Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC)

China Press Review – January 13, 2022

China GDP: Five Things To Watch Ahead Of Xi’s Push For A Third Term
China will release its estimates for fourth quarter and full-year gross domestic product growth on Monday at a critical economic and political juncture for President Xi Jinping, who is seeking an unprecedented third term as head of the Communist party, military and government.  The party’s politburo last month emphasised the importance of stabilising the economy and financial system, which have been jolted by a downturn in the property sector. But it did not signal any intention to ditch the policies that have led to defaults at Evergrande and other big developers.  Striking a balance between stability and fiscal discipline will test Xi’s economic team, led by Vice Premier Liu He, over the coming months.

China’s factories are wrestling with labour shortages. Age-old prejudice partly explains why
The problem can partly be explained by long-held perceptions that blue-collar work is inferior and for people with a poor education     By 2025, there will be a shortage of nearly 30 million workers in the manufacturing sector, the Ministry of Education estimates
China’s factories are wrestling with labour shortages. Age-old prejudice partly explains why

German and Chinese growth models are outdated
Challenges add to the list of global economic vulnerabilities
Economists are understandably focused on the uncertain near-term global outlook. But medium- and long-term prospects are discouraging given demographics, US/China tensions, excess leverage, reshoring and often limited macro space. Sustainable growth rates are likely to continue their march downwards during this decade.  Accentuating these woes, the Chinese and German growth models are outdated and in need of overhauling. Whether this happens is an open question. The two account for nearly a quarter of global gross domestic product.   China’s growth in the last two decades has been extraordinary. Before the 2008 financial crisis, it was fuelled by exports, and by large-scale credit growth afterwards.

China’s Gen Z Leads Demand for Imports on Alibaba’s Tmall Global
Generation Z is the fastest-growing consumer cohort of imported goods in China, said an Alibaba executive on Wednesday.  The number of shoppers born after 2000 grew more than 70% on Alibaba cross-border marketplace Tmall Global in the 12 months ended March 2021. Of the 100 million annual active users on the platform, around 30% were born after 1995.“Consumers of imported goods are getting much younger, with the fastest growth from Gen Z consumers, [so] their huge consumption potential is important to brands,” said Alvin Liu, president of Alibaba B2C Retail, at a virtual summit held on Wednesday for international brands. The number of Zoomers on Tmall Global is nearly in lockstep with China’s national average. Defined globally as the generation born from 1995-1996 onwards, these young consumers accounted for more than 30% of the Middle Kingdom’s internet population in 2020. As digital natives themselves, it is no surprise that Gen Z are leading the charge in China’s import market, the second-largest in the world for 11 years running and valued at over $2 trillion between Jan. to Nov. last year.More pleasure-seeking and economically powerful, they are willing to pay a premium for quality goods and fresh experiences.

The Optimist’s Guide to Luxury in China for 2022
Recent headlines paint a pretty bleak future for China. Between city-wide lockdownssupply chain setbacks, sluggish consumer spending, tech and entertainment crackdowns, and a crumbling property market, there is no shortage of problems that could have rippling effects on global brands.  But China is nothing if not resilient. Although analysts forecast that the economy will swell at a modest rate of above 5 percent this year — a drop from the estimated rate of 8 percent in 2021 — Beijing is bullish on change. Looking ahead, the government has pledged to double down on stability by increasing support for businesses and easing monetary and fiscal policies. At the same time, it has cultivated several bright spots like sports and travel retail to better serve consumers stuck within its borders. So, for those who rather see the cup as half full, here’s an upbeat take on what the mainland market could look like in 2022.

The Pessimist’s Guide to Luxury in China for 2022
Before we look into a crystal ball, perhaps we should take one last moment to highlight a handful of other worrisome issues swirling around China right now, such as the millions of Chinese wrestling with the Spring Festival, the world’s largest annual movement of people, and whether to travel or not as Omicron explodes; the escalation in military exercises near Taiwan; the ongoing Xinjiang crisis; the crackdown on tech and entertainment; the deepening animosity with the U.S.; increasing inflation; energy and supply chain shortages; and the unlikely chance that China will open its borders to the rest of the world before 2023. Headaches abound, but what to make of it all?  At the moment, it’s not really about a best- or worst-case scenario. It’s more about what happens when one or more of these issues simply escalates. The hope is that the Communist Party has an all-encompassing solution to the mounting problems, and maybe they do. But today, how much more will it take to dent China’s already sluggish economy? What’s the tipping point for China’s luxury consumers and all the bags, belts, and shoes that global luxury brands are betting they will devour in 2022? And when does the overall uncertainty about jobs and incomes reduce — or, worse, stop — people’s willingness to spend, especially on luxury goods? We’re in unchartered territory here. For global luxury, China, and the world.

China Banks Curb Property Loans to Local Government Firms
Lenders impose new restrictions on LGFVs, people familiar say   Several of China’s largest banks have become more selective about funding real estate projects by local government financing vehicles, concerned that some are taking on too much risk after they replaced private developers as key buyers of land, people familiar with the matter said.   At least five state-run banks have imposed new restrictions this year on loans to weaker LGFVs seeking to buy land and develop new real estate projects, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter. Banks are being more stringent in assessing the financial strength of the local economy and the sales prospects of the projects, the people said.

China’s True Unemployment Pain Masked by Official Data
Unchanged jobless rate at odds with alternative data sources   Labor market woes add to calls for stimulus as growth weakens    The official jobless survey defines the unemployed as those who have actively sought a job within the past three months and would be able to start a new job within two weeks. China has placed hundreds of thousands of people in quarantine, usually for weeks at a time, as part of coronavirus control efforts since the summer — those people wouldn’t meet the second condition and would not be counted among the unemployed.Because of the weak labor market, record numbers of young people are preparing to take exams to qualify for post graduate courses or enter the civil service. The numbers sitting those exams in 2021 rose by more than 1.6 million from 2019, economists at Minsheng Securities Co. Ltd. said in a note.   As they would not be counted as job seekers, “the actual employment pressure of college students is higher than the unemployment rate shows,” they said.

Chinese EV makers may face a price war in 2022: UBS
China’s electric vehicle (EV) sales soared in 2021, bucking the national trend of slowing auto sales. Local automakers have shown strong competitiveness against overseas counterparts. However, industry players may face new challenges: a looming price war among competitors will likely reduce profits, a UBS Securities analyst said on Tuesday.

Evergrande’s Hengchi 5 electric SUV rolls off Tianjin plant after much delay, a key step in transforming the world’s most indebted developer
The Hengchi 5 all-electric compact sports-utility vehicle (SUV) has a driving range of about 700 kilometres (435 miles) on a single charge   The model, priced at less than 200,000 yuan, is cheaper than the 300,000-yuan price point where Tesla’s fiercest Chinese competitors compete at    China, the world’s largest automotive and EV market, is home to up to 200 carmakers looking to tap the mainland’s accelerated pace of electrification on the roads.  In 2021, the country’s reported sales of 2.99 million new-energy vehicles (NEVs) – which comprise pure electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell cars – 169 per cent higher than the previous year.  The penetration rate of NEVs hit 14.8 per cent, while analysts expected it to top 20 per cent this year, three years ahead of Beijing’s agenda

Winning the tech war with Chinese characteristics
Behind the resolve to beat the US stand Chinese experts convinced China can take the lead, says Valarie Tan. This is the second in a series of short analyses that looks at China’s systemic competition and normative rivalry with the US and the EU. A look beyond the Beijing leadership shows how far debates about the features of political systems and the power to interpret events reach into Chinese society – and possibly shape the country’s actions.

US-China tech war: Beijing unveils grand plan to grow digital economy as US moves forward with competition bill
The plan endorsed a target that would see the output of core industries in China’s digital economy account for 10 per cent the country’s GDP by 2025  Beijing’s ambitions for the digital economy and core technologies have stoked fears in the US that it could lose technological leadership to China.  Further, 45 per cent of Chinese industrial enterprises will be connected to “industrial internet platforms” by 2025, up from 14.7 per cent last year, while 800 million residents will be registered for online government services with their real identity, compared with 400 million in 2020, according to the document.Under the plan, China aims to enhance its basic research capabilities in “strategic areas” such as sensors, quantum information, communications, integrated circuits, key software, big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain and new materials. The country will also seek to improve self-sufficiency in “basic hardware and software, core electronic components, key basic materials and production equipment” to enhance supply chain security in key industries such as “5G, integrated circuits, new energy vehicles, artificial intelligence and the industrial internet”, according to the document. While many of the specific targets in the 14th five-year plan have been included in earlier Chinese government documents, the digital economy plan showcases Beijing’s strategic vision for a bigger and more powerful digital economy sector. For example, it has a goal to increase the size of the software and information technology service industry from 8.2 trillion yuan (US$1.3 billion) currently, to 14 trillion yuan by 2025, and boost digital trade from 37.2 trillion yuan to 46 trillion yuan over the same period. Beijing’s ambitions for the digital economy and core technologies have stoked fears in the US that the country could lose its technological leadership to China. A report published by the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School last month stated that within the next decade, China is likely to catch up to the US – if it has not already overtaken it – in the foundational technologies of artificial intelligence5Gquantum information sciencesemiconductors, biotechnology and green energy.   The US House of Representatives is preparing to move forward with its sweeping China competitiveness bill, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. The timing of a vote in the House became unclear after the Senate passed the bill in June. The US Innovation and Competition Act has angered Beijing, as it includes many clauses targeting Chinese technologies and businesses. The US has been the world’s most digitally competitive country since 2018, according to the 2021 IMD’s Digital Competitiveness Rankings, which measures how 64 economies adopt digital technologies for economic and social transformation. Over the same period, China has risen 15 places to No 15 on the list.

TSMC sees multi-year growth ahead, to boost chip spending in 2022
Taiwanese chip firm TSMC expects strong growth to accelerate in coming years due to booming semiconductor demand, as the tech giant on Thursday reported a record quarterly profit and said it plans to spend at least a third more than last year.  Soaring demand for semiconductors used in smartphones, laptops and other gadgets during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an acute chip crunch, forcing automakers and electronics manufacturers to cut production but keeping order books full at TSMC and other chipmakers.

TSMC plays down chip oversupply concerns, predicts strong 2022 demand following fourth-quarter growth
The world’s largest contract chip maker said the mature 28nm process is a ‘sweet spot’ for the industry, as advanced nodes take up 80 per cent of expenditures    Revenue surpassed US$15 billion in the fourth quarter and profits were up 16 per cent to US$6 billion     TSMC reported revenue of US$15.74 billion for the final quarter of 2021, up 24.1 per cent year on year. Profits rose by more than 16 per cent to NT$166.2 billion (US$6 billion), up from NT$142.8 billion a year earlier. Wei said TSMC expects capacity to remain tight throughout 2022 amid heightened demand for its leading-edge capacity, as customers seek to maintain more inventory to prevent supply shocks.  “2022 will be another year of strong growth for TSMC,” Wei said. He expects the global semiconductor market, excluding memory, to grow 9 per cent for the year, and TSMC’s revenue growth to outpace the foundry industry’s expected 20 per cent growth rate.  “We expect TSMC to maintain its strong technological leadership under healthy market demand amid the global chip shortage,” said Kristine Lau, an analyst with research company Third Bridge. “TSMC’s price hike should provide a tailwind for growth and is a testament to their dominance in cutting-edge nodes.”

Climate change: green hydrogen to get cheaper by 2030 as China drives policies favouring clean fuel to control emissions
The cost of green hydrogen could fall to around US$1.40 to US$2.30 per kg by 2030 from US$6 recently, according to Shell Hydrogen     China has prioritised hydrogen as an emerging industry under its 14th five-year plan

Hydrogen prices set to drop over next decade
Green hydrogen, which is currently one of the more expensive forms of clean energy, could drop in price by as much as 75% over the next decade thanks to China’s increased investments in renewable energy, reports the South China Morning Post. The price could fall to around $1.40 to $2.30 per kg by 2030 in regions with abundant renewable wind and solar resources such as the Middle East, Australia and northwestern part of China, according to Shell Hydrogen, versus as high as $6 in recent trades. They may converge with other grades of hydrogen by 2032 or 2034.   “Those regions will be able to reach a level of very attractive prices by producing green hydrogen at a level comparable to grey hydrogen today,” Tobias Chen, its head of Asia Pacific, said during the virtual Asian Financial Forum on Tuesday. China, the world’s largest producer of hydrogen, has been stepping up efforts to transition to cleaner fuels under its net-zero emissions goal by 2060. It has prioritized hydrogen as an emerging industry under the 14th five-year plan

EVE Energy plans to invest in power battery R&D center project
EVE Energy announced that the company and its subsidiary EVE Power intend to invest in the construction of power battery R&D center project in Huizhou, of which the company invested RMB699 million to build a “power battery R&D center” and build a new plant in The 71-2 plot of Chenjiang Street, Zhongkai High-tech Zone; EVE Power will invest US$236 million to build a “common technology R&D and innovation service platform for electrochemical energy storage and power battery industry”.

China’s 2021 auto sales up
China saw auto sales rise last year for the first time since 2017, helped by a 1.5 times expansion in NEV sales, reports Reuters. Total sales in the world’s largest car market grew 3.8% year-on-year, after monthly sales of 2.79 million units in December brought total sales for 2021 to 26.28 million, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) showed.  Production and sales are expected to be better in 2022 than last year on the prospect that issues such as chip shortage and high prices of raw materials ease, CAAM said in a statement.  After decades of upbeat growth, China’s car market started contracting in 2018 under pressure from the phasing out of some tax cuts, a trade war between Washington and Beijing and amid the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China land sales fall in 2021
Income from land sales for the majority of local Chinese governments dropped in 2021, hitting budgets at the same time as Beijing has pushed for more spending to fight a housing-market slowdown, reports Caixin. Thirteen of China’s 31 provinces recorded declines of more than 20% in income from selling land-use rights in 2021 from a year earlier.  Ten other provinces had decreases of 20% or less, and six provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Zhejiang, reported rising revenue from land sales. There was no information on two provinces. Yunnan in the southwest achieved 19% of its sales target for the year, and some other provinces were also well below target. The declines show how the property market’s problems are affecting local governments, with the plunge in home sales since the second half of last year and the cash crisis at some real-estate enterprises making developers reluctant or unable to replenish their land holdings. This in turn could undercut China’s plan to speed up fiscal spending and front-load infrastructure investment this year to stabilize the economy.

What is ESG Reporting and Why is it Gaining Traction in China?
We explain the concept of ESG reporting (tracking environmental, social, and governance metrics) and China’s mandate for corporate compliance in this regard. We also discuss some of the challenges faced by corporates adapting to sustainable reporting standards in the country. Regardless of the current scope of practice, it is clear that Chinese authorities will become increasingly sensitive to corporate ESG reporting to fulfill key green economy policy goals. For example, on February 8, 2022, the Measures for Enterprises to Disclose Environmental Information by Law will come into effect. It will require five types of enterprises to disclose environmental information.

China’s ‘three red lines’ policy is about to crush another developer as Yuzhou Group seeks to swap bonds, delay coupon and weaken debt covenants
Shenzhen-based Yuzhou wants to delay paying two dollar bonds by a year in a debt exchange plan, seeks consent to waive certain default clauses in 12 other bonds   Troubles follow other developers in same southern Guangdong province as developers are shut out of funding market

Sunac shares plunge after China’s third largest developer plans to raise US$580 million from share placement
Sunac will place 452 million shares at HK$10 per share, with half of the funds to be used to repay loans       The share fell by as much as 18 per cent in Hong Kong in early trading.
Iris Ouyang

Metaverse trademarks still sought after despite warnings
Chinese firms are still clamoring to register metaverse-related trademarks, despite warnings from Beijing over the risks linked to the new concept, reports the South China Morning Post. As of Sunday, more than 1,360 Chinese companies, mainly technology firms, have applied to register metaverse-related trademarks, a leap from three months ago when only 130 companies had filed such applications.   The number of individual metaverse-related trademark applications as of Sunday had reached 8,534, as it is common for businesses to apply for multiple trademarks.

China and Taiwan: A really simple guide to a growing conflict
Pressure between China and Taiwan has been building, with the past year seeing a record number of Chinese warplane incursions sent into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

US and EU will work together to confront China in the aerospace industry, trade official says
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai calls out ‘harmful non-market practices in the sector from countries like China that distort the aerospace market’   She dodges answering whether US plans to seek entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister calls on the EU to stand up to China
Europe needs to stand up to China’s “illegal” pressure on Lithuania and foreign companies operating there or risking harm to the international trading system, according to the Baltic foreign minister. Gabrielius Landsbergis told the Financial Times that China had escalated its conflict over Lithuania’s ties with Taiwan to include harassment of European companies using Lithuanian-made components. He will tell EU foreign ministers about the harassment at a meeting on Thursday and Friday, he said.

Ukraine crisis a warning for Asian nations fearful of China’s rise
The West may not be the reliable military partner that many hope    Extended to Asia, while Taiwan’s technological prowess may be fundamental to U.S. national security, at least for the time being, relatively minor Asian countries such as the Philippines are right to question whether Western countries would be willing to incur losses to protect their territorial integrity. Second, the West’s preferred foreign policy tool, economic sanctions, is being undermined by the shifting global economy. Its use is predicated on an aging and almost imperial view of the world underpinned by Western, or American, economic hegemony. But as this hegemony is eroded, as it will be with China’s rise, so will the effectiveness of economic sanctions.   We have already seen examples where the West’s attempts to exert economic leverage have been negated by Chinese largesse. But the bigger risk is that the continued reliance on sanctions as a foreign policy tool will force countries and corporations to start picking sides. This could actually diminish the West’s relative influence, especially in Asia, given China’s far greater economic importance. The last implication for Asia is the realization that Western countries may not be the reliable military partners that many in Asia hope.  Even if the Ukrainian situation is defused, it is abundantly clear that the West had no appetite to use its military capabilities to deter Russian aggression. As such, the notion that Western powers will always seek to defend their ideals is fraudulent. They are instead driven by naked self-interest and perceived risk, especially when dealing with a peer rival. Their commitment to Asian partners should, therefore, never be viewed as permanent but will always be subject to the vagaries of domestic politics.  And so, if Asian countries want to avoid a Ukrainian future in which they fall into the trap of becoming pawns in the emerging Sino-U.S. great game, two things need to happen.  First, they need to strengthen their security relationships with their neighbors, who are far more likely to be concerned by the region’s changing geopolitics than more remote partners. The recently announced security cooperation agreement between Japan and Australia is a first step in this process, but there remains an urgent need for a regional collective defense organization.  Second, they must bolster their military capabilities. For all the noise about increasing defense budgets, the reality is that too many Asian countries underinvest in their militaries. This, in turn, increases their reliance on distant and less reliable powers. But a strong military is the basis for all deterrence and countries without such capabilities are playing a very dangerous game — one which they are likely to lose.

Lithuanians overwhelmingly oppose Vilnius’ policy on China, poll shows
Just 13 per cent support Vilnius, according to a government poll that adds to the pressure on its foreign ministry    Survey conducted in December as Beijing’s economic retaliation for Lithuania’s bolstering of ties to Taiwan became apparent

Badiucao Explains How China Exports Its Propaganda and Censorship to the West
A dialogue with “the Chinese Banksy.”  There are tons of ways to avoid censorship in China, but you need knowledge about basic English and VPNs. It is not for everyone. Some Chinese think I am a CIA agent. As mentioned, propaganda and censorship also go abroad, not necessarily with intimidation and agreements, but simply through systems like WeChat. If you are an entrepreneur who wants to promote tourism in China, you must use it, and if your attitude is unwelcome, you will have problems. So, if you want to do business, you better keep politics – or even human rights – out of it. Furthermore, Chinese people can only have one citizenship and many of those living abroad want to remain Chinese and to keep contacts with their country.   I understand both sides, those who are more closed and those who are more open. They too face a struggle for their identity, just like me.

China’s zero-Covid strategy hurts consumer spending more than manufacturing
As Chinese local authorities impose more travel restrictions and a few lockdowns to contain the omicron Covid variant, analysts are turning cautious on China’s economy.   The greatest impact of the zero-Covid policy has been on hotels and restaurants, according to analysis from Dan Wang, Shanghai-based chief economist at Hang Seng China.  China’s “zero-Covid policy can one hand ensure the retail activity, industrial activity can carry on, but if the world is successful in the way of ‘living with [the] virus,’ China may risk the growth divergence between the two,” said Gary Ng, Asia-Pacific economist at Natixis

China had 24 cities with GDP exceeding 1 trillion yuan in 2021
In 2021, China had 24 cities with GDP exceeding 1 trillion yuan ($157.12 billion), with Dongguan in South China’s Guangdong Province joining the list, and Beijing becoming the first city whose GDP exceeded 4 trillion yuan.    Dongguan announced on Tuesday in its government work report that the city’s GDP exceeded 1 trillion yuan in 2021, making the city the 24th in China to reach that level. The city has a population of over ten million. According to the report, the total volume of the city’s imports and exports last year grew year-on-year by 15 percent to 1.5 trillion yuan, despite China-U.S. trade friction and the sporadic flare-ups of COVID-19.   Fifty years ago, Dongguan was still an agricultural county with few inhabitants. Since the implementation of reform and opening-up, the city’s economy has grown rapidly as it gradually became a global manufacturing base.

Chinese economist Ren Zeping banned from posting on Weibo after comments on financing childbirth stir controversy
Weibo said in a notice at the top of Ren’s account that Ren had ‘violated relevant laws and regulations’   Ren’s arguments provoked a backlash from analysts, some of whom suggested that the ideas were impractical

KFC faces boycott in China over meal toy promotion
A top Chinese consumer group has called for a boycott of a KFC meal promotion, saying it encourages food waste.    The China Consumers Association (CCA) says the promotion sent some customers into a buying frenzy.    KFC launched the promotion last week with Pop Mart, a Chinese toy maker known for its mystery boxes.  Customers are able to collect limited edition versions of large-eyed and round-faced Dimoo dolls when buying certain KFC set meals

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