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
By Chandran Nair, Global Institute for Tomorrow
In April this year, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, burned over 105 tonnes of elephant ivory to protest the continued poaching of elephants. The Associated Press quoted President Kenyatta as saying that “…for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants.”
At the same time, he hosted the “Giants Club” Summit, a meeting of African leaders to bolster the protection of elephants. The ivory burn — the largest in history — is a reminder that conservation is not just the purview of activists in the West, but also something that is dear to the hearts of many governments and people in the developing world. It should also be noted that some African commentators have been critical of this action arguing that in the final analysis it still panders to Western arguments about how to put an end to poaching. 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 Precision. Read more
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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
As the former minister of telecommunications in the Lebanese government, no one knows better than I that Lebanon faces intense pressures. The terrible human toll from Syria’s five-year civil war has at times threatened to overwhelm our small country. The influx of refugees is on a scale with which few countries could cope. One million Syrian asylum-seekers were received last year by the entire European Union, with a population of 500m. This is fewer than the number of Syrians accepted by Lebanon alone, with a population of just 5m.
Lebanon successfully braved the 2007-08 economic crisis, with stunning growth of around 8.5 per cent. Prudent financial regulation – including banning subprime lending – protected it from the worst of the storms. Now the fallout from its regional neighbours has once again put a strain on the economy. Read more
Last month’s release of Ukrainian air force pilot Nadia Savchenko after 709 days in illegal Russian captivity came on the same day a group of us were returning from the front line of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) to Kiev. During the longer than usual train journey we compared notes about why Russian President Vladimir Putin had taken this step, what he hoped to achieve and how Savchenko would impact upon Ukrainian domestic politics.
Putin was not showing mercy. The day after Savchenko was released, a Russian court sentenced Ukrainians Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykhto to 22 and a half and 20 years respectively on bogus charges of fighting alongside Chechen separatists. And this by a country that has been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine for three years. Another 28 Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar political prisoners are incarcerated in Russian jails.
Instead, Putin had two goals in releasing Savchenko. 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
Since Hugo Chávez rose to power in February 1999, the Venezuelan government has been described by all manner of creative terms: competitive authoritarianism, illiberal democracy, hybrid regime and others.
Behind this semantic proliferation there has always been the notion that, despite evident authoritarian tendencies, the chavista regime never quite eradicated the democratic space. While independent media and journalists were harassed, they never disappeared. While elections were deeply biased, they took place regularly and on schedule. The opposition was always allowed to contend, votes were counted fairly and, on rare occasions, chavismo would lose. The government’s exercise of power was questionable, if not abusive, but the democratic origin of that power was difficult to refute. Venezuela was by no means a liberal democracy, but it was not a dictatorship; Chávez was no Lincoln, but he was also no Castro. Read more
Gabriel Zucman, author of The Hidden Wealth of Nations, estimates that 8 per cent of global wealth, or $7.6tn, is deposited in jurisdictions commonly known as tax havens. This includes the financial assets of individuals and companies who seek not to pay tax, or pay less tax, in their home countries. James Henry, an economist, lawyer and investigative journalist, estimates the value of unreported financial assets at between $21tn and $32tn.
In a democratic social contract, the financing of states requires every citizen to pay taxes according to their ability to do so. So it is necessary to curb the use of artificial mechanisms to avoid due taxes. One such mechanisms is “aggressive tax planning”, which explores gaps between different national tax laws and embraces legal and accounting manoeuvres for profit or asset shifting towards jurisdictions with favourable taxation and little tax transparency. Certain jurisdictions allow the concealment of the beneficial owner of profits and incomes, undermining the actions of tax authorities. Read more
Iran’s new approach to building energy allies is being revealed as the former powerhouse staggers back onto the global stage. The lifting of sanctions in January has given the country a new lease of life. Tehran’s ability to adapt will prove vital, as today’s market is more competitive than the one it reluctantly stepped back from more than a decade ago.
Tehran remains confident that it can continue to build on its current 3.7m barrels a day (b/d) of oil production, which already represents a rise of half a million b/d since February. This means the country is already close to its target of 4m b/d and Tehran has said it aims to export 2.2m b/d by the end of the summer. The country’s strategy to regain superiority has started well, although some of this spike in volume may be a case of Iran emptying its full storage capacity. 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
We are facing a growing and menacing threat posed by pandemics. Recent years have witnessed SARS, bird flu, MERS, Ebola and now the Zika virus. With each new discovery, our response is bewilderingly clumsy, and we seem to be no more equipped to respond than before. In many ways, we tie our own noose. History is littered with examples of action performed too little, too late.
Increasing population density and transnational travel of people and commodities increase the risk of communicable disease. As the threat of pandemics is becoming more real, it is paramount to create robust systems at the international, national and local levels to cope with such outbreaks. A recent global health commission estimated the potential annual economic losses from pandemics to be $60bn. Despite this ominous threat, international efforts to mitigate the risks are woefully inadequate. 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
Capacity utilisation (CU%) in the chemical industry has long been the best leading indicator for the global economy. The IMF’s recent downward revision of its global GDP forecast is further confirmation of the CU%’s predictive power. As the first chart shows, the CU% went into a renewed decline last October, negating hopes that output might have stabilised. March shows it at a new low for the cycle at just 80.1 per cent, according to American Chemistry Council (ACC) data. By comparison, the CU% averaged 91.3 per cent during the baby boomer-led economic supercycle from 1987 to 2008.
This ability to outperform conventional economic models is based on the industry’s long history and wide variety of end-uses. It touches almost every part of the global economy, enabling it to provide invaluable insight on an almost real-time basis along all the key value chains – covering upstream markets such as energy and commodities through to downstream end-users in the auto, housing and electronics sectors. Read more
Bitter experience in Europe tells us that trivialisations of painful historical events, especially if they come from leading political figures, can inspire thinking among electorates that eventually turns into self-fulfilling prophecies. That is exactly why numerous countries in western Europe have laws that prohibit and reprimand any trivialising comparisons with the heinous doings of the axis powers in the 1930s and 1940s that caused the loss of millions of lives and unspeakable suffering. So unspeakable, that most of our ancestors preferred not to share those experiences with their descendants to this very day…
That makes recent historical comparisons by two former mayors of London all the more serious and outright unacceptable to all those who were persecuted and sacrificed their lives in the past century and to those who were dedicated to building a new and “peaceful” European Union. The United Kingdom has been an integral and vital part of that process in the past century, including since it joined the EEC in 1973 and decided by referendum in 1975 to remain in the body that was originally formed in 1952 to secure peace on a continent soured by thousands of years of war. Read more
In 1987, when I was five months pregnant with my youngest child Uchechi, doctors told me they were concerned that his head was not growing fast enough. It was one of the most frightening moments of my life. I couldn’t bear it, the sense of powerlessness in being able to do nothing but wait. It took two long months of fortnightly sonograms before we were finally given the all clear. Although Uchechi was fine in the end, the terrifying experience will remain with us forever.
Today, nearly three decades later, my heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of pregnant women in Zika-infested countries who are going through the same agonising experience of not knowing the fate of their unborn child, or even worse those with confirmed cases of microcephaly. As world leaders, policymakers and young people come together in Copenhagen this week to discuss health, rights and well-being of women and girls as part of this year’s Women Deliver global conference, this epidemic is a reminder that a gender gap exists in health as well as education, economics and politics. Read more
The travel industry has seen impressive growth in recent years as business travel recovers post-recession and rapidly growing middle classes from emerging markets have sparked an aviation boom. But despite the growth of low-cost mass-market travel, higher-yield premium and luxury trips are outpacing the market as a whole.
Our latest report, ‘Shaping the Future of Luxury Travel’, which is underpinned by data modeling from Tourism Economics, found that luxury travel had a global growth rate of 4.5 per cent between 2011 and 2015, 0.3 percentage points higher than the overall industry. Over the next decade, luxury travel’s growth rate is forecast to accelerate to 6.2 per cent, compared with a (still healthy) 4.8 per cent for the overall market. Read more
The debate on the future of Europe and Britain within it is heating up. This week, Boris Johnson highlighted the problems with “EU foreign policy-making on the hoof”, suggesting that it had contributed to the protracted conflict in Ukraine. He was quickly branded a “Putin apologist” by adversaries.
None of Boris’s critics seem to have noticed that this is a clear case of shooting the messenger. What Boris has done is raise a legitimate concern. He is giving Europe a long-overdue reminder that in order to survive, it needs to get stronger. Read more