For decades, China has been a top destination for foreign firms to move their operations abroad, now the trend is reversing—Chinese firms, especially manufacturers, are now moving to the US, not only to lower the cost of production but also to build their brands in global market. Indeed, China is losing its old advantage of cheap labor and raw material, and in certain parts of the US, the land is much cheaper than in China. Meanwhile, the re-booming US economy, flexible financial system and beneficiary tax policies are also driving ambitious Chinese entrepreneurs, who are changing the “Made in China” to “Made in the US”.
After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this year, Donald Trump backtracked and dropped his accusation of China being a currency manipulator. But the issue of currency manipulation is still debatable. The RMB is certainly not a free-floating currency and the controls are complex. China’s central bank sets the daily rate with movements only allowed in a narrow 2% band. This did not change for years, until August 2015 when the central bank reformed a bit by beginning to set the daily RMB rates based on the closing value of the previous day’s interbank forex market. But it’s not considered a major change and the way to achieve a more open currency remains difficult.
China’s property market was virtually non-existent 25 years ago, but it is now one of the most critical pillars in this country and the source of incredible wealth for many of China’s citizens. Last year property prices in China’s tier one cities made another gravity-defying leap last year. By September, new home prices had jumped 27.8% in Beijing, 32.7% in Shanghai and a meteoric 34.1% in Shenzhen year-on-year. The health of this pillar remains a top concern of the government and citizens alike. But is there a looming crisis? In the near term, the answer seems to be no.
A look at the China data you should care about–from China’s investment in an electric car factory in Germany to the 25,000 tons of avocado imports from Latin America. Plus, a look at China’s first homemade passenger jet, the C919, which took its maiden flight in May and seeks to compete with Boeing and Airbus; and technology giant Tencent’s USD 316 billion market cap, which makes it the ninth-largest listed company globally. More international trades are set to grow in the future: One Belt and Road Forum China signed more than 270 agreements with 68 countries and international organizations as China pushes its Silk Road revival.
Under the banner industrial policy “Made in China 2025”, China seeks to replace the advanced foreign manufactured goods that it has long relied upon with domestically-produced goods. But the effort is spooking the foreign business community, and the plan may not address China’s most genuine needs. Precise details of the implementation of the grand policy are only now beginning to emerge. For Chinese companies, the real long-term impact of the plan is at best unclear. But for foreign companies, although there will be business opportunities in the short-term, the plan as a whole presents big challenges to their future in China.
Fulfilling his campaign promise, US President Donald Trump took the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). With that failure, the spotlight has now fallen on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed trade deal among 16 countries in the Asia Pacific region which is widely seen as a Chinese initiative and a way of pushing back against US influence in Asia. However, compared to TCC, the RCEP has a much narrower scope and labor, environment, IP, competition policy, issues screaming for attention will not be significantly discussed. Meanwhile, TPP is not completely down without the US: Strong incentives for the TPP or a “TPP-lite” will remain.
China’s digital economy is booming and creating more employment opportunities, the number of jobs created from this sector is far more than jobs that will be eliminated by technology in future. Alibaba, the e-commerce giant which has expanded into cloud computing, financial technology and media and entertainment, could account for as many as 29.4% job opportunities in China’s digital economy by 2035. In this edition of China Data, we bring you data about China’s domestic debt, clean energy, debt-for-equity swaps and more.
In China, while state-owned enterprises dominate the monopoly industries like petroleum and telecom, the country’s private economy is still the major source for growth in production, employment and exports. Private companies are very sensitive to market changes: When profit margins shrink, they will jump out quickly. Expectations are low while the Chinese economy is under the ‘New Normal’, but the government is still concerned about private investment stagnation. The top economic agency has created a work team to look into the problem and made 60 proposals to solve the slow-down issue. But will top-down methods work?
Optimism for Chinese firms is increasing. As they’re making money, they also face different issues. The CKGSB Business Conditions Index posted a mark of 60.8 in November, up from October’s 58.5. This shows that for the survey’s sample firms, of which the majority is relatively successful in China, the next six months are viewed with increased optimism. The CKGSB BCI comprises four sub-indices. Of these, corporate sales fell slightly from 75.4 to 74.0, while corporate profits rose from 57.4 to 61.8. The fact that both of these indices are both well above the confidence threshold of 50 shows that company prospects are improving.
After several decades when most Western governments inclined toward freer and more global trade, the mood seems to be changing. In the US, the presidential candidates have agreed on little but the need to keep a closer eye on trade agreements. In the United Kingdom, the new Prime minister, Theresa May, seems determined to fulfill the British public’s wish to leave the European Union, despite the fact that the pound sterling sank recently to a 168-year low. Skepticism over trade deals seems likely to remain a stubborn presence in most of the mature economies, so what should Chinese companies do to react?