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.
For many years, China’s emerging companies, especially those in the internet sector, have relied on foreign capital. Alibaba and Tencent were nurtured by overseas venture capital, and were eventually listed abroad. These two companies have today become world-class giants. The market value of Alibaba was $495 billion as of late May, while Tencent’s valuation was $605 billion. This puts them among the world’s top 10 most valuable companies. The success of China’s leading tech companies is an understandable source of pride to many in China. But for China’s policymakers, a question presents itself: why do so many outstanding Chinese companies end up going public overseas?
Public companies are becoming rarer these days. In the US, for example, the overall number of listed firms has fallen by almost half since 2000. Global M&A could be one reason for this, because being a big firm is very important for many industries and getting internal growth is more difficult than associating with a big company. Meanwhile, stricter rules for public offerings also discourages IPOs these days and the rise of active investors has made venture capital big enough to support unicorns. How will corporate ownership evolve from here? What impact will this trend leave on the economy and society?
The rise of e-commerce has long been touted as a threat to shopping malls and bricks-and-mortar stores, with consumers preferring the ease and convenience of shopping online. But while e-commerce has made serious inroads into certain goods and services, sectors such as fresh food remain stubbornly resistant, even in China, one of the most eager adopters of e-commerce in the world. The country’s internet giants are moving toward a new model, what Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma calls “New Retail” — an integration of online with the offline world that e-commerce was supposed to cannibalize.
China played a surprisingly prominent role in debates surrounding the UK’s 2016 referendum on leaving the EU. For leading “Leavers”, Brexit was a chance for Britain to free itself from a stifling Brussels bureaucracy and build stronger trade relations with upcoming powers like China. But those expecting a blossoming in China-UK relations after Brexit might be disappointed, says Leslie Young, Professor of Economics at CKGSB. Professor Young, who received a doctorate in mathematics from Oxford University in 1971, at the age of 20, and who is now a recognized authority in international economics, explains how Chinese business is likely to be affected by Brexit.
People love video games. They feel relaxed and entertained in the virtual world. However, there is a trend towards games that are practical and serious—games that are used to teach and train for certain skills. Soldiers, surgeons, securities traders and workers in many other professions train with specialized games. The Brookings Institution estimates that the US military alone spends more than $6 billion a year on video games. “Serious games allow a safe way of rehearsing actions and learning about their consequences as well as transferring previously learned knowledge in as efficient and effective a way as possible,” says computing expert Dr. Andreas Oikonomou.
China has banned borderless cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, but it is a move the country may come to regret. Until recently, China was the world’s largest market for virtual currency and digital currencies trading and China’s ban on Bitcoin came abruptly. Some experts think Beijing’s intention is to regulate the market, not hobble it—but the crackdown may last for a while. The future for cryptocurrencies in China is unclear, because the Chinese government is also backing the underlying blockchain technology. Will cryptocurrencies come to light again?
Over the past five years, the business model of China’s clothing industry has been unraveling. For decades, China’s vast apparel industry competed mainly on price. But with labor, land and raw materials costs rising, environmental regulations tightening and competition becoming ever fiercer, even many of China’s best-known brands have struggled. There has been one exception: HLA. The Jiangsu Province-based menswear label has grown stronger even as competitors shuttered hundreds of outlets. In this interview, Li Lode, Professor of Operations Management at CKGSB and Professor Emeritus at Yale University, explains how HLA’s success has been made possible by smart strategic decisions.