China’s huge current account surplus was once the symbol of its status as the “factory of the world.” But in recent years, that surplus has been shrinking. Last year, it sank to 1.3% of GDP. The half-year deficit announced in August was the first in more than 20 years. Some economists predict China could soon be running a current account deficit. If that happens, it will be a watershed moment with implications for all manner of issues, from the policies Beijing is able to pursue to the status of the RMB as a global currency and maybe even the way the US finances its debt.
The negative effects that industrial revolutions unleash on human society always stem from an overestimation and abuse of the power of new technologies. It has never been more important to heed this point than today. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are bringing forth a new industrial revolution, and the blind worship of these innovations is already on full display in some quarters.
In October, the CKGSB Business Conditions Index (BCI) dropped slightly from the worst reading to date in September, from 41.9 to 41.4. Although not quite as dramatic a decline as the previous month, the deterioration of conditions for doing business in China should not be underestimated. It shows that the majority of sampled companies, some of the most competitive private businesses in China, are pessimistic about their prospects for the next six months.
Sometimes, a major innovation starts at the top of a market and works down—think of Tesla’s electric sports car. Other times, as innovation theorist Clayton Christensen noted in The Innovator’s Dilemma, innovations bubble up from the bottom, beginning with a product that has limited functionality and seems at first like little more than a toy. That second uphill path has been the trajectory of the electric bicycle, which over the past 20 years has become an important mode of personal transportation in China and is now beginning to make inroads in the rest of the world.
What is the most important thing for a startup? Growing your business by focusing on the value to the customer is the answer given by Sean Ellis, founder and CEO of GrowthHackers, a service that helps 200,000 members with their growth strategy. According to Ellis, “growth hacking” is more than a buzzword in Silicon Valley—it’s a marketing strategy with actionable methods that prioritize business growth.
For nearly 50 years, most of the world’s oil has been bought and sold with US dollars. But that may be changing, as the energy exchange center in Shanghai has begun trading a yuan-denominated oil futures contract. Six months after the contract, more 10% of the world’s oil is now traded in yuan. Why are the Shanghai contracts so popular? Will the world enter a petrol-yuan era from petrol-dollar era? How will the situation evolve against the background of trade war between the two largest economies?
Cleaning up China’s poisoned air, water and soil and transforming its industry-dependent economy is a vast task, one that may need an investment of up to 620 billion per year—and government can only directly fund 10-15%. To achieve its ambitions, the government needs to attract investment from the financial sector, private companies, households and international investors. Green finance offers the opportunity and China has rapidly established itself as one of the biggest players in the global green finance movement. But how green are China’s green bonds? Many analysts argue that if you scratch under the Chinese system’s green veneer, it reveals a different color entirely.
Chinese millennials promise to reshape the global tourism industry. Unlike their parents’ generation, who preferred to travel abroad on Chinese-organized tour groups, today’s young Chinese are independent, individualistic and willing to try more adventurous vacations. This shift is opening up huge new opportunities for travel and tourism operators worldwide. They can now advertise directly to China’s 400 million children of the 1980s and 1990s, who often book their next trip online and on impulse. For operators able to target this group, the rewards can be spectacular. Chinese millennials already make more overseas trips than all American tourists combined.
Chinese auto startup Nio just had its $1 billion US initial public offering. While the share price fluctuates, investors ask the same question: will the Shanghai-based upstart supplant Tesla as the world’s top luxury electric car brand? Like Tesla, its cars offer sleek, space-age designs. It also has a flair for marketing stunts: in Nio’s case, setting the fastest lap ever recorded by an electric car at Germany’s Nürburgring. But Nio is offering cutting-edge technology at jaw-dropping prices. Its ES8, priced at RMB 448,000 ($70,000), costs only around half as much as a Tesla Model X does in China.
Americans are fond of saying that football is their true religion, but until recently it was little more than a source of mystery to the rest of the world. When the NFL held its first overseas game, in London in 1983, the organizers found that there were no regulation goalposts or scoreboards in the entire UK. Trying to take the game to China, therefore, sounds at first like a hopeless endeavor. But times are changing. London now hosts four regular-season NFL games per year to sellout crowds. Richard Young, Managing Director of NFL China, thinks that similar growth could soon be taking place in China.
The speed at which China has emerged as a major player in Southeast Asia is stunning. In 2000, total trade in goods between China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was only $40 billion. By 2014, this had leaped to $480 billion, and is forecast to reach $1 trillion by 2020. Southeast Asia has become a strategic market for companies across the whole Chinese economy. Manufacturers are looking to offshore production in order to reduce labor costs, while tech companies are eyeing the region’s 633 million-strong consumer market as a new source of growth.
The era of Deng Xiaoping is over in China. We are now living in a new historical epoch: the era of Xi Jinping. That is the message of The Third Revolution, the new book by renowned China scholar Dr. Elizabeth Economy. This view is far from controversial within China; in fact, it is official party doctrine. But the fact that an academic of Dr. Economy’s standing is calling time on Dengism is significant. Over her career, she has proven a remarkably clear-sighted forecaster of where China is heading. In this interview, she explains why China analysts need to develop a new understanding of China’s development trajectory for the Xi era.
China’s hospitals are becoming overstretched as population aging and urbanization send demand for health care soaring. But a new wave of world-leading Chinese health technology firms believe they can lift the burden on the country’s frazzled doctors, saving them from the repetitive tasks like reading CT scans. Indeed, the AI health care field has developed incredibly fast in China, with most companies focusing on medical imaging systems that help doctors analyze X-rays, CT scans and tissue analyses for signs of dozens of diseases, from cancers to liver disease.
“Trade wars are easy to win,” says US President Donald Trump. US-UK trade historian Marc-William Palen disagrees. In this interview, Palen, author of The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalisation, 1846-1896, and senior lecturer in history at the University of Exeter (UK), argues that US politicians’ pursuit of trade wars in the 19th and 20th centuries yielded mostly short-term political gains for themselves and high, long-term economic and strategic costs to their country.
China’s logistics industry is on the fast track to a bright future. The country’s delivery firms are already posting impressive growth figures, and rapidly rising consumer spending is set to send demand soaring further. Read our infographic to learn more.
By 2045, there will be nearly 350 million people in China aged over 65. The rapidly aging society is the legacy of a huge baby boom that was abruptly halted by the introduction of the one-child policy in 1979. Over the long term, this trend threatens to drag on economic growth. There were five Chinese taxpayers for every senior citizen in 2010; by 2030, there will be just two. But for businesses that stay ahead of the demographic curve, there will be big opportunities—another 200 million new customers. Slowly but surely, digitally-savvy seniors are changing the game for brands in China.
For a company whose software speaks to more than half a billion people, iFlytek tends to keep its voice low. Founded by a group of researchers in 1999 and headquartered in the relatively sleepy eastern city of Hefei, the company was ranked as the 6th smartest firm in the world in 2017—just one place below Google—by MIT Technology Review. Over the past two decades, iFlytek developed software that can understand several Chinese dialects fluently—a feat Apple’s Siri still struggles with. It can transcribe it into text, and translate it into English instantly. In this interview, Jiang Tao, Senior Vice President of iFlytek, who joined in the firm at the very beginning, explains how the company reached this point and how it keeps hold of its world-class researchers.
Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Situated 2,300 meters above sea level and encircled by mountains, the region receives almost no rainfall and the blinding sun singes exposed human skin within minutes. But 40 meters below the salt flats lie our planet’s largest and purest reserves of the chemical element lithium. Lithium, the lightest of all metals, has the best electrochemical potential. This makes it perfect for rechargeable batteries, a technology that powers our smartphones and is expected to become even more crucial in the future. Now, a Chinese firm is attempting to gain control of the Atacama reserves.
China posted its first overall quarterly current account deficit in 17 years in the second quarter of 2018 as growth in imports continues to outpace exports. Meanwhile, the value of Chinese domestic bonds held by overseas institutions has increased 68% in the past year and that means nearly 6% of Chinese government bonds are now held by foreign investors. Domestically, the number of lawsuits related to online music streaming in China leaped from 20 in 2014 to 535 in 2016 as providers try to enforce exclusive deals with artists. Find out the most important and interesting news here in the China Data section.
The World Bank estimates that up to 77% of jobs in China could be made redundant by machines in the long term. Investing in robots will become more attractive for manufacturers. The Chinese government also pledges to make China a “world factory” of robots. But real changes are much slower. Reports say that large numbers of workers are still used on production lines doing repetitive tasks such as scrubbing speaker systems with toothbrushes. Despite the fact that China’s labor costs are six times higher than 10 years ago, workers are often still cheaper than robots in short term.