Emerging markets, generally

China’s NPC radiates growth confidence – as expected in the centenary year

Monday, March 8th, 2021

China’s still ongoing annual National Party Congress (NPC) gives a substantial number of short-term objectives and long-term strategies to the 3000 delegates. Celebrating in 2021 the 100-year anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) makes this year’s convention quite special (as I pointed at in my latest blog from February 24 on http://chinaresearch.se/ ).

Interesting details from the NPC – with obvious growth optimism    

¤  Encouraging GDP objective for 2021. Going back to my own blog source above, I felt quite sure before this year’s NPC that Prime Minister Li Keqiang would please the delegates (in Chinese:”lawmakers”) with an encouraging GDP forecast for 2021, maybe between 7 and 8%. Indeed, this range was not very far away from Prime Minister Li’s finally announced goal for 2021 – “more than 6%” in economic growth. I may regard “more than 6%” as somewhat conservative but I see this number as positive as well. Even 7-8% this year remain achievable.
Conclusion: In my view, an official GDP growth by “more than 6%” is indeed an encouraging goal despite the relative weak statistical basis from last year – and not a cautious one as initially described by many international commentators. The inflation goal of 3 % for 2021 seems to be alright as well.                                                         

¤  Comeback for long-term issues. In the past quarters, Chinese and global analysts dealt strongly with short-term issues due to the damage that had been caused by the corona crisis. During this year’s NPC, also long-term objectives for high tech, clean energy, electric cars and other ways to improve the environment were taken up. However, I miss a more promising strategy for de-carbonization. President Xi Jinping also reminded of necessary improvements of education and healthcare. Remarkably, no numeric goal for GDP has been set for the recently commenced 5-year plan. My best guess is that it will turn out being something close to 5%.    
Conclusion:
Updated yearly GDP objectives should be good enough in the future for short-term and for 5-year planning – and also for improved flexibility.

¤  Continuous priority of innovation and technology. Prime Minister Li repeated at the NPC what is widely known: “Innovation remains at the heart of China’s modernization drive. We will strengthen our science and technology to provide strategic support for China’s development”. Despite the fact that all this is expressed only verbally, China’s technological ambitions have been underlined one more time.
Conclusion: Westerners should not underestimate the Chinese ability of spreading technology both internationally and of using it at home, for power-conserving reasons as well. The Chinese want to reduce their dependence from the U.S. – also by increasing their annual R&D budget by 7% yearly between 2021 and 2025. Green development is given a lot of priority. President Xi Jinping seems to favor the creation of a green-GDP concept, too.

¤  More priority for private consumption. Also this specific strategy is not really new but it is part of the new 5-year plan. Of course, there is an intention to achieve this by more domestic production of consumption goods – supported by the political promises of reasonable increases of disposible incomes.
Conclusion: This policy strategy is obviously linked to the plan of modifying the Chinese economic model by somewhat reducing the role of exports and investments as growth factors and instead increase the share of private consumption related to GDP – probably as much as possible supported by “Made in China” (but I could not find further updated detail on this latter issue).

¤  Focus on stability. Particularly Prime Minister Li Keqiang emphasized the need of stability in many areas – for ensuring future progress in the Chinese society and economy. Among the mentioned areas were employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, investments, supply chains – and obviously Hong Kong.
Conclusion: Different risks are and remain an issue for China’s political leaders.

¤  Important changes for Hong Kong. Beijing seems to plan far-reaching changes of the election system making it impossible for opponents to the People’s Republic to be promoted to any influential political position in Hong Kong.
Conclusion: Developments in Hong Kong remain an important topic for analysis. Probably, Hong Kong will increasingly be regarded as a part of Mainland China internationally. Hong Kong appears moving to “one country / one system” considerably faster than one could expect some years ago when having read the still valid Hong Kong Basic Law. https://www.basiclaw.gov.hk/en/basiclawtext/images/basiclaw_full_text_en.pdf

Summary – no surprise but tightened tone against Hong Kong

Altogether, the NPC did not offer special surprises this year. Not even the relative GDP-growth optimism can be interpreted as surprising. Really notable, however, appears the widened political threats from Beijing against opponents in Hong Kong.

 

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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Transparency, openness and honesty in the fight against covid-19

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

This time, I am publishing only a short article – but in both English and Swedish, https://blogg.lnu.se/fromlet-bbsresearch/ . The main objective is to point at the insufficient efforts of the government and  authorities to optimize transparency, openness and honesty in the Swedish fight against covid-19.

In my view, more can be done. This can be said about media as well. How many debate articles have so far been published with institutional angles as mentioned above? However, my main objective with these lines is not to criticize politicians, authorities or the press. My intention is rather to focus on an important scientific research area which until now has been completely underestimated by practitioners.

Swedish corona-transparency is still not convincing for an advanced economy. Too much is hidden, difficult to find or left out at press conferences. The same can be said about openness with several occasions last year of downplaying the covid-19 risks. Altogether, there is an obvious risk of deteriorating honesty gradings (see also Eichengreen et al below).

I am talking in this context about institutional economics, a research area that was awarded with the Nobel Prize at several occasions (Coase, North, Ostrom, Williamson). Douglass North (1920-2015) is often regarded as the father of New Institutional Economics.

Currently, professor Barry Eichengreen (Berkeley) belongs to the outstanding academics with a major institutional nexus. In 2020, he published in Finland – together with Aksoy and Saka – the following interesting lines related to our topic:

“…trust and confidence in government are important for the capacity of a society to organize an effective collective response to an epidemic. Yet there is also the possibility that experiencing an epidemic can negatively affect an individual’s confidence in political institutions and trust in political leaders, with negative implications for this collective capacity…”

https://helda.helsinki.fi/bof/bitstream/handle/123456789/17490/dp1420.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Eichengreen et al describe exactly what I mean. Better awareness of the problems mentioned above by politicians, health authorities and media could move the fight against covid-19 a bit longer in the right direction.

This conclusion can also be applied to other advanced countries and emerging markets.

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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About the understanding of the United States and China

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Somewhat unexpectedly for many analysts, we notice currently some sharpening of the more or less permanently underlying psychological tensions between the United States and China. However, the pitch has become louder in recent days.

This is not really a surprise. Market expectations were too high in a sense that the new president of the United States would behave less challenging in the eyes of the People’s Republic – an interpretation I have been warning for in this blog right on the American election day (“Today, we do not know about the outcome of the American presidential election. We do not even know whether a possible President Biden would work for really improving relations to China – if yes probably not very quickly”; chinaresearch.se from November 3, 2020). Besides, it should not be overlooked that Democratic administrations historically have proved more protectionist than Republican.

The prominent role of psychology in both countries

The American psychology: The recent violation by Chinese fighter planes of what the U.S. calls “Taiwanese airspace” is, of course, a strong verbal provocation for the Chinese political leaders. Taiwan as a part of the People’s Republic is one of the most important issues for president Xi and his other leaders. Consequently, foreign governments are not welcome at all to regard Taiwan as some kind of independent. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the U.S. now considers China increasingly as a serious technological competitor. This is why the United States also under President Biden will keep quite some distance to China. He will not work ambitiously for fundamental improvements between the two strongest superpowers. Psychology plays a major role also in this context.

The Chinese psychology: The understanding of the Chinese position vis-à-vis the United States needs a lot of psychological application as well. Criticizing Beijing’s Taiwan policy or favoring Taiwan from abroad is regarded as a no go. A second important obstacle for normal Sino-American relations can be found in the fact that China in 2021 is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Communist Party. American verbal interference cannot be accepted. Chinese leaders want to meet their people and the whole world from a position of strength.

Here, the Chinese have a very important and prestigious event that does not allow for what the Chinese may call provocation or humiliation from the United States without reaction.

Conclusion: There is no room for (visible) improvements of Sino-American political relations for the time being, contrary to market expectations only a few days ago. Psychology plays a prominent role also in this context.

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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