Death By China: really?

The new Trump team

“Death By China” is again in the news. Sino-US trade frictions loom with Trump’s new pick for policy adviser, as explained in the SCMP:
Appointment of China critic Peter Navarro points to more bilateral tensions ahead, analyst says.
22 December 2016,

Peter Navarro

The professor is the author of “Death By China: How America Lost Its Manufacturing Base” (2011)
See the Official Version  of the documentary (in China you need VPN):

I did watch the entire documentary and can only say it is pretty harsh on China and at least a part of his statements are simply dead wrong, e.g. his take on Apple and Foxconn.
However he could find some supporters in the foreign business community for some of his criticism. Anyway Chinese officials better not simply dismiss the whole thing but instead have a close look.

More from Navarro

Peter Navarro is a professor at the Merage School of Business at the University of California-Irvine. With a Masters of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, this distinguished macroeconomist has written extensively on Asia as well as lived and worked there.


His other book: “Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World” (2015)

It says there:
Will there be war with China? The Crouching Tiger book provides the most complete and accurate assessment of the probability of conflict between the United States and the rising Asian superpower. Equally important, it lays out an in-depth analysis of the possible pathways to peace. Written like a geopolitical detective story, the narrative encourages reader interaction by starting each chapter with an intriguing question that often challenge conventional wisdom. Based on interviews with more than thirty top experts, the author highlights a number of disturbing facts about China’s recent military buildup and the shifting balance of power in Asia: the Chinese are deploying game-changing “carrier killer” ballistic missiles; some of America’s supposed allies in Europe and Asia are selling highly lethal weapons systems to China in a perverse twist on globalization; and, on the U.S. side, debilitating cutbacks in the military budget send a message to the world that America is not serious about its “pivot to Asia.”

And so on.
Oh well, not planning to buy his book(s). Let’s see what he will really do. And good luck to him. He will need it.

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

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.

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:
See for example the video of Gent (Ghent), my hometown:
(you need VPN for the direct link, Https://

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:

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.

Hoopla rond Eandis in Vlaanderen

Een vloed van artikels over Eandis

Tegenstand groeit in Vlaanderen tegen de mogelijke participatie van China State Grid in Eandis. Er is al heel wat inkt gevloeid over die mogelijke inbreng vanuit China.

Zie: Eandis: ‘Meerderheid moet nu verantwoordelijk nemen nu minister deal niet meer steunt’
24/09/16 – Vlaams minister van Energie Bart Tommelein (Open Vld) is er niet langer voorstander van dat het Chinese staatsbedrijf SGEL zichzelf inkoopt in het distributienetbedrijf Eandis. Groen is tevreden met die beslissing.

Eandis en China State Grid

Ziehier mijn kommentaar op het artikel (en op de reacties erop):

State Grid is een van mijn voornaamste klanten, we werken al lang samen, dus ken ik die. Zij hebben wereldwijd al veel opgekocht en ik heb nooit gelezen dat daar een “probleem” was. Ik begrijp de achterdocht bij velen in Vlaanderen. Maar laat ons hier duidelijk zijn: ik zie sinds tientallen jaren de incompetentie van ons land en onze bedrijven om sterke firmas in leven te houden. Ik leef in Beijing en vraag me af: wat is er nog echt “Belgisch”? De hele wereld koopt ons uit. De fout ligt dus bij ons in Vlaanderen, dat we niet in staat zijn onze industrie en diensten rendabel te maken, dat we om geld smeken in het buitenland. Waarom kan België dat zelf niet oplossen? Waarom is er zelfs een kans dat chinezen ons moeten “helpen”? Vele bedrijven in Europa worden door China opgekocht omdat ze niet kunnen overleven. Ergens loopt er iets fout bij ons. Indien we goed genoeg waren hadden we niet het geld nodig van Amerika, Frankrijk, China enz. Voor State Grid is dat gewoonweg business.

China onder de kijker in België

Ziehier een ander artkel dat spreekt voor zichzelf:
23/09/16 – De Chinezen komen: kom naar het grote China-debat van Knack met Jonathan Holslag en Piet Buyse (Eandis)

De lijst van Chinese investeringen in Belgische ondernemingen groeit traag maar zeker aan. Op donderdag 29 september debatteert Knack in de Antwerpse Singel over de vraag: moeten we bang zijn van China?
Volvo, Wijnegem Shopping Center, de containerterminals in Zeebrugge en Delta Lloyd België: ze zijn allemaal geheel of gedeeltelijk in Chinese handen. De directe aanleiding voor dit actua-debat is de hoogoplaaiende discussie over de Chinese participatie in energiedistributeur Eandis. Hebben de tegenstanders van deze deal een punt? Of doen ze aan paniekzaaierij? Zijn de Chinese investeringen in onze economie een bedreiging of juist een redding?

Eandis: de saga gaat verder

Ondertussen gaat het debat verder, met de nodige kleurrijke wendingen:
Louis Tobback steekt draak met anonieme brief Eandis: ‘Ik hoop dat men geen levens geriskeerd heeft voor die informatie’

En nog veel meer nieuws elke dag, o.a. wordt gemeld dat de “security risks” van een deal met State Grid miniem zijn…
Maar tenslotte, zoals ik al schreef: het mist allemaal de echte problematiek.

European Chamber Position Paper: disappointment

The latest Position Paper released by the European Chamber (EUCCC) confirms the general feeling of the business community: disappointment and unhappiness. And for good reasons.

The SCMP produced a pretty good analysis:
‘Disappointed’ EU businesses urge prompt reform and opening of market in China
SCMP article

Some excerpts:

The EUCCC has urged Beijing not to delay to deliver on promises it made years ago to create a level playing field for European businesses when their Chinese rivals have few limits on their investment in EU markets.

The business lobby group expressed, once again, its disappointment about stalled reforms that were announced in November 2012. It is not the first time foreign business associations have criticized the slower-than-expected process of reforming unproductive state firms and widening market access, or voiced concern about an increasingly hostile business environment and rising protectionism alongside sluggish growth in China.

“Unfortunately, the reform agenda still often appears to be confused, uncoordinated and subject to intense resistance from special interest groups and local governments,” the report said.
“In short, the decision [on economic reform] has yet to deliver on its promises, for European and private Chinese business alike. As it initially raised expectations quite significantly, this failure to follow through has contributed to rising level of pessimism.

Ties between Beijing and Brussels were challenged recently by a dispute on rising exports of cheap Chinese products in overcapacity sectors in EU markets. EU members said the flood of Chinese products threatened local production and put local employment at risk. The bloc also launched anti-dumping investigations and imposed high punitive tariffs on Chinese exports, especially on industrial products.

Beijing is unhappy with the EU connecting China’s overcapacity to a decision on whether and how to recognize China as a market economy, a status which is largely shrugged off by many economists in China but would be deemed a political triumph for Beijing.

In the report, the EU chamber also called for “reciprocity” in bilateral investment between EU and Chinese companies.
“It is an increasingly serious concern that reciprocal market access has yet to be fully extended to European business in China,” the report, adding that Chinese companies experience few limitations on buying European companies.

It also noted that 70% of the Chinese investment that flew into Europe last year came from SOE. Many of those investments were in advanced manufacturing and clean technology, which are priorities of China’s 13th five-year plan.
“It is therefore valid to question whether measures will be taken to close off participation by European business in China’s domestic market once their new technologies have been acquired by Chinese investors.”

Another good comment is from the Financial Times, see:
1 September 2016 – Europe lobby warns on China market barriers
Tom Mitchell and Christian Shepherd in Beijing
Financial Times article

Some excerpts:

“There is a small, rocky pathway to China [for foreign investors] and an autobahn from China to Europe,” said Jörg Wuttke, head of the EUCCC. “The increasing wave of Chinese investment into Europe, while European investment in China drops, highlights the lack of reciprocal market access.”
“It is almost impossible to imagine in the current climate that a European company would be permitted to make a significant investment in an equally prominent Chinese company with advanced technological capabilities,” the chamber said.

When the Australian government recently rejected a Chinese bid for its electricity grid by China State Grid on national security grounds, some foreign executives noted a similar sale in China to overseas investors would not be permitted by Beijing.
The Chinese government has not significantly reduced restrictions on foreign investors since it joined the World Trade Organization 15 years ago.

“It is no longer clear that reform is still a top priority,” Mr. Wuttke said, adding that “the current lack of reciprocity in market access is politically unsustainable”.

Many Chinese investments in Europe, such as Geely’s acquisition of Swedish carmaker Volvo in 2010, have been successful, saving thousands of local jobs.
But as attention has turned this year to pressure on EU and US steel mills from cheap Chinese exports, western governments’ patience with the barriers confronting foreign investors in China is wearing thin.

I can only agree with those complaints.
The main issues are lack of reciprocity, increasingly difficult market access, empty promises, delays in tackling overproduction and so on. China is “unhappy” the EU hesitates to grant Market Economy Status but many EU members feel China has failed to do its part.
Overall the mood in the business community is rather black than white. While some opportunities do still exist, many industries face a tide of nationalism, closed markets and unfair treatment.

See here more details provided by the EUCCC. Worth reading…
Executive_Summary_2016_2017[English Version]
Position_Paper_2016_2017_Launch_PPT[English Version]