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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Trade Structure Review 2012

    Our annual chartbook outlines the key features of China’s changing trade patterns. The main findings include:

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    Gavekal Research

    Cloud Cover For Taiwan Tech

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Electricity: Lost in Transmission

    The ability to consistently deliver affordable and mostly reliable power has been an essential component of China’s industrial boom. In one of the most impressive infrastructure build-outs in history, China nearly tripled its installed electricity generation capacity over the last decade, to 1,056 gigawatts in 2011. By 2013 China’s installed base of power generation will overtake America’s to become the world’s biggest.

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    Gavekal Research

    Regime Change Threat For HK Developers

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Smoother Sailing Ahead For China's Generators

    2011 was by any account an annus horribilis for the companies that generate China’s electricity. Facing higher costs for coal, their main fuel, and a rising burden of debt, combined profits for the sector fell 21% to Rmb71 bn. That is the same amount of money the sector made in 2005, even though revenues have roughly tripled since then. China’s largest listed generator, Huaneng Power International, saw its net profit for 2011 plummet 65% to just...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Rich Banks, Poor Shareholders

    Judging by their profit statements, Chinese banks are flourishing: net profit at the “big five” banks that control nearly two-thirds of the nation’s deposits rose by 19-30% last year. ICBC earned US$32bn, or about $5bn more than JPMorgan Chase. All this despite worries about competition from the irrepressible “shadow finance” sector (see The Shadow Knows...) and a mountain of non-performing loans from the 2009-10 lending spree. Reported NPL...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    At Last, Momentum For Hukou Reform

    On March 1, 2010, 13 newspapers in big cities appealed to the government to speed up reform of the country’s household registration system, known as hukou. “China has suffered under the hukou system for so long!” they cried in an unprecedented joint editorial. “We believe people are born to be free and should have the right to migrate freely, but citizens are burdened by outdated policies born in the era of the planned economy!” Their appeal...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - The Downturn In Corporate Profits

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    Gavekal Research

    Property And Populism In Hong Kong

    It is very rare that the US has a presidential election without at least one candidate calling for a “flat tax” system, which has worked so successfully in places like Hong Kong. Now ironically, Hong Kong has itself just held an election for the highest office in its land, and the question is whether the winner and new Chief Executive, CY Leung, will set in motion policy changes that ultimately undermine the city’s ability to operate on a flat-...

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    Gavekal Research

    Our Indicator For Asian Currencies

    As our regular readers know, we fully expect a structural appreciation of the Asian exchange rates. They are still cheap, the region’s economies are growing and Asian fiscal positions remain very healthy. However, as the experience of recent years has shown, this journey will not be made in a straight line. Asian currencies fell precipitously during the Global Financial Crisis, only to bounce back spiritedly shortly afterwards. From trough to...

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    Gavekal Research

    Strapped In

    It is well known that China is moving up the value chain in manufacturing, and that labor-intensive low-end assembly work is in decline. Eventually clothes and toys and sneakers and other such consumer goods will no longer have the ubiquitous “made in China” stamp, just as the once-ubiquitous “made in Taiwan” or “made in Hong Kong” label faded a few generations earlier. Yet discussions with mainland-based manufacturers always offer a reminder...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Regime Change For The Renminbi

    When China decided to take the RMB off its de facto USD peg in mid-2010, it put in place a remarkably stable currency policy. While the exchange rate was, deliberately, quite volatile over the short term, the underlying trend of appreciation against the USD has been steady—until now. Since the beginning of this year, the trend rate of appreciation against the USD has fallen significantly below 5% for the first time since the new regime came into...

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    Gavekal Research

    Inside A North Korean "SEZ"

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Much Does China Need Exports?

    Exports have been mostly a blessing for China, but occasionally a curse. The financial crisis in late 2008 showed its vulnerability to a fall in global demand, and since then China’s leadership has talked instead of relying on domestic demand. But China is still the world’s largest merchandise exporter, and the export sector is not going away. Its strength and vulnerability pose two interrelated questions: 1) how much more can exports drive...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Harsh Words For Housing

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    Gavekal Research

    RMB Rising: Lessons From History

    The push to increase the international use of the renminbi is one of the most visible ways in which China’s global role has expanded since the 2008 financial crisis. It is almost certainly the case that the principal motive for RMB internationalization is to undermine capital controls and hence to force the pace of domestic financial reform. There is scant evidence that Beijing has much appetite for the risks and complications that come with a...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Strong Dollar And Asia

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    Gavekal Research

    Energy Intensity Will Get Back On Track

    China’s industrial machine is still powering onward, as is its appetite for energy. To slow the pace of the carbon emissions and pollution that accompany energy use, China’s government has pledged annual reductions in energy intensity, or the energy per dollar of GDP. But after nearly achieving its target of a 20% reduction in energy intensity from 2006-2010, China fell far short of its target of a 3.5% reduction in 2011.

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    Gavekal Research

    China's Path To Reform

    The almost unimaginable economic transformation of China in the past 30 years relied less on a grand plan than on a pragmatic willingness to experiment in the pursuit of broad goals. Many reforms progressed not because of the brilliance of leaders but because an original reform hit a bottleneck, which another reform was required to break. This process is known in China as “crossing the river by feeling the stones.”

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    Gavekal Research

    Weeks When Decades Happen

    Talking about the Russian Revolution, Lenin once said that “there are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.” The last quarter of 2001 looks in retrospect like one of those exciting periods: three events occurred which set in motion the main economic trends of the ensuing decade. Successful investors latched on to at least one of these trends.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China's Overpriced Loans

    Chinese loan growth was unexpectedly weak in the first two months of 2012. Some reports suggest this is because banks face a liquidity constraint, and that the People’s Bank of China will solve the problem by cutting banks’ required reserve ratios. But there is another side to the story: loan demand is falling because market interest rates have risen sharply, even as the expected return on capital (represented by GDP growth) has slowed. What we...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Off To A Slow Start

    China’s economic data for January and February met our low expectations. Growth momentum overall is now the weakest it has been since late 2008; the key difference is that China’s economy is now going through a cyclical slowdown rather than a global financial collapse. Key indicators including industrial output decelerated further from 4Q11, and while monetary policy has turned to easing mode it remains fairly cautious. We expect growth to...

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    Gavekal Research

    Where Will The Correction Strike?

    After one of the longest and strongest uninterrupted rallies on record, the market is over-extended and there is the risk of a sharp correction—or maybe something much worse. On that much almost everyone can agree. Nor will the correction be delayed by Friday’s publication of yet another above-expectation US job report, bolstered by big upward revisions to earlier figures plus a sizeable improvement in the labour participation statistics? On the...

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    Gavekal Research

    What The Weaker RMB Means

    We finally have a good picture of the Chinese economy with combined January-February data published over the past two days (early-year data is always a minefield of distortions given the movable lunar new year holiday; imagine the mess in the West’s data if Christmas moved around between December and January every year). And the picture was a bit disappointing: industrial production and retail sales both decelerated, and loan growth was somewhat...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Loan Growth Muted As Real Rates Rise

    [LEFT]

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    Gavekal Research

    Surviving China's Slowdown

    China has clearly entered into a substantial economic slowdown: both the private property market and government infrastructure investment are finally correcting after two boom years. Yet the economy has not collapsed, largely thanks to still robust consumer spending and manufacturing investment. Official GDP growth was 8.9% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2011, barely lower than the 9.1% in the third quarter. The economy slowed more...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Markets Are Right On Asia

    It is hard not to notice a certain disconnect between what policymakers in emerging Asia are saying about growth, and what markets seem to be anticipating based on the rally in Asian equities since October (notwithstanding the last couple of days). Asian policymakers have, for the most part, offered very glum outlooks, pointing especially to a weak global export market. While some of the recent data would reinforce this wariness (e.g., falling...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Reformer's Legacy For Wen Jiabao?

    A politician approaching retirement has his eyes on history, and how Premier Wen Jiabao spends his last year in office will do much to cement his legacy. Yet it is still unclear whether that legacy will be of overhauling what he calls China’s “unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable” growth pattern, or of overseeing the biggest expansion of economic imbalances and debt in China’s modern history. In his annual address to China’s National...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Books

    In this lucid and meticulous survey, Nicholas Lardy makes acompelling argument that China’s famous “imbalances” – stratosphericinvestment, sluggish consumption, and a world record current account surplus –result essentially from distortions in two fundamental prices: the renminbiexchange rate and the domestic interest rate. In his view, the renminbi hasmade a partial adjustment to a more realistic rate, but prog*ress on domesticinterest-rate...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Shipbuilding

    Blowtorch in hand,Wang Fuxing shouts to be heard above the clanking gantry cranes as a cold wind rasps across the Yellow Sea. “We became the world’s biggest shipbuilder,” says the welder in one of Dalian’s largest state-owned shipyards, “because we have the ambition and the people to hand.” Behind him, welding sparks cascade from the hull of a supertanker that is nearing completion. This US$90m vessel, one of seven to be built in the northeast...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Land Reform

    In December 2011, war erupted on the streets of Wukan, a fishing village in Guangdong province. The spark was the death in police custody of a village representative who was negotiating with local authorities for compensation for lost farmland. Most reports on Wukan focused on its political significance. But violent land disputes are a daily occurrence in China, and local protests have little impacton the national balance of power. Far more...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Offshore Renminbi

    The push to increase the international use of the renminbi is one of the most visible ways in which China’s global role has expanded since the 2008 financial crisis. It is almost certainly the case that the principal motive for renminbi internationalizationis to undermine capital controls and hence to force the pace of domestic financial reform. There is scant evidence that Beijing has much appetite forthe risks and complications that come with...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Energy Security

    The goal of China’senergy policy is, like that of any country, to ensure a secure supply of reasonably priced energy for its economic development. Currently, China’s owncoal mines, oil fields and hydro projects satisfy 86% of its primary energy demand. But as its hunger for energy continues to grow, a larger portion mustcome from abroad. As this happens, China’s energy policy will become increasingly intertwined with its foreign policy.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - East Asia Policy

    The growingcompetition between China and the United States for influ*ence in East Asia,particularly in the East China and South China Seas, has garnered multipleheadlines in recent years. Reports in the Western media accuse an increasinglyassertive China of pushing its weight around as it tries to carve out aregional military presence consummate with its grow*ing economic clout. But thetruth is rather different: China’s diplomatic influence in...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Grand Strategy

    What is China’s grandstrategy, what does it mean for China’s global role, and what impact will ithave on China’s relationship with other global powers – most importantly withthe United States? From the foreign perspective, there are two broad views.Optimists believe that, as China pursues its “peaceful rise,” the US mustengage and cooperate with China to maintain a strategic balance of power.Pessimists believe that only a forceful and resolute...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Capital Markets

    If ever there were proof that leaders matter, one only has to look at the whirlwind start made by the new chairman of the China Securities Regu*latory Commission (CSRC), Guo Shuqing. In our last column, we lament*ed the poor performance of the former chief regulator Shang Fulin, under whose conservativestewardship structural reform of China’s financial markets nearly ground tohalt. We cautiously hoped that Guo would “regain the reform momentum,”...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Property

    With millions of units sitting vacant, developers cutting pricesto lure buyers and sales volumes shrinking, it is easy to conclude that Chinafaces a collapse in construction. In fact, China can easily sustain very highlevels of housing construction for another 15-20 years. New supply is required to reduce the existing housing shortage, accommodate future urban population growthand replace dilapidated stock. The more rele*vant question for...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Retail

    Prime retail space in urban China has long been a tale of two cities: Shanghai and Beijing. Rental terms and prices in prime locations suchas Shanghai’s Nanjing West Road and Beijing’s Wangfujing now match those in Los Angeles and Singapore. The cost of the best spots in these locations is not far off those in London, Paris or New York. But as rents soar and competition for the best locations begins to heat up in second-tier cities, a clutch of...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Metals Man: Waste Not, Want Not

    Waste recycling is hardly glamorous, yet developments in China demonstrate that reprocessing aluminium scrap can be very profitable. Stricter enforcement of government regulations and efficiency gains, driven by rising costs and more onerous requirements from rapidly expanding end-use industries, are transforming China’s waste aluminium business. The result is that aluminium recyclers will remain a viable part of the country’s super-competitive...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - National Debt

    In November 2008, China’s government delivered a surpriseannounce*ment to a world reeling from financial crisis. It pledged to spendRmb4 trn on a stimulus plan, three times as much money as the US government hadat that point promised. Yet China’s real contribution was not a fiscal stimulusat all: rather, it was an enormous surge in credit from the state-owned bankingsystem, allowing local governments to launch thousands of investment projects....

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Economic Survey

    China has clearly entered into a substantial economic slowdown:both the private property market and government infrastructure investment arefinally correcting after two boom years. Yet the economy has not col*lapsed,largely thanks to still robust consumer spending and manufactur*ing investment.Official GDP growth was 8.9% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2011, barelylower than the 9.1% in the third quarter. The econ*omy slowed more...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly March 2012 - China and the World

    (full version)

    0
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    Fathom China

    CEQ Q1 2012 - Yurun Food Group

    Chinese are crazy for protein. Despite the nation’s culinary reputation for eating big bowls of rice topped with tiny shavings of meat, China’s meat consumption is now right on the global average: 28 grams a day per person. In China, the vast majority of that meat is pork. So strong is the Chinese appetite for pork dumplings and meaty stir-fries that a main feature in debates among agronomists is whether rising income levels in China will raise...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    QSCB: The Global Bond Yield Conundrum

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - A Mismatch In Growth Targets

    [TABLE="class: grid, width: 614"]

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China's FX Cache Globalizes

    The long wait for China’s reserve diversification may finally be over. Though domestic and foreign critics have harangued the managers of China’s enormous stash of official FX reserves for years to cut their exposure to US dollars, all available data suggested they were taking their own sweet time. But the latest TIC survey from the US Treasury Department indicate that China’s diversification into non-dollar assets accelerated sometime around...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    A Tactical Retreat For Techno-nationalism?

    The stench of government intervention in Chinese technology policy is sometimes overwhelming. At last November’s high-tech fair in Shenzhen all eleven sponsors were government agencies, and several ministries had their own exclusive exhibition halls populated by favored companies. Huawei and China Mobile sat in an almost empty hall run by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). The products du jour included a Rmb400m super...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Decade's Window For China Gas Imports

    2011 was a landmark year for natural gas in China. Imports were strong, surging 81% to 30 bn cubic meters, according to CNPC, the country’s dominant producer. And more is to come: last year’s new five year plan mandates that the share of total energy consumption supplied by gas should double to 8.3% by 2015, from 4.3% in 2010. On current government targets, this means gas consumption would more than double to 262 bn cu m in 2015, from 120 bn cu...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    What Next For China's Housing Market

    With millions of units sitting vacant, developers cutting prices to lure buyers and sales volumes shrinking, it is easy to conclude that China faces a collapse in construction. In fact, China can easily sustain very high levels of housing construction for another 15-20 years. Much new supply is required to reduce the existing housing shortage, accommodate future urban population growth and replace dilapidated stock. The more relevant question...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    China Bulldozes A New Export Market

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