On April 1st, 2017, the Chinese government announced the formation of a new special economic and development zone: the Xiong’an New Area. About 60 miles southwest of Beijing, in Hebei province, the area will combine the now relatively rural counties of Rongcheng, Anxin and Xiong. With an expected investment of $583 billion over the next 20 years in infrastructure alone, Xiong’an is set to transform from a largely agricultural and low-tech manufacturing region, into a high-tech, environmentally sustainable modern metropolis. It will also, according to the plan, alleviate some population pressures from Beijing while serving as a destination for some administrative departments, logistics bases and other government offices.
Having delayed serious structural reforms, China faces eye-watering overcapacity in heavy industries. Steel production volume is more than double that of the next four leading producers combined: Japan, India, the United States and Russia. Aluminum production capacity reached 40 million tons last year, exceeding global consumption by 9 million tons. Most remarkably, between 2011 and 2013 China produced more cement than the US did during the entire 20th century—6.6 gigatons, compared to the US’s 4.5. What can China possibly do about this excess capacity that is weighing on the balance sheets of debt-ridden firms reeling from China’s economic slowdown?
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Much of the west, especially the US, once imagined itself as a land of freewheeling enterprise: the gods of the marketplace reigned supreme and government was a minor obstacle on the path to glorious riches. Since the outbreak of the financial crisis, cracks have appeared in this vision, sometimes known as the Washington consensus, as […]