Cities across China are making huge investments in order to transform themselves into world-class innovation hubs. So far, the Pearl River Delta Greater region, led by Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, is the most promising area. Connected by high-speed railways and land bridges, barriers between Hong Kong and mainland have been removed. With Hong Kong as the financial hub, Shenzhen as the innovation center and Guangzhou as the long-term trade harbor, China’s “Greater Bay Area” is taking shape. Will the regional integration create a new innovation engine that China urgently needs?
In the early seventies, mechanical pinball games still dominated the arcades, as they had since the Great Depression. Then in 1972, Allan Alcorn, a 24-year-old designer in Sunnyvale, CA, developed a two-dimensional electronic table tennis game and installed it in a local bar. Pong was an unexpected hit at Andy Capp’s Tavern, and soon became so popular that it spawned an entirely new entertainment medium, the videogame. As Devin Griffith put it in his 2013 history of the videogame, Virtual Ascendance, “[t]hree vertical lines and a bouncing square of light. That’s all it took to change the world.” Flash forward 45 years and annual videogame revenue now exceeds $100 billion.
Chinese parents today are willing to spend more than their parents’ generation were to make their children smile. Retail sales of toys and games in China leaped over 250% between 2011 and 2016, making the toy market very appealing. Today, playtime in China is more about learning than fun and games—Chinese parents think play should be constructive, making educational toys more popular than traditional ones. Meanwhile, seizing kids’ playtime is also a key to winning the toy market, and that’s why toy brands are attempting to combine their products with a learning center.
China’s once-mighty industrial heartland in the Northeast, or Dongbei, has fallen on hard times in recent years. Could the key to its revival lie in the American Rust Belt experience? As happened in the US Rust Belt, firms in Dongbei, almost all state-owned, started to struggle in the 1980s. They have been in decline ever since, leaving local governments with a cluster of problems, including heavy industry pollution and high debt levels, which would be instantly recognizable to policymakers in Gary, Indiana, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Now that its counterparts in the West have now largely transcended the phase, what can Dongbei learn from the American rust belt’s experience?
We all know that air pollution is bad for our health. But what is often overlooked is that high pollution levels also cause significant harm to our economic well being. Brian Viard, Associate Professor of Strategy and Economics at CKGSB, has been researching the economic effects of pollution for much of the past few years. His team has found persuasive evidence that the costs of air pollution are greater and more wide-ranging than most people realize. In this interview with CKGSB Knowledge, he explains how tackling the pollution crisis could actually make the Chinese economy more productive.
China’s financial sector used to be famous for its poor service and imperviousness to innovation. Even today, when customers go to make a transaction at one of the country’s big state-run banks, they often take a bag of snacks with them—they know they’re in for a long wait. But things are changing fast in the Middle Kingdom. A new generation of digital finance firms is taking the country—and the global markets—by storm in everything from digital payments and micro-lending to insurance and wealth management. How will China’s lumbering state-run banks react? Will tightening regulation nip this revolution in the bud?
Ioana Kraft began her career in international law, and moved to China 14 years ago. Since 2009, she has been the General Manager of the European Union Chamber of Commerce’s Shanghai chapter, working tirelessly to promote the interests of European businesses operating in eastern China. In this interview, she discusses the challenges and opportunities European businesses face in China.
As the Chinese economy shifts from exports and investment toward domestic consumption, the country is counting on the middle class to drive consumption levels higher. A good reason to be optimistic is that the growing middle class club, with more millennials, is getting more comfortable with borrowing. Yet it is also a worrying phenomenon because the amount of consumer debt keeps climbing. Meanwhile, the red-hot property market has always been a heavy burden on Chinese households and has been getting even heavier in recent years. Will China’s middle class be derailed? Should we worry about the finances of Chinese middle class?
In the eyes of insiders, if you are not talking about “AI and Finance,” then you risk being left behind–just as stubborn holdouts in another era were stranded when they failed to accept the Internet. Traditionally, finance has had two core functions: to lower transaction costs and to improve asset pricing. The use of the Internet has undermined the first by enabling more direct transactions, and AI is now disrupting the second by improving the speed and accuracy of asset pricing. Threatened by this are services like asset allocation, investment advisory and insurance pricing, which affects not only banks, but also investment and insurance firms.
Imagine a city where commuters are chauffeured to work by self-driving cars and artificial intelligence systems control every power plant, traffic light and light bulb, making road accidents, power cuts and even traffic jams a thing of the past. Thanks to 5G, the latest protocol for mobile communications, this vision may be realized soon. The world’s leading telecoms companies are already testing the next generation of wireless internet and the first 5G services could be rolled out in 2019. China and the US are locked in a furious battle for control of this and the winner will gain a big economic advantage for years to come.