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Trade War Is Hiding China’s Big Problems

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The ongoing US-China trade war is a distraction from China’s big problems: the blowing of multiple bubbles and the country’s soaring debt, which will eventually kill economic growth.

It happened in Japan in the 1980s. And it’s happening in China nowadays.
The trade war is one of China’s problem that dominates social media these days. It’s blamed for the slow-down in the country’s economic growth, since its economy continues to rely on exports. And it has crippled the ability of its technology companies to compete in global markets.
But it isn’t China’s only problem. The country’s manufacturers have come up with ways to minimize its impact, as evidenced by recent export data. And it will be solved once the US and China find a formula to save face and appease nationalist sentiment on both ends.
One of China’s other big problems , however, is the multiple bubbles that are still blowing in all directions. Like the property bubble—the soaring home prices that makes landlords rich, while it shatters young people’s dreams of starting a family, as discussed in a previous piece here.

New Home Prices 2015-19

New Home Prices 2015-19

Koyfin

Unlike the trade war, that’s a long-term problem. Low marriage rates are followed by low birth rates and a shrinking labor force, as the country strives to compete with labor-rich countries like Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Bangladesh—to mention but a few.
Then there’s the unfavorable “dependency rates” — too few workers, who will have to support too many retirees.
And there’s the impact on consumer spending, which could hurt the country’s bet to shift from an investment driven to a consumption driven economy.
Japan encountered these problems over three lost decades, even after it settled its trade disputes with the US back in the 1980s. China experience many more.
Meanwhile, there’s the infrastructure investment bubble at home and abroad, as discussed in a previous piece here. At home infrastructure investments have provided fuel for China’s robust growth. Abroad infrastructure investments have served its ambition to control the South China Sea and secure a waterway all the way to the Middle East oil and Africa’s riches.

City overpass in the morning

City overpass in the morning

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While some of these projects are well designed to serve the needs of the local community, others serve no need other than the ambitions of local bureaucrats to foster economic growth.
The trouble is that these projects aren’t economically viable. They generate incomes and jobs while they last (multiplier effect), but nothing beyond that—no accelerator effect, as economists would say.
That’s why this sort of growth isn’t sustainable. The former Soviet Union tried that in the 1950s, and it didn’t work. Nigeria tried that in the 1960s ;Japan tried that in the 1990s, and it didn’t work in either of those cases.
That’s why bubbles burst – and leave behind tons of debt.
Which is another of China’s other big problem s.
How much is China’s debt? Officially, it is a small number: 47.60%. Unofficially, it’s hard to figure it out. Because banks are owned by the government, and give loans to government-owned contractors, and the government owned mining operations and steel manufacturers. The government is both the lender and the borrower – one branch of the government lends money to another branch of government, as described in a previous piece here.
But there are some unofficial estimates. Like one from the Institute of International Finance (IIF) last year, which placed China’s debt to GDP at 300%!
Worse, the government’s role as both lender and borrower concentrates rather than disperses credit risks. And that creates the potential of a systemic collapse.
Like the Greek crisis so explicitly demonstrated.
Meanwhile, the dual role of government conflicts and contradicts with a third role — that of a regulator, setting rules for lenders and borrowers. And it complicates creditor bailouts in the case of financial crisis, as the Greek crisis has demonstrated in the current decade.

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I’m Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post in New York. I also teach at Columbia University. I’ve published several articles in professional journals and magazines, including Barron’s, The New York Times, Japan Times, Newsday, Plain Dealer, Edge Singapore, European Management Review, Management International Review, and Journal of Risk and Insurance. I’ve have also published several books, including Collective Entrepreneurship, The Ten Golden Rules, WOM and Buzz Marketing, Business Strategy in a Semiglobal Economy, China’s Challenge: Imitation or Innovation in International Business, and New Emerging Japanese Economy: Opportunity and Strategy for World Business. I’ve traveled extensively throughout the world giving lectures and seminars for private and government organizations, including Beijing Academy of Social Science, Nagoya University, Tokyo Science University, Keimung University, University of Adelaide, Saint Gallen University, Duisburg University, University of Edinburgh, and Athens University of Economics and Business. Interests: Global markets, business, investment strategy, personal success.

Source: Trade War Is Hiding China’s Big Problems

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How China Could Ruin 2019 For Apple, Tesla, Boeing

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It was 27 years ago when Deng Xiaoping observed that “Saudi Arabia has oil; China has rare earths.”

Talk about a prescient observation. In the early 1990s, China’s then-supreme leader had zero inkling of the iPhones, Tesla cars, drones, robots and high-tech fighter jets yet to come. Yet China’s dominance over these vital inputs is more relevant than ever as the trade war intensifies.

There is a pervasive view that President Xi Jinping’s government has less leverage over Donald Trump’s. Why, then, is Xi the one walking away from a truce? With Trump increasingly desperate for a win, any win, on the global stage, China could get off cheap.

Xi’s team could be misreading the moment. Or putting testosterone ahead of geopolitical peace. A more interesting reading: Beijing reckons it has more cards to play in this game than investors recognized.

In May, Xi made a pointedly-timed visit to a rare earth facility. Though not quite Saudi oil, China’s massive store of elements vital to myriad tech products gives Beijing considerable leverage over Silicon Valley.

It’s but one example of how China may have Trump over a barrel. What other cards are up Xi’s sleeve?

Louis Gave of Gavekal Research just put out one of the more intriguing lists of possibilities. On it: banning rare-earth exports; making life “impossible” for U.S. executives operating in China; devaluing the currency; dumping huge blocks of U.S. Treasury securities; engineering a plunge in global energy prices; sharp drops in orders of goods across the board.

There are a couple of other options. One, dissuading mainland consumers from visiting America. Two, pull a Huawei Technologies on pivotal U.S. companies. This latter step could wreak immediate havoc with the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Imagine the blow if Xi’s government suddenly closed off Boeing’s access to Asia’s biggest economy. Or if General Motors found its cars parked at Chinese customs. Halting Apple Inc.’s sales would send its own shockwaves through corporate America. Curbing Chinese imports of American soybeans would do the same in agricultural circles.

So far, China has kept retaliatory moves to a minimum. Xi seems to be rolling the dice that Trump will get distracted or impatient and move on to another target—like Japan. His calculation also seems aimed at 2020. Why give away the store to Trump when Americans might elect a less erratic leader?

Weaponizing rate-earths minerals might be Xi’s first real shot across Corporate America’s bow. The U.S. has other sources, of course. If U.S. deposits don’t suffice, companies could turn to Australia, Myanmar, India, Brazil or Thailand. And Trump seems tight enough with Vladimir Putin to score some stock from Russia. But the supply chain disruptions would surely have top CEOs — who tend to be big campaign donors — calling Trump to register their dismay.

It could backfire, too. In 2019, Beijing deprived Tokyo of rare-earth metals and China’s market share has never been the same since. “Unfortunately,” Gave says, “this would give China a ‘feel-good’ boost, but be as productive as landing a mild blow on Mike Tyson’s nose. Such an export ban would undermine China’s long-term production capacity, for the simple reason that rare earths are not that rare.”

The dumping-dollar-debt option could be especially dangerous. Just like an “uncontrolled currency depreciation,” says Michael Hirson of Eurasia Group, selling huge blocks of U.S. Treasuries would “threaten blowback to China’s economy.”

Any surge in bond yields could devastate the American consumer. The shockwaves would quickly zoom from Wall Street to Shanghai. Xi might be hinting at such a move, though, as Beijing buys fewer and fewer Treasuries. At present, China has more than $1.1 trillion of U.S. government securities. Xi seems to think that’s more than enough.

Even so, markets may live in semi-constant fear of a massive bond route bearing Chinese fingerprints. Or any number of ways in which China would ratchet up tensions with Trump and vice versa.

“The path to a potential de-escalating deal is fraught with challenges as both sides dig in, and how markets react will likely help determine the outcome of talks,” say analysts at Fitch Ratings. “Over the longer term, we maintain our long-held view that protectionist trade policy led by the US is likely to persist in the years ahead, marked by cycles of escalation and de-escalation.”

Roughly a week after Xi’s rare-earths pilgrimage, he visited Jiangxi Province, the starting point of Mao Zedong-era 1934-1936 “Long March.” There, Xi called for a new one as Trump’s America does its worst to halt China’s march to the top of the economic rankings.

That hardly sounds like a Chinese leader who’s going to cave to Trump. More like one who’s in this trade battle for the long haul.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a memorial hall marking the departure of the Long March by the Central Red Army in Yudu County, Ganzhou City, during an inspection tour of east China's Jiangxi Province.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a memorial hall marking the departure of the Long March by the Central Red Army in Yudu County, Ganzhou City, during an inspection tour of east China’s Jiangxi Province.

Xinhua/Xie Huanchi

I am a Tokyo-based journalist, former columnist for Barron’s and Bloomberg and author of “Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan’s Lost Decades.”

Source: How China Could Ruin 2019 For Apple, Tesla, Boeing

Scary! Rising US-China Trade War Tensions Could Take 10% Off the S&P

Global markets continue to digest the impact of President Donald Trump’s Sunday evening tweetstorm. Meanwhile, analysts from some of the world’s biggest investment banks including UBS and Bank of America Merrill Lynch have detailed their forecasts for what a full-on trade war between the U.S. and China would look should the worst happen.

Among the many hair-raising projections is the prospect of the S&P 500 entering a correction by losing 10% of its value, which would almost certainly trigger a long-feared recession. That particular forecast was made by UBS analyst Keith Parker, according to CNBC. Parker specified that key European and American cyclical markets would bear the brunt of the declines.

S&P 500

| Source: Yahoo Finance

“FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT AND DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH”

There is an old saying that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. In this case, both elephants will also sustain a significant amount of damage if Parker’s projections hold true. He predicts that a full-scale trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies will see China shed anything from 1.2% to 1.5% of its GDP, which is equivalent to a drop of between $132 billion and $165 billion.

If China responds to Donald Trump’s threatened 25% tariff with a tariff increment of its own from 7% to 15% on approximately $60 billion worth of American imports, this could see the U.S. shed 0.1% of its GDP, or about $14 billion. In the ensuing scenario, Bank of America projects that China may hike tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles and reduce its soybean imports from the U.S. Meanwhile, Chinese imports of American soybeans have already fallen off a cliffsince 2017, dropping roughly 98% last year as China looks toward less antagonistic partners like Brazil.

According to a Bank of America report also cited by CNBC:

“Fasten your seatbelt and don’t hold your breath. The latest escalation of the trade war was completely unexpected, despite the strength of the economy and the markets. This is evident from the immediate negative reaction of U.S. equity futures to the news.”

As the two elephants knock heads, the amount they are erasing from each other’s economies is equivalent to the GDP of mid-sized nations. European and Asian economies will also feel some pain, according to UBS.

IS TRUMP BLUFFING?

According to the White House, the new 25% tariff regime that could potentially kick off this entire sequence of events will come into effect just after midnight on Friday. Expectedly, markets have been in virtual freefall since Monday, with the NASDAQ and S&P 500 both shedding close to 1% on Monday alone. The miserable market conditions continued through Tuesday, with little sign of respite as investors react with horror at the thought of a damaging 20th-century-style trade conflict between economic superpowers.

Dow

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to trend downward following Sunday evening’s shock announcement. | Source: Yahoo Finance

Not everyone believes that the panic is warranted, however. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, for example, believes that the shock announcement by Trump was nothing more than a way of cornering a formidable opponent and forcing them to negotiate. Speaking to CNN Money’s Poppy Harlow, Dimon stated that regardless of the market’s reaction, Trump will count it as a win because it has become the only successful way of getting the Chinese to the negotiating table on his terms.

Whether this is a considered masterstroke of strategy or simply a typical Trump action, it certainly appears to have done the trick. Chinese Vice Vice Premier Liu He will be part of a trade delegation to the U.S. later in the week, which at the very least is a sign that China is willing to give ground so as to avoid a damaging trade war.

Source: Scary! Rising US-China Trade War Tensions Could Take 10% Off the S&P

China Offers Special Breaks To Attract Taiwanese Startups, But Only 1% Find Success

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Hung Hsiu-chu (brown coat), former head of Taiwan’s Nationalist Party, and her delegation visit Vstartup, a startup group, in Beijing in 2016. (Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Taiwan’s government says many of the island’s young entrepreneurs are ready to seek their fortunes in China because mainland officials are offering incentives for them to launch their startups in the world’s second-largest economy. China has been reaching out to Taiwan’s investors as part of its efforts to bring self-ruled Taiwan closer to the mainland. China claims sovereignty over the island, where a government opinion survey released in January showed that more than 80% of its citizens prefer autonomy.

But only 1% of the Taiwanese-backed startups in China succeed, according to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. “They’ve run into some difficulties,” says the council’s spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng. “We’ve reminded our youth to beware of the risks.”

Startups tend to fail due to a lack of savvy about China’s business environment, not the level of incentives, people close to the market say, and they tend to find success by localizing their businesses.

Language fluency, office space, rent breaks and cash

Localizing might come easier to Taiwanese founders compared to peers further afield. They speak China’s official language and get the culture, says Lin Ta-han, CEO of the crowd-funding consultancy Backer-Founder in Taipei.

To help, government agencies in China are said to be offering tax breaks, fast-track permits to set up offices and subsidies for startups in sectors such as healthcare. “For truly small enterprises or for first-time startup founders, these are definitely incentives,” Lin says.

A startup incubator near Shanghai, for example, is offering free office space, subsidized rent for housing and tax breaks, according to a report in the Japan Times. Some entrepreneurs can qualify for up to $31,000 in cash. About 50 other hubs like this one are spread around China. These measures complement 31 broader incentives that China introduced in February 2018 to bring Taiwanese investors and workers over. Those measures cover breaks on taxes and land use. Taiwan’s government responded with its own rack of incentives to keep business people onshore.

More on Forbes: China Now Boasts More Than 800 Million Internet Users And 98% Of Them Are Mobile [Infographic]

Among the more successful Taiwanese-operated startups, MIT Media Lab graduate Edward Shen sold his Taipei-based startup StorySense Computing in 2015 to a firm in Beijing, according to a report from Tech in Asia. His company’s flagship product was a phone number search app called WhatsTheNumber.

Incentives alone won’t be enough to ensure success in China, says Steven Ho, a former Yahoo employee in Taiwan who moved to the mainland in 2012 and started a company that helps new brands enter the market. Internet startups must understand that “there’s the internet and the China internet, two different worlds,” says Ho, 51, and back in Taipei running a company with 400 employees. China’s internet is dominated by local firms and government controls. Startups from anywhere, incentivized or otherwise, need to adapt their businesses to the local conditions rather than continue operating as did at home, he says.

“The absolute number of people in China is big, but that doesn’t correlate to the number of startup successes,” Ho says.

Taiwan government warns of failures

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council reiterates the message by reminding entrepreneurs that the competition in China is “stiff” and some founders may not adapt well to a different set of laws, customs and societal norms there. And perhaps most important of all–a different financial system.

To get paid online in China normally requires a deal with the domestic payment services Alipay or Wechat, which “tend to be stricter on the services that can be sold” compared to overseas peers, says Danny Levinson, past chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce Shanghai’s IT committee.

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KKDay CEO Chen Ming-ming plans to expand his company’s travel services in China after receiving venture capital from an Alibaba fund for Taiwanese entrepreneurs. (Photo courtesy of KKDay)

Courtesy of KKDay

As a news reporter I have covered some of everything since 1988, from my alma mater

Source: China Offers Special Breaks To Attract Taiwanese Startups, But Only 1% Find Success

New Survey Shows China Not Dead Yet

China’s services sector growth rose for the second month in a row and hit its highest level since June 2018 , according to the Caixin China General Services Business Activity Index, released on Friday. Caixin said that increased foreign demand for Made in China goods and improving business confidence helped. The Index hit 53.9 in December from 53.8 in November and 50.8 in October. While the number is generally flat from November, it is much higher than the third-quarter average and comes at a time when trade tensions remain high.

Source: New Survey Shows China Not Dead Yet

Don’t Believe Beijing: China Really Does Rival The U.S. – Kenneth Rapoza

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Liu Qiangdong, better known as Richard Liu here, is already a billionaire. At the 7-Fresh grocery store in Beijing, not far from Liu’s JD.com, there’s this fruit stand that looks awfully similar to anything an American would find at a Trader Joe’s or Wholefoods. It’s organic. It’s small farm friendly. But here at 7-Fresh you can scan a barcode and find out where the apples came from, thanks to a blockchain system they’re running. Meanwhile, over my head is a small assembly line of green shopping bags filled with online food orders. It’s the Jetsons. I don’t think they have this at Wholefoods………….

 

 

 

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Better Off in a Cave: Chinese Count Costs of Apartments In Anti-Poverty Campaign


May 11, 2018

By Joseph Campbell

LIN COUNTY, China (Reuters) – Seventy-year-old Chinese farmer Guo Jiaming has lived most of her life in a cave, shunning modernity for a home carved into a mountainside that keeps her cool in summer and warm in winter.

“A cave is convenient and it’s warmer,” said Guo, explaining why she preferred her home to alternatives such as a high-rise city apartment, despite the cold winters of China’s northern province of Shanxi.

“An apartment building is only heated when the central heating is turned on,” she said.

“Old people like me can’t stand this cold during the winter,” Guo added, pointing to a wood-burning heater that warms her cave and the bricks under her bed.

Local authorities want Guo and other cave-dwellers to swap their homes for apartments in a nationwide campaign to relocate 2.8 million people to new homes this year.

The drive is part of efforts to eliminate extreme poverty by the end of 2020 in China, where about 30 million people live on less than a dollar a day.

The relocations are voluntary, say residents of Lin county, but Guo sees no reason to abandon her cave house.

A form of shelter known as “yaodong” that dates back thousands of years, cave houses, which typically have several small rooms with earthen walls, are common in China’s hilly north, where they are carved out of slopes and cliffs.

“IT’S TERRIBLE”

Nationally, authorities say the relocations are going well.

“Our work has been proceeding smoothly,” Liu Yongfu, an official handling poverty alleviation and development efforts, told a news conference in Beijing in March. “The common folk are very supportive.”But authorities in Lin county declined to comment on their relocation plans when contacted by Reuters.

Cave dwellers who have moved say they regret shifting, because they found bare concrete walls with no plumbing or electricity in their new blocks, instead of the finished units they had been promised, including furniture and television sets.

Zhao Yugui, a 54-year-old farmer assigned to a family-sized apartment, said he now lived 10 km (6.2 miles) from his fields.

“I can only ride a motorbike back to work in my fields and take care of old people and my wife,” Zhao said, showing a visitor round his flat, where wires protruded from bare concrete.

Hua Xiaomo, 50, recently moved into a nine-storey building in a different neighborhood.

“It’s terrible,” she said, adding that when she lived in a cave, she never had to walk upstairs.

“Sometimes it’s really inconvenient. The lights aren’t bright either. It’s dark,” she said, describing the area around her apartment block.

The cost of living in the city also chafes elderly farmers, who earn a meager 500 to 800 yuan ($80 to $126) a year. They say the government should provide an allowance.

“Those who leave need to have money. Where does that money come from?” asked 68-year-old Li Congdai.

(Writing by Elias Glenn; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez)

Vía One America News Network https://ift.tt/2KQML1c

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