China and Brazil agreed on Tuesday to swap up to $30 billion in each other's currencies if the need arose so that their fast-growing trade would not suffer if a new banking crisis caused dollar finance to dry up.
The three-year agreement, signed before the start of a BRICS nations summit in Durban, South Africa, was a significant step by the two largest economies in the emerging nations group to change global trade flows long dominated by the United States and Europe. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa represent a fifth of global GDP but have struggled to convert their economic weight into political clout in the international arena.
The objective is to help trade in the case of turbulence in financial markets, but specific details were not mentioned. Brazil's vast mineral resources and agricultural products have helped fuel China's industrial growth and the returns have helped bring a new era of prosperity to Brazil. Bilateral trade totalled around $75 billion last year. Of Brazil's $41.2 billion exports to China, iron ore accounted for 34%, soy and soy products made up 29% and crude oil 12%. Electronics, machinery and manufactured goods figured heavily in Brazil's $34.2 billion of imports from China.
Brazilian officials believe the trade and currency deal could be operating in the second half of 2013. It would act as a buffer against turbulence in international financial markets dominated by the U.S. dollar and act as a buffer against interruption of trade. Chinese officials made no comments but the People's Bank of China said on its website the currency swap agreement was worth 190 billion yuan and would facilitate trade and investment. (From Reuters via the Internet 28/3/13)
At the Durban summit, the fifth since 2009, the heads of state of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are expected to endorse plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool and an infrastructure bank.
These objectives reflect frustration among emerging market nations at having to rely on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which they see as still reflecting the interests of the US and other rich nations.
The reserves pool of central bank money would be available to emerging economies facing balance of payments difficulties or could be tapped to stabilise economies during periods of financial crises.
Officials say the BRICS are considering injecting an initial $50 billion into the new infrastructure bank. But the details are still under consideration. (From Reuters via the Internet 28/3/13)
Huawei is probably the biggest company you have never heard of, but it is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. It is the main rival to Sweden’s Ericsson for telecom infrastructure with $35.4 billion in sales last year and is the world’s third largest smart phone company (behind Samsung and Apple).
However, American politicians and cyber security specialists believe that their products are a risk to US security if used in American communications networks. They believe that Huawei is associated with the Chinese government and the Chinese military and many Huawei products have been shut out of the US. Other countries, the UK and Canada, have also expressed concern about the use of Huawei equipment and national security.
Huawei have made efforts to ease the concerns of foreign governments. They have set up a special centre in the UK to test its equipment for security flaws and in New Delhi Huawei say it has agreed to share sensitive technology with the Indian government. However, just keeping Huawei telecom equipment out of the US will not remove the risks entirely because the supply chains of many electronic firms stretch into China and these complex networks of commerce are difficult to monitor. The revenue of Huawei has increased very sharply over the last ten years from virtually zero to overtake, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent and is now just behind Cisco.
It is notable, however, that Huawei is putting more resources into research and development than their main rivals: 47% of Huawei’s 150,000 employees are engaged in R&D compared to 32% of Cisco’s 66,600 employees, 20% of Ericsson’s 110,000 and 36% of Alcatel-Lucent’s 72,000. (From Time Magazine 15/4/13)
A multibillion-pound series of deals show deepening relations between the two countries in addition to the fact that Xi Jinping’s first foreign visit abroad, as Chinese leader, is to Russia. Russia’s state-controlled giant, Rosneft, will triple supplies to China to a million barrels per day, making China Russia’s biggest oil customer, with total exports rising from 34 million tons to 50 million tons per year by 2018. China is to provide Rosneft $30 billion (£20 billion) in loans which will be usd to finance its recent purchase of of the British-Russian joint venture TNK-BP at a cost of $55 billion ? which makes Rosneft the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.
Kingsmill Bond, chief strategist at Citigroup in Moscow described the Russian-Chinese relationship as , ‘the best synergy on the planet.’ Russia has the raw materials and energy, whilst China has the factories, the market and the money. President Putin said in his first meeting with President Xi on 22 March that both countries want to encourage reciprocal investment.
Russia also announced recently that it will give China access to its jealously guarded oil sector. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) will receive a share in eight upstream projects, including a ‘breakthrough’ deal to exploit Russia’s prized Arctic reserves. Progress was also made on a key gas deal which has been held up for six years over prices. This dispute was not settled, but a deal was signed between Gazprom and CNPC that will see 38 billion cubic metres a year delivered to China by 2018. To get the deal, China agreed to pay for 30 years’ worth of gas in advance.
Presidents Putin and Xi made deals in other areas, including banking and even rabbit husbandry. These were in contrast to Russia’s lukewarm response to the Cyprus crisis, and are indicative of Russia’s increasing focus on China. (From The Telegraph, Russia Now feature produced by Rossiyskaya Gazeta of Russia) 2/4/13)
The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) has assembled a team to ‘protect economic growth’ and pressure state companies to boost jobs at all costs. The SASAC is the bastion of vested interests and controller of 115 state companies with assets in excess of $6 trillion - a good portion of the economy. Signs of a slowing growth are evident from a series of indices. China’s government is trying to stop property speculation with loan curbs, but this is proving hard without slowing the economy itself.
The reformist premier, Li Keqiang, is making efforts to wean China off uber-growth and shift to a different development model. Ways to limit growth to 7% next year are being studied. This figure is deemed the safe speed limit. However, the SASAC has ordered state firms to go for expansion and disregard other objectives such as investing in new technology.
Mr Li was a key sponsor of a report last year by China’s Development Research Council and the World Bank warning that China can no longer rely on cheap exports and imported know-how. It should embrace the free market and foster bottom-up thinking. The role of the private sector is critical because innovation at the technology frontier is different from catching up technology. It is not something that can be achieved by government planning.
State firms have grown fourfold since 2003 and taken up much of the available credit, even though many are inefficient and loss-making. Without reform, reformers believe China risks the ‘middle income trap’ of many Latin American and Middle Eastern countries.
Mr Li faces powerful forces from these entrenched interests and those in the Politburo who fear that China risks a social explosion without high growth. President Xi Jinping has yet to show his hand in what amounts to a civil war over economic policy. Experts say he tilts back and forth; the Standing Committee appears evenly split. (From The Telegraph 7/5/13)
The ‘Macau Laundry Service’, a set of illicit mechanisms thought to channel more in excess of £130 billion of yuan out of China every year, could be the Achilles’ heel of officials targeted in Xi Jinping’s war on corruption.
A report published last autumn by US-based Global Financial Integrity suggested that some $3.79 trillion (£2.5 trillion) may have secretly left China over the last decade. Officials in China and Macau have been told to expect that systems used to launder money through Macau’s casinos will come under tighter security in coming months. (From The Daily Telegraph 20/4/13)
Sovereign wealth funds are expected to grow by $1 billion a day this year. The funds ‘squirrel’ away the proceeds of natural resource booms or act as ‘rainy-day’ money for nations. By the end of this year, they are expected to be worth $5.6 trillion. Britain is he second most popular destination for direct investment of the funds - just behind the US. The largest single fund is the Government Pension Fund - Global of Norway with $664 billion. This is followed by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority of UAE-Abu Dhabi with $627 billion. China has two funds: the SAFE Investment Company with $568 billion and the China Investment Corporation with $482 billion. The SAMA Foreign Holdings of Saudi Arabia has $533 billion. (From The Times 11/3/13)
Apple has apologised for poor customer service after a series of attacks by Chinese state-run media. A leading analyst suggested that Apple risked losing $13 billion (£8.5 billion) in sales. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said that it would improve its repair and warranty policies and related communications. Last week, the Chinese government accused Apple of being ‘incomparably arrogant’ and warned that it would face severe repercussions if it did not improve its after-sales service.
Citi analyst Glen Yeung said that if the attacks had a similar impact on Apple to that felt by Hewlett-Packard, Apple could lose 50% of its market share in China or $13 billion in revenues. It could also frustrate a possible deal with China Mobile and its brand value would also suffer. (From The Daily Telegraph 2/4/13)
In the build-up to the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth (in 1893), the authorities are planning to build motorways, tourist projects and a school in Shaoshan, Hunan province, in memory of the founder of the PRC. A museum of 6,000 pieces of Mao memorabilia will be renovated to prepare for an increase in tourists on a Red-themed tour.
However, two leading newspapers in recent months have mentioned the darker side of the Mao era, the Great Famine. The Global Times printed a two-page feature on a monument to the famine victims and the Southern Weekly said in an editorial (in May 2012), that the causes of the famine have been ignored for too long. (From The Daily Telegraph 8/9/12)
Draughtsmen and engineers are upgrading the facilities at the CSC Jinling Shipyard Company in Nanjing to build the vessel. It will be a three-year project and cost more than £330 million to build the nine-floored liner, 187 feet high, 885 feet long with 840 cabins which will carry 2,400 passengers and 900 crew. Titanic II will make its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 2016 and will take the route planned for the original ship. Titanic II will be equipped with advanced technologies, including the latest life-saving and communication systems. The building job will be a big change from CSC Jinling’s standard business of turning out giant bulk mineral carriers for the Australia-China route. The man behind the project is Australian mining billionaire Clive Palmer, who has four bulk carriers on order from CSC Jinling and threw in the Titanic II as a bonus. (From The Sunday Times 24/2/13)
Steve Schwarzman, the co-founder of Blackstone has donated $100 million for a scholarship programme for international students at Tsinghua University in Beijing. It is modelled on the Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford University. His gift comes with an additional $200 million in fund-raising for the programme. This is the largest charitable effort made by outsiders in China to date. Mr Schwarzman wants a deeper understanding of China and says it is, ‘no longer an elective course, it’s core curriculum.’ (From The Economist 27/3/13)
Chinese tourists have replaced the Germans to become the world’s spenders. In 2012, they spent $102 billion (£67 billion) on foreign trips - up 41% on the amount in 2011. The United Nations World Tourist Organisation said that this comfortably exceeded the $84 billion spent by Germans and Americans and put it down to the growing Chinese middle class. (From The Daily Telegraph 5/4/13)
At the moment the two biggest makers of smart phones are Apple and Samsung with 21.8% and 29% respectively of global sales. This may sound a huge lead, but history shows that the mobile phone market can change very rapidly. Before Apple released its first iPhone in 2007, Nokia and BlackBerry dominated the market. Today both companies are struggling because they failed to innovate fast enough. In fact BlackBerry is talked about as a take-over target by Lenovo, at present best known primarily for its computers.
Huawei, which had just under 5% of the global market in the last quarter of 2012 - up by 40% from the previous quarter ? is investing hugely in research and development in double digit rates every year. In addition, Lenovo’s research budget is $453 million (£298 million) annually. Apple and Samsung may dominate the market at the moment, but this could change sooner than expected. (From The Daily Telegraph 30/3/13)
Australia deepened its already strong economic ties to China with a decision to invest 5% of its foreign reserves in Chinese bonds. Earlier this month Australia became the third country - after America and Japan - to set up an arrangement to trade directly with China in its own currency. (From The Economist 27/4/13)
Huang Qifan, the Mayor of Chongqing has recommended Chinese judges watch Hollywood films to learn lessons. He said that some Hollywood films rammed home the message that justice will overcome evil, but some showed how ‘silver tongued’ oratory can sway juries while others showed how heroes tugged perilously between emotional and rational thinking. Although he gave examples, he did not name any particular film. American lawyers can sometimes use every trick in the book to wrench and seduce the jury’s emotions in a constant challenge to their understanding of morality. Mr Huang pointed out that the justice systems portrayed by Hollywood do not automatically produce the right result. In one film the gangsters were clearly guilty but were acquitted on technicalities, but the lawyer who secured the acquittals felt tortured by his conscience. (From The Times 14/3/13)
The Sound Agents, Liverpool-based artists and oral historians of Liverpool’s Chinese community, have been awarded a £49,400 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. They will create a digital archive of oral histories with the help of volunteers from both the Chinese community and interns from Liverpool John Moore’s University Art & Design Academy. It will include memories of Blue Funnel shipping lines workers, children (now grown) who took part in the ‘Inn of the Sixth Happiness’ film and also stories of the forced repatriation of Chinese seamen who served in the British merchant navy in World War II. The archive will also be used to create a theatrical performance at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre. (From The Liverpool Post 21/3/13)
The Prime Minister of Iceland, Johanna Sigurdardottir, the world’s first openly gay prime minister, will be accompanied by her partner of 13 years, when she visits China to sign a free-trade agreement. Her partner is the novelist and playwright Jonina Leosdottir and Chinese social media is abuzz with speculation that her presence could help raise the profile of gay marriage in China, where it is illegal. Gay activists speculate that Chinese officials are discussing how to properly receive them. Homosexuality was legalised in China in 1997 and was only removed from a list of mental health disorders in 2001 but it remains a taboo subject. (From i, 12/4/13)
Li Keqiang has stated that the new government will focus on growth, welfare and social justice: he vowed to press ahead with reforms, ensure the rule of law and boost national prosperity. He said on 17th March that maintaining economic growth, improving peoples’ livelihood and safeguarding social justice are the government’s three main tasks. He believes the most important one is to facilitate continuous growth of the economy. There are complex economic conditions and the government must overcome adversity, handle change calmly, curb inflation and prevent major fluctuations. To reach the target of doubling the 2010 per capita GDP and personal income by 2020, China must maintain annual average economic growth of 7.5% over the next few years. People’s livelihood must be improved by raising the income of urban and rural residents, especially those in impoverished areas, and also expand the middle class.
A solid social security network must be established to safeguard basic public welfare, especially that of education, medical care, social insurance and housing. A welfare system and medical aid must be in place for the poor to fall back on if difficulties arise. All Chinese people must enjoy equal opportunities and receive rewards for their hard work regardless of social or family background. There is a need to narrow the gap between urban and rural areas.
To reform the financial sector, market-oriented reforms of interest rates, currency exchange rates would be carried out with the development of a multi-tier capital market, making direct financing easier. More private capital will be allowed to flow into the finance, energy, railway and other sectors. Social security, medical and pension insurance will be reformed to contribute to better labour mobility.
Government will be streamlined and the existing 1,700 administrative approval items would be cut by at least one third in the next five years. The number of ministry-level departments will reduce from 27 to 25.
Premier Li urged the building of a modern economy, modern society and modern government with the spirit of the rule of law and he vowed to be ‘loyal to the Constitution.’ The law is sacred and nobody is above the law. The government will be loyal to the people and the peoples’ wish will point the direction of the government. (From China Daily (Chinawatch) via The Daily Telegraph 26/3/13)
This forum is not well known in the UK, but it has been held annually since 2002 at Boao, Hainan in China. The BFA is a non-government, non-profit international organisation and is a forum for leaders in government, business and academia in Asia and other countries. The Forum was initiated by Fidel V Ramos (former President of the Philippines) Bob Hawke (former Prime Minister of Australia) and Morihiro Hosokawa (former Prime Minister of Japan). The BFA was inaugurated in February 2001 and Boao has become its permanent meeting place. This year 2,500 political and economic leaders from 43 countries and regions around the world attended, including Xi Jinping, President of China, Julia Gillard of Australia, Hun Sen of Cambodia and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF.
Xi Jinping gave the Keynote speech and emphasised the important role of Asian countries in a lacklustre global economy. In recent years Asia has contributed over 50% of global growth and has instilled much-needed confidence in the world. Asia should make a concerted effort to resolve major difficulties to ensure stability in the region, work together to uphold peace, remain open and inclusive and boost cooperation. China’s business model should be upgraded and developed in keeping with the trend of the times. China’s growth will benefit Asia and the world: the more China achieves, the more opportunities for the whole world.
China is expected to make overseas investment of $500 billion and import goods worth $10 trillion in the next five years and Chinese people will make 400 million trips abroad. Despite the global slowdown, China outperformed many countries and its economic expansion reached a 13-year low of 7.8% in 2012. The target for growth in 2013 is 7.5% - the best is still to come and China is pledged to double its GDP and per-capita income by 2020.
Other delegates made important points regarding China. In the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-15), China vowed to shift its growth model towards boosting domestic consumption as shrinking world demand for Chinese goods hurt exports. In China domestic consumption only accounts for 48% of GDP, which is much less than the global average of 80%. This is a huge market waiting to be tapped.
Online shopping in China and credit consumption have been the two driving forces increasing home spending. At the end of 2012, there were 242 million online shoppers in China, an increase of 25% over the previous year. Emarket, a US research company, believed online sales in China last year were worth $181.6 billion and McKinsey & Co think it may reach $420 billion to $650 billion by 2020. China at the moment has 330 million credit cards with an annual increase of 20%.
Regulation of China’s banking system was discussed. Deregulation of the financial sector could spur innovation, which is badly needed for the country’s budding financial market. However, this may also bring risks, similar to what caused the 2008 financial crisis. China’s financial sector is a developing, emerging and fledgling one, which on one hand needs less government regulation to stir innovation, but on the other hand should control risk. The problem is finding the right balance between the two, but the government should step back from things that should not be regulated.
Items such as the role of private capital and the participation of foreign banks which could collaborate with local banks in China to provide small and micro lending businesses which China needs to promote were discussed. (From Beijing Review 18/4/13)
Iceland and China have signed a free trade agreement (FTA).The Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir visited Beijing to sign the agreement on 15 April 2013, which will strengthen bilateral trade and economic cooperation and encourage other European countries to do the same. The Icelandic Prime Minister expects the agreement will diversify trade, reduce Iceland’s deficit and help in job creation. In addition, there is the opportunity to cooperate in finance, geothermal energy and energy saving.
Iceland is a developed country and is the first country to recognise China’s full market economy status. In the long term, China will provide a huge market for Icelandic products, whilst Iceland can offer China experience in teaming up with European countries. The China/Iceland model will set an example for economic ties with China and Europe as a whole.
Currently China is holding FTA talks with Switzerland and Norway. China already has FTA agreements with ASEAN, Pakistan, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru and Costa Rica and five more are currently under negotiation. (From Beijing Review 25/4/13)
Some 18,000 rural villages and 5,000 schools in impoverished regions will enjoy broadband internet service this year. The government will build 180,000 base stations to provide 3G mobile internet service to 100 million users and broadband will reach an additional 25 million people. By the end of January there were 177.37 million broadband users, while 3G users reached 245.88 million. (From Beijing Review 24/4/13)
On 5 March, People’s Daily reported an improvement in the sex ratio between boys and girls for the fourth successive year. The normal ratio should be 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls. This takes into consideration the difference in mortality rates between the two genders.
There were 117.7 boys for every 100 girls in 2012 which represents a decline from the previous three years which were 119.45 in 2009, 117.94 in 2010 and 117.78 in 2011. The imbalance is still a problem which the government is trying to address. In 2004 a record high of 121.2 boys were born for every 100 girls. (From Beijing Review 14/3/13)
According to a news release from the China Disabled Person’s Federation, on 7 April 329,000 jobs for disabled urbanites were created in China during 2012. As many as 299,000 handicapped urbanites received vocational training last year and the number of training bases inched up to 5,271 from 5,254 in 2011.
The communique also reported that about 3.25 million disabled urbanites joined China’s social pension insurance system for urban residents in 2012, accounting for 58.4% of the disabled urban population. In addition about 13.34 million disabled people in rural areas were included in the new rural social endowment system, making up 63.8% of the total disabled rural population. (From Beijing Review 18/4/13)
In 2012, there was a boom in wind power. State owned enterprises (SOEs) controlled most of the investment - about 81% of the total. At the end of 2012, 1,300 companies had invested in or built wind power development projects, of which 1,000 were controlled by SOEs. A total of 1,445 wind power farms had been built by the end of last year and China’s wind power generation capacity increased by 41% from a year earlier to reach 100.8 billion kw-hours which is about 2% of the total amount of electricity sent through the national power grid. (From Beijing Review 18/4/13)
More people from smaller cities are travelling abroad thanks to China’s rapid development. Figures released by the China Tourism Academy believe overseas travel is no longer a privilege of the rich. From January to September last year, Chinese tourists from second-tier cities who visited Singapore rose 28%, whilst the number from first-tier cities increased 18%.
The total number of outward bound visits exceeded 83.18 million, a year-on-year increase of 18.41%, and total spending in 2012 was $102 billion. This year, the number of Chinese overseas-bound tourists is expected to be 94.3 million, spending a record $117.6 billion. (From Beijing Review 2/5/13)
The first batch of regions and companies has been selected to carry out seawater desalination pilot trials in China. The regions include Shenzhen in Guangdong, Binhai New Area in Tianjin, Bohai New Area in Hebei and other industrial parks and companies. Last year China announced a five-year development plan for seawater desalination to ease water shortage in China. The objective is to convert 2.2 million cubic metres of seawater per day into freshwater by 2015. In 2011, 660,000 cubic metres were processed. The cost for the plan will be about 21 billion yuan ($3.38 billion). (From Beijing Review 28/3/13)
New detailed working rules of the State Council were published on 28 March to push for the establishment of a clean and efficient service-orientated government. They were adopted at the first full meeting of the State Council on 20 March and are a 58-page document detailing a series of rules designed to regulate the practices of provincial-level government, ministries, commissions and departments directly under the State Council.
The State Council should promote the transparency of government affairs and improve information release systems to ensure open and transparent government. (From Beijing Review 11/4/13)
China is to develop a certification system for low-carbon products in its efforts to boost consumption of environmentally friendly goods. An independent third-party agency will assess the carbon footprint of products and services and grant low-carbon certificates to those meeting the standards. A catalogue of certified products will be issued and an identification mark printed on the packaging. This scheme is being piloted in Guangdong, Chongqing and Hubei. By the end of 2015, China aims to lower its energy consumption per 10,000 yuan ($1,608) by 16% from 2010 levels and lower carbon dioxide emissions per 10,000 yuan of GDP by 17%. (From Beijing Review 28/3/13)
China is planning to build two new research stations in the Antarctic by 2015. Site inspections are already being conducted by a team, according to the State Oceanic Administration. A summer station (December to March) will be set up between the existing Zhongshan and Kunlun stations to provide replenishment and other logistical support and will be used to study geology, glaciers, geomagnetism and atmospheric science in Antarctica.
A perennial station will be set up in Victoria Land by 2015 which will allow researchers to carry out multi-disciplinary research on bio-ecology and satellite remote sensing. China already has three existing research stations, The Great Wall, Zhongshan and Kunlun stations. (From Beijing Review 11/4/13)
The number of certified nurses in China reached 2.49 million at the end of 2012. This is an increase of 1.15 million from 2005. Attempts are being made to reach the figure of 2.86 million nurses by 2015, which will mean that there will be 2.07 nurses for every 1,000 persons. This target was set in January 2012, but even if it is met, the number of nurses per 1,000 people in China will still be much lower than the numbers in the US and countries in the European Union. (From Beijing Review 16/5/13)
Beijing will tighten restrictions on car use to reduce air pollution. The number of cars on the roads will be reduced and cars from other cities will also be managed. There are five million cars on the roads of Beijing - a city of about 20 million people. People are being encouraged to use public transport and the policy of restricting private cars from being driven one day of the week will be implemented. (From Beijing Review 11/4/13)
The National Bureau of Statistics released figures showing the number of civilian cars in China at the end of 2012 was 120.89 million, which is an increase of 14.3% over the year before. Private sedan vehicles accounted for 53.08 million - an increase of 22.8% from the previous year. Cargo transport totalled 41.2 billion tons, up by 11.5% from the previous year. Freight turnover rose by 8.7% to 17.31 trillion tons/km. The annual volume of passenger transport rose by 7.6% over 2011 to 37.9 billion person-time. (From China Today April 2013)
SinoFile is compiled by Walter Fung.
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