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News from China
Yuan devaluation, slowing GDP no barrier to Chinese travelers
31st August 2015

 CHINA’S currency devaluation and slowing economy have caused enormous turmoil in world financial markets, but they have not really bothered tourists like Henry Lee.

 
Not yet, at least.
 
“I don’t even know what the exchange rate is,” the 36-year-old technology entrepreneur from Beijing admitted.
 
“We’re just here to relax with our kids. We’re not making any big purchases. I bought a Tumi bag, and I got a Tiffany bracelet for my wife,” said the father-of-two during a visit to Singapore’s Merlion Park, which faces the massive Marina Bay Sands casino complex, a favorite destination for Chinese visitors.
 
Lee is among tens of millions from China’s growing middle class who travel across the globe every year for leisure.
 
A record 117 million Chinese traveled overseas in 2014, according to the Sydney-based Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation — more than double the 57 million in 2010 — and experts expect that trend to continue.
 
“The short-term outlook for Chinese outbound visitors remains strong and the long-term is bright,” CAPA said in a recent report.
 
Beijing’s surprise devaluation of the yuan on August 11, which is now trading at a four-year low against the dollar, has sparked fears China’s big-spending tourists will start staying at home.
 
Shares in tourism-linked businesses such as hotels across Asia have tanked, while Cathay Pacific’s chief executive has been forced to reassure investors the airline’s future was secure.
 
Businesses on the ground, however, say more relaxed visa policies and the strength of the yuan against Asian currencies mean Chinese tourists will remain not only the most numerous, but also some of the biggest spenders.
 
“It’s not uncommon for a Chinese VIP player to gamble well over a million US dollars per trip,” said Aaron Fischer, regional head of consumer and gaming research at brokerage and investment group CLSA. “There’s probably 5,000 of them.”
 
The financial clout of China’s travelers can be eye-popping.
 
According to Xinhua news agency, Chinese tourists spent US$164.8 billion in 2014, a four-fold jump from 2008. A whopping 88 percent of that was on shopping, it said, citing the China Tourism Academy, a government agency.
 
Japan alone saw more than 550,000 visitors from China in July, a figure more than double the same period a year ago, and the average Chinese tourist spends around US$1,100 — about twice as much as the next-highest spending cohort — according to Japan Tourism Marketing.
 
Fischer predicted that the yuan’s depreciation would not hinder Chinese from travelling but some may become more cost-conscious, particularly when it comes to luxury items.
 
It is precisely that concern that is worrying organizations like the Indonesian Association of Travel Agencies.
 
Its chairman, Asnawi Bahar, said the industry’s fear was that Chinese visitors, who number roughly 1 million visitors to the archipelago annually, would “hold back on shopping and shorten their stay in Indonesia”.
 
Trade bodies in other Asian countries from the Philippines to South Korea have expressed similar concerns.
 
Lower visa barriers
 
Many of them, however, are helped by the fact that their own currencies have fallen sharply.
 
The yuan is still at, or close to, two-year or longer highs against the currencies of popular tourist destinations like Japan, South Korea, Australia and the eurozone, CAPA said.
 
“I think that in the bigger picture scheme of things, Chinese tourism to Australia will continue to rise,” said Craig James, chief economist at Australian stockbroking firm CommSec.
 
Other countries — in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region — have sought to lower visa barriers for Chinese travellers to attract what the tourism academy says is the world’s largest pool of tourists.
 
More and more places are becoming friendlier to Chinese tourists, starting from the immigration counter: Chinese passport holders now get visa-free access to at least 74 countries, compared to 18 two years ago.
 
That is also happening in shops and, CAPA noted, Australian airports now have Chinese-language signs as well as guides and duty-free sales staff who speak Mandarin.
 
What is clear, analysts say, is that not only are hotels, retailers and travel firms increasingly catering to the Chinese, but the Chinese are enthusiastic customers.
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 31, 2015
Hard work needed to meet economic goals
28th August 2015

 

 
OFFICIALS must work hard to meet China’s fiscal revenue, investment and foreign trade targets as they are “very difficult to achieve,” the nation’s top economic planner told lawmakers yesterday.
 
Despite the steady performance of China’s economy in the first half of 2015 — its gross domestic product grew by the expected 7 percent — the economy is facing multiple domestic and international challenges, Xu Shaoshi, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said during the ongoing bimonthly session of the top legislature.
 
While delivering a report to the session, Xu expressed confidence that China’s economy can maintain steady growth in the second half of 2015, and that the country can meet major annual targets including economic growth, employment, grain output, pollutant control and affordable housing.
 
China is dealing with uncertainty at home and abroad, with some sectors facing heightened difficulties and risks, Xu said, adding that the foundation for an improved economy was not solid enough.
 
Internationally, the global economy is growing slower than expected and faces new uncertainties, which pose an increasingly negative impact on the Chinese economy, said Xu.
 
China’s economy is still facing downward pressure, the market demand remains weak and enterprises face sluggish profits, he said, warning that potential risks remain.
 
To tackle these problems, the central government will continue a proactive fiscal policy and a prudent monetary stance, Xu said.
 
The government will actively develop private banks, support and standardize Internet finance and small-loan companies, he said, adding that there will be more efforts to cultivate an open, transparent, stable and healthy capital market.
 
China will continue to offer taxation and financial support to innovation, and give more preferential taxes to small businesses, he said, adding that more attention will also be given to defusing financial risks.
 
According to a report on the 2015 budget, also unveiled yesterday, central and local governments reported slower and “severe” fiscal revenue growth in the first seven months, due to factors such as economic slowdown and falling prices.
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 28, 2015
Toyota’s Tianjin factory to restart
27th August 2015

 Japanese auto giant Toyota said yesterday that it would gradually restart operations in Tianjin after halting production in the wake of deadly explosions at a hazardous goods facility in the Chinese port city.

The company said workers will today begin preparatory work to restart a factory kept offline since a storage facility near the plant exploded earlier this month.

“The restart itself will take place on Friday,” Toyota said in a statement.

The huge blasts killed at least 135 people.

At least 67 employees at the Toyota plant, including those who live around it, were injured.

The explosions happened while the plant was closed for a summer vacation, but Toyota said it decided to keep it offline to assess the situation.

The main Tianjin factory, which produces several models including the Corolla and Vios sedans, has about 12,000 employees and manufactured 440,000 vehicles last year.

Toyota had also stopped a production line about 70 kilometers away that depends on parts from the main operation.

That facility would be restarted today, the company said.

“So far, we have been inspecting our production facilities and ensuring machinery is safe to operate, while conducting maintenance as necessary,” Toyota said.

The firm added that it was looking at ways to make up for the lost production, either through overtime or extra shifts.

Of the two Toyota dealerships heavily damaged by the blasts, one reopened this week while the other stays shut.

Other Japanese firms including Panasonic and Mazda reported minor damage at their operations in Tianjin.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 27, 2015
Stretching investment to tap needs
26th August 2015

 GERMAN specialty chemicals company LANXESS inaugurated a new rubber plant in Changzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province, which is its largest investment in China so far.

The 235-million-euro (US$270 million) factory with an annual production capacity of 160,000 tons will produce rubber tailored to the automobile and construction industries. A car uses an estimated 5 kilograms of rubber for door seals, hoses and anti-vibration parts.

“This investment underlines our commitment to the Chinese market, which will continue to be a cornerstone of our global business development,” said Matthias Zachert, CEO and chairman of LANXESS.

“With the new plant, we have completed our global rubber production network,” he said.

The plant, set to create 200 new jobs, is expected to meet vast opportunities in Asia.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 26, 2015

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