Archive for ‘GDP’

25/05/2019

Across China: “Sino-British Street” seeks rejuvenation

SHENZHEN, May 25 (Xinhua) — A southern Chinese trade hub boasting special links with Hong Kong is hoping the enhanced efforts to build the g will revitalize its tourism industry and local economy.

Chung Ying Street, or “Sino-British Street,” straddles the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the mainland city of Shenzhen and has been a special zone where local residents from both sides are allowed to cross the border freely.

It was once a boomtown popular among mainland visitors, who entered with a special permit to snatch duty-free goods from Hong Kong, but fell into decline after travel to Hong Kong was made easier for mainlanders.

The street derived from a small village, which was divided by the “Sino-British” borderline after Hong Kong became a British colony in the 19th century.

Sha Jintao, a 73-year-old resident, remembers how the street became a boomtown as China opened up and tightened links between the mainland and Hong Kong.

“When I was a child, there were only a few farmers and fishermen living on the mainland side of the street, while the Hong Kong side bustled with shops and businesses,” Sha said.

But as Shenzhen rose as a forefront of China’s reform and opening up starting in the late 1970s, the street became the center of changes. New shops and factories propped up with the inflow of Hong Kong investments, and the fancy commodities from its Hong Kong stores wooed in large numbers of mainland tourists.

Historical records show the number of tourists flocking into the 250-meter-long street peaked at 100,000 a day in the 1980s. As many as 89 jewelry stores opened in its heyday and sold 5 tonnes of gold jewelry in half a year.

SURVIVAL CRISIS

The heyday was however short-lived. After Hong Kong returned to the motherland in 1997, the street began to lose its appeal, as shopping in Hong Kong was made much easier for mainland tourists. Its daily visitors dropped below 10,000 after 2003, when mainlanders were allowed to independently travel to Hong Kong.

Many stores closed due to a loss of customers, and some survived by selling fake jewelry, winning the street much notoriety, recalled Sha, who then headed the local neighborhood committee.

Sha said the ephemeral boom was limited to the era when most Chinese had limited access to the outside world, so as the country opened its door wider, the street’s function as a “window” faced an inevitable doom.

“Now with a smartphone, a consumer could easily buy goods from across the globe,” he said, referring to China’s cross-border e-commerce boom. “So if is just for the purpose of shopping, why take the trouble of traveling to the Chung Ying Street?”

The street is now more of a cultural site, dotted with relics and museums displaying its history, but locals are hopeful that the ongoing construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will usher in another golden era for their neighborhood.

China has planned to turn the greater bay area, which encompasses Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in Guangdong Province, into the world’s largest bay area in terms of GDP by 2030.

Earlier this month, the city government of Shenzhen said it will upgrade its ports with Hong Kong to boost the greater bay area development. The Shatoujiao Subdistrict, where the Chung Ying Street is located, was reserved for a new cooperation zone featuring tourism and consumption.

Optimism is running high in the community. New industries like artificial intelligence (AI), health and high-end shipping service have taken root in Yantian District, which administers Shatoujiao, and Sha is buzzing around to connect business people from Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

“Shatoujiao and its Chung Ying Street have boasted the one-of-the-kind advantage in Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation. We’ll work hard to turn the blueprint of the greater bay area into a reality here,” said Chen Qing, party secretary of Yantian.

Source: Xinhua

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10/03/2019

China’s wealthy families are turning to long holidays abroad as their efforts emigrate overseas are halted

  • Foreign lifestyle experiences are becoming more popular as citizens seek to escape pollution, food and medicine safety worries and authoritarian government controls
  • Citizens encountering more barriers to their dreams of travelling abroad, with severe limits on moving money overseas and restrictions on visiting foreign countries
Thailand, including the likes of Chiang Mai, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are popular destinations for Chinese families. Photo: Shutteratock
Thailand, including the likes of Chiang Mai, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are popular destinations for Chinese families. Photo: Shutteratock

Xu Zhangle and her husband and their two children are a typical middle-class couple from Shenzhen, and along with 60 other Chinese families, they are going on an extended holiday to Thailand in July, where they hope to enjoy an immigrant-like life experience.

The family have paid a travel agent around 50,000 yuan (US$7,473) for the stay in Chiang Mai in the mountainous north of the country, including transport, a three-week summer camp for their daughters at a local international school, rent for a serviced apartment and daily expenses.

Zhangle loves Chiang Mai’s relaxed lifestyle and easy atmosphere and wants to live as a local for a month or even longer, instead of having to rush through a short-term holiday.

“It would not be just [tourist] travelling but rather a life away from the mainland.” she said.

Recently, upper middle-class citizens have increased their efforts to safeguard their wealth and achieve more freedom by spending more time abroad.

They have invested considerable amounts of money in overseas properties and applied for long-stay visas, although many of their attempts have ended in failure.

Chinese citizens are encountering more barriers to their dreams of travelling abroad, with severe limits on moving money overseas and restrictions on visiting foreign countries.

Still, growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China.

Among the options, there is growing demand for sojourns abroad of a month or more, to enjoy a foreign lifestyle for a brief period to make up for the fact that their emigration dreams may have stalled.

“I think this is becoming a trend. Chinese middle-class families are facing increasing difficulties to emigrate and own homes overseas. On the other hand, they still yearn for more freedom, for a better quality of life than what is found in first-tier cities in China.

They are eager to seek alternatives to give themselves and their children a global lifestyle,” said Cai Mingdong, founder of Zhejiang Newway, an online tour and education operator in Ningbo, south of Shanghai.

“First, the availability of multiple-entry tourist visas and the sharp drop in air ticket prices have made it convenient and practical to stay abroad for from a few weeks to up to three months each year.”

Blacklist labels millions of Chinese citizens and businesses untrustworthy

Now, many well-to-do Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in a number of countries — including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries — for up to six months at a time.

“In 2011, a round-trip air ticket from Shanghai to New Zealand cost 14,000 yuan (US$2,000), but now is about 4,000 (US$598),” added Cai.

This opens up the possibility for many middle-class families who are not eligible to emigrate, to live abroad for short periods of time.

Many wealthy Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries, for up to six months at a time. Photo: AP
Many wealthy Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries, for up to six months at a time. Photo: AP

Chinese tourists made more than 140 million trips outside the country in 2018, a 13.5 per cent increase from the previous year, spending an estimated US$120 billion, according to the China Tourism Academy, an official research institute under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

“In [the Thai cities of] Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there are more and more Chinese who stay there to experience the local lifestyle, which is different from theirs in China. The life there is very different from that in China,” said Owen Zhu, who now lives in the Bangkok condo he bought last year.

“The freedom, culture and community are diversified. The quality of air, food and services are much higher than in first-tier cities in China, but the prices are more affordable.

“In Bangkok, in many international apartment complexes where foreigners live, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom [apartment] is about 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan.”

China’s richest regions are also home to the most blacklisted firms
A one-bedroom apartment in Shenzhen in southern China is twice as expensive, with rents continuing to rise rapidly.

There are global goods, and it is easy to socialise with different people from around the world,” Zhu added

“Many Chinese people around me, really, come to Thailand to live for a while and go back to China, but then come back again after a few months.”

Both Cai and Zhu said they discovered the new phenomenon among China’s middle class and decided it was a business opportunity.

Growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China. Photo: AP
Growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China. Photo: AP

Zhu is in the process of registering a company in Bangkok and plans to build an online platform to service the needs of Chinese citizens living abroad who do not own property or have immigration status, especially members of the LGBT community.

Cai said dozens of Chinese families in the Yangtze River Delta had paid him to send their children to schools in New Zealand or Europe for around three or four weeks in the middle of the school year, while the parents rent villas in the area, with New Zealand and Toronto in Canada among the most popular destinations.

Last year, Zheng Feng, a single mother and freelance writer from Beijing, rented a small villa in Australia for a month for them, a friend and their children to escape Beijing’s pollution and experience life overseas.

“To be honest, I don’t have enough money to invest in a property or a green card in Australia. But it’s very affordable for me and my son to pay about 30,000 yuan (US$4,484) to live abroad for one or two months.” Zheng said.

China says 2018 growth was worth more than Australia’s whole GDP

Zheng will join the Xu family in Chiang Mai later this year and she is also planning a similar trip to England next year.

Zheng’s friend, Alice Yu, invested in an American EB-5 investor visa a few years ago, and plans to make one or two month-long trips abroad each year until her family is finally able to move to the United States.

Demand for the EB-5 investor visa in China seems to be waning given heightened uncertainty about the future of the programme and US immigration law in general under US President Donald Trump.

Approval for the visa can now take up to 10 years, resulting in a huge backlog that has further dampened interest and led to a significant dip in investment inflows into the US from foreign individuals.

A one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around bout 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan a month. Photo: AFP
A one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around bout 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan a month. Photo: AFP

“Maybe it will soon become standard for a real Chinese middle-class family to have the time and money to enjoy a long stay at a countryside villa overseas,” said Yu.

“Regardless of whether we can get a long-term visa for the United States, I want my children grow up in a global lifestyle and with more freedom than just growing up on the mainland. So do all wealthy and middle class Chinese families, I think.”

Karen Gao’s son started studying at an international school in Chiang Mai in June, at the cost of about 70,000 yuan (US$10,462) a year, after she quit her job as a public relations manager in Shenzhen and moved to Thailand on a tourist visa.

For better or worse? China’s complicated employment explained

“A few months each year for good air, good food and no censorship and internet control, but cheaper living costs compared to Beijing, it sounds like a really good deal to go,” said Gao, who has now been offered a guardian visa to accompany her son, who has already been given a student visa.

“In Shenzhen, I wasn’t able to get him into school because I had no [local] residence permit.

“It would be the best choice for us because we feel so uncertain and worried about investing and living in the mainland.”

Last year, Gao, like thousands of other private investors mostly middle class people living in first-tier cities, suffered significant losses when their investments in hotels and inns in Dali, Yunnan province, were demolished amid the local government’s campaign to curb pollution and improve the environment around Lake Erhai.

“We were robbed by the officials without proper compensation,” Gao said.

Source: SCMP

10/03/2019

China central bank pledges more policy support as bank lending slides

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s central bank on Sunday pledged to further support the slowing economy by spurring loans and lowering borrowing costs, following data that showed a sharp drop in February’s bank lending due to seasonal factors.

The central bank is widely expected to ease monetary policy further this year to encourage lending especially to small and private firms vital for growth and job creation.

The central bank’s “prudent” monetary policy will emphasize on counter-cyclical adjustments, said People’s Bank of China (PBOC) Governor Yi Gang, using a phrase that implies the need to fight an economic slowdown.

“The global economy still faces some downward pressure and China faces many risks and challenges in its economy and financial sector,” Yi said at a press conference on the sidelines of the country’s annual meeting of parliament.

There is still some room for the PBOC to cut reserve requirement ratios (RRRs), although the amount of room is less compared with a few years ago, Yi said.

Chinese banks made 885.8 billion yuan ($131.81 billion) in net new yuan loans in February, down sharply from a record 3.23 trillion yuan in January, when several other key credit gauges also picked up modestly in response to the central bank’s policy easing.

Yi said combined January-February new loans and total social financing (TSF), a broad measure of credit and liquidity in the economy, could paint a more accurate picture as they showed a rise of 374.8 billion yuan and 1.05 trillion yuan from a year earlier, respectively.

DEBT DEFAULTS

Analysts say China needs to revive weak credit growth to help head off a sharper economic slowdown this year, but investors are worried about a further jump in corporate debt and the risk to banks as they relax their lending standards.

Corporate bond defaults hit a record last year, while banks’ non-performing loan ratio notched a 10-year high.

Pan Gongsheng, a vice governor at the PBOC, told the same briefing that China will control the amount of bond defaults in 2019, using both legal and market means.

Pan conceded that bond defaults increased last year, but the level of defaults was not high compared with China’s average bad loan ratio.

Premier Li Keqiang told parliament on Tuesday that monetary policy would be “neither too tight nor too loose”. Li also pledged to push for market-based reforms to lower real interest rates.

Chinese policymakers have repeatedly vowed not to open the credit floodgates in an economy already saddled with piles of debt – a legacy of massive stimulus during the global financial crisis in 2008-09 and subsequent downturns.

Sources have told Reuters the central bank is not ready to cut benchmark interest rates just yet, but is likely to cut market-based rates.

Yi said the downward trend in TSF has been initially curbed and broad M2 money supply growth will be more or less in line with nominal gross domestic product growth in 2019, Yi added.

Central bank data showed growth of outstanding TSF, a rough gauge of broad credit conditions, slowed to 10.1 percent in February from January’s 10.4 percent, versus a record low of 9.8 percent in December.

M2 money supply grew 8.0 percent in February from a year earlier, missing forecasts, the central bank data showed. Yi said China’s macro leverage ratio, or the amount of debt relative to GDP, was at 249.4 percent at the end of 2018, a fall of 1.5 percentage points from a year earlier, Yi said.
Analysts note there is a time lag before a jump in lending will translate into growth, suggesting business conditions may get worse before they get better.
Most economists expect a rocky first half before conditions begin to stabilize around mid-year as support measures begin to have a greater impact.
China’s economic growth is expected to cool to around 6.2 percent this year, a 29-year low, according to Reuters polls.
Growth slowed to 6.6 percent last year, with domestic demand curbed by higher borrowing rates and tighter credit conditions and exporters hit by the escalating trade war with the United States.
Source: Reuters
06/03/2019

China Focus: China to lower defense budget growth to 7.5 percent

BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) — China will lower its defense budget growth rate to 7.5 percent in 2019, from last year’s 8.1 percent, according to a draft budget report submitted to the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Tuesday.

The 2019 defense budget will be 1.19 trillion yuan (about 177.61 billion U.S. dollars), figures from the report show.

The rate marks the fourth straight year for the budgeted growth rate remaining single digit, following five consecutive years of double-digit increases.

China’s budgeted defense spending growth rate stood at 8.1 percent in 2018, 7 percent in 2017, and 7.6 percent in 2016.

“The Chinese government has always paid attention to controlling the scale of defense expenditure,” said He Lei, former deputy head of the Academy of Military Sciences.

Describing China’s defense budget increase as reasonable and appropriate, Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the legislative session, said the rise aimed to “meet the country’s demand in safeguarding national security and military reform with Chinese characteristics.”

“China’s limited defense spending, which is for safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, poses no threat to any other country,” Zhang said at a press conference Monday.

The expenditure has been mainly used for advancing defense and military reforms, supporting military training and diverse tasks, modernizing weapons and equipment, and improving welfare of service personnel, according to He, who is also a deputy to the NPC.

“The defense budget increase is appropriate against the backdrop of profound changes in the country’s overall strength, its security environment, and the global strategic situation,” He said.

China’s defense budget takes up a fairly small share of its GDP and national fiscal expenditure compared with other major countries, said He, noting that its military spending per capita and per soldier was also very low.

While the national defense spending in a number of major developed countries accounts for more than 2 percent of their GDP, the ratio was only about 1.3 percent for China in 2018.

The United States has increased its national defense expenditure for the fiscal year 2019 to 716 billion dollars, about four times the budget of China, the world’s second largest economy.

China’s military spending per capita is only about one-nineteenth of that of the United States.

“When it comes to whether a country poses a threat to other countries, the key is not that country’s national strength and armed forces, but the policies it adopts,” said Chen Zhou, research fellow with the Academy of Military Sciences.

“China has always been following the path of peaceful development and firmly adheres to a defense policy that is defensive in nature,” Chen said, noting that China’s development would not pose a threat to any other country.

He Lei highlighted China’s role in providing public security goods for the international community, saying the Chinese military had actively participated in UN peacekeeping missions, maintained security of marine passages, and engaged in international rescue and security cooperation.

“The growth in China’s defense spending is the growth of forces for world peace,” he noted.

Source: Xinhua

06/03/2019

Commentary: China’s strategic resolve of green development unshakable

BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) — Despite increasing downward pressure on its economy, China is assuring the world of its firm resolution in the pursuit of green development with concrete and self-motivated efforts.

For China, green development is a critical element of modernizing its economy. The country sticks to a new development vision that features innovative, coordinated, green and open development for the benefit of all.

It is not at the request of others, but on the country’s own initiative.

With a large population, China is facing increasing resource constraints, severe environmental pollution and a deteriorating ecosystem. People are becoming increasingly aware of environmental problems.

The country’s leadership has made it clear that China must win the battle to ensure blue skies and clean water and soil.

The battle will not be won easily.

Facing a complicated and challenging domestic and international environment of a kind rarely seen in many years, China has two options: lowering standards of environmental protection in launching new projects to stimulate growth; finding fundamental solutions to address pollution and build an ecological civilization that will benefit generations to come.

China’s choice and actions reassure those who may doubt its seriousness about green development.

When China says it “puts ecological protection first,” it is not just lip service.

This year, China will cut the energy consumption per unit of GDP by around 3 percent. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions will be cut by 3 percent, and there will be a continuous decline in PM2.5 density in key areas.

The central government will allocate 25 billion yuan (3.73 billion U.S. dollars) to prevent and control air pollution, an increase of 25 percent year on year, an evidence of the advantage of China’s governance system which can “concentrate resources to accomplish major undertakings.”

China will also strengthen green and environmental protection industries, and press ahead to conserve and restore the ecosystems of mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, farmland, and grassland.

Simple, moderate, green, and low-carbon ways of life are increasingly popular in China. It has become common sense among the public that “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets themselves.”

As a matter of fact, the country’s yearning for green growth, instead of dragging down the economy, will be a boon to the economy, for China and the rest of the world.

Chinese and foreign investors are embracing a new wave of opportunities in the market for environment-related products and services, such as thermal power and steel industry upgrading, the development of sewer networks and treatment facilities and the construction of eco-friendly buildings.

China is one of the first countries to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. China has pledged to halt the rise in carbon dioxide emissions by around 2030.

Among the essence of traditional Chinese thinking is the concept that man and nature form a community of life. Only by observing the laws of nature can mankind avoid costly blunders in its exploitation.

China has embarked on this bumpy but promising road. Marching toward an era of green development, there will be no turning back.

Source: Xinhua

24/02/2019

China’s military build-up just starting – a lot more to come, expert warns

  • Military watchers can expect ‘something new’ at this year’s National Day parade in October, Professor Jin Canrong tells forum in Hong Kong
  • As tensions rise over Taiwan, Beijing is building a naval and missile force as powerful as any in the world, he says

Beijing’s military build-up just starting – a lot more to come, expert warns

24 Feb 2019

Submarine arms race seen heating up in Indo-Pacific amid China ‘threat’

16 Feb 2019

The US could send more nuclear attack submarines, such as the Virginia-class, to the region. Photo: AFP
Military vehicles carrying DF-16 ballistic missiles take part in China’s National Day parade. Taiwan says Beijing has such missiles trained on the self-ruled island. Photo: Handout
Military vehicles carrying DF-16 ballistic missiles take part in China’s National Day parade. Taiwan says Beijing has such missiles trained on the self-ruled island. Photo: Handout

Beijing will show the world “something new” when it rolls out its arsenal of short- to medium-range ballistic missiles at its National Day military parade in October, according to a Chinese expert on international relations.

Speaking at a seminar at the University of Hong Kong on Saturday, Professor Jin Canrong, associate dean of the school of international studies at Renmin University in Beijing, said China had made great strides in expanding its military capability, but there was a lot more to come.

US commander pushes for more funding to counter China’s influence in Indo-Pacific

While he did not elaborate on what the “something new” might be, he said the country was gearing up for a possible conflict over Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing regards as a wayward province awaiting reunification.

Over the next five or 10 years, Taiwan could provide the “biggest uncertainty” for Beijing, he said, especially if the United States decided to “ignite” the situation.

Known for being outspoken on sensitive issues, Jin said that while Beijing wanted a peaceful reunification, it was wary of “pro-independence factions [on the island] and right-wing American [politicians] creating trouble”.

In a speech on January 2 to mark the 40th anniversary of Beijing’s call to end military confrontation across the Taiwan Strait, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “the political division across the strait … cannot be passed on from generation to generation”, apparently signalling his determination to bring it to an end.

Xi said China would not abandon the use of force in reunifying Taiwan, but stressed the military would target only external elements and those seeking independence for the island.

In 2017, Taipei said that it had detected the deployment of DF-16 ballistic missiles on the mainland that were aimed at Taiwan.

Jin said China was rapidly expanding its missile capabilities. The People’s Liberation Army had already stockpiled about 3,000 short- and medium-range missiles, he said, even though it had been using just 15 per cent of its production capacity.

“Just imagine if we were running at 100 per cent,” he said.

Beijing will show the world “something new” when it rolls out its ballistic missiles at its National Day military parade in October, an expert says. Photo: Xinhua
Beijing will show the world “something new” when it rolls out its ballistic missiles at its National Day military parade in October, an expert says. Photo: Xinhua

Under its plan for military modernisation China had achieved “great advancements in space, electronics and cyberwarfare”, the academic said, but its achievements to date were only the beginning.

As well as the expansion of its missile force, Beijing was investing heavily in its navy, he said.

Is China about to abandon its ‘no first use’ nuclear weapons policy?

With the deployment of the new Type 055 guided-missile destroyer – which some Chinese military experts have said is as good as anything in the US Navy – the balance of power was shifting, he said.

“For the first time in 500 years, the East has combat equipment that is at least as good as the West’s.”

With the deployment of the new Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, the balance of power between China and the US is shifting, according to Jin Canrong. Photo: Handout
With the deployment of the new Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, the balance of power between China and the US is shifting, according to Jin Canrong. Photo: Handout

And as the navy continued to modernise and expand, the US might be forced to rethink its position in the region, he said.

“When we have dozens of destroyers and four or five [aircraft] carriers the US will not be able to meddle in Taiwan.”

China’s first aircraft carrier may become test bed for electromagnetic warplane launcher

Jin said that China would also soon have all the scientific, academic and research personnel it needed to achieve its military ambitions.

“China had nearly 30 million university students in 2018, which is twice as many as the US. More than half of them are studying science or engineering,” he said.

“Every year we produce about 4 million science and engineering graduates, while America produces just 440,000.”

Professor Jin Canrong speaks at a forum in Hong Kong. Photo: Handout
Professor Jin Canrong speaks at a forum in Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

Beijing also had the money to support its plans, Jin said. Based on his own calculations, he said China allocated about 1.4 per cent of its gross domestic product to military spending, which was lower than “Germany’s 1.5 per cent”, and less than half the “3 per cent in Britain and France”.

“The tax paid by Chinese smokers is more than enough to cover [the country’s] military expenses,” Jin said.

According to figures from Nato, Britain spent 2.1 of its GDP on defence in 2017, France 1.8 per cent and Germany 1.2 per cent. Both the World Bank and the United Nations put China’s military spending in 2017 at 1.9 per cent of its GDP.

Source: SCMP

15/02/2016

Home on the Range, Chinese Style – China Real Time Report – WSJ

It’s a small step in the right direction, driven more by necessity than enlightened policy.

That’s the view from economists on China’s move this year to put forward a range for its economic growth target rather than a single number. The head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, said early this month that the 2016 target is likely to be “6.5% to 7%,” the first time in recent memory that China has used such a band. The target is set to be officially released early next month when China’s parliament convenes.

For decades, Beijing beat its annual growth targets without breaking a sweat. More recently, as growth decelerated faster than expected, it has faced growing difficulty hitting its number, so a range provides more wiggle room.

This follows Beijing’s decision to add an “about” to both its 7.5% target in 2014 and its 7% target last year. The adjective proved handy when the actual growth figures wound up falling short both times.

The risk this year, economists say, is that even a 6.5% to 7% target may be too high, heaping pressure on local officials to artificially stimulate growth in ways that increase debt and blunt reform initiatives.

This is also the year that China sets a growth target for the coming five years that’s expected to be 6.5%, in line with a Communist Party goal of doubling per capita income by 2020 over 2010 levels. This benchmark also may be high, analysts said, given China’s many structural problems and so-far limited appetite for reform.

“If they really stick to the 6.5% target by adopting unsustainable policies, throwing up more credit, they face a bigger problem with debt down the road,” said Fitch Ratings Inc. analyst Andrew Colquhoun. “Many emerging market problems in the past have happened when countries veer off and start to believe their own hype on what growth is possible.”

Source: Home on the Range, Chinese Style – China Real Time Report – WSJ

08/02/2016

GDP data to show economy racing, realities less rosy | Reuters

India will release data on Monday showing it remains one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but economists are struggling to reconcile that rosy picture with ground realities like weak exports, investment, and flat corporate order books.

Labourers works at the construction site of a residential building in Mumbai, India, February 4, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade

The median estimate from a Reuters poll of economists put GDP annual growth at 7.3 percent in the quarter through December, just below 7.4 percent in July-September.

If the data comes in line with expectations, it would be faster than 6.8 percent growth posted by China in the same quarter.

However, very few economists are ready to take the official data at face value, reckoning that it overestimates the pace of expansion in Asia’s third-largest economy.

“There are inconsistencies between the picture presented by new GDP series and many other tried and trusted real activity indicators,” said Rupa Rege Nitsure, group chief economist, L&T Finance Holdings, Mumbai.

Until a year ago, India was struggling to break out of the longest stretch of below 5 percent growth in a quarter of a century. But a change made a year ago to the method GDP is calculated transformed the lumbering South Asian giant overnight into one of the fastest growing major economies.

Yet, merchandise exports have been falling for the past 13 months. Rural spending is subdued on weak wage growth and two successive droughts.

Corporate order books are flat. While finished goods inventory to sales ratio is showing no improvement, raw material inventory to sales ratio has worsened.

With factories running nearly 30 percent below their capacity, firms are not in a hurry to invest in new plants and machinery. Festering problem of bad loans, meanwhile, has impeded credit flow and delayed full transmission of interest rate cuts.

There are some encouraging signs, however. Robust growth in indirect tax receipts suggest a nascent revival in manufacturing sector. Foreign direct investment is up. Low inflation, thanks largely to a crash in global commodity prices, has helped bolster urban demand.

Source: GDP data to show economy racing, realities less rosy | Reuters

28/01/2016

Grossly Deceptive Plans (GDP) | The Economist

ON JANUARY 19th China declared that its gross domestic product had grown by 6.9% in 2015, accounting for inflation—the slowest rate in a quarter of a century.

It was neatly within the government’s target of “around 7%”, but many economists wondered whether the figure was accurate. Online chatter in China about dodgy GDP numbers was fuelled a week later by the arrest of the man who had announced the data: Wang Baoan, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics. The country’s anti-graft agency accused him of “serious disciplinary violations”, a euphemism for corruption. But beyond all the (justifiable) doubts about the figures lies another important question. That is: why does China have a GDP target at all?

It is the only large industrial country that sets one. Normally central banks declare specific goals for things like inflation or unemployment. The idea that a government should aim for a particular rate of output expansion, and steer the economy to achieve that, is unusual. In the case of China, which is trying to wean its economy off excessive reliance on GDP-boosting (but often wasteful and debt-fuelling) investment, it is risky. It is inconsistent with the government’s own oft-repeated mantra that it is the quality of growth that matters, not the quantity.

In the past, setting a target may not have made much difference. For all but three of the years between 1992 and 2015, China’s growth was above target, often by a big margin. A rare period when targets seemed to affect the way officials tried to manage the economy was from 2008 to 2009, when growth fell sharply (see chart). It would be hard to argue that targets themselves have been responsible for China’s overall (impressive) record of growth in recent decades.

Now, however, the economy is slowing. This is inevitable: double-digit growth is no longer achievable except at dangerous cost (total debt was nearly 250% of GDP in the third quarter of 2015). But the government is worried that the economy may slow too fast, and that this could cause a destabilising surge in unemployment. So it has been ramping up investment again, and goading local governments to do the same by setting a high growth target.

For a while there were signs that the leadership itself had doubts about the merits of GDP target-setting. In 2013 Xinhua, an official news agency, decried what it called the country’s “GDP obsession”. By the next year, 70 or so counties and cities had scrapped their targets. In 2015 Shanghai joined them, becoming the first big city to break with orthodoxy (each level of government sets its own GDP target, often higher than the national one). Liu Qiao of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University says the central government ought to follow suit.

Last year there were hints that it might. The prime minister, Li Keqiang, said the government would not “defend [the target for 2015] to the death”. And in October, talking about the government’s work on a new five-year economic plan (which will run from 2016 to 2020), President Xi Jinping avoided mentioning a number. That raised expectations that targets might at least be downplayed, if not abandoned.

They have not been, however. An outline of the five-year plan, unveiled in November, contained the usual emphasis on growth. And Mr Xi appeared to change his tune, saying expansion must average at least 6.5% a year until 2020. Many economists believe that will require yet more debt-inducing stimulus. A GDP target for this year is all but certain to be announced, as usual, at the annual session of the legislature in March (when the five-year plan will also be adopted). It will probably be higher than 6%. Speculation that the government might set a target range in order to give itself more policymaking flexibility (as the IMF and the World Bank have urged) has ebbed. In December some national legislators complained that local governments were busting their debt ceilings because there was “still too much emphasis on GDP”.

So why is there still a target? The reasons are political. In a country so large, central leaders are always fearful of losing their grip on far-flung bureaucrats: setting GDP targets is one means by which they believe they can evaluate and control those lower down. Local officials are also judged by environmental standards, social policies and what the Communist Party calls “virtue”—that is, being uncorrupt and in tune with the party’s latest interpretation of Marxist doctrine. But GDP is usually the most important criterion, having the attraction of being (roughly) measurable.

Source: Grossly Deceptive Plans | The Economist

15/10/2015

Nobel Prize Winner Angus Deaton on the Chinese and Indian Miracles – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Angus Deaton, the economist who won a Nobel Prize this week, has spent much of his career trying to measure poverty and progress in India and China.

He won the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences award in economics by devising systems to understand consumption and poverty using household surveys and number crunching.

“Deaton’s focus on household surveys has helped transform development economics from a theoretical field based on aggregate data to an empirical field based on detailed individual data,” the academy said.

His decadeslong deep dive into data on the poor, their spending habits and their health gave him a surprisingly upbeat assessment of human progress, largely owed to the great strides that have been made in China and India. His book, “The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality,” documented why the world is a better place to live than it used to be.

A recent World Bank report suggested that more than one billion people might have been lifted out of extreme poverty already this century. Most of that progress was in China and India.

Here are a few of the things Mr. Deaton said in his book about the massive shifts in China and India that are changing the world.

On what China and India have taught us … “China and India are the success stories; rapid growth in large countries is an engine that can make a colossal dent in world poverty.”

On infant mortality in India and China … “India’s decline in infant mortality has been remarkably steady–not at all responsive to changes in the rate of growth–and the absolute decline from 165 out of every 1,000 babies dying in the early 1950s to 53 in 2005-10, is actually larger in absolute numbers than the decline in China, from 122 to 22.”

On how Chinese and Indian bodies have evolved with the economy… “Indian children are still among the skinniest and shortest on the planet but they are taller and plumper than were their parents or grandparents … Indians too are now growing taller decade by decade, though not as quickly as happened in Europe, or indeed as is now happening in China, where people are growing at about (the now familiar figure of) a centimeter every decade. Yet the Indian escape is only half as fast–about half a centimeter a decade–and that figure is for men; Indian women are growing too, but at a much slower rate, so that it takes them sixty years to grow a centimeter.”

On a better measure showing how China and India have lifted the world … “Although China and India are only two countries, their rapid growth at the end of the century meant that around 40% of the world’s population lived in countries that were growing very rapidly … (Thus) the average country grew at 1.5% a year in the half century after 1960, but the average person lived in a country that was growing at 3%.”

On how long the miracle can continue …  “At least over the past half-century the fast-growing countries in one decade have tended not to repeat their performance in the next or subsequent decades. Japan used to be the place that had perpetually high growth, until it didn’t any more. India, now one of the most rapidly growing countries, seemed capable of only slow growth for much of its existence, not to speak of the half-century that preceded its independence, when there was no growth at all. China is the current long-run superstar, but by historical standards the longevity of its growth spurt is extremely unusual.”

On the difficulty of defining poverty …  “In India, as in any country where a substantial fraction of the population is poor, there are millions of people who are close to poverty, either just above or just below the line … We don’t really know where the line should be, yet its precise position makes a huge difference. To put it more brutally, the truth is that we have little idea what we are doing.”

Source: Nobel Prize Winner Angus Deaton on the Chinese and Indian Miracles – China Real Time Report – WSJ