Posts tagged ‘chinese new year’

26/01/2017

Chinese man cycles 500km in wrong direction to get home – BBC News

The milk of human kindness flows through the veins of Chinese policemen.

“A man hoping to cycle home cross-country for Chinese New Year realised 30 days into his trip that he had been travelling in the wrong direction.

The young migrant worker from China was aiming for his home in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province, after setting off from Rizhao – over 1,700km away.

But he was stopped by traffic police 500km off course, in the central Chinese province of Anhui.

When they found out, the police paid for a train ticket to get him home.

The man had set off from Rizhao, in Shandong province, in December.

A report from the People’s Online Daily said the man had been living in internet cafes and was low on funds.

But he was determined to make it home so he chose to cycle the route.

The unnamed man could not read maps, meaning he had to rely on others for directions.

Police stopped him when he was riding on a highway, which cannot be used by cyclists.

After discovering his mistake, both police and people working at the toll station he was stopped at contributed to his ticket home.”

Source: Chinese man cycles 500km in wrong direction to get home – BBC News

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06/10/2016

Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

At a time of Brexit and talk of a wall between the United States and Mexico, it seems the Chinese are embracing international engagement.

They think their country’s power is rising, that their living standards will keep improving, that corruption is being cleaned up and that air pollution should be fixed even if it means slowing down economic growth.

These are the views which have emerged from a broad survey from Washington-based the Pew Research Center.

Elsewhere there is fear and uncertainty. Here optimism trumps all.

When asked about economic globalisation, 60% of people said it is a good thing and only 23% think it is bad for China.

While some China watchers are warning that this country’s mounting local government debt could mean that a hard landing is on the way, Chinese people don’t appear to share this pessimism.

Nearly 90% of respondents amongst this group of 3,154, interviewed face-to-face in China earlier this year, think that the state of their country’s economy is either “very good” or “somewhat good”.

GETTY IMAGES – Chinese people seem to remain optimistic

Looking into the future things will apparently get even better: 76% of people think the economy will improve over the next 12 months, 70% said their personal financial situation will improve and eight out of 10 people believe that their children will have a better standard of living than they do.

Bread and butter issues

It’s not that people are without concerns.

“Corrupt officials” is at the top of the table when it comes to people’s worries (83% said this was a “very big” or “moderately big” problem) and yet here too we see optimism.

Some 64% of them said that President Xi Jinping‘s massive anti-corruption drive would improve the situation over the next five years.

Running down the concern list, an alarmingly high number of people see income inequality and the safety of food and medicine as “very big” problems.

This should give the Chinese Communist Party pause for concern.

If you enjoy monopoly power on the basis that you are delivering “socialism with Chinese characteristics” then a small group of ultra-rich driving around in their sports cars and showing off their wealth while most struggle to pay the rent is surely at odds with your central message.

Then, if ordinary Chinese people can’t even trust the food and medicine they are giving their children, the possibility for social unrest over bread and butter issues is looming large.

The environment also emerges as a massive challenge with water and air pollution at the front of people’s minds.

Air pollution is so bad in China that half of those polled said their country should fight air pollution harder even if it means sacrificing economic growth.

GETTY IMAGES – Emissions from coal-powered industries, cars and heating systems generate the smog

Only 24% saw air deterioration as a necessary price to pay.

When it comes to the war of ideas in the top echelons of power here, those ministers in favour of tougher environmental protection measures could do worse than table this research.

A “major threat” to China?

The South China Sea and other geo-strategic tensions offer some of the most bleak opinions.

Nearly six out of 10 people think that territorial pressures with neighbours could lead to military conflict; 77% say their way of life needs to be protected from “foreign influence” (up by 13 percentage points since 2002) and only 22% say China should help other nations.

Regarding relations with rival superpower the United States people views are complex and, at times, seemingly contradictory.

Around half of Chinese respondents rated the US favourably but more than half think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power.

About 45% said that US power and influence poses a “major threat” to China. In fact the US came in at number one as the top international threat to the country.

GETTY IMAGES – More than half of Chinese people think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power

It’s interesting that some would see the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot to Asia” as a greater threat than say jihadist extremist groups just across the western border promoting bloody conflict in China’s vast Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Either way, whatever the perceived threat, China is seen as becoming ever more important and with ever more power at its disposal.Information is being controlled here ever more tightly – whether it is coming from the traditional media or sources online – so some analysts will see these views as the inevitable result of messages being delivered to the Chinese people by their government.

This may the be case but, in a world where politicians in various countries are accused of exploiting people’s fear and insecurity, could it be that a quarter of the globe’s population are going around with a smile on their dial because every day they look out the window and to them it just gets better and better?

Source: Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

01/04/2016

Beware the cult of Xi | The Economist

Xi Jinping is stronger than his predecessors. His power is damaging the country

“IF OUR party can’t even handle food-safety issues properly, and keeps on mishandling them, then people will ask whether we are fit to keep ruling China.” So Xi Jinping warned officials in 2013, a year after he became the country’s leader. It was a remarkable statement for the chief of a Communist Party that has always claimed to have the backing of “the people”. It suggested that Mr Xi understood how grievances about official incompetence and corruption risked boiling over. Mr Xi rounded up tens of thousands of erring officials, waging a war on corruption of an intensity not seen since the party came to power in 1949. Many thought he was right to do so.

Today, however, China is enduring its biggest public-health scandal in years. Tens of millions of dollars-worth of black-market, out-of-date and improperly stored vaccines have been sold to government health centres, which have in turn been making money by selling them to patients.

Mr Xi’s anti-graft war has often made little difference to ordinary people. Their life—and health—is still blighted by corruption. In recent days there have also been signs of discontent with Mr Xi among the elite: official media complaining openly about reporting restrictions, a prominent businessman attacking him on his microblog, a senior editor resigning in disgust.

Mr Xi has acquired more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. It was supposed to let him get things done. What is going wrong?

Credibility gap

In fairness, Mr Xi was bound to meet with hostility. Many officials are angry because he has ripped up the compact by which they have operated and which said that they could line their pockets, so long as corruption was not flagrant and they did their job well. But Mr Xi has also found that the pursuit of power is all-consuming: it does not leave room for much else. In three and a half years in charge, he has accumulated titles at an astonishing pace. He is not only party leader, head of state and commander-in-chief, but is also running reform, the security services and the economy. In effect, the party’s hallowed notion of “collective” leadership (see article) has been jettisoned.

Mr Xi is, one analyst says, “Chairman of Everything”. At the same time, he has flouted the party’s ban on personality cults, introduced in 1982 to prevent another episode of Maoist madness. Official media are filled with fawning over “Uncle Xi” and his wife, Peng Liyuan, a folk-singer whom flatterers call “Mama Peng”. A video, released in March, of a dance called “Uncle Xi in love with Mama Peng” has already been viewed over 300,000 times. There have been rumours recently that Mr Xi feels some of this has been going a bit far. Some of the most toadying videos, such as “The east is red again” (comparing Mr Xi to Mao), have been scrubbed from the internet. Many would take that as a sign that the personality cult is little more than harmless fun.

Mr Xi is no Mao, whose tyrannical nature and love of adulation were so great that he blithely led the country into the frenzy and violence of the Cultural Revolution. Although some older Chinese squirm at a style of politics so reminiscent of days long past, there is no suggestion that China is on the brink of another such horror.

More …

No liberal, Xi

More …

Source: Beware the cult of Xi | The Economist

18/03/2016

Here comes the modern Chinese consumer – McKinsey & Co

Despite concerns about economic growth, the country’s consumers keep spending. Yet our latest survey reveals changes in what they’re buying and how they’re buying it.

Cooling economic growth, a depreciating currency, and a gyrating stock market are making political and business leaders concerned that China’s economic dream may be ending. Yet Chinese consumers remain upbeat. In fact, consumer confidence has been surprisingly resilient over the past few years as salaries have continued to rise and unemployment has stayed low.

 

However, our latest survey of Chinese consumers reveals significant change lurks beneath the surface. Reflecting 10,000 in-person interviews with people aged 18 to 56 across 44 cities, our 2016 China consumer report found that the days of broad-based market growth are coming to an end. Consumers are becoming more selective about where they spend their money, shifting from products to services and from mass to premium segments. They are seeking a more balanced life where health, family, and experiences take priority. The popularity of international travel is astounding among Chinese consumers, as is their adoption of trends such as mobile payments. And despite many similarities, consumer behavior can vary significantly among the country’s 22 city clusters.

In short, our latest research suggests we are witnessing the modernization of the Chinese consumer, and that will only make the market more challenging for consumer-goods companies. But for those able to get it right, the rewards may be substantial. In this article, we’ll examine the evolving behavior of Chinese consumers through three lenses: how willing they are to spend, what they are buying, and where they are buying.

How willing they are to spend

When asked about their expectations regarding future income, 55 percent of consumers we interviewed were confident their income would increase significantly over the next five years—just two percentage points lower than in 2012. (By comparison, just 32 percent of consumers in the United States and 30 percent in the United Kingdom agreed with the same statement in 2011.)

That’s not to say that Chinese consumers are unaware of the deteriorating condition of the economy. A growing number are seeking to save and invest, and we found differences in consumer confidence widening at a regional level. While confidence about income growth during the next five years rose to 70 percent in the Xiamen–Fuzhou city cluster, for example, it decreased to as little as 35 percent in Liao Central.

What they are buying

We found that consumers are generally becoming more selective about their spending. They are allocating more of their income to lifestyle services and experiences—over half plan to spend more on leisure and entertainment (the 50 percent surge in box-office receipts in the past year is just one indicator of that trend). At the same time, spending on food and beverages for home consumption is stagnating or even declining.

Chinese consumers are also increasingly trading up from mass products to premium products: we found that 50 percent now seek the best and most expensive offering, a significant increase over previous years. It’s no surprise that the growth of premium segments is outpacing that of the mass and value segments, and foreign brands still hold a leadership position in that premium market. What’s more, a rising proportion of Chinese consumers focus on a few brands, and some are becoming loyal to single brands. The number of consumers willing to switch to a brand outside their “short list” dropped sharply. In apparel, for instance, the number of consumers willing to consider a brand they hadn’t before dropped from about 40 percent in 2012 to just below 30 percent in 2015.

Becoming part of the closed set of the few brands that consumers consider, or even the one brand that consumers prefer, is increasingly challenging. Fewer consumers are open to new brands, and promotions are becoming less effective at encouraging consumers to consider them.

With a few notable exceptions, such as Huawei’s growing share of the premium-smartphone market, Chinese brands have not gained much traction in many premium segments, such as skincare, cars, sports, and fashion. That contrasts starkly with the mass segment of the market, where local brands are winning market share from foreign incumbents by offering a much stronger product proposition.

Where they are buying

Although China is the world’s largest e-commerce market—generating revenue of about 4 trillion renminbi ($615 billion) last year, around the same as Europe and the United States combined—and consumers increasingly purchase online, physical stores remain important. Consumers engage with brands both online and offline, and satisfaction with physical stores remains higher than with online ones. But the gap is narrowing, especially as satisfaction with hypermarkets declines.

One trend that is helping maintain interest in physical stores is “retailtainment.” Two-thirds of Chinese consumers say that shopping is the best way to spend time with family, an increase of 21 percent compared with three years ago. Malls—which combine shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences the entire family can enjoy—have benefited most from this trend, at the expense of big-box retail outlets such as department stores and hypermarkets.

Consumers also reinforce family ties through travel: 74 percent of consumers say it helps them to better connect with family, and 45 percent of international trips were taken with family in 2015, compared with 39 percent in 2012. More than 70 million Chinese consumers traveled overseas in 2015, making 1.5 trips on average, and shopping is integral to this experience. Some 80 percent of consumers have made overseas purchases, and nearly 30 percent actually base their choice of a travel destination on shopping opportunities. Among international travelers, around half of their watch and handbag purchases are made overseas, while apparel and cosmetics are the most frequently purchased categories.

Overall, Chinese consumers are adopting new products, services, and retail experiences at rates unseen in developed markets. To take one example, mobile-payment penetration in China went from zero in 2011 to 25 percent of the population in 2015. At the same time, there are still differences in how Chinese consumers in various regions spend. While new highways, high-speed-rail links, and mobile Internet access have strengthened connectivity between neighboring clusters over the past few years, we found that differences across the country’s 22 geographic clusters1have grown even more pronounced. For instance, 35 percent of consumers in the Shanghai city cluster have purchased apparel online in the past six months, compared with just 4 percent of consumers in the Chengdu city cluster.

The Chinese consumer is evolving. Gone are the days of indiscriminate spending on products. The focus is shifting to prioritizing premium products and living a more balanced, healthy, and family-centric life. Understanding and responding to these changes in spending habits will be decisive in determining the companies that win or lose, whether international or domestic competitors. And while scale, speed, and simplicity proved advantageous in the past 15 to 20 years, the changing shape of Chinese consumption seems sure to topple some giants of the past and elevate new champions. Which will your company be?

Source: http://www.mckinsey.com/Industries/Retail/Our-Insights/Here-comes-the-modern-Chinese-consumer?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1603

05/03/2016

The Limits of Growth: Economic Headwinds Inform China’s Latest Military Budget – China Real Time Report – WSJ

With an official defense budget increase of 7.6% to 954 billion yuan ($147 billion) announced today, Beijing’s quest to restore China’s historic “greatness” and to attain international status as a military power commensurate with its economic standing continues.

Yet with GDP growth slowing and social and demographic headwinds mounting, Chinese leaders face increasingly difficult tradeoffs concerning how to allocate government largesse.

With Beijing’s 2016 official defense budget, it is clear that even military spending is not immune to China’s economic and fiscal realities. Advance reports that this year’s official budget would entail an increase of as much as 20% proved significantly off-the-mark. So, what’s in a number? Nothing short of this: Beijing’s latest defense spending figure provides further evidence that it is determined to avoid succumbing to Soviet-style military overextension – yet it remains committed to enhancing capabilities to further its priorities, especially vis-à-vis contested island and maritime claims in the East and South China Seas.

Make no mistake: drawing on the world’s second-largest (and growing) economy, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly well-endowed and capable of asserting China’s regional interests. Even as GDP growth continues to slow, President Xi Jinping appears determined to order, and fund, ambitious military modernization and PLA reforms. The PLA is now far-and-away the world’s second best-resourced military and, unlike the globally-distributed and -deployed U.S. military, is focused overwhelmingly on its immediate neighborhood.

Source: The Limits of Growth: Economic Headwinds Inform China’s Latest Military Budget – China Real Time Report – WSJ

 

05/03/2016

China Sets Economic Growth Target of 6.5% to 7% for 2016 – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China has set an economic growth target of between 6.5% and 7% for 2016 and an average of at least 6.5% over the next five years, goals that acknowledge slowing momentum in the world’s second-largest economy but which still could be difficult to reach.

As WSJ’s Mark Magnier reports:

By adopting a range for the first time in two decades, China has given itself more flexibility in a system where hitting goals set far in advance, regardless of conditions on the ground, remains politically important.

The targets released here on Saturday at the opening of the National People’s Congress, China’s annual parliament, weren’t a surprise given that senior officials from President Xi Jinping on down had flagged them in recent months.

But they underscore that the government continues to prioritize stability, as output in the world’s second-largest economy downshifts faster than expected.

Last year, China’s economy grew 6.9%, its slowest pace in 25 years, compared with the 2015 target of about 7%. This year could bring a new quarter-century low, as traditional growth engines continue to lose traction.

Source: China Sets Economic Growth Target of 6.5% to 7% for 2016 – China Real Time Report – WSJ

02/03/2016

Today’s ‘Kings Without Crowns?’ — The Growing Powers of Xi’s Party Disciplinarians – China Real Time Report – WSJ

After hunting corrupt cadres over the past three years, the Communist Party’s much-feared graftbusters are switching gears to political policing.

In the process, they have emerged with an authority perhaps unparalleled since ancient China.

With President Xi Jinping’s blessing, the already-powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is stationing inspectors in all central party and government departments, extending its reach into the top echelons of China’s bureaucracy.

In addition to targeting graft and waste, the CCDI has also become a kind of thought police for officials, academics and propagandists. Its inspectors are increasingly denouncing those deemed disloyalty to the party leadership.

The agency’s expanded scope reminded the Procuratorial Daily (in Chinese), a newspaper run by China’s top prosecutorial agency, of how Ming Dynasty rulers in the 14th century fortified a body of imperial censors who hunted errant officials in the name of the emperor.

Embedded in the Ming court’s six ministries, the censors could make direct representations to the emperor, despite their relatively junior rank, and assist the monarch in administrative tasks.

“But their most important power was to inspect the six ministries and impeach ministers,” the newspaper said. “It was this special status that made them ‘kings without crowns’ in the Ming Dynasty court.”

Recent developments, legal experts say, suggest that Mr. Xi is transforming the agency from a party watchdog into an arm of government.

“In effect, Xi Jinping is creating a parallel bureaucracy that can go around existing party and government institutions, to make things happen,” said Carl Minzner, a law professor at Fordham University who studies the Chinese legal system.

Disciplinary inspectors have also found a role in imposing party ideology beyond the traditional corridors of power.

Source: Today’s ‘Kings Without Crowns?’ — The Growing Powers of Xi’s Party Disciplinarians – China Real Time Report – WSJ

21/02/2016

Xi takes nuclear option in bid to rule for life | The Sunday Times

Very worrying, if true.

CHINA is moving towards one-man rule as the state media step up demands for personal loyalty to President Xi Jinping, a departure from the Communist party’s collective leadership of recent decades.

Xi Jinping appears to be building a personality cult around him as Mao did

Last week the party’s flagship newspaper issued a call for Xi to have the power to “remake the political landscape of China”. The article, supposedly written by one of a literary group, was put out on a social media account run by the People’s Daily. It said all communists must be loyal to Xi and “line up with the leadership”.

The campaign to enshrine Xi as the infallible “core” of authority is worrying many inside the political elite and coincides with China exerting its military muscle and possibly preparing to change its nuclear weapons strategy.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has just stationed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea. The Chinese expansion comes as Barack Obama rallies Asian nations to support free navigation in the strategic waterway. The prospect of one man dominating the party, the state and the army in China could be the most challenging test in the next American president’s in-tray.

Xi’s grand plans include a total reorganisation of the Chinese military command structure that has included an internal debate about its nuclear weapons. Xi recently formed a dedicated PLA rocket force to control the nuclear ballistic missile arsenal. A report for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US-based group, says China may be considering placing its nuclear forces on alert, which means that, like America and Britain, its weapons would be ready to fire on command.

That would be a shift of position for a nation that affirms it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in any conflict. China has already started an ambitious programme to upgrade its older missiles with multiple warheads like those of other nuclear powers.

Rising military budgets show that despite the slower Chinese economy and big flows of capital out of the country, Xi is seizing any initiative to turn nationalism to his advantage. A source who grew up in the party’s privileged residential compounds in Beijing said the moves harked back to an earlier era: “There is a fear among the families, the long-time party members for generations, that this guy wants to make himself into another Chairman Mao and rule for life.”

It is clear that, like Mao, Xi, 62, is using articles and essays in the state media, often penned by pseudonymous authors or published in the provinces, to intimidate his enemies and promote himself.

Last week a social media platform controlled by the Beijing Daily, the voice of the capital’s municipal committee, launched a striking attack on a party faction opposed to Xi, the Communist Youth League. Officials connected to the league were “ambitious aristocrats whose self-serving attitude did no good to the party and led to scandals”, it sneered.

Targeting the league — whose members include the prime minister, Li Keqiang, and the former president, Hu Jintao — is a signal that Xi has broken with the consensus set after the unrest of 1989 that the party’s factions do not attack one another in public. In the past, a league connection meant a fast-track to promotion for young high-flyers. Now it seems to be a liability.

A study by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection — the party watchdog unleashed by Xi against rivals accused of corruption — has criticised the “mentality” of league members. The commission’s propaganda publication, the China Discipline Inspection Paper, warned against “those who form their own circles inside the party” and referred to fallen officials as “gangs”.

This Mao-era language singled out the “petroleum gang” under the purged security chief, Zhou Yongkang, whose cronies dominated the Chinese oil industry, and the “secretary gang” around Ling Jihua, a close aide to Hu and a former league stalwart. Ling is already under arrest on corruption and bribery charges.

Defining people as members of “gangs” or “cliques” is a classic tactic of communist infighting and a prelude to destroying them.

Chilled by the signals from the top, half the provincial party chiefs in the country this month pledged allegiance to Xi as “the core”.

The term represents a significant change from the language used about Xi’s predecessors, Hu and Jiang Zemin, who were referred to as being only “at the core” of a collective leadership. The last strongman in China, Deng Xiaoping, exercised his power behind the scenes and scorned a cult of personality.”

Source: Xi takes nuclear option in bid to rule for life | The Sunday Times

16/02/2016

First train from China to Iran stimulates Silk Road revival – Xinhua | English.news.cn

First cargo train from China to Iran arrived in Tehran on Monday, indicating a milestone in reviving the “Silk Road,” which has opened a new chapter of win-win cooperation between China and Iran.

English: the Silk Road in Central Asia

English: the Silk Road in Central Asia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

silk road

The train, also referred to as Silk Road train, has passed through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Iran, travelling a distance of 10,399 kilometers. It had left Yiwu city in east China’s Zhejiang Province on January 28.

This train was carrying dozens of cargo containers, according to the deputy of Iran’s Road and Urbanism Minister, Mohsen Pour-Aqaei, who made a welcome speech after the arrival of the cargo train at Tehran Train Station on Monday.

As known to all, ancient Silk Road trade route had served as an important bridge for East-West trade and brought a close link between the Chinese and Persian civilizations.

The “Belt and Road” initiative was raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, which refers to the New Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, connecting China with Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Europe.

“To revive the Silk Road Economic Belt, the launch of the train is an important move, since about 700 kilometers of trip has been done per day,” said Pour-Aqaei, who was present at the welcome ceremony of the train in Tehran’s Railway Station.

“Compared to the sea voyage of the cargo ships from China’s Shanghai city to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port city, the travel time of the train was 30 days shorter,” he said.

Pour-Aqaei, also the Managing Director of Iran’s Railway Company, added that according to the plan, there would be one such a trip from China to Iran every month.

The travel of cargo train from China to Iran is part of a Chinese initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road used by the traders to commute between Europe and East Asia.

Tehran will not be the final destination of these kinds of trains from China, the Iranian deputy minister said, adding that in the future, the train will reach Europe.

This will benefit Iran as the transit course for the cargo trains from the east Asia to Europe, he said.

Chinese ambassador to Iran Pang Sen told Xinhua that as one of the cooperation projects after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Iran, the cargo train is playing a important role to promote construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

Meanwhile, the railway line from Yiwu to Tehran provides the two countries an express and efficient cargo trade transportation method, Pang said, adding that the countries along the railway line will furthur upgrade rail technology with the aim to make its transportation ability faster and better.

Source: First train from China to Iran stimulates Silk Road revival – Xinhua | English.news.cn

08/02/2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai! What to expect in China’s Year of the Monkey – SCMP

The Year of the Monkey is expected to be another turbulent year for the world’s second largest economy. Here, SCMP reporters gaze into their crystal balls for what might lie ahead.

An installation celebrates the Year of the Monkey at Ditan Park in Beijing. Photo: EPA

POLITICS: Political jockeying and more crackdowns

The Communist Party will be focused on preparations for a new leadership team, to be unveiled at the 19th Party Congress next year. Apart from President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), the rest of the Politburo Standing Committee will have reached retirement age. The new appointments will be keenly observed for clues as to who Xi intends to succeed him.

Two of Xi’s signature campaigns – the drives against corruption and in favour of frugality in public life – are likely to continue to reshape the nation.

– Cary Huang

DIPLOMACY: Conflicts and tensions to escalate

Following Xi’s maiden presidential visit to the Middle East, Beijing is expected to increase its role as a broker in the region’s conflicts. Beijing has already hosted representatives from Syria and Afghanistan for talks. But other than calling for dialogue, China’s options are limited, partly because it does not want to be seen as interfering in the internal affairs of other nations.

With the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank having just started operations, China is expected to boost its economic diplomacy by funding infrastructure projects overseas.

Tensions in the South China Sea are also expected to rise, as China is likely to continue building structures in the disputed waters. How the United States and China handle the issue – especially the Pentagon’s deployment of warships within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-controlled islands – will be the biggest concern.

– Teddy Ng

DEFENCE: Band(s) of Brothers?

The top priority of the military will be to rebuild morale and its integrity following its restructuring into five theatre commands. Xi set the tone this month by visiting Jinggangshan, the cradle of the communist revolution in China. The Eastern Theatre Command’s land force quickly followed his lead and visited Gutian in Fujian (福建) province, where the Red Army pledged obedience to the party in 1929, and saluted the party flag. Other commands are expected to make similar displays of fidelity.

It will be a bumpy road: the old ways of managing operations, carrying out orders through personal connections and using favoured contractors, has been upended. Xi wants to turn the PLA into a fighting force that meets international standards, with all the efficiencies and accountability that entails.

– Minnie Chan

ECONOMY: Pandora’s Box to open?

There’s actually little disagreement between billionaire investor George Soros and Beijing decision-makers over China’s economic prospects in 2016 – both agree growth will be lower in 2016 than that of 2015. Where they disagree is on how much and how quickly.

One thing is for sure, China will never admit an economic “hard-landing”, though investors may find plenty of evidence for one – from factory closures to rising unemployment and financial strains.

– Zhou Xin

UNEMPLOYMENT: What’s the real picture?

Of all of China’s official economic indicators, the registered urban jobless rate is possibly the least reliable. The rate, released quarterly, has barely ever moved from 4.1 per cent in recent years, regardless of the economic cycle. Another jobless rate compiled by the statistics agency, which is increasingly being cited by the premier, claims a level of about 5 per cent.

Neither of these official rates are likely to change much throughout 2016.

– Zhou Xin

A-shares: Beware the bear!

The mainland’s stock market, after witnessing a sharp fall at the beginning of 2016, is expected to continue a bear run in the Year of Monkey amid a crisis of confidence.

A depreciating yuan, the imminent launch of the new initial public offering (IPO) mechanism and a bleak outlook for corporate earnings are set to exacerbate weak sentiment with millions of retail investors suffering paper losses following a market rout last year.

Local investors are increasingly betting on a further downturn in the A-share market.

Corporate earnings are likely to stay flat in 2016 despite Beijing’s increased efforts to navigate a transition to a consumer-led growth.

– Daniel Ren

Consumption: Bittersweet for retailers

Online stores are continuing to take business from their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

While overall consumption growth is expected to further slow in 2016, bringing problems for both sectors, shopping malls and big stores face their own particular woes.

Hypermarkets could see custom slow, but business at smaller formats such as mini-marts and convenience stores should remain stable.

People will continue to spend more on tourism, leisure, food and health-related products.

Domestic brands will continue to gain ground on foreign ones.

Women will continue to take a greater role in driving spending. Consulting firm Mintel found more than half of Chinese mothers control the family budget and that women are more willing to try new products and experiences than men.

– Mandy Zuo

E-commerce: Click, click, click to buy, buy, buy

The personal computer era is over. Mobile-commerce, which enables people to buy everything from anywhere via the internet, is dominating the online sector and this trend shows no sign of stopping.

Retail on WeChat, the most popular social media platform, is expected to grow steadily. The mobile platform is also becoming an important tool of advertising and communication for businesses.

Online to offline (O2O) business will continue to boom as mainlanders show growing interest and loyalty in professional home services such as home cleaning and massage.

With growing demand from mainland consumers for prime goods overseas, fiercer competition is expected in cross-border business. Internet giants, entrepreneurs and small businesses will flock to the sector, which the Ministry of Commerce projects will grow an average 30 per cent in the next few years.

– Mandy Zuo

P2P lending: More closures, collapses and runaway owners

The long-awaited regulations reining in peer-to-peer lending are expected to bring an industry shakeup that will knock out a significant number of players.

Industry data showed the number of P2P lending platforms dropped a second consecutive month to 2,566 at the end of January from 2,595 in December.

The draft rules, released by the China Banking Regulatory Commission at the end of 2015, define P2P lending platforms as internet financing intermediaries and forbid them from selling wealth management and other financial products that attract investors with promises of high returns.

– Kwong Man-ki

Tourism: Slowdown, what slowdown?

Despite the economic slowdown, the depreciation of the yuan and turmoil in the stock markets, Chinese tourists passed a milestone last year – making a record 120 million outbound trips and spending US$104.5 billion to make China the world’s leading source of tourists.

The boom is expected to continue this year, thanks to a relaxation in visa policies in more countries as well as a strong yuan against the euro and yen.

– Laura Zhou

Childbirth: More buns in the oven

The Year of the Monkey is traditionally regarded an auspicious year for giving birth, so it will prove popular with people planning families. Some of those may have delayed their plans from the Year of the Goat, which is decidedly inauspicious.

More of the newborns are likely to be second children, as parents seek to benefit from the new policy allowing all couples to have two children.

– Zhuang Pinghui

URBANISATION: Millions to relocate

Urbanisation will maintain its pace with millions relocating, most of them rural residents.

They will continue to move to cities near rivers, railway lines and coastlines and more of them will be migrating with spouses and children.

The policy of issuing residence permits to migrants and granting urban household registrations to rural residents are helping them to access public services and integrate in urban life.

– Zhuang Pinghui

ENVIRONMENT: More smoggy days?

As the new five-year plan period (2016-2020) begins, cities will need to set targets on how to improve water and air quality. But whether much can be done to reduce smog problems – especially in heavily polluted city clusters near Beijing and Shanghai – depends largely on how determined local governments are to slash overcapacity in heavy industries.

At the end of 2015, Beijing’s persistent smog pushed the city authorities to pledge better management of small-scale coal burning. If other cities follow suit, the move could impact China’s environmental footprint.

– Li Jing

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1910019/kung-hei-fat-choy-what-expect-chinas-year-monkey

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