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    Gavekal Research

    China's Plenum Ends, Uncertainty Remains

    The Communist Party leadership emerged from a four-day meeting (formally, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee) to find a world breathlessly awaiting its master plan for overhauling the economy. The meeting did indeed approve a reform plan and issued a shorter communique, but perhaps inevitably, raised more questions than it answered.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Corporations Underwrite A Consumer Recovery

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    Gavekal Research

    The Meeting That Matters

    The ponderously named Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, which takes place this weekend, is a more important event for the world economy and for global geopolitics than the budget battles, central bank meetings and elections that attract much more attention in the media and financial markets.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Take The Pain, Wait For The Gain

    For multinational companies operating in China, it’s been a challenging few months. Mead Johnson, Danone and others were fined US$109m in August for supposedly fixing the prices of infant formula. Dairy giant Fonterra has come under the microscope due to worries about botulism. Apple has been accused of having second-class warranties for its Chinese consumers. Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline's sales in China have plummeted following bribery...

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    Gavekal Research

    Another Milestone For Chinese Offshore Bonds

    On Friday the three-year-old Chinese offshore renminbi bond market marked a new milestone: the first AAA issue by a foreign government. The Canadian province of British Columbia issued a one-year, RMB2.5bn (a little over US$400mn) bond yielding 2.25%. This is big news, for many different reasons.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Inequality Is Improving, Discontent Is Not

    Most of the news about China’s economy over the past few years has not been very good: growth has been on a steady downward slide, debt has piled up and housing prices have continued to climb. Yet there is at least one exception: while other things have been getting worse, China’s income inequality has been quietly getting better. Most observers have either not recognized this trend or actively denied it (the OECD’s China desk is an honorable...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Less Than Meets The Eye

    As China’s growth readings improved over the last few months, Premier Li Keqiang was quick to claim that the recovery was achieved without wasteful government stimulus (see Stability Without Stimulus). In doing so he drew a clear if implicit contrast with the last administration, which presided over two rounds of infrastructure-focused stimulus plans. But is this contrast so stark as Premier Li would have us believe? After all, since June his...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Passing The Growth Baton

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Time To Stop Worrying About Shibor

    Once again all eyes are on the China interbank market, as a modest spike in rates has raised fears of monetary tightening in what is still by a wide margin the world’s fastest growing major economy. We have three things to say on this subject.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Ghostbusting China's Cities

    For the past few years, worries about China’s over-built, under-populated “ghost cities” were mainly the province of journalists and hedge funds. Now the central government is getting into the act, and while it has not yet hired Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd to cleanse the nation of paranormal construction, it does seem increasingly serious about urban ghost-busting.

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    Fathom China

    Profile: Baidu: In Search Of A Mobile Strategy

    Baidu is heading into its toughest period of competition since Google withdrew from China in 2010. Of the country’s three internet giants, Baidu has been the slowest in adapting to the mobile internet. Its main competitors, Tencent and Alibaba, have market-altering mobile apps that can likely earn huge profits: Tencent with WeChat and Alibaba with its stake in Sina Weibo. Those two companies now dominate mobile e-commerce and social media,...

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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Growth Is Stronger, Time To Step Up Reforms

    China’s third-quarter GDP came in at 7.8% YoY, the fastest pace this year. The main driver of the pickup was expectations. In the first six months, companies ran down inventories on the fear that the new leadership planned painful structural reforms, including further property market curbs and sharp monetary tightening. Then at a conference in July, Premier Li Keqiang, while eschewing a major stimulus, nevertheless offered assurances that growth...

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Resources: To The least Dirty Go The Spoils

    The fallout from China’s slower industrial growth since 2012 has been pervasive, but perhaps nowhere more so than the global coal market. The price for Aussie thermal coal out of Newcastle port — the main Asian benchmark — is down 40% from its 2011 high and 20% this year alone. Coal producers everywhere are hurting badly.

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    Gavekal Research

    China Bulls And Bears Through The Looking Glass

    It used to be easy to tell China bulls and bears apart. A China bull was someone who thought that economic growth would be pretty good in the near future, because of the country’s basically bright long-term prospects. A China bear was someone who thought near-term growth would be poor, since the economy’s huge long-term problems were about to come home to roost.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - A New Strategy For Foreign Investment?

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Secret Plan For World Domination

    Despite US President Barack Obama’s enforced absence, this week’s gathering of the leaders of Asia-Pacific economies made “significant progress” on one of his signature priorities: a new trade agreement that would join the US and 11 other countries. Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have been underway since 2009 and are scheduled to wrap up by end-2013. Trade talks are usually as dry as unbuttered toast and attract similar...

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    Gavekal Research

    Time For China To Be Bold

    Communists are good at delivering pomp and circumstance, but not so good at articulating their vision. Next month, at the fusty-sounding Third Plenary Session of the 18th Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Central Committee, China’s leaders will set the direction of economic policy for the coming decade. Much of the language that emerges will prove opaque, but a careful reading should give us a better idea of whether the new leadership will honor its...

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: East Asia's Reforms: Thank The US

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Resources: Metals Take A Breather

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Housing & Construction Review 2013

    China’s housing market is in transition. After a decade of severe under-supply of housing, the market is now flirting with over-supply thanks to a redoubling of construction volumes. Urbanization is continuing, but its place is likely to slow, and all cities will not benefit equally. Yet housing prices continue to rise, and the government continues to try to restrict many types of purchases. To understand how all these different trends fit...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    What Happens When The Land Runs Out?

    For three decades China’s cities have grown by gobbling up fields and chopping down trees. But in a country that must feed one-fifth of humanity with just 8% of the world’s farmland, land is a scarce commodity. The government believes that it must maintain a minimum 120m hectares of cultivated land to ensure basic food self sufficiency. And since the current area is already very close to this so-called “red line,” cities must somehow grow...

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    Gavekal Research

    The New Asian Landscape

    By now, I hope we have telegraphed our message on emerging market Asia: this is not a balance sheet crisis but a case of crumbling growth drivers. After a decade of galloping growth—with EM Asia outpacing the OECD’s real economic expansion rate by as much as 7.5pp—the growth gap with the OECD is narrowing. An easy street paved by accelerated globalization and massive Chinese investment spending is giving way to a more complex macro landscape for...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Don’t Wait For China’s Consumption-Led Growth

    Consumer spending has not been repressed in China, so there is no point in waiting around for it to be finally unleashed. We should not expect China’s consumption to accelerate in the midst of an investment slowdown that is dragging down overall economic growth. China’s real economic problem is not deficient consumption but inefficient investment.

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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Investment Kicks The Construction Habit

    In sharp contrast to better than expected industrial output and export growth in August, residential construction is spluttering. Construction starts fell -20% YoY and were largely flat in the 3Q13 period. Sales growth for both apartments and development land also decelerated. Given the importance of property construction to overall Chinese investment spending, the weakness implies one of two things: either the recovery will be short lived, or...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Hard Choices For Housing Policy

    China’s new leadership has tried for a fresh approach on many economic policies this year. But on the key issue of housing, they have opted for continuity. The so-called housing purchase restrictions, the key housing policy of the last administration, have been firmly in place since mid-2010. Applied in most major cities, these measures put penalties on new housing purchases by those households that already own a house. By limiting housing...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Charting An Export Recovery

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    Gavekal Research

    Dalian Man vs Davos Man

    The Davos economic forum, held every winter in the Swiss Alps, allows its participants to look down at the world from above: topographically because of the high-altitude location, but also symbolically, because of the high incomes, high status or high-minded rhetoric that characterize the jet-setting global elite dubbed “Davos Man” by the American political scientist, Samuel Huntington. This week, however, I discovered a sub-species of Davos Man...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    In China, Stability Without Stimulus

    The pendulum has swung back. Fears about China’s growth and financial strains reached their peak in June, but since then optimism has started to return, as business surveys and economic data have begun to improve. And the latest economic data indeed confirm that growth has stabilized and started to recover somewhat. China’s most important monthly indicator of growth momentum, industrial value-added, accelerated to a 10.4% YoY gain in August,...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Why China Ain't Cheap

    Many consumer goods in China, from luxury items to ordinary high-street brands, cost more than they do in rich countries like the US. Why? As Tom Miller explains in this piece, the equation is quite straightforward: huge demand plus limited supply equals silly prices.

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Energy: Chinese Drivers May Take A Backseat

    Things are looking up in China — a situation which has usually meant higher oil prices in the past. With the Middle East on a knife edge and Brent prices already at a six-month high, will Chinese demand now add another upward pressure to global gas prices?

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Time For The Yield Hunt To Recommence?

    With US 10 year government bond yields stabilizing at around 3%, QE tapering expectations appear broadly priced in. As such, bargain-hunters have already returned to emerging market bonds, nudging down yields. There is still plenty of opportunity left for those who think the worst of the tapering storm has passed.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly September 2013 - Agriculture

    [LEFT]China is the world’s biggest producer of rice, wheat, pork, eggs, cotton, fruit and vegetables, and the second biggest producer of maize and poultry meat. It manages this with only 8% of the world’s farmland and 6% of its renewable water resources. Yet most of China’s farms are too small to be commercially viable and food-safety standards are poor. To raise productivity and meet the demands of more discerning consumers, China needs to...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China's Food Supply: Enough for Everyone

    For 20 years, doom-laden predictions about rising food demand and its impact on domestic farmers and global agricultural markets have failed to materialize. First we were told that China would struggle to feed itself and massive food imports would eventually starve the world. And then, when China entered the WTO in 2001, we were told that cheap food imports would impoverish Chinese farmers. Yet the reality was quite different: agricultural...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - The Road To The Plenum

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Korea And China: Rhyme Or Repeat?

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Asian country emerges from a period of internal strife to take global markets by storm. Sweeping domestic reforms and a hands-on industrial policy result in a surge in manufacturing capabilities and exports, which in turn drive years of sustained and rapid economic growth. But once exports start to slow, the government tries to keep growth going by pushing up investment. This works for a while, but...

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    Gavekal Research

    A Big Purge In China?

    This morning the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s English-language daily, reported that the Communist Party has launched a corruption investigation against Zhou Yongkang, a recently retired member of China’s top leadership body and a patron of Bo Xilai, the senior official who recently stood trial for corruption and will probably be handed a lengthy prison sentence. If confirmed, it is huge news, because it would show China’s new president...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Books

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Asian country emerges from a period of internal strife to take global markets by storm. Sweeping domestic reforms and a hands-on industrial policy result in a surge in manufacturing capabilities and exports, which in turn drive years of sustained and rapid economic growth. But once exports start to slow, the government tries to keep growth going by pushing up investment. This works fora while, but...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Retail Prices

    One of the most popular tweets on China’s microblogging sites over the past couple of years went something like this:“China—earn US$800 per month; eat at KFC for US$5; dine at a restaurant for no less than US$15; buy a pair of Levi’s for US$65. America—earn US$5,000 per month; eat at KFC for US$4; dine at a restaurant for US$40; buy a pair of Levi’s for US$20.” The point of the joke was to highlight a depressing fact of life for local consumers...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Financial Risk

    A shudder went through China’s strained financial system in June, when rates on the interbank market briefly spiked to over 25% and some smaller banks scrambled to fund themselves. Coming on the heels of weaker economic growth and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s hint that the days of ultra-easy money may soon end, the Chinese mini-crisis was a reminder of the perilous foundations of the nation’s financial health.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Growth Model

    China’s economic slowdown and proposals that growth needs to be more consumption driven have revived concerns about its policy options. The nearly universal view is that China’s growth is unbalanced and at risk. Household consumption as a share of GDP has declined to below 35%—the lowest of any major economy—while its investment share has risen to nearly 50%.Even former Premier Wen Jiabao falls in this camp with his oft-quoted statement that “...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Rural Life

    In winter the land is frozen and still. A cloudless cobalt sky shines off snow-covered rice paddies, reflecting light so bright you have to shield your eyes. Mine water from the punishing wind, blowing me east off Red Flag Road. I lean into the gale and head north toward the foothills, to my house, in a village named Wasteland.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Agribusiness

    The drive to the town of Half Tower, set amid the countryside of north*ern Anhui province, has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. A government construction initiative has transformed the road, once a muddy track, into a ribbon of solid concrete. Egrets still forage along the banks of a reservoir, but now they are supervised by 16 huge windmills spinning slowly on low hills. And though some rice paddies sur*vive, many have been dug up and...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Food Supply

    For 20 years, doom-laden predictions about rising food demand and its impact on domestic farmers and global agricultural markets have failed to materialize. First we were told that China would struggle to feed itself and massive food imports would eventually starve the world. And then, when China entered the WTO in 2001, we were told that cheap food imports would impoverish Chinese farmers. Yet the reality was quite different:agricultural growth...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Modernizing Agriculture

    What is the future of farming in China? Thirty years ago, when more than 800m people lived rural lives, most farms were run by households and operated at a subsistence level. Since then, the rural population has fallen to around 630m and the number of farmers has shrunk to about 250m. Today most households earn more income from non-agricultural jobs or via remittances from family members working in the city than they do from farming. Yet China’s...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Capital Markets

    It’s déjà vu all over again: the Chinese stock market is back in the doldrums. The rally after last November’s 18th Party Congress rally is all but forgotten and the broad CSI 300 has given back almost all of its gains. There are still big jumps on some days, but they are always followed by just as dramatic falls. The broad index remains down over 40% from its 2009 stimulus high and over 60% below the heady days of 2007. Yet even in the doldrums...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Property

    After a thoroughly disappointing first half of the year, China’s government has been busily announcing targeted policies to shore up growth. One of the most important is a new program of slum renovation. This will start work on 3.04m units of new housing in the rest of 2013, and a total of 10m units by 2017. Given that new construction has been extremely weak so far this year, a renewed public-housing push has the potential to make a real...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Retail

    China’s online price war erupted again this summer. To mark its 10th anniversary, JD.com—formerly known as 360buy.com—launched the first big online sales promotion of the year. “Save Rmb100 when you spend over Rmb399—AND get coupons worth Rmb618!” the country’s second-biggest online retailer promised its 100m customers. The promotion, which ran for a month, was a loss-leading strategy designed to capture consumers from the enemy—Alibaba’s Tmall....

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Metals Man

    As China’s economy slows, the price of iron ore has been sliding. In early 2011, it peaked at US$187 per ton. Since then, bar a brief rally in the final months of 2012, it has been heading downward. Many inves*tors are convinced that weak demand in China and the opening of new mines abroad mean it is only a matter of time before the US$100 thresh*old is breached. But we think expectations of an extended slump are wrong—and indeed,iron ore prices...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Economic Survey

    Watchers of China’s economy could be forgiven for suffering from whiplash after the summer of 2013. The swings between negative and positive sentiment were among the most severe and the most sudden we have ever experienced. These huge swings are in themselves evidence of the great uncertainty over China’s prospects as it tries to navigate a smooth exit from the last few years’ surge of investment and debt. But they also reflect the teething...

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    Gavekal Research

    Winners And Losers In China's Rebalancing

    Investors may have noticed that Asia is having a pretty rough run. Capital is leaving the region and, unlike after the 1997 crisis, it is uncertain whether nations can “export” themselves back to health (see It’s Not A Balance Sheet Problem). Indeed, China has been the region’s key export growth market in recent years, and as we all know, her era of investment-fuelled hyper-growth is giving way to a slower, more balanced growth model. This...

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