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China’s Looming Bad Debt Risks

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), which regulates the country’s financial industry, is concerned about the rise in non-performing assets, or bad loans, due to the deteriorating economic and epidemic conditions. The CBIRC suggested measures to prepare for the increase in non-performing loans.

In response to the questions from journalists, the spokesperson of the CBIRC listed four major risks and challenges.

1. The increased pressure of non-performing loans. Although the balance of non-performing loans has not increased significantly since the beginning of this year, due to the time lag between the decline in the real economy and the impact seen in the financial sector, as well as the short-term hedging effect of macro policies, the risk of default has been temporarily delayed. However, the number of non-performing loans will continue to rise in the coming months.

2. Serious problems in some small and medium-sized financial institutions. As the asset quality has increasingly deteriorated under the impact of the epidemic, risks continue to build up.

3. The resurgence of chaotic practices. Some high-risk shadow banks have revived; the leverage (debt) ratio of companies and households has increased. Some funds have flown into the real estate and stock markets, adding to the asset bubbles.

4. Illegalities occur from time to time. For example, the fake gold scandal of Wuhan’s Kingold Jewelry has revealed the almost nonexistent internal control and risk management in some financial institutions.

As of the end of June, the balance of non-performing loans in the banking industry was RMB 3.6 trillion (US $0.51 trillion), an increase of RMB 400.4 billion (US $57.2 billion) from the beginning of the year, with a non-performing loan ratio of 2.10 percent, 0.08 percentage points higher than the beginning of the year.

Source: Central News Agency, July 11, 2020

Swarms of Locusts Invaded Guiling City of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

On June 30, a video posted on Weibo and Twitter showed that, overnight, a large number of locust swarms invaded Quanzhou County, Guiling city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Locust swarms destroyed the crops and covered over the farmers’ clothes. People posted comments stating that, judging by experience, this is the prelude to a large-scale outbreak of locust plagues. If it is not controlled in time, the consequences will be worrisome. Another post on Weibo reported that the locust swarms also spread to more towns and villages in Quanzhou County. It was estimated that it hit at least 100 acres of the farmland in the Town of Shaoshui and all of the crops were decimated.

The local official has not issued any notice about the locust swarms and Guiling City of Guangxi province was recently hit by flooding also.

Source: Liberty Times, July 2, 2020

World Journal: Fitch Lowered Hong Kong’s Rating Twice

Well-known U.S. Chinese language newspaper, World Journal , recently reported that global ratings company, Fitch Ratings, has lowered Hong Kong’s sovereign rating twice since last September. The rating factored in the impact of the Hong Kong National Security Law that the central government imposed. Also aspects that were included in and influenced the rating were the risks in Hong Kong’s legislative system and the position that the United States has taken. If, in the future, local and international investors lose confidence in Hong Kong’s environment and its way of doing business, it is possible the rating could go down further. It is too early to draw a conclusion and the situation remains to be examined in the near future. Currently Hong Kong’s sovereign rating is only one step higher than Mainland China. It appears the Hong Kong society is steadily merging into Mainland China’s administrative system. However, the Chinese government said Hong Kong’s status remains very stable.

Source: World Journal, June 23, 2020

Lianhe Zaobao: The Canton Fair Ended with Signs of Risks

Singapore’s primary Chinese language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao recently reported on China’s largest trade show. The China Import Export Fair (also known as The Canton Fair), just concluded on June 24. This Canton Fair was held online as a virtual fair. According to the official report, the Fair attracted buyers from 217 countries or regions. Around 26,000 domestic and foreign companies participated as suppliers. However, no official numbers on sales were announced, which is very unusual. Traditionally the Canton Fair host always announces the total turnover on the last day of the Fair. According to the spokesperson for the Fair, the outcome of this Fair demonstrated China’s export future is facing increased uncertainty, with “extremely complex and serious” risks and challenges. The Chinese suppliers are focusing on innovations in the areas of smart manufacturing, distribution channels, business models, and service systems. The spokesperson emphasized that the overall long-term trend of the Chinese exports remains positive and unchanged.

Source: Lianhe Zaobao, June 26, 2020

Heavy Flooding Affected Tens of Millions of People in 26 Provinces in China

On June 23, the National Flood Control and Drought Relief Department hosted a video conference and disclosed that, as of June 23, flooding was reported in 26 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) including Guangxi, Guizhou, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangxi, and Chongqing. There were 11.22 million people affected. Among them, 571,000 people were relocated; 213,000 people needed emergency assistance; more than 9,300 houses collapsed; 171,000 houses were damaged to varying degrees; 861,000 hectares of crops were affected; and direct economic losses were estimated to be 24.1 billion yuan (US$3.4 billion).

In a news article, The Epoch Times reported that there was different video footage that showed the flooding in many regions where streets were flooded, cars trapped, railroads suspend their service, and schools were closed.

Yichang City, 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the Three Gorges Dam is the first city downstream of the Three Gorges Dam. Local residents told The Epoch Times that it had been decades since they had seen flooding that was over 3 feet deep. They suspected that there had been an emergency flood discharge from the Three Gorges Dam but they didn’t receive any advanced warning from the government.

It has been over one month since the flooding was first reported in China. However, the heavy rainy season in the middle and lower stream of the Yangtze River has yet to come.

Source: The Epoch Times, June 27 & 28, 2020

Concerns over Safety of Three Gorges Reservoir as Water Level in Three Gorges River Rose above Warning Limit

Since the beginning of June, heavy rains have been reported in regions of southern China. As a power plant in the upper stream of the Three Gorges Reservoir was damaged by a flash flood and mudslide, concerns over the safety of the Three Gorges Reservoir were brought up again. On June 21, the CCTV Economy channel reported that the water level in the Three Gorges Reservoir rose to 147 meters (482 feet) which exceeded the flood control limit by about 2 meters (6.56 feet). On June 11, the Ministry of Water Resources held a press conference and stated that China has entered the flood season and there are a total of 148 rivers in the country that exceed the flood warning level. In the early morning on June 17, heavy rain upstream of the Three Gorges Dam damaged a power plant in Damba County of Ganzi, Sichuan province and resulted in a mudslide. A video posted on twitter showed the flood water and mudslide wiped out the villages along the way. Meanwhile people re-tweeted a warning from a licensed structural engineer telling the people in the Lower Yangtze River region to escape.

Wang Weiluo, a specialist on the safety of Three Gorges Reservoir and currently residing in Germany told Epoch Times that heavy rain in the Three Gorges region caused a flash flood and a mudslide. It will be disastrous if the reservoir collapses at the lower Yangtze because it is a high density populated area. Wang said that the Three Gorges Reservoir shouldn’t have been started in the first place. Many people opposed the idea. One famous irrigationist wrote three letters to Jiang Zemin, then the head of the CCP, warning of the potential risk of the project and predicting that, if the reservoir were to be built, it would be demolished in the end. Jiang and Li Peng, then Prime Minister, still went ahead with the project. The three Gorges Reservoir project started in 1994 and was completed in 2009.

Source: Epoch Times, June 21, 2020

China Finance Online: Major Chinese Housing Market Saw Increase in Foreclosures

China Finance Online (NASDAQ: JRJC) recently reported that, with the destructive pandemic and a very weak reopening and economic come-back, average Chinese are seeing significantly reduced income. According to publicly released foreclosure data, in the first five months of this year, Chinese foreclosures rose to 1.15 million instances, compared to 9,000 in 2017, 20,000 in 2018 and 500,000 in 2019. Based on the numbers from one branch of one bank in Shenzhen, which was previously a heated housing market and a high-income city, just in May, over 13,000 accounts abandoned their payment plan and stopped their mortgage payments. Analysts said that most of the Chinese real estate is for investment and the typical investment cycle is five years. This means massive foreclosures have still not yet been triggered. The real economy in major Chinese cities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Fuzhou is seeing a freefall, which will result in a wave of unemployment that only adds to a worrisome future outlook.

Source: China Finance Online, June 1, 2020

CCP Media Slams the “Street Vendor Economy” of Premier Li Keqiang

In a visit to the city of Yantai in Shandong province on June 1 and 2, 2020, Premier Li Keqiang said street stalls and small shops “are important sources of jobs.”  “They are part of China’s vitality just like those high-end, great, and classy businesses,” said Li. This followed his previous remarks made at the press event after the May 28 adjournment of the Third Session of the Thirteenth People’s Congress, where he praised the street vendor policies back in the 1970s for effectively creating jobs. The encouragement of street vendors, backed by Premier Li Keqiang, as a way to create self-employed businesses to absorb newly unemployed, is viewed as a marked change for the government, which previously cracked down on street vendors as part of urban rejuvenation efforts.

Within days, key CCP media pushed back.

On June 6, 2020, Beijing Daily, published an article boycotting Li Keqiang’s “street vendor economy,” claiming that the “street vendor economy is not suitable for Beijing.”  It listed a series of various disadvantages to the community environment, including “dirty streets, fake and shoddy products, noise disturbing people, vendors roaming on the streets blocking traffic, etc.” Beijing Daily asserted that the resultant disadvantages damage Beijing’s image as China’s capital and China’s national image, and are “not conducive to a high-quality economy.”

On the same day, the CCP’s mouthpiece, People’s Daily, published a commentary on the street vendors. It expressed that the street vendor economy should not be overheated. “With street stalls all over the city, there are also people worried about whether it will hinder traffic. How can the quality of merchandise be guaranteed? How to solve the health problem associated with food and the environment? These worries are not superfluous.”

On June 7, CCP media, China Central TV, also published a commentary, reiterating that the “street vendor economy” is not suitable for Beijing, and said that Beijing’s urban management will strengthen law-enforcement inspection and handling of the street vendors. It further stated that the “street vendor economy” is not a panacea and “blindly following the trend will be counterproductive.”

1.The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China, June 4, 2020,
2.Beijing Daily, June 6, 2020
3.People’s Daily, June 6, 2020
4.China Central TV, June 7, 2020

China’s Premier: 600 Million Have a Monthly Income of US$140

China’s Premier Li Keqiang said at a press conference that China is a developing a country with a large population, with an average annual per capita disposable income of 30,000 yuan (US$4,213.30). There are 600 million people who have low and middle incomes, whose average monthly income is merely 1,000 yuan (US$ 140.40).

Li Keqiang added, “It may be difficult even to rent an apartment with income of 1,000 yuan in a medium-sized city.” Li promised to make people’s livelihood a high priority.

According to People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, a Chinese and foreign press conferences was held on the afternoon of the 28th, after the closing of the 13th National People’s Congress of China. It was when the media questioned Li Keqiang that he made the above remarks.

Li Keqiang said that the task of poverty alleviation is a “sophisticated commitment” that the CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping made to the entire society and that it must be completed as scheduled this year. Originally, there were 5 million people living in poverty. Under the impact of this epidemic, some more people may have fallen back to poverty, and the task of poverty alleviation has become even tougher.

Source: Central News Agency, May 29, 2020

Will Street Vendor Business Model Help China’s Economic Recovery?

“As the U.S. opened the era of private spaceship economy (SpaceX program), China restarted its street vendor economy.” These are popular words on China’s Internet lately. Facing the economic pressure from COVID 19, China recently loosened up its control over street vendors. In March, the Chengdu City Management Committee issued new regulations to allow residents or local businesses to setup vendor booths on the street. By May 21, the city had 2,234 temporary street vendors which created over 100,000 jobs and enabled 98 percent of the restaurants to re-open their businesses. Since then, a number of cities and provinces, including Shanghai, Gansu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Hebei have followed their lead.

In 2005, China launched “civilized city” evaluation nationwide. In order to be recognized for their achievements while ensuring public stability, local municipal governments around China launched severe attacks on street vendors. There were numerous bloody incidents reported when urban administrators used violent force on street vendors. On May 27, 15 years later, the Office of the Central Guidance Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization issued a new guideline and stated that street vendors will not be part of the measures for the civilized city evaluation. Meanwhile a number of official media also published articles to praise the street vendor model.

There were heated discussions online about this policy change. Some people commented that Beijing is obviously concerned about social and political stability and economic recovery, so they have to give the public some leeway. Some people said, ”Now it’s time to encourage street vendors. Obviously, we are not doing that well financially.” In the recent government work report the State Council issued, “protect” and “stabilize” are two key words that were frequently mentioned. China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s recent statement during the press conference at the People’s Congress was also shocking. Li said that there are 600 million people in China who only have a monthly income of 1,000 yuan (US$140) and can hardly afford rent in a mid-sized city. A recent report showed that due to COVID 19, 80 percent of the small and medium-sized factories in the Pearl River Delta region that used to rely on orders from overseas are facing order cancellation and most of them are staying idle.

Epoch Times, May 31, 2020
Xinhua, June 1, 2020