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A Toast to Change
In China, there is a distilled white liquor that is as revered as wine is in France. Known as Chinas national wine, maotai, or "baijiu" in Chinese, has been celebrated for thousands of years. Having such a high-end branded white spirit on your banquet table is seen as a sort of status symbol or the hallmark of an auspicious occasion, such as a wedding or formal dinner. As recently as last year, some bottles were commanding more than US$300 each, with prices rising partly from the strong demand related to government and business sector events.
China's Thirst for Oil
The demand for oil and gas in China has grown with the country's rapid economic development of recent years. While the nation's major domestic oil fields continue to produce crude oil, China is increasingly looking beyond its borders for its energy needs. I recently visited western China and Kazakhstan, home to one of the world's biggest oil reserves (and the world's largest landlocked country), to research this industry.
Complex Structures for Investing in China
China's Variable Interest Entities (VIEs) have long allowed foreign investors to be able to partake in the growth of some industries in China, such as education and the Internet, restricted to foreigners. VIEs have come under increasing scrutiny. But are they inherently more risky? This month Hardy Zhu takes a look.
Postcard from Shenyang, China
When people think about China, they typically think about cities like Beijing or Shanghai. But there are a number of lesser-known cities with populations as big as (or bigger than) New York. My hometown of Shenyang is one of these cities. Largely left behind during the countrys economic reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s, Shenyang has more recently started to attract some attention for the comeback it has made.
China's Financial Reform
Investors have had concerns about Chinese banks with respect to slower loan growth and the potential for bad debt connected with local government financing vehicles. While 2011 was a difficult year for Chinas economy, its banks actually posted solid earnings growthso good, in fact, that last month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao declared that the countrys largest state-owned banks make money too easily. He added that their control on lending is limiting the growth of independent businesses. To remedy this, the central government agreed to allow private capital to enter the lending market.
Autumn has traditionally been a strong season for housing sales in China, and September and October are usually dubbed the golden and silver months. But press reports this year have called September copper and October iron in light of sagging sales figures. Sales dropped 49% over last year in the 14 major cities it tracks. Transaction volume in many major cities retreated even further. Due to weak sales and tighter loan quotas from banks, many developers have lowered prices in attempts to expedite sales. In Shanghai, prices for some units have declined 20% to 40%.
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