Tag Archives: Economics

China’s Rural Areas Show Potential To Drive Future Economic Growth

“Seeds Of Change” Starting To Appear In Formerly Destitute Areas, Motivating Entrepreneurs To Develop Remote Countryside

China's rural areas remain far behind the wealthy east coast in terms of economic development. If entrepreneurs have their way, this will change over the next few decades

China's rural areas remain far behind the wealthy east coast in terms of economic development. If entrepreneurs have their way, this will change over the next few decades

For years, China’s hinterlands have benefitted little from the huge economic growth that has transformed the country’s prosperous east coast, remaining underdeveloped and relying mainly on agriculture mainly as a result of their remoteness and often harsh terrain. If an article in today’s Financial Times is accurate, though, the next few years may be seen as a turning point for the mainly rural provinces in China’s interior. As much of China’s future growth will (or should) depend on domestic consumption and investment rather than foreign exports, the country’s interior — with its plentiful and comparatively cheap land and labor and delayed development (making it something of a “blank slate” for business) — should, if development is done correctly, make it one of China’s main engines of economic activity for decades to come. While this is obviously easier said than done, a number of motivated Chinese entrepreneurs have set out to do everything possible to make rural China prosperous, and — given the right mix of time and incentive — they might just be successful.

From James Kynge in today’s FT:

Reforms in rural finance, the monetisation of agricultural land and social welfare appear poised to turn China’s countryside from an indigent backwater to a driver of national economic growth over the next five to 10 years…Goldman Sachs has invested successfully in a leading sausage-maker. Wahaha Group, China’s biggest beverage company, owes its buoyant earnings performance largely to the rural market, where it commands a 60 per cent share. Rural China has also been a main force this year behind the surging sales of cars with a capacity of under 1.6-litres.

The fact that China’s second- and third-tier cities are the country’s major hope for sustainable business is well established. But what about the country’s fifth- and sixth-tier cities? With the sweeping changes already brought about by land privatization (perhaps downplayed by Chinese media, but a revolution in itself) and rapid commercialization of rural areas like Hubei, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan and Shanxi (as designated by the FT), still relatively impoverished and underdeveloped areas, the next 10 to 20 years could prove a windfall as companies invest in large-scale infrastructure projects (wind & hydro power plants), rail, housing, farms and heavy industry. The effect on common people’s lives could (hopefully) be dramatic.

Much like America’s continued economic strength was built largely on the development of its interior, China’s best option for growth based less on exports will be to lift its central and western provinces out of the centuries-old poverty that remains a plague in many areas.

The Yuan’s Growing Global Reach: How Will It Affect The Art World?

Increased Interest In Buying “Portable China” By Domestic Bidders At Auctions Around The World Has Wider Implications

Economist Ha Jiming sees a fully internationalized yuan within the next decade

Economist Ha Jiming sees a fully internationalized yuan within the next decade

Today, a piece on the internationalization of the Chinese yuan by Ha Jiming, the chief economist at China International Capital, China’s largest investment bank, was published on Forbes.com. Ha believes that — within the next decade — the yuan will be a fully internationalized currency, and that the implications for this will be important and far-ranging:

Not long ago, China’s currency, the yuan, wasn’t traded beyond the country’s borders. Yet in the next 10 years, it will become fully internationalized and join the ranks of the world’s main reserve currencies, beside the dollar and the yen.

The global march of the yuan is an extension of China’s success since the launch of its economic reforms 30 years ago. The status of a currency is commensurate with the economic power of a country. The U.S. share of global GDP, for instance, increased from 10% at the turn of the 20th century to 20% after World War I, raising the dollar’s importance; the rise in Japan’s share of global GDP from 7% in 1970 to 16% in 1988 also elevated the yen’s role as a reserve currency.

[T]he internationalization of the yuan will benefit China in general by increasing the appeal of Chinese assets and pool of investment funds. This is similar to what happens when a company’s stock becomes a blue chip. International demand for yen assets increased significantly in the 1980s, as did global demand for U.S. assets at the turn of the century.

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Future For Luxury Goods Looks A Little Brighter

Growing Demand In China’s Interior, Other Asian Countries Should Counterbalance Tepid Consumption Elsewhere

Although Chinese consumers have shown a taste for foreign luxury brands, domestic labels will present stiff competition in coming years

Although Chinese consumers have shown a taste for foreign luxury brands, domestic labels will present stiff competition in coming years

As a result of the fast-paced development of China’s eastern coastline and special administrative regions, only recently have major luxury brands made it to the country’s vast interior region, where a number of second- and third-tier cities remain relative blank slates. Since so many companies are only reaching these areas now, the spread of luxury brands in China has become a regular news story. This has only intensified over the last year, as formerly free-spending Japanese and American customers have thought twice about luxury goods while emerging customers in places like the BRIC countries and relatively fast-growing economies like Vietnam become more regular (and brand-loyal) buyers. Nonetheless, the luxury sector is still experiencing only modest growth one year on from the onset of the global economic slowdown despite their best efforts at wooing new customers.

If many recent articles are correct, though, what we’ve seen over the last year — severe as it has been — should only prove to be a blip in the grand scheme of luxury revenues. From Financier Worldwide:

Sales of designer shoes, handbags, and beauty products have weathered the financial storm particularly well. At the end of August, French cosmetics company L’Oréal reported higher than expected profits of €1.37bn for H1 2009. In June, Hermès revealed it was farming crocodiles in Australia to feed demand for its coveted £4000 Birkin bag. Around the same time, Mulberry announced that its handbag sales had recovered, climbing 21 percent in the first 10 weeks of the new financial year. Shoe supplier Kurt Geiger, which operates in upmarket department stores across the UK, also reported double-digit growth in profits for the first five months of the year.

Bain & Company predicts that trading in the developed markets will remain tough for the rest of the year, with growth of around 1 percent in 2010 before a slow recovery. However, despite the recession slowing the pace of development in emerging markets, Bain believes that, as a consequence of increasing personal wealth, growth in global GDP, and rising tourism in Russia, China, India and Brazil, spending will surge between 20 percent and 35 percent over the next five years. This is expected to aid the recovery of the luxury goods sector.

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Shanghai Developer Plans Luxury Home Furnishing Store “With A Twist”

Ausen Real Estate Development Set To Invest US$22 Million In Luxury Home Furnishing Retail Complex, Due To Open Next Year

Ausen World will bring a Western-style furniture shopping experience to Shanghai

Ausen World will bring a Western-style furniture shopping experience to Shanghai

While announcements of new large-scale real estate projects in China are nothing new, nor are they particularly exciting on the whole, Ausen Real Estate Development Co.’s recently-announced plans to open a massive home furnishing retail complex near Shanghai next year stand out. Set to be located in Xinbang, in Shanghai’s Songjiang District (less than an hour’s drive southwest of downtown), the austerely named Ausen World Brand Home Furnishings Center will include features not often seen at furniture stores, including a hotel and restaurant for shoppers who prefer to make a weekend out of their shopping trips. Although slapping a hotel onto a massive furniture store isn’t exactly unheard of, it most certainly is unusual.

According to company spokespeople, Ausen World‘s main focus will be on American and European furniture, popular but often poorly understood by Shanghai-area residents. The center will also include Premium home furnishing areas designed to emulate “DIY” stores like the Home Depot. From Furniture Today:

Another unusual feature for a Chinese retail center will be the presence of on-site interior designers, who can help consumers with home design and product choices.

In a statement, Ausen said it intends to be a door to the Chinese market for Western brands. It will offer help with operating in the country, including support of import entry, logistics and storage.

Zhang said he believes the center will offer a “family feel” that is missing from most Chinese retail spaces, with a rewarding consumer experience for shoppers and their children. An Australian company will design the “eco-garden” look of the complex, including outdoor leisure areas.

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Chinese Auction Buyers Find “Treasures For The Taking”

High Proportion Of New Chinese Collectors Boosting Sales As Economic Mood Remains Relatively Tepid In More Mature Markets

Up for auction in Hong Kong on October 6: Ai Weiwei's “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)”

Up for auction in Hong Kong on October 6: Ai Weiwei's “A Gift from Beijing (set of three works)”

Next week, Sotheby’s will hold one of the most anticipated auctions of the season, its autumn auction of contemporary Chinese and other Asian art, in Hong Kong. For this closely-watched sale, the location is no coincidence. According to recent stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Economist and dozens of art blogs, mainland Chinese buyers have rapidly become one of the fastest-growing buyer and collector groups in the world. Considering art collection was virtually nonexistent for much of the last 60 years in China (and probably significantly longer than that), many newly wealthy Chinese are taking advantage of the readjustment in prices of pretty much anything up for grabs at auction to bring home everything from Chinese antiquities to contemporary art by living artists.

Whether they are doing this more for personal reasons (decorating their house while holding on to something of great financial value which is expected to grow along with the Chinese yuan) or for patriotic reasons remains to be known. My assumption is that there is a little bit of both involved.

In the run-up to the October 6 auction in Hong Kong, a spate of auctions of Chinese art have taken place over the past few weeks, with Chinese bidders going far beyond the estimates and shocking many observers. The new Chinese collector has, in many ways, signaled his arrival by the manner in which he’s seemed completely impervious to either the global economic slowdown or auction trends, and is quickly building a reputation as willing to spend, brash, motivated and savvy.

This week, on Economist.com, the Chinese collector’s knack for repatriating Chinese art is examined, with the writer concluding that auctions — as a buyer’s game — are all about who brings the money and who’s willing to spend it. At recent auctions (and, I would have to assume, future auctions) many of these individuals are mainland Chinese:

Anyone who believes the art market has been felled by the financial crisis should have been in New York earlier this month for the seasonal auctions of Chinese bronzes, furniture and ceramics. The salerooms at Sotheby’s and Christie’s were overflowing with bidders, more than three-quarters of them from Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan. Extra Mandarin-speakers, all of them fluent and young, had been taken on specially to handle additional telephone bidding from Asia.

Japan’s Mitsuoka Motor Co. To Enter Chinese Market

Japanese Luxury Automaker Plans To Open Beijing Showroom By Q1 2010

The Mitsuoka Orochi will retail for around 800,000 RMB (US $117,177) in China when it arrives next year

The Mitsuoka Orochi will retail for around 800,000 RMB (US $117,177) in China when it arrives next year

The growing Chinese luxury market is a prime target for many Asian companies that have found demand in their home countries — mainly South Korea and Japan — either growing at a snail’s pace or simply remaining stagnant. As formerly luxury-mad consumers in traditional markets like Japan cut back on their spending, high-end Japanese companies have started to look abroad for more opportunities, with China remaining the natural choice as a result of its proximity and massive population.

Recently, Japan’s Mitsuoka Motor Co., one of the country’s major luxury automakers, announced their plans to enter the Chinese market next year, starting with a showroom in Beijing that is slated to open in April. To lead their China efforts, the company will display their Orochi model at next year’s Beijing Auto Show and follow up their Beijing strategy with new dealerships in other top-tier cities:

The Orochi will spearhead Mitsuoka’s debut into China. The company plans to display the car at next year’s Beijing Auto Show, and to open dealerships in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

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Rise Of New Chinese Collector Continues As Chinese Antiquities Remain “Recession Proof”

Astronomical Prices Paid For Historical And Quality Pieces In Recent Asian Auctions Defies Global Economic Woes As More Chinese Collectors Get In The Game

In October, Sotheby's will put on a large-scale sale of Asian art in Hong Kong. Will The New Chinese Collector continue to flex his (or her) muscles at that sale?

Since good works by historical artists like Yue Minjun are becoming more scarce, Chinese collectors are expected to continue to flex their muscles in upcoming auctions of Chinese contemporary art

Hardly any industry has escaped the global economic slowdown unscathed, and art is no exception, but recent auction results indicate that the art market — or at least pockets of the art market — are coming back to life. As the Wall Street Journal reports today, in some recent auctions some pieces have sold for exponentially more than their estimates, surprising collectors and market analysts alike. The common bond shared by most of these pieces? They were Chinese — or, if not Chinese, Asian:

Last week, the longest string of Asian art sales since the Zodiac clock dispute was held in the U.S.—and amid the most entrenched art-market recession in nearly two decades, the auction prices of many more than a handful of pieces went through the roof. At the Sotheby’s sale of works from the collection of Arthur M. Sackler, for example, the auctioneer sang out fast-rising numbers, first in English, then Chinese, as if he were rising in the elevator of some fantastically tall Hong Kong skyscraper.

The emergence of the New Chinese Collector is a subject we’ve followed pretty much since our inception, and is a subject that is endlessly fascinating simply because it’s such a new phenomenon. While, technically, Chinese people have collected art for a few thousand years — with the exception of a few Mao-era decades where the practice was virtually nonexistent but for a few elite art lovers here and there — the New Chinese Collector has only existed for around 20 years, and arguably even less than that. This collector base was out in full force in recent auctions of Chinese and other Asian art — in New York, London and Hong Kong — and the motivation, desire and intensity of the Chinese collector is becoming somewhat legendary right before our eyes.

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