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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly March 2013 - The Reform Agenda

    Next week, China’s National People’s Congress will formally anoint the country’s new leaders. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang—who are expected to remain in power for the next decade—know that the years of easy, investment-driven growth are over. Under their leadership, China must find a healthier development model that puts greater reliance on household consumption, uses capital more efficiently, and provides more citizens with a...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Books: Lifting the veil

    What do the Three Gorges Dam, local-government investment companies (LICs), the China-Africa Development Fund, Huawei’s transformation into a global player, China’s world-beating solar technology companies, and the issuance of tens of billions of dollars in energy-backed loans all have in common? They were financed by China Development Bank (CDB), one of China’s most powerful institutions and an increasingly important player on the world stage.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Consumption thresholds: Accelerating into affluence

    The Year of the Snake does not look auspicious for conspicuous consumption in China. The country’s newly-installed top leader, Xi Jinping, is urging officials to curb their appetite for lavish banquets. A broader anti-corruption campaign has also hit the market for the expensive luxury goods used for gift-giving. But these are political ripples on the surface of a huge wave of rising Chinese consumer spending. Even if China’s economic growth...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Grain imports: Feeding the hungry hordes

    China’s ports witnessed something unexpected last year: ships delivering ton after ton of foreign grain. In 2012, China imported more than 11m tons of rice, wheat and maize—three times more than in 2011. Because China maintains a strict 95% grain self-sufficiency target, this unexpected surge prompted speculation about China’s ability to feed itself, and what that could mean for soft-commodity prices. Foreign farmers and commodity analysts have...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Land policy and development: How Asia Works

    Most people assume the world will continue to speed up. Yet the chances of seeing another developmental story like China’s are rather low. The era of transitions from poverty to wealth in only two generations, or 50 years, is probably over. The reason is that China—like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan before it, and Vietnam along with it—built its extraordinary developmental performance on land reform that enabled a transition to high-yield...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Social reform: Weaving the welfare net

    Han Rong’s village home is immaculate, despite the mud and dust that stretch around it. The whitewashed walls are spotless; the floor swept clean; fresh paper is pasted over doors and upper windows ready for the spring festival—and still the 58-year-old bustles about with cloth in hand, wiping down the vinyl-covered kang and making sure everything is perfect. Han has, in fact, put considerably more effort into preparing for this family holiday...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Fiscal reform: A better way to tax and spend

    What sort of fiscal system does China need? The answer depends on what you believe taxes are for. Proponents of fast economic growth, who fear that China will struggle to hit its 7-8% growth targets, propose lower income tax rates and more public spending on infrastructure. Critics of the country’s huge income inequalities, on the other hand, want higher income tax rates and more welfare spending. And green campaigners argue that carbon and...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Financial reform: All about interest rates

    Financial reform is the most important economic challenge that China’s new leadership faces as it seeks to sustain reasonably rapid economic growth over the next 10 years. For some time there has been a consensus that the growth model of the Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao era is broken. Hu and Wen presided over an economy in which the investment share of GDP rose by more than 10 percentage points, reaching the astonishing peak of 48% in 2011-12. But...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Policy challenge: The next ten years

    China’s economy, politics and society are at a crossroads. The process of “reform and opening,” begun in 1978, ushered in 30 years of dramatic change. China’s economic miracle—leaping from poverty to middle-income status within a generation—was built on good government policies, a huge demographic dividend, and a benign external environment. Yet China’s problems today are more complicated, its obstacles more daunting, and the consequences of bad...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Capital markets: All hot air

    Thank God for a bit of fresh blood! At least that’s what chief regulator Guo Shuqing must be thinking. After years of lackluster performance, all it needed to push A-shares into a bull market was the appearance of new leaders spouting on about a new urbanization drive. Never mind that China’s growth model has been built on investment for the past decade or more, and there is a broad consensus that a more efficient model is needed. If Mr Li says...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Property: Premier Li's new deal

    When new leaders come to power, they like to put their immediate stamp on policy. China’s incoming premier, Li Keqiang, is no different. The only trouble is that Li’s new gospel of growth—urbanization—sounds very much like the old one. More urbanization, after all, will require lots of new housing and city infrastructure. But relying on investment to drive growth is hardly likely to elicit cries of “Eureka!”

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Retail: The empires strikes back

    Over Chinese New Year, British supermarket giant Tesco opened its 112th store in China, at Dalian Road in eastern Shanghai’s Yangpu District. The week featured traditional loss leaders on cooking oil and rice, plenty of firecrackers, young staff signing customers up to the Tesco clubcard, and one mighty banner stretched across the road. The slogan? “Tesco: Food You Can Trust.”

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Metals Man: Leading The World

    As the world’s biggest consumer of most minerals and metals, China has an incentive to encourage excess supply to reduce prices for consumers at home. But implementing such a policy can be tricky and expensive. In the 1970s, Japanese steel mills persuaded naive Australian and Brazilian miners to pursue aggressive expansions—culminating in a two-decade recession in iron-ore prices. Today, China is confronted with a more concentrated and...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Inequality: More unequal than Rome

    It is received wisdom these days that income inequality in China is extremely high and has become much worse in recent years. So the surprise announcement in January by the National Bureau of Statistics that it had finally calculated China’s Gini index, the best known measure of income inequality, promised to shed some light on this hot social issue. Yet NBS’s figures were met with a chorus of disbelief from online commentators and liberal...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Economic Survey

    A solid set of economic indicators confirmed that China’s growth steadied in the last quarter of 2012, after a surprisingly weak start to the year. Real GDP rebounded to 7.9% year-on-year growth in Q4 from the trough of 7.4% in Q3, ending the streak of seven straight quarters of slowing growth. But full-year GDP growth came in at 7.8%, below the totemic 8% level for the first time since 2000, underscoring what even the government now admits is a...

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    Gavekal Research

    The More Important Oil Story

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Board Is Set, The Pieces Are Moving

    Wen Jiabao delivered his final government work report as Premier of China this week, and in it laid the groundwork for a more aggressive program of economic reform by his designated successor, Li Keqiang. Wen did not try to hog the spotlight by announcing a raft of big new programs, but he did set the tone for what the next administration will do once it is confirmed by the legislature next week. While the new leadership team still has a lot to...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Checklist For China's New Team

    The honeymoon was nice, but it’s over now. For the past few months, China’s incoming leadership team of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang have basked in the glory of their newfound authority, without having to dirty their hands with much actual governing. That all changes at this week’s annual legislative session, as the new leaders will assume their formal government posts and finally begin to tell the country just what they are going to do. And not a...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Leaning Against The Wind

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    Gavekal Research

    China's Credit Expansion Unnerves

    One swallow does not a summer make, just like one disappointing data-point does not make a winter. That said, we have to admit that today’s Chinese manufacturing surveys sent a tiny chill up the spine. The official PMI declined from 50.4 to 50.1 in February, showing that the manufacturing sector is just barely expanding. The HSBC PMI, a more private sector-focused gauge, came in at 50.4 (from 52.3 in January), also confirmed a moderating...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Not Deja Vu Again In Asia

    For plenty of Asia watchers there is an uncomfortable familiarity with the boom conditions that have gripped Southeast Asia in recent years. Capital is pouring into the region, risk premiums have collapsed and domestic demand is galloping ahead. Manila suddenly has aspirations to be a financial “hub,” Thailand has just racked up a record trade deficit and even Anwar Ibrahim, the enfant terrible of Malaysian politics is back, suggesting he can...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Challenge Of Great Expectations

    One often hears that Chinese businesspeople only care about making money, and don’t like to talk politics. This is rubbish: give them a chance and the promise of anonymity, and opinions flow faster than the baijiu at a government banquet. We did just that over the past month, as we conducted focus groups and surveys including over 30 executives at private, state-owned, and foreign companies in Beijing, Wuhan, and Hangzhou. We asked some...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How To Feed A Dragon

    China’s ports witnessed something unexpected last year: ships delivering ton after ton of foreign grain. In 2012, China imported more than 11m tons of rice, wheat and corn (maize)—three times more than in 2011. Because China maintains a strict 95% grain self-sufficiency target, this unexpected surge prompted speculation about China’s ability to feed itself, and what that could mean for soft-commodity prices. Foreign farmers and commodity...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - More Bark Than Bite

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Accelerating Into Affluence

    Our model of the “acceleration phenomenon” in consumer spending indicates that the fastest growth will no longer be for basic consumer goods, but for the products and services favored by the newly affluent. Catering to the Chinese nouveau riche is a growth market for which the best days are yet to come.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Did Local Governments Get The Memo?

    The easy-spending ways of China’s local governments are once again in the spotlight. Their debt-financed infrastructure spending spree was central to the 2009 recovery from the global financial crisis—and cleaning up the resulting mess has been a major issue for China since then. The worry of the moment among Beijing’s chattering classes is that local governments will overdo it this time as well. With local leaders eager to prove themselves to...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Change Afoot In Corporate Bonds - by Bao Jia Tan

    2012 was a banner year for China’s corporate bond market. On our definition, a total of Rmb3.51 trn in corporate debt was sold domestically last year, a 70% increase over 2011. The total stock of outstanding corporate bonds rose 42% to Rmb6.04 trn at the end of 2012, equivalent to 12% of GDP (see table below for details, and the appendix for a primer on the types of Chinese bonds). These are impressive numbers for an economy that has long relied...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Snakes Its Way To Reform

    As the year of the dragon gives way to that of the snake, and China’s old leaders prepare to give way to incoming president and premier Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang at next month’s national congress, the big question continues to be whether or not China is making headway in the effort to rebalance its economy from an investment-led to a consumption-led orientation. Our answer is yes.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Macro Chartbook Feb 2013

    A clear cyclical recovery took hold at the end of 2012, confirmed by multiple indicators.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - A Love Letter To Big Farms

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    Gavekal Research

    The RMB Keeps Stepping Out

    Regular readers know we have followed developments in the internationalization of the renminbi very closely, because we see this story as crucial to China’s evolving growth model. In short, China’s capital-intensive stage is tapering off; the country needs to improve the efficiency of capital if it wants to power on to the next level of economic development. Liberalizing its financial markets, widening the capital account, and lowering the...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - A Strangely Tight Fiscal Policy

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    Gavekal Research

    When To Worry About Housing Prices

    Housing prices in three-quarters of major Chinese cities are now rising again. Prices paid at land auctions are setting new records. Nationwide housing sales growth, at 11% YoY in Q4, is in the double digits. In short, China’s housing market seems to have returned overnight to the red-hot boom of 2009-10. Since much of China’s broader economic rebound is due to renewed strength in housing, the sustainability of this latest property boom will do...

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    More Unequal Than Rome

    It’s received wisdom these days that income inequality in China is extremely high and has gotten much worse in recent years, as a well-connected elite has gathered to itself the benefits of government stimulus. So the surprise announcement last Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics that it has finally calculated China’s Gini index, the most well-known measure of income inequality, promised to shed some light on this hot social issue. The...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - More Than A Trickle, Less Than A Flood

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    Gavekal Research

    More To Oil Than Mid-East Instability

    After the tragic events in Algeria, markets will understandably be focusing on the implications for oil prices. But meanwhile data from China confirms the world’s largest emerging market, even more than political risk, may turn out to be an even bigger short-term support for oil prices. The release on Friday of China’s December 2012 refined oil output confirms what had already been apparent in rising spot prices for several weeks – the global...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Recovery Is Here. Now What?

    A bigger-than-expected pickup in China’s GDP has confirmed the cyclical recovery evident over the past few months. Real GDP rebounded to 7.9% YoY growth in Q4 from the trough of 7.4% in Q3, ending the streak of seven straight quarters of slowing growth. Nominal GDP also bounced back as inflation started to pick up again: the GDP deflator rose 1.8% YoY in Q4, up from 1% in Q3. As a result, full-year GDP growth was 7.8%, below the totemic 8% level...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Markets Endorse New China Team

    Later this week, China will publish its reading for economic growth in the last quarter of 2012. A pickup in headline GDP is universally expected, and will confirm the turnaround in property and related industrial sectors that has been evident for the past few months. This recovery, which came amid deep investor skepticism about China’s economic prospects, is now well reflected in market performance: offshore-listed Chinese stocks have been...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Credit Is Loose But Leveling Off

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    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China's Surprisingly Efficient Allocation Of Capital

    Our more skeptical readers could be forgiven for thinking that an article about China’s efficient use of capital would not have much to say. After all, China is a land full of empty cities and 10-lane bridges to nowhere, right? Well, not so much. Infrastructure spending grabs lots of headlines but its size is is easy to exaggerate: infrastructure actually only accounts for about 20% of total fixed-asset investment spending (and see Don’t Fear...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Consolidating The Recovery

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    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Taiwan's Consumer Model

    How and when will consumption take over as the principal engine of China’s economy? We do not have a crystal ball—but we do have the example of Taiwan, which 25 years ago began its own transition from an economy heavily based on investment to one powered by household consumption.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Memo From The New Management

    The C-suite of China Inc. has some new occupants, and they’ve just sent a memo to the staff outlining their priorities for the next year. The new managers have been with the company a long time—this was not at all a hostile takeover—and they are not announcing a big restructuring. But they do see that some employees have gotten a little comfortable with the way things have been done, and would like everyone to sharpen their game.

    0
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    Fathom China

    Profile: Geely: The Swedish Gamble

    China’s love affair with the automobile over the past decade has led to two types of car companies: joint ventures between foreign brands and state enterprises, and upstart private-sector firms making cheap cars. In the second category, Geely ranks among the best. The company is run by a self-described peasant who maintains absolute control over a large number of auto makers and suppliers, some listed and some not. This report focuses on the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Halfway House For Infrastructure

    This year China, facing an unexpected and unwanted slowdown in growth has once again used infrastructure investment as a countercyclical tool. The infrastructure spending spree of the 2009 stimulus had led to a prolonged hangover in 2010 and 2011, and by the turn of this year total infrastructure investment was actually declining in YoY terms. Project approvals then accelerated, and growth turned positive by Q2; by October spending was rising by...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China's Ponzi Is Tomorrow's Problem

    In recent years China’s long suffering savers have sniffed an unfamiliar odor. After a decade of financial repression, so called Wealth Management Products (WMP) offered the smell of easy money. Since 2010 “sophisticated” Chinese investors have been able to buy yield-enhancing packaged products, presumed to be risk-free as they were sold by banks. Returns reaching into the mid-teens per year were based on rolling up bundles of loans to borrowers...

    6
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Industry Profits From Property's Recovery

    China’s economic data in November showed an increasingly firm domestic recovery. Heavy industry, particularly metals and other construction materials, led the sharp slowdown earlier this year, and is now leading the rebound. Indicators tied to this sector—notably electricity output—that have underperformed the rest of the economy are now catching back up. Importantly, the industrial profit cycle has also turned, and profits are likely to show...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - How Clean Does The New Broom Sweep?

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Moving Up The Food Chain

    Mergers and acquisitions have played a central role in China’s vigorous debate about the role of state-owned enterprises in its increasingly market-driven economy. Over the past few years, there have been several widely-reported cases of private companies selling out to SOEs in the coal, steel, electricity, and airline industries. These have led to a perception that successful private and foreign companies are increasingly vulnerable to forced...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly December 2012 - State-owned Enterprises

    One of the most persistent claims made about China’s economy is that an embattled private sector is getting squeezed out by increasingly powerful state-owned enterprises. This claim does not stand up to the evidence: private companies have increased their share of virtually every economic indicator, from exports to employment to bank credit. But that does not mean all is well in corporate China. Though large in aggregate, private firms remain...

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