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News from China
Major cities’ house market stable
20th March 2017

 CHINA’S property market in major cities has stabilized as authorities move to curb price rises.

 
Of 70 large and medium-sized cities surveyed in February, more than half of them saw month-on-month price declines or rises under 0.5 percent for new housing, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
 
Among them, 12 saw a price drop, with new housing prices in two cities flat in February, said the bureau’s senior statistician Liu Jianwei.
 
Another 19 cities saw home price gains above 0.5 percent last month.
 
New home prices in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai rose 0.1 percent on average in February, while second-tier and third-tier cities saw slightly higher price gains of 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.
 
“The growing trend of new housing prices in first-tier cities was restrained after restrictive purchase measures were taken,” said Yan Yuejin, a property market analyst.
 
“The house prices in second-tier cities need to be further controlled due to big February gains in some cities. Third-tier cities saw a faster price rise due to their loose house purchase policies.”
 
On a year-on-year basis, February gains of new home prices in 20 cities decelerated from January, added Liu.
 
“Sales of newly built homes in 15 major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, slowed in February on the back of targeted local government policies,” Liu said.
 
Noticeably, in the pre-owned home market, the prices rose 0.4 percent month on month in February, maintaining the growing trend for 23 months.
 
“The rigorous strictures were mainly targeted for the new housing market, and the price change is not evident in the pre-owned home market,” said Zhang Dawei, analyst with real estate agency Centaline.
 
Since October, dozens of Chinese cities have announced measures, including purchase limits and mortgage restrictions, to prevent prices from rising out of control.
 
The latest round of restrictions came after two years of policy easing, starting with relaxation of purchase restrictions in 2014 and fueled by the pro-growth policies, including interest rate cuts.
 
Many third-tier and fourth-tier cities have excess supply in their real estate markets, while housing prices in some bigger cities with access to better education and medical services are moving swiftly upward.
 
“We will take more category-based and targeted steps to regulate the real estate market,” read a government work report delivered at the annual parliamentary session earlier this month.
 
Saturday’s survey came on the heels of new measures in major cities. Beijing is raising the minimum down payment for second-home buyers and those who have no home in Beijing but have housing loan records.
 
The latest tightening will curb some speculation, and housing prices in some areas of Beijing may fall, Zhang said.
 
In a similar vein, Guangzhou has also restricted house purchases through minimum down payments for second-home buyers.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 20, 2017
China vows to control home prices
17th March 2017

 CHINA added a pledge to contain the country’s fast rising home prices to its annual work report yesterday, as a red-hot property market resists cooling measures and purchase restrictions spread out from the biggest cities.

 
Several lower-tier cities have raised the bar for home purchases this month as speculators from outside flood smaller markets, with home prices nationwide continuing to rise.
 
The final version of the government work report said “containing excessive home price rises in hot markets” will be a key focus this year, according to a final version of the report released yesterday by Xinhua news agency.
 
The first version of the work report, delivered by Premier Li Keqiang on March 5, did not include the phrase.
 
Home sales surged in the first two months of the year despite government measures, though growth in real estate investment showed signs of easing, according to data released on Tuesday.
 
Lending to households, mostly mortgages, expanded rapidly last year, accounting for 50 percent of all new loans, and remained high in January.
 
Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, said last week that measures to cool rising house prices would slow mortgage growth to some degree, though housing loans would continue to grow at a relatively rapid pace.
 
Several major banks in Beijing have temporarily stopped issuing housing loans since February, financial magazine Caixin said yesterday, citing bank and property agent sources, though the halt was due to a lack of loan quota, with approval timelines extended but loans still being granted.
 
China’s state-run banks typically rush to issue loans early in the year to lock in clients before quotas for lending are exhausted.
 
The banking regulator and the central bank have told banks to curtail new mortgage lending, the Economic Information Daily reported on Monday, citing unnamed banking sources.
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 17, 2017
Company taxes, fees are to be trimmed
16th March 2017

 China will help enterprises reduce their tax burden and cut fees to help improve their competitiveness, Premier Li Keqiang pledged on Wednesday.

 
The costs of broadband access, electricity and logistics will be further reduced, with the total cuts in costs and taxes expected to reach 1 trillion yuan ($144.7 billion) this year, Li said at a news conference at the end of this year's two sessions.
 
Cost reductions for enterprises mean the government needs to "tighten its belt", he said.
 
"The central government is required to take the lead in reducing government expenses in order to leave room for cutting costs for enterprises," Li said.
 
He added that China will not reduce imports or retreat from the opening-up process to support domestic enterprises.
 
Li's comments were in response to complaints of high tax burdens in the private sector.
 
Ding Mingshan, CEO of China Wallink Holding Group, had anticipated the government lowering taxes of all types on enterprises, given that companies are likely to be more sensitive to costs when encountering economic pressures. Ding also is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
 
Zhang Lianqi, also a member of the advisory body, said that while such complaints by companies make sense, the government also needs to strike a balance between lowering costs for market players and ensuring basic and necessary fiscal spending.
 
Zhang said policies lowering taxes and fees are expected to be rolled out this year to mesh with the nation's need to support the economy's stabilizing trend.
 
"Policies in the Government Work Report delivered by Premier Li this month will facilitate the speed of improving the current tax system and let the market players feel the real benefits," said Zhang.
 
China will consolidate four tax rates into three, according to the report. The government also will cancel 35 administrative fees paid by enterprises, according to the report.
 
There are about 500 administrative fees that enterprises in China may be subject to, according to a report released by the Research Institute for Fiscal Science last year.
 
Efforts such as simplifying the tax regime will help improve the efficiency of the tax system and reduce problems encountered while collecting taxes, said Jia Kang, director of the China Academy of New Supply-side Economics.
Source: China Daily, March 16, 2017
Propelling manufacturers into the new age
15th March 2017

 AS manufacturing slips as a driver of Shanghai’s economy, the city is trying to reinvent the role of its industry by pushing factories to adopt advanced technologies, become more innovative and attract more professional talent.

 
The government has unveiled plans to become a “national hub for smart manufacturing” by 2020, with 100 model digital factories and 1,000 upgrades in traditional sectors like automobiles, heavy equipment, shipbuilding and aviation.
 
Industrial output last year in Shanghai accounted for 26 percent of the city’s gross domestic product, down from 26.9 percent last year and nearly 40 percent five years ago.
 
Filling the gap have been gains in “soft realms” like commerce and services, but “manufacturing should remain the backbone” of the city’s economy, said Tang Huihao, chief economist at the Shanghai Statistics Bureau.
 
The city that was once a prime industrial center of China is now aiming to meld the Internet age and other new technologies with classic manufacturing to put industry at the vanguard of what the world will need tomorrow.
 
To nurture 100 digital factories and 1,000 upgrades, the government is taking a page from the strategies of global giants like German-based Siemens and US-based General Electric, Liu Ping, head of the equipment department at the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology, told Shanghai Daily.
 
The idea is to create “integrators” as pilot projects in smart manufacturing.
 
Among those projects is a partnership between Baosteel and Siemens to digitize hot-rolling production, and one between INESA, an instruments producer, and Japanese-based Fujitsu to automate 23 production lines.
 
“They need both digital technologies and industrial know-how,” Liu said.
 
Shanghai is ahead of the curve in that it has fewer plants to close among cities nationwide trying to streamline manufacturing, said Chen Mingbo, director of the Shanghai commission.
 
Many outdated plants have already been phased out in the past decade, reducing over 45 percent of the city’s coal use among coal chemical plants and closing five major blast furnaces.
 
Chen said the manufacturing landscape may change, but industry will always be a part of Shanghai in its thrust to become a global center of innovation.
 
Beijing and Shanghai both have proposals to create such centers. Beijing’s plan focuses on technology startup to take industry into the new century; Shanghai relies more on improving production and innovation at existing manufacturing giants.
 
Most of Shanghai’s major manufacturers are state-owned, comprising about a quarter of the city’s gross domestic product, according to Chen.
 
Model digital factories and industrial upgrades will come largely from the automobile and shipbuilding sectors — main users of equipment such as machine tools, engines and turbines, Liu said.
 
Shanghai Electric is a poster company in industrial innovation. It became the world’s largest player in offshore wind power generation last year, utilizing 489 megawatts at full capacity. The result “was largely due to our efforts to digitize wind power operations, helped by Siemens,” said an engineer at the group.
 
Two years ago, Shanghai Electric received tens of million yuan from the government to start that project.
 
In the coming five years, Shanghai said it will allocate 10 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) to help transform technology research in areas such as industrial components and high-end chips. It will also award key industrial projects at least 100 million yuan each, according to the city’s development and reform commission.
 
The coming years are crucial in industrial upgrading, the commission’s Chen said.
 
The upgrades will add an estimated 500 billion yuan to industry gross output value. Of the money, 300 billion yuan will come from the upgrades at existing companies.
 
Upgrades among local producers will become a “major motivation” for manufacturers worldwide to come to Shanghai, said Tom Tan, president for China at US-based car parts maker BorgWarner.
 
By the end of last year, Shanghai was home to 411 research centers of multinational companies. “That’s not just because Shanghai serves as an access to the enormous Chinese market,” Tan said. “More importantly, the city provides more abundant talent and more advanced companies to work with.”
 
Twenty years ago, nearly 80 percent of the company’s components had to be imported. Today, nearly 90 percent of them are made locally, Tan said.
 
“In the next five years we need to accelerate our efforts,” Chen said. “Who would dare risk such a smart opportunity to win the global manufacturing race?”
Source: Shanghai Daily, March 15, 2017

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