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Beijing needs to rebalance its economy away from excessive reliance on investment towards a more domestic consumption driven growth model. Beijing will only be able to accomplish this feat through targeted market-oriented reforms such as deepening reforms in the land, labour and financial markets. In the meantime, the vested interests of China's powerful SOEs, who have long enjoyed preferential government policies in an effort to breed global champions, will remain a major hurdle in pushing long-awaited reforms.
China is still on track to become the world's largest economy sometime during the new leadership's 10-year tenure. If China's policymakers fail to push much-needed reforms, foreign investors will look to other markets and marginalised sections of the population will grow even more restless. However, if China can stay on course - while battling increasingly visible signs of strain - it will herald yet another chapter in China's unrivalled growth story.
Click here to download the October 2012 edition
In the October 2012 edition of The China Analyst, we gauge China's progress in implementing these market-oriented reforms and highlight the opportunities that companies need to be aware of as China enters a new, more sustainable growth phase.
This edition includes the following lead articles:
- China's Economy: Heading for a Firm Landing?
- China's SOEs: Stalled Reforms or Agents of Change?
- FOCAC 2012: Sino-African Partnership Gains Momentum
A new Commodities section focusing on China's role in global commodities trade is included to complement other regular sections such as: Procurement, where we take a closer look into China's rising labour costs; Strategy, where we explore China's role in Africa's development as an investor and major trading partner; Investment, where we analyse China's overseas resource investments; BRIICS, a macro economic comparison of the world's six major emerging economies; and four Regional Focus sections with analyses of the latest China-related trade and investment activities in Africa, Australia, Latin America and Russia.
The China Analyst is published by The Beijing Axis, a China-focused international advisory and procurement firm.
To view the current and past editions of The China Analyst online, please visit our website.
The China Compass - August 2012, published by The Beijing Axis, combines basic country data of China, as well as other major world economies, with more detailed analysis of a wide range of macroeconomic and social data; presents a comprehensive picture of the ever-changing and evolving Chinese landscape; contains up-to-date statistics, topical themes and insights; and is presented in a reader-friendly format as a useful desk reference for executives with a China agenda.
As China attempts to rebalance its economy towards a more sustainable growth pattern that puts a greater emphasis on domestic consumption while sheltering the economy from the global slowdown, we expect many cyclical and structural changes and increased volatility. However, we still do not foresee a hard landing.
Our focus and theme of this edition is 'China Moves Towards Growth Moderation and Sustainability', featuring sections on:
- Selected Macroeconomic Indicators
- Domestic Consumption and Foreign Trade
- Domestic and Foreign Investment
- Financial Indicators
- Social Indicators
We trust that this edition of The China Compass will continue to shed light on past developments, current issues and future prospects of the Chinese economy, making this fascinating and complex story slightly more comprehensible.
As always, we welcome and appreciate all feedback.
The China Compass is published by The Beijing Axis, a China-focused international advisory and procurement firm.
- had the third-largest population of 94 million people (Shandong had 96 million; Guangdong had 104 million)
- had the second-largest cultivated land area of 7.9 million hectares Heilongjiang had 11.8 million)
- had the second-longest total length of highways at 245,089 km (Sichuan had 266,082 km), and the fourth-longest length of railways in operation at 4,282 km
- had the second-largest freight traffic at 20.0 billion tonnes (Anhui had 22.8 billion tonnes)
In terms of labour costs, cost to company per employee is increasing across China due to uneven supply, high demand, inflationary pressure, organised labour demands, and growing social spending requirements. But Western China still offers large pockets of very reasonable wages for skilled and semi-skilled labour, and foreign and local manufacturers in China are increasingly taking advantage of this. While it is true that wages are rising quickly in coastal regions, labour productivity gains due to investment and technical upgrades, especially in the machinery industry, have kept pace with the rise in labour costs (see chart above, left).
Chinese exporters of manufactured goods are also taking advantage of the massive local market. The demand for new plants, equipment, infrastructure – often one third to half of world demand – has created significant economies of scale and of scope for most of China's manufacturing sub-industries. The competitiveness and innovation in the construction machinery sector, for example, have primarily been driven by the country’s infrastructure build-up over the past 15-20 years. The same effect has benefited the producers of steel commodities and structural steel, construction materials, trucks, barges, electrical equipment, power generation equipment, etc. The infrastructure build-up and procurement demand, initially fuelled by foreign-invested companies and with some assistance from government procurement policies, government-approved projects, and the availability and low cost of land and capital, have generated a highly competitive and increasingly sophisticated plethora of local producers that are now dominating the Chinese market and aiming for global expansion.
The size and growth of China’s manufactured goods market is in effect supporting a self-sustaining cycle of cut-throat competition that features innovation, capacity expansion and upgrading, and ‘learning by doing’. Suppliers and clusters of suppliers compete with each other but an engineering talent pool and the related innovation usually travels freely and contributes to China’s overall manufacturing competitiveness. They take advantage of the more than 600,000 students who graduate with engineering degrees every year, excellent transport infrastructure, especially in coastal regions, and generally supportive government policies favouring Chinese high value added manufacturing. As industries across China consolidate and manufacturers grow and become more assertive in their quest for value-added production and profitability at home and abroad, firms sourcing from China must address the following question: How can we protect and consolidate our savings in sourcing capital goods from China through the establishment of a China procurement operation? At the same time, how can we move to the next level and take full advantage of an increasingly sophisticated manufacturing base?
The structural changes in China’s competitiveness across the sourcing spectrum will require procurement managers to shift some of their commodity spending from China to other LCCs, while increasing their orders of machinery, complex parts and high-value added consumables in China. In our view, the key to taking full advantage of a broader spectrum of cost and feature innovation present in the Chinese market is to move from a customer-supplier model of price-based sourcing with strictly dictated specifications and standards to a partnership-based approach where the supplier takes an active part in the overall project and in specifications design. This would entail a structured and patient exchange of ideas, a deeper understanding of Chinese manufacturing practices and standards, and above all, an open mind from both the customer and the supplier. Commercial practices would also require modifications. Contract management with Chinese suppliers generally relies less on contract enforcement and more on relationship management, so many of the standard contractual clauses traditionally used by international procurement teams are either not applicable or not enforceable in China, and thus create unnecessary burdens on suppliers and ultimately increase the total costs of the contract.
Ultimately, a sophisticated foreign buyer of Chinese capital equipment will probably need to adopt a number of Chinese standards, practices and approaches – all without compromising quality, environmental and labour protection standards, or good governance.
The China Compass is a knowledge tool by the China Strategy Group, a business unit of THE BEIJING AXIS. The publication is an extended chart pack examining China's current economic standing in the world. In this March 2010 edition, we provide the latest macroeconomic data available for a wide range of indicators, for China as well as for other major world economies, and include a new section, ‘What’s New: China From Rebound to Recovery’.
The publication summarises a wealth of information in an easily accessible format, and as such is intended to make China's complex economic rise a bit more comprehensible.
To download The China Analyst - March 2010 (Size: 2 MB), click here:
The China Compass - March 2010.pdf
For more publications by THE BEIJING AXIS, please visit the Knowledge section of THE BEIJING AXIS website.
Beyond language and legal barriers, such as the requirement of GOST R certification, businessmen have to consider another important issue: payment terms. This is especially true given that Russia’s economy is still suffering from the financial crisis, recovering more slowly than other countries. Establishing acceptable payment terms can cause substantial delays to the progress of a deal.
There are three aspects of the payment process which tend to produce problems when setting the terms of trade between Chinese and Russian companies.
1. Russian buyers traditionally prefer to settle trades through cash.
2. The Russian banking system has yet to mature. By the end of 2008 there were approximately 1,300 banks in Russia. Over 800 of these were extremely small, with a capital base equivalent to less than USD 1 million. An extra element of disorder exists in Russia’s banking environment, in that many banks have a reputation for not honoring issued letters of credit. Furthermore, one-third of Russia’s banks may face bankruptcy as a result of the crisis; solvency is an important consideration when choosing a Russian bank’s services.
3. The level of cooperation between Chinese and Russian banks has yet to fully develop. Communication between both sides is inefficient. Chinese banks lack enough representative offices and agents in Russia, and vice versa.
Hence the situation suggests that extreme care must be taken when making payment arrangements for a Chinese supplier exporting to Russia. Some important steps to take include requiring the buyer to use a top, recognisable international bank when issuing the letter of credit, and asking for a risk-adjusted down payment when establishing the terms of trade. Additionally, the supplier may consider using the services of a company such as Sinosure which insures letters of credit against business and political risks. This type of service incurs extra charges but may be worth the cost for large traded values.
Just like any other prospective new market, Russia presents its own unique challenges. By overcoming the language barrier, by obtaining certifications to reduce the perception of poor quality and by taking extra precautions regarding the terms of payment, Chinese suppliers can prosper from increasing bilateral cooperation with Russia.
This blog posting was inspired by the cold Beijing winter and a recent conversation with my roommate. After having lunch together, my roommate, a native of Shenyang in China’s northeast, described what she and her family ate during the winters of her childhood. Fresh fruit and vegetables were scarce to nonexistent; large quantities of Chinese cabbage and pears were bought in late autumn and had to last all winter. The pears were frozen, which caused them to turn black. The cabbage was either dried or put in jars to make “sour cabbage”. Meat was a luxury.
Having only two food choices available for one-fourth of the year sounded terrible to me. “So what did you eat in winter?” she asked. Well, I ate the same things as in the summertime – except maybe more cups of hot chocolate. Although winter likewise halted regional agricultural production, bananas, broccoli, seafood – you name it – managed to find their way to grocery stores in the American Midwest – where I grew up.
How could our childhood experiences in the 80s and early 90s have been so different? At least part of the disparity may be due to differences in the availability of transportation within China and the US.
As anyone involved in sourcing knows, although goods may be available in one location, the challenge remains of connecting them with their prospective end users, often many kilometres away. The greater the ease of connecting point A to point B, the cheaper the cost, hence, the more feasible trade becomes. This process requires infrastructure.
China has done a lot to improve its infrastructure since the 1980s. When imports arrive from overseas, they usually do so by boat. Not only does China now host some of the world’s busiest ports, but it has also has increased the length of its navigable inland waterways from 101,000 kilometres in 1985 to over 110,000 in 2008. From these inlets, the goods must then traverse land to reach their destinations. To this end, China has upped its railway length to 80,000 kilometres, as of 2008, from 55,000 in 1985. Even more substantial is the increase in highway availability, now at around four million kilometres, an increase of almost 300% from only 20 years prior.
The result of these advances in infrastructure: more goods are able to make it across the Chinese mainland to the people that need them. The amount of freight traffic within China, measured in ton-kilometres, has increased more than three times its 1987 value. Just as the wintertime shelves of the grocery stores in my hometown are filled with goods from the warmer southern US states, Mexico, and South America, similarly those in Shenyang can now be more readily stocked with products from southern China, the Philippines, or elsewhere.Source: China Statistical Yearbook; US Bureau of Transportation Statistics: US Census Bureau; Beijing Axis Analysis
The increase in transportation channels has reduced the contribution of shipping costs to goods’ retail prices, lessened the impact of food expenditures on one’s budget, and has enhanced the well being of Chinese consumers. This is evident when comparing the Engel’s coefficients – the percent of the typical household’s income spent on food, used as a general measure of a country’s standard of living – between China and the US. This statistic suggests that my roommate’s family may have spent about 55% of their household income on food in the 80s. The affect of both rising incomes and greater transportation availability since then have reduced this to less than 40%.Source: China Statistical Yearbook; US Census Bureau; Beijing Axis Analysis
It is interesting to consider how much more this is likely to improve in the future. I think for the Chinese New Year I will indulge in a little variety and buy my roommate both oranges and pears – fresh green ones– to celebrate the holiday and the progress made by China.
Trade sanctions have clearly strained China’s steel industry. Seamless steel tubes, Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG), drill pipes, steel mesh panels, wire shelves... the list of newly sanctioned Chinese steel products goes on. Among the numerous made-in-China products impacted by international trade frictions, China’s steel industry has been hit the hardest, and given the severity of these trade disputes, the consequences for China’s steel enterprises are substantial.
Price and quantity decreases
Proposed last April, the oil well pipe anti-dumping and anti-subsidies action undertaken by the US International Trade Commission will adversely affect Chinese exports of as much as USD 2.8 billion. These exports are supplied by around 200 steel mills, and these provided oil well pipes to the US during early 2008 and Q1 2009. The monetary value at stake makes this the largest steel trade dispute in US history.
The oil well pipe anti-dumping and anti-subsidies case is only a sample of the international trade sanctions that have targeted Chinese steel makers in recent years. Since 2008, the EU, the US, Russia, India and other countries have successively launched anti-dumping and anti-subsidy surveys on China’s seamless steel pipes, oil pipes, drill pipes, steel mesh panels and other steel products. As a result of the financial crisis, global market demand has rapidly declined, exacerbating ongoing trade frictions – particularly within the steel industry. According to China Customs, in December 2009 China exported 3.34 million tons of steel, which contributed to a total of 24.6 million tons for the whole year 2009. This annual figure represented a 58.5% y-o-y decline.
Of all steel goods, pipe products were the most severely affected. In 2009, China's seamless pipe exports dropped by almost 50% compared to 2008. In 2009, China's export price for oil well pipes to the US was only USD 1,600/MT, well below highs of USD 3,600/MT in 2008.
Entering new markets
Some Chinese producers have adjusted their strategies in response to the sanctions. As an example, take one of China’s major seamless steel manufacturers, whose exports accounted for 48% of total sales volume before the financial crisis. In 2009 its shipments to major regions such as North America and Europe fell by more than 70% compared to the previous year, yet its total 2009 export volume dropped by only 10%. Its secret weapon: new markets – the company’s sales in Asia increased by 30% and African sales by 100%.
Other steel mills have followed suit, successfully exploring new markets such as Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, thereby weathering the decline in demand from mature markets.
Along with the shift from mature to developing markets, export product structures are also changing. Many manufacturers are shifting their focus from high value-added products such as oil well pipes to a number of oil and gas transmission pipeline products, primarily in demand in countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. These regions are without well-established steel industries, ensuring less risk of new trade frictions arising from local competition.
Expanding domestic demand
Many Chinese steel mills capitalised on the national stimulus package which enlarged the domestic market in 2009. One of China’s largest stainless steel mills stated that although their exports declined by more than 50%, domestic sales increased by 58%, causing profits to remain consistent with those of 2008.
As of November 2009, China's net exports of steel have been largely restored to earlier levels. Nevertheless, China’s steel exports are facing more difficulties as overcapacity problems mount and international protectionism becomes more severe. As a consequence, China’s steel industry may yet have to adjust again in the near future.
A new shade of green is gradually sweeping across China's export manufacturing industry, one that took a while to take root, and companies are riding the environment-friendly wave.
Pressure from the national government and tightening regulations in overseas markets are compelling a growing number of suppliers to modify their business strategies and incorporate ecologically safe processes. The transition is neither extreme nor desperate, but the impact could be widespread as many midsize and small companies are also taking "green" initiatives. Due to the sheer number of these suppliers, they account for a large portion of the pollution and wasteful practices in the country.
Irrespective of size, companies are introducing long-term strategies anchored on recycling, waste reduction and sustainable energy adoption.
Recycling is the most common practice among factories, one that is carried out internally or through third parties. This, however, goes beyond reusing offcuts and scrap materials. Highly polluting industries such as leather tanning have always been required to invest in wastewater cleaning systems, but very few actually do. Now, many are investing large sums in such facilities not only to comply with local ordinances but also as a marketing tool. This comes as an increasing number of buyers are including social responsibility as a criterion in supplier selection.
Fujian Guanxing Leather Co. Ltd in Shishi, a city under the municipality of Quanzhou in Fujian province, has invested USD 3 million in a 6,000-ton capacity wastewater processing station. Once operational, the facility is expected to save the company USD 1.4 million annually.
In fact, waste recycling is becoming the norm in the city, one of the major garment and textile hubs in the province. More than 20 manufacturers have now installed treatment systems such as those from Carrousel. The majority of Fujian factories that dye fabrics in-house have similar facilities for their sewerage as well. Moreover, several local governments have set up complementary wastewater recycling services to help ensure a continuous supply of fresh water.
When it comes to material refuse, many large enterprises contract professional disposal services. Small and midsize businesses often transact with recyclers and junkyard operators.
Guangdong Weiermei Underwear Co. Ltd, for instance, sells fabric cutoffs to waste collectors. Watch exporter Shenzhen Full Success Gift Mfg Ltd and lock specialist Make Locks Manufacturer Ltd vend metal scraps to recyclers.
Some companies involve customers in their green efforts. On request, Shenzhen FJY Electronic Co. Ltd uses recycled materials during production. Doing so has the additional benefit of lowering unit costs.
Adopting degradable materials, however, does not always bring a similar effect. In the beauty and cosmetics industry, bottles made from such substances are about 20% more expensive than conventional plastic.
While recycling and reusing are gaining more adherents, only a handful of operations are tapping sustainable energy sources such as wind or solar power. Cynthia Garments Making (Dalian) Co. Ltd has taken steps to do so by using solar water heating at its workers' dormitories.
This posting was contributed by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with greater China.
Besides a discussion on the macro economy, the two main topics from the forum were:
- Supply chain management in the environment of economic recession; and
- Supply chain management contributions to company value
Since the value enhancing role of supply chain management is a common topic discussed at a majority of procurement forums, I was more interested in the first topic. While exchanging ideas about supply management under economic recession with other purchasing managers, I received many useful tips—including those from the speakers. One speaker was Mr. Dai Dingyi, Vice Chairman of CFLP, who introduced the status and trends of purchasing and supply management in
Mr. Johnson Xiao, Global Sourcing Director of TRW Automotive Inc, was another speaker. Mr. Xiao shared his personal experiences in service sourcing. Attendees also learned a lot from Mr. Zhang Jiamin, Director of Li & Fung Group, who gave an insightful speech on how
These speeches were very insightful about the current state of supply chain management in
Putin’s visit to China in October has brought numerous promising projects for bilateral cooperation between China and Russia. More and more Chinese companies are becoming involved in deals with Russian companies, both in exports and imports.
However, when doing business with Russian clients it is important to understand their way of thinking, especially when you are looking to sell your products on the Russian market.
From my personal experience in sourcing for Russian clients from Chinese producers, the following issues—standard with any sourcing project—must be managed: price, quality, supplier reliability, delivery time, payment terms, availability, product certification, and transportation time, etc. What are the most critical issues specific to Russian companies? The top three would have to be payment terms, product certification, and language barriers.Language
Effective Communication is a crucial aspect of any business deal. The existence of a language barrier is a particularly formidable challenge faced by Chinese companies aiming to enter the CIS market. Effective communication will allow certainty in the decision-making process; misunderstanding, however slight, may lead to unexpected troubles or worse—failure. The simplest way to avoid these unnecessary pitfalls is to have an effective conduit between your company and the client. A few of the best ways to do this are:1. To establish a local representative office
2. To find a solid partner in Russia
3. To hire a long-term translator in your domestic office
4. To hire a short-term translator during your client’s visit to your factories or during your trip to Russia
The listings above are ordered according to the level of importance of the prospective deal. The first option is most acceptable for a Russian client, while the third and forth options are the easiest options to use when visiting a Chinese company. Any aggressive, long term, business expansion into Russia would require a representative office in Russia or even a joint venture with a local Russian company.To be continued
Although the manufacturing technology for some of the products was not on the international level, the quality of most products exceeded my clients’ expectations. From manufacturing machinery, i.e. widely-used CNCs, to every step of the manufacturing process, casting, machining, welding, surface treatment and packaging - all of these met my clients’ criteria for qualified suppliers. The previous biggest problem affecting my clients' China sourcing strategy, QUALITY, seems now to have been effectively solved. Chinese suppliers' price and delivery, moreover, is usually comparatively better than competitors from other countries.
So what else is the problem then? The biggest problem arose afterwards. Most of the suppliers we visited did not have any agencies in any of my clients' countries, which, incidentally, made it easy to talk to the supplier directly and get lower prices. But for those products frequently requiring maintenance, it is simply not possible to rely only on the suppliers.
Let’s take the procurement of pumps for mining industries as an example. The pumps are usually used in tough (i.e. high pressure and corrosive) conditions. The lifespan of the key parts will be short, sometimes 20 days to 1 month. The buyer can save 1/3 of the total purchase value by sourcing pumps from China. But for maintenance, the buyer will have to keep enough stock for the key parts. If there is not enough stock and the buyer has to order parts from the Chinese supplier, it requires lead time of at least 1 month, plus shipping time. To set up a solid agency overseas is a large investment for many Chinese suppliers, so after-sales service is not an obstacle that can easily be overcome. Yet as long as they are fully aware of the problem, with thorough communication, Chinese suppliers and overseas buyers can come up with solutions, such as
- Sourcing some general-use parts (i.e. seal parts) locally with the assistance of other Chinese suppliers
- Negotiating with Chinese suppliers to have a ‘green channel’ to shorten lead times
- Setting up a stock level system with supply chain management knowledge
As another example of problematic after-sales service, I can relate the following example. A South African client recently bought an engineering machine from a Chinese producer. The drive, which carried an international well-known brand produced in Germany, turned out to be faulty. The German brand, however, has an agency in South Africa, and so the client was expecting the agency would easily be able to solve the problem. Yet the client was told that it could take 3 months to get a new drive and that this was the normal lead time. The client then came back to the Chinese supplier directly and finally got a new one within 15 days.
From this perspective, the fact that Chinese companies do not have agencies overseas is not reason enough to dismiss their after-sales service completely. Indeed, for international companies who have agencies anywhere else, rigid systems and other factors can sometimes form stumbling blocks of their own. Sourcing managers will still need to invest a lot of time to conduct thorough research before they can decide where to source most profitably.