Andy Rothman is, in my view, one of the sharpest observers of China’s economy. His work is always a must-read. In the latest issue of Sinology, published by Matthews Asia where Andy works, he asks the question on many minds: when will the oft-discussed China collapse finally arrive? His conclusion: No collapse is imminent. Among the reasons: China’s economy has made significant steps toward rebalancing its growth story toward consumption (76.2% of GDP growth last year came from final consumption of goods and services) and away from state-led investment, and is far less reliant on net exports for GDP growth. In fact, in 2018, according to Rothman, the contribution to GDP growth from net exports was -8.6% (yes, negative!). He also points out that growth was not bad, but market sentiment was battered by US-China trade wars and policy uncertainty within China. That will likely change by the 2nd half of 2019, he says.
So, consumption is driving growth, net exports are less important to future growth, and state-led investment is no longer the key driver. This is a new structural China story that has been in the works over the past few years, but has crystallized last year, and Rothman lays it out very well.
Some excerpts from Rothman’s excellent newsletter below:
Has the China Collapse Finally Arrived?
“China has been on the verge of a hard landing for many years, according to some analysts. Will they finally be right in 2019? In this issue of Sinology, I explain that in the fourth quarter of 2018, China’s economic deceleration was not significantly sharper than I expected, and several policy changes should lead to stronger activity and market sentiment in the second half of this year. A hard landing is still not on the horizon.
There was not a sharp slowdown in the last quarter
Everyone paying careful attention to China should have expected the year-on-year (YoY) growth rates of almost every aspect of the economy to slow a bit last year, as that has been a consistent pattern for about a decade. The economy has become so large, and growth rates were so fast for so long, that this deceleration is inevitable.
What has worried many observers, however, is the perception that in the last quarter (4Q18), China’s growth rate slowed much more sharply than expected. With final data for 2018 now in hand, let me explain why that perception is not accurate.
Still the world’s best consumer story
Let’s start by examining the largest part of China’s economy—consumption.
Income growth is, of course, the foundation of consumer spending, and in 4Q18, inflation-adjusted (real) income growth slowed a bit, to 6.2% YoY, down from 6.9% in 4Q17. That degree of slowdown was within my expectations, and it is worth noting that last quarter’s pace was roughly the same as the 6.3% recorded in 4Q16.”
To read the full newsletter, go here
Happy Chinese New Year 2019 to all New Silk Road Monitor readers! Chinese New Year is big business for national and foreign firms. Here’s a round-up of some Chinese new year “Year of the Pig” business coverage.
- Year of the Pig: in Muslim Malaysia, brands tread carefully for Chinese New Year, from the South China Morning Post
- Lunar New Year holiday to be litmus test of Chinese shoppers’ resilience, from the Japan Times via Bloomberg
- Three Things Foreign Companies Should Know About Chinese New Year – from China Briefing
- More clicking, but touch and feel still matter for the Lunar New Year – from Business Times, Singapore
- Chinese New Year set to give luxury retailers in London a sales boost – from the Evening Standard, London
To understand what the Chinese new year means to the national economy and to broader East Asia, check out this piece from CNBC last year
Some highlights from the CNBC piece below:
- Lunar New Year, popularly known as Chinese New Year, means major spending across Asia on food, red packets and travel.
- Red packets, which are gifts of money from married to unmarried people, have propelled the growth of China’s tech companies like Tencent.
- The week-long holiday is a time for Chinese travelers to go on vacation, and 6.5 million Chinese holidaymakers are expected to travel abroad this week.
There’s a great piece in the Abu Dhabi-based English daily, The National, that explores the rise of China’s tech players in the UAE. The piece quotes extensively from my friend, Sam Blatteis, who is one of the sharpest analysts and consultants on the New Silk Road beat with a Middle East/North Africa (MENA) focus. Some striking highlights from the piece:
- 1.3 million Chinese tourists visited the UAE last year
- Alibaba announced a $600 million “Tech Town” investment in Dubai “which would one day house 3,000 firms developing robotics, artificial intelligence, and mobile apps. It’s slated to be five times the size of the Pentagon and built near Dubai’s Jebel Ali port.”
- Sam Blatteis notes the distinction between the Chinese firms that chose UAE as their HQ versus those that chose Egypt: “The Chinese tech titans are accelerating at different speeds in the UAE. Those that have chosen to headquarter in the country (Alibaba, Huawei) for the Arab world are well ahead of those that have not: China’s answer to Google, Baidu, for instance, which headquartered in Egypt with about 40 employees at its height – seem to have left the Middle East approximately 18 months ago,” Blatteis says.
- The National writes: “The UAE’s smartphone penetration is the highest in the world at 73.8 per cent, with more than 90 per cent of the population having access to the internet. This has laid fertile ground for Chinese smartphone conglomerates to come knocking. Many of them were drawn to the UAE, in particular, for the focus on fifth generation connectivity, which is due to arrive in the UAE this year. Technology analysts estimate 5G connectivity will boost the GCC economy by $269bn over 10 years with cheaper, faster internet access and connecting devices through the Internet of Things.”
- Sam Blatteis again: “The intense competition coming from the Far East has left western companies fighting for attention. “Nearly every large Chinese tech company is cementing long-term ties with the UAE tech sector, looking at the Emirates as a hub for finance and technology investments, not simply a customer for ads, marketing and users. Simply put, China is rewriting the rules on how to rise in influence in the Middle East. Because of the UAE’s goliath-sized ports and the country’s geographic position almost sandwiched between Saudi Arabia to its West and Iran to its East, the UAE is thinking at-scale too about how to contribute to both Silk Road routes.”
It’s appropriate, it seems, to begin the first blog post of the (New) New Silk Road Monitor with a story about airports and Dubai and a Top Ten List. Aviation and logistics will be a perennial theme in these pages, and my own New Silk Road journey has been enhanced over the years by multiple visits (and one posting) to the trade, tourism, and logistics hub of Dubai, which I called the unofficial hub of the New Silk Road as far back as 2007 in a Washington Post column. You’ll also see that I like Top Ten lists. So, here goes:
Dubai International Airport hit 89.1 million international passengers in 2018, according to airport officials. This keeps Dubai comfortably in first place for the 5th year in a row as the world’s busiest international airport. Dubai surpassed London Heathrow in 2014 and it has never looked back (On a total passenger basis, including domestic, Atlanta-Hartsfield and Beijing International remain larger, but Dubai reigns supreme for international passengers and is inching toward Beijing and Atlanta-Hartsfield in absolute numbers of passengers as well).
I’m a regular visitor to Dubai and a regular connector via Dubai International Airport to other destinations and I can say that if Dubai is emerging as a major New Silk Road trade hub, with its robust trading relationships across Asia and Africa and the Middle East, then Dubai International Airport might be the Caravanserai of the New Silk Road. The number of nationalities, colors, and national dresses in the airport is dizzying, and the airport is crying out for anthropological study (Phd students, take note!).
Part of the story is the global reach of Emirates Airline, but you can’t get to 89.1 million passengers with just Emirates, so the other part of the story is the Open Skies policy that leads Dubai International to host 80 airlines serving 214 cities.
Here’s the top ten list for 2017 for world’s busiest international airport with the number if international passengers. When 2018 numbers are tallied, I’ll post those too.
World’s Busiest International Airports
- Dubai, AE (DXB) – 87.7 million
- London, GB (LHR) – 73.1 million
- Hong Kong, HK (HKG) – 72.4 million
- Amsterdam, NL (AMS) – 68.4 million
- Paris, France (CDG) – 63.6 million
- Singapore, SG (SIN) – 61.57 million
- Incheon, KR (ICN) – 61.52 million
- Frankfurt, DE (FRA) – 57.12 million
- Bangkok, TH (BKK) – 48.8 million
- Taipei, TW (TPE) – 44.4 million
For the rest, see Airports Council International
- 526 Check-In Counters
- 80 Airlines Operating
- 220 Airports Served
- 214 Cities Served
- 94 countries Served
Source: Dubai Airports