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.
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.
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?
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.
“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 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.
More domestic brands appearing on store shelves may indicate that the golden days for foreign brands are slipping away. “Made in China” was once considered a sign of cheapness and low-quality, but the belief now has changed. Chinese consumers now think that Chinese brands are equal to, or even exceed, foreign brands. As buyer confidence grows and domestic quality improves, what can multinational brands do to regain ascendancy?
Few in the expat business community can rival Patrick Horgan’s depth and range of experience in the Chinese market. Since first coming to China as a volunteer in 1989, Horgan’s career has spanned business, diplomacy and cultural relations. Since 2011, he has been Regional Director of Northeast Asia for Rolls-Royce. As he tells CKGSB Knowledge, he believes China’s development ambitions make this an exciting time to be at the British manufacturing giant. China now has about 2,800 aircraft while in the US the number is 7,000 and there is a massive opportunity for international air framers and engine providers.
Central and Eastern Europe faces a tough balancing act as it looks toward China for investment and growth. Launched first in 2012, the “16+1” Cooperation Framework includes 16 countries in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. As a key part of the Chinese transcontinental economic and geopolitical vision, the heavily invested “16+1” becomes a perfect solution to some Central and Eastern Europe countries facing economic crisis. This closer tie with China, however, has made EU rattled. How to balance the relationship with EU and China becomes a head-scratching problem for many.
As Donald Trump signed the memorandum proposing the introduction of tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports on March 22, 2018, the president of the United States quipped, “This is the first of many.” He didn’t go back on his words. No one seems to be a winner, but the trade war goes on and the entire world is paying close attention. Although both sides express willingness to have talks, can the trade war be stopped? What’s the future for US-China relations?