and market efficiency trumps equality considerations. Not even Nobel Laureates can influence the debate. But there are lessons to be learned from the strong real growth minimum wage policies in two of the Bric countries, Brazil and China. Read more

By Sammy Suzuki, AllianceBernstein

China’s millennials are better educated and more affluent than their elders. They also have a serious case of travel fever. Their favored destinations, and shopping habits abroad, could have far-reaching implications for a wide range of global companies.

China’s millennials make up a large and growing slice of the country’s most affluent citizens. It’s estimated that there are around 300m of these young consumers born between the early 1980s and 2000. They’re the first generation in the history of the People’s Republic to be raised amid relative prosperity and social stability and are the beneficiaries of the country’s roughly five-fold increase in education spending over the past decade. Read more

Emerging Asia is set to be the world’s fastest-growing region again in 2015, skirting the contagion from Russia’s crisis and riding the fall-out from weak commodity prices, according to Fitch, the credit rating agency. Nevertheless, structural frailties stalk seven out of 10 countries in the region, with surging debt levels a particular concern, the agency said.

The region, excluding China, is expected to expand by 5.9 per cent in 2015 and 6.1 per cent in 2016 – compared to an average for global emerging markets of 4.1 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively, Fitch said in a report. These forecasts compare with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) estimates that developing economies would this year grow at 4.3 per cent, accelerating to 4.7 per cent in 2016. Read more