Category Archives: China

The “Actual Situation” in Hong Kong is that democracy is happening…

David Webb, who has supported transparent financial markets and open government in Hong Kong for a decade and a half, spoke to the crowds in Hong Kong yesterday.  His vision is good for Hong Kong and good for China.  And he indicates a way out of the confrontation.  The speech is below and on Webb-site.com here.

Hello Hong Kong! Show me some light [smartphone LED]. You are the stars!

My fellow citizens,

Hong Kong is Asia’s World City, isn’t it? Do we love Hong Kong? Say Yes! Say Hello World! Are you patriots? You are all qualified!

I have lived in Hong Kong for 23 years since 1991, which is longer than many of you have been alive. Hong Kong is my home. I have spent the last 16 years trying to make it a better place for all of us, and I will never stop trying.

We have one of the world’s leading financial centres. The Government claims to believe in free markets and competition, but where is the free market in leadership? Competition between candidates and their policies is essential for the healthy development of our economy.

Don’t worry about the small economic impact of these protests. Think about the large economic benefits of a more dynamic economy, ending collusion between the Government and the tycoons who currently elect the Chief Executive. When 70 old tycoons visit Beijing for instructions, you just know something is wrong. It should be the Great Hall of the People, not the Great Hall of the Tycoons.

A free market for the Chief Executive really is not too much to ask.

Continue reading The “Actual Situation” in Hong Kong is that democracy is happening…

China’s NPC opens with some interesting indicators

China’s National People’s Congress opened today with a speech by Premier Wen Jiabao.

While these presentations are usually quite unrevealing and perhaps a bit propagandist, some interesting things were said.  There will be a continued push to stimulate the economy including a € 0.5 trillion investment package.  But part of the bdget includes an increase of 14% in military spending.  These both aim to achieve social stability – by creating jobs and ensuring that there is the control to manage unrest if things get bad.

There were also statements made about allowing inefficient businesses to fail, about reducing the country’s reliance on low-cost manufacturing of the basics, and about wanting to stimulate consumer spending.  These objectives will continue to make the Chinese economy more efficient and productive.

While China is facing difficulties, their financial condition is far stronger than that of Western economies.  Their deficit is modest in comparison.  And it is likely that their economy will continue to grow, albeit at a reduced rate.  China remains an attractive place to invest.

BBC report on opening of NPC

Robert Peston’s blog on China.

Xinhua report on opening of NPC

One country – two systems, again?

It is encouraging to see the relationship between China and Taiwan improving.  Practical aspects like increased flights and trade will benefit both countries.  Maybe China is willing to engage because they envision another “one country – two systems” arrangement evolving which would allow both China and Taiwan to save face while continuing on their current paths.  Let’s hope so.

See BBC’s China and Taiwan in landmark deal

Get the right perspective.

So, the media leads with the headline that China’s economy slowed during the olympics because businesses were closed to help clear the atmosphere.

But its important to get the detail.  The rate of growth remains high.  Far beyond what western economies are experiencing.

  • industrial output growth of 12.8% in August
  • retail sales up at an annual rate of 23.2% in August
  • and the economy grew at 10.1% for the second quarter of this year.

Natural power!

More than 55,000 people are known to have died in the earthquake that struck south-west China on 12 May, according to the vice-governor of Sichuan province.

The earth quake in China has displaced more people (over 5 million) than the population of Ireland (where I live) and created new land features. These satellite pictures from Earth Observatory show the formation of a new lake by earth movements made by the quake.

In Pictures: China Lake Evacuation (BBC).

In Pictures: China’s Ruined Valley (BBC).

(If you have broadband) have a look at these videos of the event and aftermath. Some are amateur and some professional – all are amazing (Hollywood brought to life – it may not seem like it, but these are just ordinary people – no stunt pros or extras were used). There is a lot of pain tempered by Chinese stoicism.

Mapping the earthquake zone (BBC).

We should take nature more seriously than we do.

China now has more internet users than the US

China has jumped past the U.S. in terms of total Internet users.  In March 2008, China had more than 230 million people online according to the Beijing based research firm BDA China; that’s only 17% of the population and its growing at about 50% a year.  The U.S. by comparison had 216 million users at the close of 2007, according to Neilsen/NetRatings; 71% are online and that’s growing much more slowly.

The world likes China

Link to original article here.

How the World Sees China

Figure

The rise of anti-Americanism in recent years has given China a decided image advantage over the United States. Considerably more people around the world have an unfavorable view of the America than think poorly of China. But signs in Pew’s polling suggest that perceptions of China’s increasing power – both military and economic – could boost anti-Chinese sentiment in years to come. In fact, there are some signs that this has already begun to occur in Western Europe where worries about China’s economic power are on the rise.

Our most recent reading of attitudes toward China among countries around the world comes at a time of widespread discontent with virtually all of the “powers that be.” Not surprisingly, this year’s Pew Global Attitudes survey found global opinions of China mixed.1 The same, of course, is true of opinions of the United States. But what is most striking is that the publics of more countries dislike America than dislike China.

In 27 of the 46 nations plus the Palestinian Territories covered by the survey, the balance of opinion regarding China is decidedly favorable; in just five countries are views of China significantly more negative than positive. By comparison, the balance of opinion about the United States is favorable in 25 of the 47 countries; but views of America are decidedly negative in many more countries – half or more of the publics in 18 countries express disapproving views of the United States.

China’s fans are most prevalent in the neighboring Asian countries of Malaysia (83% favorable), Pakistan (79%), Bangladesh (74%), Indonesia (65%), as well as in most African countries (92% favorable in both Ivory Coast and Mali and between 67% and 81% in Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia).

Still, some Asian publics express mixed feelings about their relationship with China. In Indonesia, for example, a 43% plurality calls China’s growing military power a “bad thing,” but 66% applaud China’s growing economy. In South Korea, a small majority (52%) say it looks favorably on China but substantial majorities worry about its growing military and economic power.

Figure

Negative views of China are especially strong in Japan, where 67% say they have a generally unfavorable view of China while an even larger majority (80%) disapproves of China’s expanding military strength. Several European countries also cast a worried eye on the Middle Kingdom with majorities in Italy (61%), the Czech Republic (58%), Germany (54%), France (51%) as well as Turkey (53%) saying they hold an unfavorable view of China.

A Downward Trend

Figure

While global opinion of China remains mostly positive, it has soured somewhat in recent years – though not as widely as have attitudes toward the United States. In 9 of 15 countries for which trend data are available, the proportion of the public saying it views China favorably has shrunk over the past 2 years. The largest declines are observed among of China’s Asian neighbors (Japan, South Korea, and India), but significant slippage is also seen in Western Europe (Britain, France, Germany, Spain).

(Interestingly, for reasons not apparent from these data, the English-speaking countries covered by the survey — Great Britain, Canada, and even to a lesser extent the United States — have decidedly more favorable overall views of China than do non-English-speaking Western nations.)

Moreover, even in countries where overall impressions of China remain positive, growing numbers worry about its heightened military power and, to a lesser extent, its mounting economic power.

In 32 of 46 countries surveyed, China’s increasing military muscle is viewed with alarm. These worries are most prevalent in two countries with a long and sometimes bitter historic connection to China: South Korea, where fully 89% view Chinese military might as a bad thing and Japan where 80% share that view.

Figure

In neighboring India, a clear majority (59%) also expresses concern about China’s military power as do 70% of Russians. On the other hand, majorities in Pakistan (57%), Malaysia (57%), and Bangladesh (51%) say China’s stronger military is good for their country.

China’s rapidly expanding economy attracts far less concern. In fact, in 33 of 46 countries, including China itself, China’s growing economy is viewed as a good thing by majorities or pluralities. Nonetheless, concern is significant and increasing in such varied countries as Italy, France, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico and Malaysia

Nearly all of China’s neighbors see what’s good for the Chinese economy as good for their own. Two neighbors stand apart in this however: In South Korea, a substantial 60% majority sees China’s growing economic power as a bad thing. In India, views are more evenly divided, with 42% calling China’s growing economy a good thing and 48% deeming it bad.

China’s Influence Spreads to Other Continents

Figure

China’s growing presence on the world stage is clearly evident in Africa and Latin America. Majorities in most countries in each of these regions say China exerts at least a fair amount of influence on their countries.

In eight of 10 sub-Saharan African countries surveyed, majorities say that China has a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of influence on the way things are going in their countries. And in four of seven Latin American countries majorities also say the same thing about China’s influence on their countries.

In Africa, China’s influence is now seen as rivaling American influence. In such major nations as Ethiopia, South Africa, and Nigeria, equally huge numbers see America and China exerting an important influence in their countries.

Ghana, Uganda and Kenya still rate American influence more potent in their nations. But in Senegal, Mali, and Ivory Coast, greater numbers say China has an important influence than say the same about the United States.

Most striking is that while clear majorities in 8 of 10 sub-Saharan African nations surveyed say that America’s influence in their countries is generally good, China’s influence is almost universally viewed as having a more beneficial impact on African countries than does that of the United States.

Figure

In Latin America, U.S. dominance is less challenged by China’s rise to world power. In all seven Latin American nations surveyed, larger numbers see an important U.S. influence than say the same about China. In most of these countries the difference is substantial, ranging from 35 percentage points in Peru and 31 points in Argentina down to 8 points in Chile.

Reactions to the influence of both China and the United States are far less positive in Latin American than in Africa, but views are divided across nations.

In Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia and Peru, majorities or pluralities rate China’s influence as good, while the reverse is true with respect to the United States. In Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, the influence of both countries is generally regarded unfavorably — in some cases by large majorities (80% of Argentineans take a dim view of American influence there.)

Notes

1 See “Global Unease with Major World Powers and Leaders,” Pew Global Attitudes Project, June 2007.

Emperor Qian Long to King George III

This link came across my desk and I share it because of my ties to Hong Kong and fondness for China.  It is the text of a famous letter from Emperor Qian Long sent to King George III at the height of Chinese civilisation in the 18th century.  China entered into a 200-year period of decline shortly afterwards. It’s a great reminder of the benefits of openness, and an entertaining read!

China seeking stakes in more global investment businesses

The FT reports that China’s $61.5 billion social security fund has held talks to acquire ownership stakes in Carlyle Group, KKR and TPG. It’s unclear how far along any of these discussions are, but China has already acquired positions in both The Blackstone Group and Bear Stearns.  This further supports the view that China (and other Asian nations) is diversifying its asset base away from US Treasuries.

China to invest in Africa’s biggest bank

China’s largest bank, the state-run Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, announced plans to acquire a 20% stake in Africa’s biggest bank, Standard Bank, for US$5.5 billion. If approved by South African regulators and ICBC shareholders, the deal would lead to the creation of a US$1 billion private equity fund that will be established by the two companies to focus on emerging markets. The partnership would leverage Standard Bank’s experience in and access to markets throughout Africa. Standard Bank has a presence in 17 African nations and investments in many African firms. Chinese officials have already signalled an interest in investment opportunities in South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Congo-Brazzaville, and Angola.  This deal is another sign of both China’s interest in Africa and China’s strategy of making significant strategic equity investments around the world, highlighted by the recent stake in Blackstone.