China has approved five new varieties of genetically modified crops for import, highlighting the huge impact Chinese GMO restrictions have on the global agricultural sector. Is Beijing planning to relax its near-total ban on GMO?
Adidas’s Yeezy sneakers designed by rapper Kanye West have been among the world’s best-selling footwear since they were released in 2015, and a pair of Yeezy Boost 350 V2s retails for up to $1,000 on most e-commerce sites. But on Alibaba’s Taobao site, the world’s largest online marketplace, vendors offer the same pair of sneakers for as little as RMB 300 ($45). That sounds too good to be true, and it is. They are counterfeits.
China’s economy seems to be slowing faster than the government would like, and US trade war tariffs are just one of the issues weighing down overall growth and threatening hopes for a choreographed and gradual deceleration. The last time this happened in 2008, Beijing responded with massive stimulus spending, thereby creating a debt mountain. This time, what should the economic planners do?
People have been making art in China for at least 4000 years, but the modern era of China’s art market dates from the early 1980s, when the government opened the economy to private enterprise and the country began to recover from the ravages of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a period when most art, new and old, was derided as decadent and counter-revolutionary.
Last year, China recorded its slowest economic growth in 28 years. But for leading e-commerce player Pinduoduo, it was boom times, with business up 234% for the year thanks to a largely ignored market—China’s vast rural regions and smaller towns and smaller cities, termed “non-first tier cities”.
First coined by two World Bank experts in 2007, the middle-income trap phenomenon—the existence of which is disputed by some economists—describes how growth in developing countries tends to stagnate when gross national income (GNI) per capita rises above a certain level, as higher wages push up production costs. Countries can become “stuck in the middle” as they struggle to compete with low-income newcomers where labor costs are still low, and advanced high-income economies with strong innovation. Since 1960, only 15 countries have escaped the“middle-income trap.” Can China beat the odds?
A blog post by a self-styled financial veteran knocked the wind out of the Chinese business community recently. The author, Wu Xiaoping, argued that the country’s private firms should step aside and allow the state to increase its dominance of the economy. The private sector has “fulfilled its task of assisting the state-owned economy in achieving its rapid development,” Wu wrote. The article went viral on social media, sparking criticism from entrepreneurs and support from left-wing commenters. Under normal circumstances, a blog by an obscure middle manager would never garner so much attention. But Wu’s post touched a nerve. These are tough times for private firms.
A new year is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. At least, that is what policymakers in Beijing will be hoping. The second half of 2018 produced some negative headlines on the economy as a domestic deleveraging drive and the intensifying trade war with the US slowed growth and undermined confidence. Will these headwinds continue battering the Chinese economy or will Beijing be able to engineer a recovery? There are few people better placed to answer this question than Shen Jianguang, one of China’s most respected economic analysts, whose career has included stints at the European Central Bank, IMF and OECD.
The moment finally came just after Lunar New Year, 2016. That morning, residents in Lintao, a city of 200,000 in the remote northwest, turned on the taps, but no water flowed. The groundwater that provided the town’s supply had simply run out. A year later, Si County, a cluster of settlements 2,000 kilometers to the southeast, also ran dry. After municipal wells began to empty, local schools and hospitals resorted to drilling their own. In the north, which contains nearly half of the population but only 20% of the water resources, there is not enough to meet demand. Groundwater storage on the North China Plain fell at a rate of more than 6 trillion liters a year between 2002 and 2014.
For China’s technology sector, the decision of the United States to hit Shenzhen-based telecommunications giant ZTE with a trade ban in April was an abrupt and painful wake-up call. Until then, many in China had grown accustomed to thinking of their country as a global leader in technology. After all, China’s smartphones, high-speed railways and e-commerce platforms were the envy of the world. But in the days following the ban, designed to punish ZTE for violating US sanctions on Iran and North Korea, it became clear that one of China’s most successful companies was totally dependent on American suppliers.