What about further devaluation of the RMB?

Rumors of further devaluation of the RMB Yuan

This week in Beijing I was told of rumors (as I call it) of a further devaluation of the RMB (Renminbi) Yuan, some 17% in a few years. I was asked about my opinion. Some American politicians have been attacking China since long, accusing China of currency manipulation (their currency is “undervalued”). I mostly disagreed with that for many reasons. Well, firstly many U.S. companies got rich by importing enormous amount of products for the consumers. If the RMB would go up, that would be bad for them. Just look at how many billions USD Walmart imports every year from China. The reality is, market forces are dragging the currency down, showing its real market value.
They complain China devalues the currency to favor exports. While this might help a bit, this advantage has since a few years mostly disappeared.

The RMB is losing ground recently

The RMB has become weaker indeed. Reasons? Economists will have many explanations but I stick to the sings that capital has been flowing out, by Chinese companies going on a buying spree, by Chinese people feeling uneasy about the state of the economy and politics and taking their money to “safer heavens”. China is now trying to clamp down on all those illicit capital outflows. Yes, the economy is also under stress and that does not help the currency.
With the pressure on the RMB China has now rather started to defend the RMB

Why a further devaluation of the RMB is not so evident

See here a recent comment in the SCMP, recommended to explore as it details the arguments.
07 November 2016 – Macroscope by David Brown
“Why China’s yuan is poised to be the next global super-currency”
With dominant reserve currencies like the dollar and the euro in decline, the yuan has a great opportunity to be a serious contender
http://www.scmp.com/business/markets/article/2043563/why-chinas-yuan-poised-be-be-next-global-super-currency

I quote:

It has only been a short while since the yuan was granted reserve currency status by the International Monetary Fund late last year, so it is still early days. The yuan’s inclusion in the IMF’s basket of reserve currencies, as recently as last month, means it will take some time before China emerges as one of the leading players in the global payments and reserves system.
To reach true reserve currency status, the yuan must meet three key criteria – cementing credibility, convertibility and confidence in the currency. It will be challenging but not impossible. Governments and multinational institutions must be certain China’s currency not only satisfies these conditions, but it is also backed by credible and transparent policies, in order to feel safe about diversifying their foreign exchange reserves in any significant size into yuan.

And here my comments I posted:

Some good points made. The Yuan has a long way to go but the outlook is rather favorable as other currencies have lost their luster, as explained here. In Beijing some Chinese “economists” predict the yuan will devalue by 17% within a few years. That is better than what some pessimists predict (free fall due to debt and other) but I am more hesitant. China is actually trying to defend the currency as to improve its image as a world currency. Devaluation to help exports is also questionable today. A fact is the yuan is under pressure so the government will have to do something and not let “market forces” act too much. So what will happen? Difficult to say but I would rather opt for under 10% rather than 17%.

What are the main risks in China?

Opinions differ.
Some see the debt burden as a doomsday scenario, the economy will totally collapse.Z
I am not so sure about that, yes debt is a problem but the government has more control than any other country.
More alarming is the real estate bubble. The government is trying to contain it but it is not sure they can succeed. The reason for the bubble are diverse and merits a separate analysis.

The clip of my recent interview on VRT

As mentioned earlier, I was interviewed by the Belgian VRT at the occasion of the visit of our Belgian PM Charles Michel. See here the clip.

161031-interview

I finally managed to get the full segment, thanks to the help of VRT. The language is Dutch.
This is the direct link:
http://m.deredactie.be/#!/snippet/5817391ac9976f06001c35dd

I also uploaded the clip on Youtube (needs VPN in China): https://youtu.be/mXMiG4hEFTY

Or see here:

China-Belgium Economic Forum in Anbang

Program of the Forum

On the occasion of the official visit to the People’s Republic of China by Prime Minister Charles Michel and to celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium, Michel Malherbe, Ambassador of Belgium and Wu Xiaohui, Chairman of Anbang Insurance Group jointly organized the China-Belgium Economic Forum on Monday 31 October at the Anbang Group Head Office in Beijing.
The Anbang buildings are state of the art and impressive. It was a great setting for a Forum that we can say was very successful.
There was a VIP line-up of speakers:

  • Wu Xiaohui, Chairman of Anbang Insurance Group
  • Zhong Shan, Vice Minister of Commerce and International Trade
  • Lawrence Summers, Former US Secretary of Treasury, Former President of Harvard University and Economist
  • H.E. Charles Michel, PM
  • Michela Ritondo, Fiscal Department for Foreign Investments, Federal Public Service Finance (Belgium)
  • Mattias Debroyer, Consulate General of Belgium in Shanghai

The speeches were followed by a panel discussion, with among others representatives of Huawei and Anbang.
To conclude there was a lively Q&A with PM Michel.
Pictured are, among others, our ambassador Michel Malherbe, Paul Lambert (Consul General Shanghai), Eddy De Cuyper (Counsellor, Customs Attaché at the embassy), and others.

Content of the Forum

We saw some pretty cool videos about Belgium, I checked and all are available on this Belgian website, an excellent overview of our country with well-done short videos:
http://focusonbelgium.be/en
See for example the video of Gent (Ghent), my hometown:
(you need VPN for the direct link, Https://vimeo.com/151404508)

The presentations by the Belgian side were very informative, giving a clear introduction to our country as well as indicating all the advantages of investing and operating there, such as also tax incentives.

As mentioned by China Daily, see:
http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2016-11/01/content_27235357.htm

Chinese insurer Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd unveiled a three-year loan program that will offer a total of 10 billion euros ($10.97 billion) to help Chinese startups and smaller companies to do business in Europe. The plan was announced by Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui at the China-Belgium Economic Forum in Beijing. The loan will be extended through Anbang’s banking subsidiary Bank Nagelmackers in Belgium.
The loan program is part of Anbang’s response to a Chinese government call for greater support for local small business, which have faced growing difficulties in gaining access to capital amid the economic slowdown.

Interview VRT with Gilbert and the media

The previous day I was interviewed by VRT (Stefan Blommaert), near the Belgian Embassy along the Liangma River. See the pics of the interview in the previous post.
Pictured are several screenshots of the VRT TV News, the last group of pictures.
Overall the visit of our Belgian PM received wide media coverage in the Chinese media.

Belgian PM Charles Michel in the Embassy

Garden Party for our PM Charles Michel in the Embassy

On the occasion of the official visit of H.E. Mr. Charles Michel, Prime Minister of Belgium, to celebrate 45 years of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium, H.E. Mr. Michel Malherbe, Ambassador of Belgium, invited the community to a Garden Party at his Residence on Sunday 30 October 2016 in the afternoon.
Before the Garden Party I was interviewed by Stefan Blommaert (Belgian VRT) along Liangma River, close to the embassy.
There was a large crowd to welcome the PM, some 500+ braving the chilly weather. Food by TRB.

Also attended: the ambassadors of the EU Delegation, Luxembourg, Russia and others. Also, the President of the EU Chamber, Joerg Wuttke.
Our PM cordially mingled with the guests to chat.
I also met several of the staff of Anbang Brussels who were happy to finally meet the father of a certain Valerie…
See pictured also Renaat and Susan Morel, Stella Chang (soprano), Sus van Elzen (Belgian writer and journalist) and other friends.

The new Foreign NGO Law at AustCham

Foreign NGO Law explained

AustCham organized a joint chamber event on China’s New Foreign NGO Law – “Everything that Corporate Foundations, CSR Departments and NGOs Need to Know”. It was co-hosted by AustCham Beijing, the British Chamber and the French Chamber.
Speakers were Wang Liwei, CEO China Development Foundation; Clare Pearson, International Development Director, Asia, DLA Piper (and Chair of the British Chamber of Commerce in China); Josh Freedman, Social Policy Research Manager, China Policy.
It was followed by Q&A.
I took place in the AustCham Beijing offices (U-Town Office Building).

The impact of the new law

That event was one of the first to point at the myriad of problems and questions raised by the new law that will take effect on 1 January 2017.
Being deeply involved in the Rotary operations in China I have been following very closely the whole story of that law as well as for the new China Charity Law (took effect on 1 September 2016). There is too much to be said to report here. My point is that many NGOs still underestimate the impact it will have on their operations, forcing many to close.
Contrary to what many think, we are not here worried about NGOs that operate in sensitive areas such as politics, religion, human rights, democracy and so on, being in a covert way or none.
The concern is for NGOs that do a lot of charity, are involved in improving the lives of many Chinese and alike. Many of those will have to close down operations as it looks like.

The outlook

I am still pretty concerned on what will happen. It is at any rate one more sign of China closing its doors, never mind the naïve who don’t see it or simply don’t understand what is at stake. China very much follows Russia for this matter.
How will Rotary survive this in China? It might be classified as a “Social Organization”, an entity to be under the supervision of the Ministry of Civil Affairs and being managed with its own law. The Foreign NGO Law appoints the Public Security organs as the supervisory party. Good luck with that.

See also this telling commentary from the SCMP:
22 August 2016 – “China tightens grip over social groups through greater Communist Party presence”
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2007359/china-tightens-grip-over-social-groups-through-greater