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    Gavekal Research

    What China Needs Is Inflation

    China has famously managed to keep a remarkably tight lid on inflation during two decades of furious economic growth. But these days policymakers probably see inflation as more of a friend than a foe. Producer prices have dropped hard for many goods, especially in heavy industry, and until this process is halted corporate margins will continue to crumple.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Retail: No More Cherry-Topped Dung

    The shiny, Singapore-invested CapitaMall Xizhimen in Beijing, locally known as the “Three Humps” for the distinctive shape of its roof, seems an unlikely place to indulge a taste for coprophagia. But every day hundreds of young consumers flock to the mall’s Modern Toilet Restaurant to scoff dishes served in carefully crafted, feces-shaped lumps. Customers who order an ice cream sundae can enjoy the novel experience of tucking into a chilled turd...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Postcards From The Edge Of Sichuan

    We recently spent a few days meeting local residents and officials in a fairly poor rural county in the south of Sichuan province. The place we will call County X has a total population of around half a million people, most of whom are officially designated as farmers, though an increasing number are clustering in the bustling county seat. Our key observations from this time at China’s grassroots include the following:

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    Gavekal Research

    Europe And The Chinese Consumer

    It would be easy to conclude that the good times are over for European consumer-good retailers in Asia. Investors recently felt a chill autumnal breeze after Burberry, the British retailer of spiffy trench coats and scarves, issued a profit warning based on lower Chinese “gift giving”. Concerns are centred on a slowdown after a brief period when Chinese shoppers seemed to rule the world. These fears are overdone since European retailers are...

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    Gavekal Research

    Our Currency And Your Problem

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Playing To The Whistle

    Does China play by the rules? This question has hovered over the country ever since it joined the World Trade Organization in late 2001, a move that symbolized its commitment to following shared rules of the game for the world economy. And in the first few years after its WTO entry, China enjoyed a honeymoon. Only one case was filed at the WTO challenging a Chinese regulation, and it was resolved quickly. But as China’s role in the world economy...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - The Best Laid Plans

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    Gavekal Research

    A Spoke In The China Consumption Wheel

    China’s export-oriented network of large modern ports and shiny new highways is quite different from the country’s fragmented, territorial and inefficient internal distribution system. This dichotomy in part reflects the stark contrast between China’s openness on trade versus its deeply entrenched protectionism in domestic markets. Yet efficiency gains in domestic services are crucial if China is to achieve the broad productivity enhancements...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Natural Gas: Dreams Of Plenty

    Our natural gas sector report—organized into three sections examining the industry’s structure, value chain, and policy environment—aims to educate investors both on the large opportunities and equally large uncertainties presented by China’s push to use more of this clean-burning fuel. The main conclusions include:

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    Gavekal Research

    China Rides The Nationalist Tiger

    Will a tiny group of islands really drag the world’s second- and third-largest economies into conflict? The unresolved dispute between China and Japan over a cluster of islands, known as the Diaoyu to the Chinese and Senkaku in Japan, has long been a pretext for both governments to rally nationalist sentiment. The long-running quarrel generally involves a lot of angry rhetoric and the occasional symbolic gesture but not much else. But with China...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Promises, Promises

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    Gavekal Research

    Asian Equities: Export Victims & National Champions

    In recent years a winning investment strategy in developed markets has been to own global “export champions” over domestically-focused firms that we have labelled “national victims” (see Europe’s Three-Tier Equity Market). The export champs prosper principally because they have transposed their profitable business models to fast growing emerging markets. The victims, by contrast, generally toil in regulated industries, suffer from residing in...

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    Gavekal Research

    Mongolia: A Run For The Exits?

    Is Mongolia at risk of missing the resource bonanza? At one level the question is absurd for a country with the world’s largest single copper deposit and huge reserves of coking coal. Consider the fact that Mongolia’s world class projects are located close to the border of commodity-hungry China and it truly appears to be a lucky economy. However, Mongolia needs foreign capital and know-how to extract this bounty. The problem is that a newly...

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    Gavekal Research

    China Is Changing: Get Used To It

    The latest round of Chinese economic news prompted predictable reactions. Pessimists gloated that the slowdown in industrial production and investment continues. Optimists jumped on the publication of a mass of infrastructure project approvals by the state planning agency as proof that a stimulus-led recovery is imminent. Pessimists retorted that the new stimulus simply shows China hasn’t kicked its fatal addiction to capital intensive growth.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Welcome To The Chinese Business Cycle

    Over the last few years, China has not had business cycles: it has had policy cycles. Economic ups and downs were driven almost entirely by high-level policy, and understanding which way the government wanted the economy to go was, more or less, all you needed to know. Most observers, including ourselves, thus expected the government’s switch to pro-growth policies in October 2011 to have steadied the economy by now. This has not happened,...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Hope Springs Eternal

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    Gavekal Research

    Robots Ignore The Business Cycle

    In a world of stagnant demand and excess production capacity it is nice to find a contrarian tale. But at a time when many industrial economies face downward pressure on wages it is perhaps ironic that the production of labor-saving devices is a major bright spot. Robot sales for 2011 leapt 38% by volume terms and 46% by value according to the latest data from the industry’s main trade association. Moreover, a big chunk of the increase came from...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The New Balance Of Risks

    While the struggle between the competing economic visions of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek rages on in the West, the eastern front of this battle has long been quiet. In China, the victory of Keynesian ideas has been near-complete: it is hard to think of another government that has so feared the costs of unemployment and economic slack, and worked so assiduously to support continued growth in aggregate demand. The consequences have...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Books: Consumer clichés

    There are two types of China book written by Westerners for Western consumption. The better type describes Chinese people as individuals, and does not seek to draw crude generalizations about more than a billion people. The other type portrays Chinese people as an undifferentiated mass, but then presumes to explain how these people think and feel. A classic device is to shoehorn everyone in this large and complex land into a single, neat...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Dairy industry: What life for milk after melamine?

    What is China’s least successful industry? That ignominious prize goes to the dairy sector, after a stunning reversal of fortune. Just five years ago, China’s dairy farmers and milk processors looked set to turn a nation with no tradition of consuming dairy products into one of milk slurpers and yogurt guzzlers. Between 2000 and 2007, Chinese milk production quadrupled and consumption doubled. China appeared to be following the lead of other...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Film industry: Mandarins and moguls

    When China’s leader-in-waiting, Vice President Xi Jinping, paid a Valentine’s Day visit to Los Angeles, he romanced Hollywood with two watershed promises: a deal allowing American studio films greater access to China’s booming movie market, and approval of a joint-venture studio between DreamWorks Animation and three Chinese media companies. Xi, a self-professed Hollywood fan, agreed to allow 14 US-made 3D and large-format films into China on...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Leadership transition: The chance for change

    This fall, a meeting of the elite of the Chinese Communist Party will briefly allow the outside world a glimpse of its inner workings, as it names the small group of people who will run China for the next several years. At the Party Congress a combination of term and age limits will force the retirement of most of the current leadership, including President and Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Party Congresses often mark...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Agricultural investments: Rice diplomacy

    “Land grabbing” has become something of a buzzword in recent years. Powerful, land-scarce countries such as China are accused of buying up farmland in poor countries, and shipping the agricultural produce back home to feed their own populations. As much of the land grabbing reportedly occurs in famine-hit regions of Africa, the practice has understandably attracted widespread condemnation. In 2011, Germany’s Africa policy chief Günter Nooke...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Manufacturing in Nigeria: Lagos—the new Shenzhen?

    Analysts and policy wonks obsess over the implications for global commodity markets of a rapidly developing China, and what this means for resource-rich African countries. Yet the most important economic trend in China’s relationship with petroleum giant Nigeria has nothing to do with oil. Far more noteworthy is the growing number of Chinese manufacturing firms that have opened factories in Africa’s second-largest economy, which boasts a...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Infrastructure in Angola: Winners and losers

    Its brightly painted tower blocks can be seen from miles away, a sweep of color amid dusty scrubland. Spanning 5,000 hectares with some 750 individual apartment buildings, more than a dozen schools and over 150 retail units, the New City of Kilamba is the largest new residential development in Angola. When completed, this suburb on the outskirts of Luanda is designed to house up to half a million people. The scale is beyond anything locals have...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - China in Africa: Investors, not infesters

    China’s growing engagement in Africa remains a hot topic among diplomats, investors and aid agencies. Around the time of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (Focac) in November 2006, a stylized picture of Chinese engagement emerged. China was widely portrayed as a newcomer in Africa, desperate to gain access to African natural resources. China’s aid program was believed to be enormous, and largely devoted to propping up...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - China-Africa relations: Complex, not malign

    China’s relations with African countries have been front-page news for nigh on a decade. Many reports focus on China’s quest for African natural resources and the implications this has for energy security in the West. Critical reports accuse Chinese policy banks of offering no-strings-attached loans that stymie the efforts of the international community to keep unpalatable African regimes in check. They fault China’s “neo-colonial” state-owned...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Capital Markets

    For the past few issues, we have praised the bold attempts by Guo Shuqing, the chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), to revive China’s ailing stock markets. Guo, who took over as chief securities regulator last autumn, has worked tirelessly to make the exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen more open and robust. But the market stubbornly refuses to reward him: the CSI 300 Index, which tracks the top 300 companies across both...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Property: Encircling the cities from the countryside

    Drive around the edge of any large Chinese city and you will see block after block of urban-style flats. Many of these are built on state-owned urban construction land and are recorded in urban construction data. But an unknown number are built on rural construction land—officially owned by village collectives, not the state—and are not counted as part of the urban housing market. Many of these flats are occupied by rural hukou holders who have...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Retail: Home luxuries

    Is China’s love affair with luxury coming to an end? Everyone from big brand aggregators such as Richemont and LVMH to smaller luxury players like Hugo Boss and Burberry has recorded slowing sales of luxury goods this year. Yet the purveyors of luxury are not panicking, because they know that domestic sales only tell half the story: there is little evidence of cooling ardor for luxury goods among the hordes of shoppers who flock abroad to avoid...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Metals Man: Still Time To Peak

    For the past decade, the prices for most metals and minerals have well exceeded long-term historical averages, a phenomenon economists have dubbed the “super-cycle.” The reason for these sky-high prices is simple: unprecedented demand from China. But the recent collapse in metals prices has raised the prospect that Chinese demand has peaked. Is the super-cycle coming to an end?

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2012 - Economic Survey

    China continues to post disappointing growth figures, with GDP rising just 7.6% year on year in the second quarter, down from 8.1% in the first quarter. It was the third time in the past three years that quarterly GDP growth fell below the magic figure of 8%—yet another piece of evidence that China has entered into a structural slowdown. This transition will take China from its historic rate of 10% real GDP growth to a new trend closer to 7%.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly September 2012 - China In Africa

    China’s growing influence in Africa has attracted many negative headlines. Critics fault Chinese policy banks for offering cheap loans to unpalatable governments in return for natural resources, and accuse state-owned enterprises of “neo-colonial” behavior across the continent. The truth is far more nuanced. Many African countries—and not only those ruled by vicious dictators or corrupt governments—welcome Chinese investment. And China’s role in...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Staying Cool In A Cooling Economy

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Still Looking For A Reform Roadmap

    The city of Wenzhou, a prosperous port town in the coastal province of Zhejiang, has long punched above its weight in China’s economy. The area’s entrepreneurs are legendary for the enthusiasm and success with which they have embraced major economic trends, like the surge in light manufacturing and the boom in Chinese investment overseas. In March this year, Wenzhou’s leading role was reinforced when the State Council declared the city would...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Encircling The Cities From The Countryside

    Drive around the rural fringe of any large Chinese city and you will see block after block of apartment buildings. Many of these are built on state-owned urban construction land and are recorded in urban construction data. But an unknown number are built on rural construction land—officially owned by village collectives, not the state—and are not counted as part of the urban housing market. Much of this housing is occupied by rural hukou holders...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Stimulus, Real And Imagined

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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Property: A Volume Game

    Hong Kong property developers have outperformed the Hang Seng Index in the two months since CY Leung became chief executive. This runs counter to the pre-election perception that Mr Leung was an outsider in Hong Kong’s business-friendly political circles who would threaten the local property cartel and flood the market with new (more affordable) supply (see Property & Populism In Hong Kong). The fact that top executives of Sun Hung Kai...

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    Gavekal Research

    Why China's Banks Are Still Raking It In

    It has been a grim year thus far for Chinese companies, with earnings hits seen in industries ranging from exporters to industrials to telecoms and retailers. Banks, however, have continued to rake it in. According to the CBRC, China’s financial-sector regulator, bank profits grew 23% YoY in the first half of the year, more than double the rate of nominal GDP growth rate. This has defied expectations that the days of state-supported riches for...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    What Life For Milk After Melamine

    What is China’s least successful industry? That ignominious prize goes to the dairy sector, after a stunning reversal of fortune. Just five years ago, China’s dairy farmers and milk processors looked set to turn a nation with no dairy tradition into one of milk slurpers and yogurt guzzlers. Between 2000 and 2007, Chinese milk production quadrupled and consumption doubled. But then disaster struck: in 2008, six children died and a further 300,000...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Safe Is The New Risky

    This has been a year for the bears. By late July anyone invested in long-dated treasuries had 12 month gains of +35%—not bad for owning the world’s “safe haven” asset. But even havens can get overrun. UST gains have partially reversed in recent weeks with yields rising from 1.5% to 1.8%. The trigger was slightly improved US economic news and waning hopes that the Fed will adopt a QE3 monetary stimulus. For this reason, we recently argued that...

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    Gavekal Research

    Oil, Mullahs And American Cars

    Oil prices have rallied strongly from a bottom in late June and are confounding any simple analysis based on standard rules of supply and demand. Consider the following four fundamental developments and it is not obvious why Brent should be trading above US$110:

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Chartbook: China's Population Challenge

    China is in the midst of a profound demographic shift. Population growth has slowed, the number of young people entering the work force has begun to decline, and in a few years the ranks of retirees will start to swell as members of the baby-boom generations of the 1960s and 1980s stop working. By the middle of this century, China's population will be older than Japan's is today.

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    Gavekal Research

    GaveKal Five Corners—Asia

    For years it was fashionable to bemoan the scourge of “hot money” inflows into China. Now, with China’s foreign exchange reserves registering falls in three of the last four months, it is fashionable to talk about “hot money” flowing out of China. Another bit of evidence for the coming collapse of China? Hardly.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Current Account Swells, Capital Flows Out

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Bouncing Along The Bottom

    Despite a visible and sustained recovery in the property sector, China’s economy continued to slow in July. It is not collapsing, but neither is it very vigorous, and this picture is unlikely to change soon. A structural slowdown, whose conditions were evident in 2008 but whose onset was delayed by two years of massive monetary stimulus after the global financial crisis, is now firmly in train. Government policy remains mildly stimulative—with...

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    Gavekal Research

    Chinese Cyclicals Offer Value

    Chinese corporate profits have clearly decoupled from the wider economy. Unfortunately it has been the wrong sort of separation. Profits at industrial firms slumped -2.2% YoY during 1H12, down from 29% growth in the same period last year. Worryingly, sectors such as steel, which have benefitted from China’s investment-driven boom, have seen profits entirely evaporate. By contrast, the wider economy chugs along with steady if unspectacular growth...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Property: Steady As She Goes

    China’s property sector is clearly on the mend, but the recovery is slow and steady rather than meteoric. Policy makers probably welcome the modest rebound in transactions and prices, which should lead an uptick in broader economic growth later this year. But they remain vigilant about containing sharp rises in house prices, which could spark social discontent. So Beijing’s property policy will almost certainly stay on its present course, with...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Macro Chartbook Aug 2012 - The Art Of Easing

    Our quarterly chartbook reviews and interprets China’s major economic indicators in convenient graphical form. Main points in the latest edition include:

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Electricity Conundrum, Revisited

    Growth in China’s industrial economy has clearly slowed this year—but growth in electricity production is not just slowing, it is flat-lining. In June, output of electricity grew by precisely 0% YoY, after meager gains of 2.7% in May and 0.7% in April. Over the same period, industrial value-added has been growing by around 9% YoY. This apparent disconnect has prompted incredulity and doubt among many observers of the Chinese economy: is it...

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