21/10/2014

China likely to close ‘gift’ loophole in corruption fight | Reuters

China’s largely rubber stamp parliament is likely to close a loophole when it meets next week to ban officials from getting around corruption allegations by claiming money received was simply a gift, a state-run newspaper said on Tuesday.

Currently, officials can defend themselves from accusations of receiving bribes by saying money or other goods received, like luxury watches or bags, were just a present from a friend, the official China Daily reported.

It is only considered a crime if a link can be made to some sort of abuse of power, it said.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping campaign against deep-seated graft since assuming office last year, warning, like others before him, that the Communist Party’s very survival is at stake.

Xi has vowed to take down high-flying “tigers” as well as lowly “flies” in an anti-graft campaign that has felled Zhou Yongkang, once the powerful domestic security tsar, as well as Jiang Jiemin, the former top regulator of state-owned firms.

The gift rules will probably be changed at a regular meeting of the National People’s Congress opening on Oct. 27, the newspaper said.

“The draft is likely to deem that accepting gifts or money of a considerable amount would be punishable for all government officials,” it added.

“The draft proposal will discuss the possibility of handing down punishment to public servants for accepting goods or money of a certain amount without a direct link to misconduct.”

The amendment is almost certain to be approved as state media generally does not flag such changes if they are not going to be passed.

Under the present system, gifts are meant to be handed over to the government within a month of being received, and some provinces have even set up special bank accounts to handle such money, the newspaper said.

via China likely to close ‘gift’ loophole in corruption fight | Reuters.

21/10/2014

China’s reform tally since November 2013 policy meeting | Reuters

China’s leadership unveiled a blueprint for some of the most comprehensive economic and social reforms in nearly 30 years in November 2013.

Implementation since then has been slow but steady. China has eschewed riskier, game-changing reform but the incremental steps aim to reach enough critical mass to sustain momentum and help the world’s second-largest economy shift down fairly smoothly after decades of investment-fueled growth.

The following are some of the significant steps taken since the Communist Party Central Committee’s Nov 9-12 policy conclave:

OCTOBER, 2014

Oct 16 – The top economic planner is considering tightening rules for bond issues, according to traders and a leaked document.

Oct 11 – The State Council says it will institute a resource tax on coal while eliminating other taxes to simplify the tax structure.

Oct 9 – China levies tariffs on coal imports in a move to reduce the country’s dependence on the polluting energy source.

SEPTEMBER, 2014

Sept 9 – Domestic firms in many areas no longer require government approval to invest overseas but must register their investments with authorities starting Oct 6.

Sept 1 – The budget law is revised to allow local governments to issue bonds directly.

AUGUST, 2014

Aug 29 – The Politburo approves salary cuts for top officials at big state-owned firms to counter graft and income inequality.

Aug 26 – China cuts on-grid prices of thermal electricity from Sept. 1 to reflect a fall in coal prices.

Aug 20 – The government cuts taxes on high-tech companies, abolishes the need for firms to seek approvals in 68 further areas and additionally allows lower levels of government to approve business projects in 19 other areas.

Aug 15 – China eliminates 21 approval processes for a list of industries and lower levels of government are given the right to approve certain projects in an effort to cut red tape.

Aug 12 – China will raise natural gas prices for bulk buyers and non-residential use from Sept. 1 in an effort to reform pricing.

Aug 4 – Foreign firms in China are allowed to use their registered capital to buy stakes in other Chinese companies.

JULY, 2014

July 15 – The state-owned enterprise regulator chooses six state firms to test out reforms expanding the role of private capital in China’s state sector.

July 14 – China loosens currency controls to make it easier for domestic companies and individuals to set up special purpose vehicles (SPVs) for investments overseas.

July 2 – Banks are allowed to set their own exchange rates for the yuan against the dollar in over-the-counter deals with clients.

JUNE, 2014

June 27 – Regulators lower the threshold for banks to enter the foreign exchange market and removes a layer of approvals.

June 25 – China gives the greenlight to three banks wholly funded with capital from private firms, to be the country’s first private lenders.

MAY, 2014

May 21 – The experiment for China’s first municipal bond market is launched.

May 21 – Private firms are invited to invest in 80 major projects in the energy, information and infrastructure sectors.

May 16 – Financial regulators tighten oversight of interbank loans.

May 16 – China sets up international energy trading center where crude oil futures will be traded for the first time.

May 15 – Securities firms get the go-ahead to expand into new businesses such as the online financial services market.

May 6 – State-owned enterprises to increase dividend payouts by 5 percentage points to up to 25 percent of their profits.

APRIL, 2014

April 23 – Premier Li Keqiang says China will allow private investment in 80 projects in energy, information and infrastructure.

April 22 – Changes to the environmental law seeking stiffer penalties for polluters submitted to parliament.

April 11 – Chinese firms can invest up to $1 billion overseas without seeking approval, China’s top planner says.

April 10 – China allows cross-border stock investment between Shanghai and Hong Kong.

April 9 – The government relaxes price controls over non-public hospital services.

April 2 – The government says will fast-track some spending and cut taxes for small firms, as a way of supporting the weakening economy.

MARCH, 2014

March 31 – Britain and China sign an agreement to set up a clearing service for offshore yuan trading in London. That follows a similar agreement with Germany.

March 24 – China simplifies review procedures for mergers and acquisitions.

March 21 – The securities regulator issues rules for a pilot program allowing listed companies to issue preferred shares.

March 20 – The foreign exchange regulator relaxes curbs on foreign investment in China’s stock market.

March 20 – PetroChina, China’s biggest oil and gas producer, is welcoming private investment into oil and gas pipelines in China, according to chairman Zhou Jiping.

March 20 – China lifts ban on equity financing for listed property developers after four years.

March 16 – China sets 2020 targets for urban population growth and registered urban residents.

March 15 – The central bank doubles the yuan currency’s daily trading band against the dollar.

March 11 – Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan says China’s deposit rates should be liberalized in one to two years.

March 11 – Development of 3-5 privately-owned banks to be tested in Tianjin, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong, bank regulator says.

March 11 – The cabinet outlines its healthcare reform plan.

March 7 – Loss-making solar equipment maker misses interest payment in China’s first domestic bond default.

March 5 – Premier Li Keqiang promises to wage a “war” on pollution and reduce the pace of investment to a decade-low.

March 1 -Simplified corporate capital registration comes into force. Government data later show 309,500 new firms were registered in March, up 46 percent from a year earlier.

FEBRUARY, 2014

Feb 26 – Beijing details pension reform that seeks to decrease urban-rural economic divisions before 2020.

Feb 21 – The central bank gives operational details for cross-border yuan deals made through Shanghai free trade zone.

Feb 20 – Sinopec Corp, Asia’s largest oil refiner, says it will sell up to 30 percent of its retail business to private investors in a multi-billion dollar revamp.

JANUARY, 2014

Jan 29 – The cabinet sets up a cross-ministry group to boost development of three service zones in Guangdong province.

Jan 22 – Six teams to supervise economic reforms are set up, with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in charge.

Jan 17 – China’s wealthy eastern province of Zhejiang became the first to implement changes to the one-child policy.

Jan 6 – The cabinet publishes guidelines strengthening regulation of off-balance lending.

DECEMBER, 2013

Dec 11 – Beijing strips 82 powers away from central government ministries. Over 200 administrative approvals are set to be abolished or delegated to local authorities in 2014.

Dec 10 – New standards on performance ratings of officials break the obsession with growth and include such criteria as work safety, innovation, environmental and resource costs.

Dec 8 – The central bank sets guidelines for issuing of interbank certificates of deposit, a step towards allowing markets to determine interest rates.

Dec 4 – The government expands its value-added tax trial to rail transport and the postal service.

Dec 4 – The central bank announces details of financial reform test runs in the Shanghai free trade zone.

NOVEMBER, 2013

Nov 30 – The stock market regulator announces IPO reforms.

Nov 12 – Anhui province, which spearheaded land reform in 1978 announces pilot land reforms, including accelerating the development of large-scale farming, completing land use rights registration before end-2015 and simplifying land transactions.

via Factbox: China’s reform tally since November 2013 policy meeting | Reuters.

21/10/2014

China’s growth slowest since global crisis, annual target at risk | Reuters

China grew at its slowest pace since the global financial crisis in the September quarter and risks missing its official target for the first time in 15 years, adding to concerns the world’s second-largest economy is becoming a drag on global growth.

Employees work at a shoe factory in Lishui, Zhejiang province, in this January 24, 2013 file photo.  REUTERS/Lang Lang/Files

A pick-up in factory output and government confidence that the labor market remains stable were offset by further slowing in the property sector, and economists remained divided on whether or not authorities would step in with major stimulus measures such as interest rate cuts.

China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.3 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, official data showed on Tuesday, the weakest rate since the first quarter of 2009.

That was slightly above the 7.2 percent forecast by analysts but slower than 7.5 percent in the second quarter, and even then some economists were surprised.

“It’s hard to square the GDP print with the industrial production numbers for the quarter,” said Andrew Polk, economist at the Conference Board in Beijing, one of the more pessimistic research houses on the Chinese economy.

“There are confusing things going on. You have credit growing at the slowest pace since 2002. You have real estate investment slowing on a monthly basis and you have industrial production averaging slightly above 8 percent on a quarterly basis, slightly down from Q2. With that being the most reliable component of GDP on a quarterly basis, 7.3 percent seems a bit high to me.”

via China’s growth slowest since global crisis, annual target at risk | Reuters.

20/10/2014

Grocery retailing in India: A long way from the supermarket | The Economist

ON THE morning of Dussehra, a Hindu festival, Amar Singh is explaining why he stocks “exotic” produce, such as broccoli and iceberg lettuce, at his vegetable stall in Thane, a commuter city north of Mumbai. “I have to keep the customer in my grasp,” he says. Mr Singh has traded hereabouts for 20 years, and seems unperturbed by the supermarket chains whose branches have recently sprouted nearby. They are cheaper, he says, but they cannot match him on quality. As he speaks he sorts a tray of beans, discarding stringier ones. His assistant, Dabloo, has spent the early hours going through sacks of produce at a wholesale market to pick the best stuff.

The 10m-12m small traders like Mr Singh are a protected species. Complex and changeable rules governing foreign direct investment have made it tricky for rich-world chains to set up shop in India. They might count themselves lucky. India’s home-grown supermarkets account for only 2% of food and grocery sales and are struggling to make a profit. Revenues have not kept pace with rising rents. The Thane branch of Reliance Fresh, one of India’s big chains (see table), shut up shop recently. More closures seem likely. The bet made by the chains was that as India became richer, its consumers would abandon kerbside stalls and kiranas (small family-owned shops) for air-conditioned stores with wide aisles and broad ranges. Why has it not paid off?

In large part it is because supermarkets are not a compelling draw in terms of price and service. Most shoppers in India buy dairy products, vegetables and fruit either daily or every two to three days, and the traditional trade has a lock on these frequent purchases, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Its hold weakens a bit (and the appeal of supermarkets correspondingly tightens) on rich consumers and for less regular purchases: packaged foods; soaps, detergents and other groceries; and staples, such as rice and grains (see chart). But in general even affluent consumers prefer traditional stores, because they are closer to home, are usually open longer and offer credit to familiar customers. Many will deliver free of charge.

Traditional traders are also seen as cheaper. In fact, says Abheek Singhi of BCG, a full basket of goods is 3-4% cheaper at the supermarket, in part because it will sell a few vegetables and some staples as loss-leaders. Mr Singh’s stall sells tomatoes at 50 rupees a kilogram. In the local D-Mart, a low-frills supermarket, they sell for just 42 rupees. Yet Mr Singh has a fair claim to having the reddest variety. The chains ought to be able to offer keener prices on branded goods by squeezing their suppliers. But none of the supermarkets has enough muscle to push around Unilever or Procter & Gamble in negotiations. And India has a law that mandates a maximum retail price for packaged goods, which allows manufacturers a degree of control over retailers’ margins.

The supermarkets can offer a greater variety of groceries than the neighbourhood mom-and-pop store or stall-trader. But that is not as big a competitive edge as it may seem, says BCG’s Mr Singhi. Supermarkets compete with clusters of kiranas, which together can offer most of the same products. Next door to Mr Singh’s stall in Thane kiranas sell confectionary, fresh eggs and poultry.

via Grocery retailing in India: A long way from the supermarket | The Economist.

19/10/2014

India’s big manufacturing push: Time to make in India? | The Economist

NO ONE doubts that Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister (pictured), is a capable speaker. On September 25th he called together hundreds of diplomats, business leaders, journalists, ministers and others to a swanky hall in Delhi to launch his latest marketing push. The event was broadcast live across India and to diplomatic missions abroad. A remarkable cast of industrial heavyweights were called on to show support, including Cyrus Mistry of Tata Sons, Reliance’s nervy-sounding boss, Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Wipro, Azim Premji, the chairman of Aditya Birla Group, Kumar Mangalam Birla, and the chairman of ITC Limited, Yogesh Chander Deveshwar.

Over the course of two hours these business cheerleaders, along with ministers and then Mr Modi himself, took turns to explain why it would be a great thing if industrial production, in particular labour-intensive manufacturing, could blossom in India. They are absolutely right. India needs to create lots of jobs—perhaps 1m additional ones a month—if it is to employ its booming population. One speaker suggested 90m manufacturing jobs could be created in India over the next decade. Mr Premji set out how Wipro—better known for IT—has five manufacturing units in India (they make hydraulic cylinders) and overall relied on a broad network of 1,200 Indian suppliers, meaning lots  of jobs created indirectly.

Mr Birla spoke of a new high-end aluminium manufacturing site in Odisha (formerly Orissa) which now does quality work for the firm that used to be done in a British factory. A representative from Lockheed Martin, an American defence firm, explained how its factory near to Hyderabad makes component parts for its global production of the massive C130-J Hercules plane. A stronger manufacturing sector could help in a host of other ways, suggested speakers, linking India into global supply chains, boosting exports, helping to reduce the current-account deficit and so on. Mr Ambani concluded that India’s economy could boom in the long run, at a sustained rate of 8-10%, growing quicker than China, if only the right conditions were created.

All this looks and sounds attractive. So, too, do a flash new website that Mr Modi inaugurated, a new symbol—a lion made up of cog-wheels—and some new brochures that set out how India is a bit more welcoming to manufacturers. But was the exercise anything more than a PR event? As one cynical member of the audience grumbled, it seemed to be a big palaver for the launch of a few marketing tools.

What has actually changed in India as Mr Modi pushes manufacturing? First, discount the worst gush from business leaders. The likes of Mr Ambani and Mr Deveshwar may be embarrassed to be reminded of how sycophantic they were in Mr Modi’s presence. Mr Ambani waffled on about being “blessed with a leader”, the “unique leadership quality of a prime minister, a man who dreams and he does”, who has apparently motivated a billion Indians to “dream and do”. Mr Deveshwar was even more craven, thanking “the Almighty” for the leadership “given to us” in Mr Modi, for “your astuteness, your wisdom…Sir, I’m profoundly inspired by the boldness of your vision and the simplicity with which you have communicated.” Mr Modi sat stony-faced as they fawned. But he probably agrees with the implied message: that most of what it takes to boost manufacturing in India is strong leadership from him, as he showed when he was chief minister of Gujarat. Indeed, when he spoke, he referred back to his success in Gujarat, saying that with the same civil servants and resources as the rest of the country, he had produced striking industrial successes. He expects more of the same in the country as a whole.

Sadly, leadership alone will not do it. Matters are more complicated than that. Mr Modi, endearingly, admitted in his speech “I am not a big economist” while urging investors not to think of India only as a big emerging market, but also as a place for production. As he suggests, achieving that requires progress in a host of areas. He spoke of an urgent need for skills development as far too many of India’s youngsters are poorly prepared for globally competitive work (though that is a huge mission, since it means fixing a rotten school and university system) and identifying 21 clusters for industrial development. He spelt out how infrastructure would improve (but not where massive capital to fund that will come from). Laudably, he emphasised the need to make India a far easier place to do business by scrapping red-tape and oppressive rules, mentioning a recent meeting he had with the World Bank to discuss India’s awful ranking—134th—on its annual “ease of doing business” assessment. Mr Modi thinks India should aim to be ranked much higher, quickly, in the top 50 countries.

via India’s big manufacturing push: Time to make in India? | The Economist.

19/10/2014

Police firearms: Weaponised | The Economist

WHEN five assailants armed with long knives started murdering bystanders at a railway station in the south-western Chinese city of Kunming on March 1st, the first police to respond were ill-equipped to fight back. Most had no guns, which ordinary officers typically go without. One who did quickly ran out of bullets. Some officers used their batons while others resorted, bravely but ineffectually, to wielding fire extinguishers which they found at the scene. A specially trained unit of police with guns arrived as long as 20 minutes later and shot four of the attackers dead.

The government promptly decided it must make weapons more readily available to police. It has acted quickly to do so—some critics say too quickly and too rashly. The increased deployment of guns to rank-and-file officers raises the prospect of abuses in a system that lacks public accountability for police misconduct against citizens. It has also increased the risk of mistakes by poorly trained officers who are unfamiliar with weapons. In recent months Chinese media have reported on at least two deaths in police shootings where local witnesses suggested the use of deadly force may not have been justified. In May in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, police accidentally fired a handgun into the floor at a kindergarten lecture on personal safety. A child and four parents were injured.

China bans the possession of guns by civilians, and makes only rare exceptions. The government has similarly long resisted arming police with firearms. The process of getting permission to carry a gun was often so onerous that few police bothered to try. Since the army was called in to shoot civilians demonstrating in Beijing in 1989, China has beefed up its paramilitary police force, the People’s Armed Police (PAP), in order to handle unrest. But the PAP does not handle ordinary crimes and is run separately from other police forces.

Fan Xin, a Beijing-based American expert on police firearms who worked as a policeman in Los Angeles between 2000 and 2006, says the government’s reluctance to arm the police had been partly out of fear that the guns would be misused. But this led to a failure properly to train those who did carry them. Mr Fan describes an “antiquated” system in which police are rated for accuracy in shooting at a target from a stable position on one knee, rather than for speed and judgment in more realistic conditions. He also notes that many police are trained to use semi-automatic handguns but then go on to be issued with revolvers.

Some special police units in big cities are reportedly better trained than small-town officers. The recent expansion of such units has been rapid and striking. The city of Shanghai has deployed 125 mobile units of elite armed police around the city since May, each carrying at least two guns (following America, Chinese media often describe them as SWAT, or Special Weapons and Tactics, teams). Fifteen groups of ten officers each—all in blue Ford vans—patrol one tourist district near the Huangpu river. One of them is often parked on the Bund, Shanghai’s famous riverfront, close to revellers taking wedding photographs. Another is often stationed near People’s Square; during a recent rush hour the driver and a few of the squad in the back could be seen smoking cigarettes. If a terrorist strikes on their watch, they are allowed to shoot on sight.

Some citizens worry about reckless use of police firearms, but many see a need for greater, and more visible, protection. The attack in Kunming in March appeared to be the work of extremist Uighurs, who are a mostly Muslim ethnic minority from the western region of Xinjiang. It has been seared into the country’s consciousness. State media refer to it as China’s version of the September 11th attacks against America. Xi Jinping, the president, has echoed George W. Bush, America’s president at the time, saying that China is conducting a “people’s war on terror”.

Armed police have become a feature of this war. In a Xinjiang border town in July, police shot and killed at least 59 Uighurs in a conflict that state media said was initiated by a mob of locals who attacked government offices, killing 37. Uighur groups abroad allege that the real death toll was much higher.

via Police firearms: Weaponised | The Economist.

19/10/2014

Costco Gets Into China via Alibaba’s Tmall Website – Businessweek

Attention, China: Costco is coming. To Tmall, at least.

The U.S. retailer has teamed up with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) to sell products on the Tmall website. Food and health products will show up first, including many from Costco’s in-house brand, Kirkland. Flat-screen TVs and weird exercise contraptions won’t be far behind.

Costco (COST) doesn’t have physical stores in China. In fact, it has precious few in Asia at large. There are 19 Costco warehouses in Japan, 11 in Korea, and 10 in Taiwan.

The Internet is a relatively easy way enter a new market. But Costco doesn’t do too much of that either. China will be the fourth country where the retailer takes Internet orders, in addition to Canada, Mexico, and the U.K. In Costco’s five other locales, it’s strictly on-floor shopping. All told, Costco gets less than 3 percent of its revenue from online sales, according to its most recent financial update.

Tmall—and China in general—offer something Costco requires: volume. With incredibly slim margins on merchandise (and sometimes no margin at all), Costco only makes a profit on membership fees. Those won’t be required for shopping on Tmall, according to Alibaba.

In other words, the entire country of China may be a loss leader—at least until the warehouses start popping up.

via Costco Gets Into China via Alibaba’s Tmall Website – Businessweek.

19/10/2014

How Poor Is China? – Businessweek

By one measure, China is set to surpass the U.S. this year in gross domestic product as the world’s largest economy—in terms of purchasing power parity (rather than nominal GDP), says the International Monetary Fund. China also has the world’s second-largest population of ultra-wealthy, with some 7,600 people possessing at least $50 million, according to a report released on Tuesday by Credit Suisse. (The U.S. remains No. 1 in its number of super-rich).

Sifting through trash near Hefei, China

Still, that wealth contrasts with impoverishment. About 82 million Chinese still live in poverty, an official announced at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, reported the China Daily.

That figure is according to the Chinese poverty standard of about 2,300 yuan a year, or about $1 a day. Using the international standard of $1.25 a day, set by the World Bank, raises the figure to 200 million, said Zheng Wenkai, vice-minister of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. This means that 15 percent of China’s population is impoverished, according to the broader measure.

All told, China has 120,000 villages plagued by poverty. Residents lack electricity, running water, schools, and proper health care, the English-language paper reported. Dire conditions are exacerbated by the fact that most are in remote, often mountainous parts of the country that have inadequate roads.

Poor populations are concentrated in extremely poor contiguous regions with poor living conditions, inadequate infrastructure as well as being afflicted with natural disasters,” the Global Times reported. Last year, China lifted 40 million residents out of poverty, and it plans to bring an additional 10 million out in 2014. China will send resident-assistance teams to the worst hit regions, the official said.

via How Poor Is China? – Businessweek.

19/10/2014

China’s Workers Are Getting Restless – Businessweek

China does not have large independent labor unions, yet the world’s second-largest economy has witnessed an increasing number of worker strikes over the past year.

Police guard outside the Yue Yuan shoe factory after workers returned to work in Dongguan, China on April 28 following a two-week strike

According to an Oct. 14 report from the Hong Kong-based watchdog group China Labour Bulletin (CLB), the number of strikes and worker protests in the third quarter of 2014 was double the number of labor actions recorded in the same period last year: From July to September this year, the watchdog group recorded 372 strikes and worker protests across China, compared with 185 incidents over those months last year.

What’s more, the habit of organizing collective action—often through social media—is spreading beyond China’s traditional manufacturing hub of southern Guangdong province. While the number of strikes in Guangdong province has remained roughly the same, unrest has intensified in inland China. In 2013, Guangdong accounted for 35 percent of recorded labor actions vs. 19 percent this year.

Half of all recorded worker strikes and protests arose from disputes over late or unpaid wages—perhaps symptoms of economic troubles hitting manufacturers as well as tightening credit in China, according to CLB.

Also notable is the uptick in strikes led by construction workers, from just four demonstrations last summer to 55 this summer. Amid a slumping housing market, new home prices in August tumbled in 68 of 70 Chinese cities monitored by the government. As the CLB report explains, “Developers are saddled with declining sales, weaker credit availability, and continued pressure from local governments to buy land. In these situations, it is the construction workers who are always the last to be paid.”

China’s only official union is the government-linked All China Federation of Trade Unions, which lacks credibility with most workers. To date, it has only ever formally leant support to one worker strike, according to records reviewed by the liberal American Prospect magazine. Yet Chinese workers are increasingly organizing within their individual workplaces to press for higher wages, timely payments, and social security benefits. So far, these individual strikes have not coalesced into a broader, coordinated movement, which almost certainly would incur a speedy government crackdown.

via China’s Workers Are Getting Restless – Businessweek.

19/10/2014

Chinese Home-Buying Binge Transforms California Suburb Arcadia – Businessweek

“Oh, hey! How ya’ doin’?” Raleigh Ornelas hollers, leaning out the window of his spotless white pickup truck. He’s recognized the man across the street, a developer standing in front of a Tuscan-style mansion under construction. “Where have you been hiding at? I call you, you don’t call me.”

Why Are Chinese Millionaires Buying Mansions in an L.A. Suburb?

Ornelas is an informal broker in Arcadia, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains. He’s been keeping an eye out for the builder, an Asian man with a slight comb-over who goes by Mark. Ornelas has found two older homeowners who’ve finally agreed to sell their properties, and he knows that Mark, like all developers here, needs land on which to build mansions for an influx of rich clients from mainland China.

Ornelas rattles off addresses on a nearby street. “Three-eleven, that guy, he’s wack,” he says, shaking his head. “He wants 2.8.” He means million dollars. “And then 354, they want $2 million.”

The lot is 17,000 square feet. “Seventeen for 2 mil?” Mark asks, incredulous.

“I know,” Ornelas says. “They’re going crazy.”

A year ago the property would have gone for $1.3 million, but Arcadia is booming. Residents have become used to postcards offering immediate, all-cash deals for their property and watching as 8,000-square-foot homes go up next door to their modest split levels. For buyers from mainland China, Arcadia offers excellent schools, large lots with lenient building codes, and a place to park their money beyond the reach of the Chinese government.

The city, population 57,600, projects that about 150 older homes—53 percent more than normal—will be torn down this year and replaced with mansions. The deals happen fast and are rarely listed publicly. Often, the first indication that a megahouse is coming next door is when the lawn turns brown. That means the neighbor has stopped watering and green construction netting is about to go up.

via Chinese Home-Buying Binge Transforms California Suburb Arcadia – Businessweek.

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