China

Zhou Xiaochan, China's central bank governorClearly, China’s interest rate cut on Friday was motivated by a desire to manage a flagging growth story. But the announcement also revealed a few sub-plots, which together may say more about Beijing’s mindset than the dominant narrative.

The first point, several analysts said, is that Beijing’s monetary easing may well have further to run, following the decision by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) to cut its benchmark lending rate by 0.4 percentage points to 5.6 per cent, while cutting its deposit rate by 0.25 per cent to 2.75 per cent. Read more

In spite of Mikhail Gorbachev’s warning this month that the world is on the brink of a new Cold War, it is Asia that we should be worrying about, says former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The region is home to seven flashpoints which, if they erupt, could end the greatest economic growth story of the 21st century.

“We face this remarkable set of circumstances where global growth will be driven from Asia,” Rudd told beyondbrics in a recent interview in Dubai.“But Asia from a political perspective is a potentially unstable region. So the world [should have] a deep interest in not just the future growth trajectory, but also the political and security circumstances which underpin that equation.” Read more

By Xiao Qi, China Confidential

China’s shadow finance sector has become a global concern. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have both warned about the risks associated with the rapid build-up of assets within such an opaque sector, while central bankers now regularly reference Chinese shadow finance as a key potential risk to global economic stability.

But while concern over the lurking horrors in China’s financial shadows remains justified, regulatory actions mean that the systemic risks that they pose are finally starting to ebb. This is happening in spite of the fact that the overall scale of the shadow system is continuing to expand. Read more

By Alastair Campbell and W. John Hoffmann, Exceptional Resources Group

“There is no difference between reform and anti-corruption: both must be implemented within the framework of law”.

So said Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and with the end of a high level Communist Party meeting last month, the significance of Xi’s “Rule of Law” campaign has become crystal clear. It is a key tool in his attempt to restructure the framework of Party political power and decision-making via the four new Party central leading groups which he chairs. Read more

Can China innovate its way out of a prolonged economic growth slowdown? Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group, believes so. In his new book, “The End of Copycat China – The Rise of Creativity, Innovation and Individualism in Asia”, he argues that China will start innovating now because it has to – and that it didn’t before simply because it didn’t need to. That’s an interesting theory, but is he right?

Rein first does battle with common perceptions that the Chinese political system or culture limits its ability to innovate. It’s not because China is a communist-led country with limited individual freedom, that it does not come up with corporate inventions, he says. Read more

China’s status as the world’s largest outbound tourism market is in the global spotlight this week after it announced an agreement with the US at the Apec summit to extend the validity of visas for tourists and students between the two countries.

Under the reciprocal agreement, tourists and business travellers between the US and China will now need to re-apply for entry visas just once every 10 years instead of annually under the prior arrangement. The duration of student visas will also be extended from one year to five years. Read more

By Christina Ma of Goldman Sachs

China is about to set another milestone in its long journey of financial market liberalisation. The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, to be launched on November 17, will for the first time allow international investors to trade shares directly in China’s stock market without applying for an individual quota.

Although the programme will initially cover select stocks listed on the Shanghai exchange, its implications are significant. By providing direct access to the Chinese market, it essentially knocks a hole in the Great Wall that has historically separated shares for domestic investors and shares made available to international investors. More importantly, Stock Connect paves the way for China’s stock market to debut on the stage of international relevance, something that has eluded it despite its massive $4.8tn market capitalisation. Read more

By Louis Kuijs of RBS

China’s economic growth is coming down, trend-wise, but opinions differ widely over how much and how quickly.

In a recent paper, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and his co-author Lant Pritchett argue that, based on global experience, it is more likely for China to “revert to the mean” of 2 per cent GDP growth than to keep growing at relatively high rates.

It makes sense to look at history as a guide to the future. But, what is the right history to look at? Read more

By Jonathan Fenby, Trusted Sources

Reports of the latest Chinese Communist Party Plenum have made much of a drive by the leadership in Beijing to improve “the rule of law”. If that were the case, it would represent a major positive step in the process of change promised by the previous Plenum in November 2013. Establishing a strong, independent legal system is an essential step in enhancing the rights of individuals and providing a level playing field for companies and investors.

Boosting hopes that this may be on the leadership’s agenda, official Chinese media, along with some investment bank analysts and foreign media commentators, have hailed the Plenum as, in the words of one of the former, “a blueprint for the law of law”. This is playing with words. Read more

There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for China’s beleaguered housing market, according to a survey of real estate developers by China Confidential. Home sales growth in October was the highest in 18 months, while a separate survey of urban consumers shows home buying sentiment at a multi-year high.

China Confidential’s monthly survey of 300 real estate developers across 40 cities, showed a sharp rebound in sales volumes in October, with companies reporting the biggest month-on-month increase since March 2013. Developers reported an even larger expansion in sales inquiries, suggesting that many potential home-buyers remain on the side-lines. Read more

The downturn in China’s property market is well documented, and one of the biggest points of interest for global investors. Whether you mine copper, sell TVs, or buy bonds, chances are the Chinese housing market matters to you somehow.

With that in mind, we’d like to present this handy chart from Moody’s – showing the annual price changes for newly completed apartments in China. It’s quite telling. Read more

When oil prices fall, it’s a fair bet that Venezuela’s economy will suffer. After all, that has been the case every time oil prices have fallen in the past. When Venezuela’s official gazette then publishes a legal notice on October 10 saying that its oil-for-loans scheme with China had been tweaked, it is also a fair bet that this would be taken as a sign of Venezuelan economic distress and maybe even a default on loans from its closest ally, China. That is how beyondbrics and many others understood it. How wrong one can be — sort of. Read more

Unofficial readings on China’s industrial activity released on Thursday add to a sense that the underlying economic vibrancy of the world’s second largest economy may have continued its ebbing trend into October.

This may surprise those who bought into the notion that industrial output rebounded strongly in September, rising to 8 per cent year on year, up from 6.9 per cent in August. In fact, though, that September “rebound” was largely the result of a big statistical base effect, according to China Confidential research.

Similarly, the announcement on Thursday of a pick up in HSBC/Markit’s manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) to 50.4 in October so far – up from 50.2 in September – is misleading. In fact, readings on manufacturing output and new orders – the key measures of industrial vibrancy – revealed markedly weaker trends. Read more

Last month Ricardo Hausmann, a normally mild Harvard academic, set off the equivalent of a financial bomb. The economist suggested that Venezuela had already defaulted on many of its suppliers, its oil service contractors, and its citizens. So who or what might come next?

When Hausmann suggested Wall Street, the market reaction was huge. Indeed Venezuelan bonds, undercut by the falling oil price, have been dropping ever since. Yet it turns out that Venezuela’s latest default has been, in fact, to China. Given that Beijing is one of Caracas’ closest allies, this is surprising. It is also bullish for Wall Street. Read more

In a private meeting with the US Ambassador to China in 2007, provincial Communist Party secretary Li Keqiang described his country’s GDP figures as “man-made” and unreliable.

To get a good idea of what was happening to the economy in his province of Liaoning, Li said he preferred to focus on three alternative indicators: electricity consumption, volume of rail cargo and the amount of loans disbursed.

All other figures, and especially GDP statistics, were “for reference only”, Li told the Ambassador, with a broad smile on his face. Read more