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Zhou Xin

Articles by Zhou Xin

A town in China’s rust belt offers a cautionary tale of development ambition

22 days ago

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The rust-belt city of Hegang in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province has been an unlikely hotspot of social and economic news this year, as analysts and the general public have expressed concerns that this area’s lack of economic vitality and meagre number of young people could be a dark omen for the country’s future.In the latest news from the industrial city of 890,000, the local government said it is entering a kind of fiscal emergency by freezing new hires and suspending public…

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China should consider offering its first nationwide cash handouts in 2022 for a happy Spring Festival

28 days ago

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China should seriously consider giving the country’s first ever nationwide direct cash handouts to its 1.4 billion residents in 2022 to help improve economic sentiments, as the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic threatens to spoil the third Spring Festival in a row.First of all, the cash payments would be in line with Beijing’s common prosperity push. China has a huge wealth gap issue, and a payout of an appropriate amount would benefit the poor more than the rich.A one-off handout of, say, 2,000 yuan…

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China’s population to peak in 2021 as demographic turning point has already arrived, threatening to disrupt Beijing’s economic ambitions

December 4, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China’s population is expected to peak in 2021 and fall steadily in the foreseeable future in a turning point for the country’s population trajectory, according to James Liang, executive chairman of online travel platform Trip.com Group and renowned demographics expert.Liang told the South China Morning Post on Thursday that the number of births across the country fell 20 per cent to about 10 million in 2021, citing published data from local Chinese authorities, while the number of deaths could…

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Why China’s strategy for avoiding the middle-income trap is a challenging one

November 29, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Almost a decade ago, the World Bank and the Development Research Centre of China’s State Council published a report titled China 2030: Building a Modern Harmonious and Creative Society.While the report was presented as a research, its publication was widely viewed as a strategic blueprint for China to escape the “middle-income trap”, a stage of economic development in which income levels stagnate, preventing a country from joining the ranks of rich nations. Key suggestions in the report…

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China must be alert of ‘race to the bottom’ risks in Covid-19 zero-tolerance drive

November 15, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China’s campaign to control the spread of Covid-19 is showing a potentially dangerous tendency.Under the central authorities’ general guideline that the coronavirus must be controlled, some local governments across China are pulling out all the stops with their social and mobility control measures. While some of these efforts, including massive nucleic acid testing, have proved effective in restoring social and economic order by bringing the virus under control in a short period of time, many…

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China’s census accuracy faces reality check in Covid-19 vaccination and testing

November 8, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China’s coronavirus vaccination programme is having a side effect: casting doubt on the nation’s recently completed once-a-decade census that put the population at 1.4 billion people.The task of conducting a census in a country as vast as China could only be undertaken by the National Bureau of Statistics, and the result announced by the bureau is official and final. Any suspicion about China’s real population size, therefore, can easily be dismissed by Beijing as groundless.But the top-down…

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China’s zero Covid-19 policy is becoming a heavy burden for some local governments

November 1, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]It is a tense moment for local government officials in China, especially those in border areas.Their political future is at the mercy of a virus that can travel swiftly through different jurisdictions and may be impossible to eradicate.The central government has insisted on a zero tolerance approach to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the health of 1.4 billion citizens is paramount. And it is not taking any excuses.As a result, local authorities have a duty to “defend the land” and prevent any…

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China’s ying and yang battle as Beijing faces tough economic choices

October 25, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China’s economic policies are seemingly filled with contracting goals, pairs of targets where Beijing sets out how it wants to do one thing and also another thing too.It wants its economic growth to decelerate, but the slowdown cannot be too fast; it wants to cut carbon emissions, but coal must remain affordable; and it wants to deflate property prices, but the crash cannot be too severe as to hurt local government coffers.Some reflect China’s pursuit of long-term goals and the need to balance…

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China’s path to common prosperity will be a road littered with bitter complaints, fierce disputes

October 18, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]President Xi Jinping has shed light on his plan to make everyone in China well-off. Last week, Xi showed how common prosperity is an integral part of his long-term vision and he has set two reasonable, and achievable goals, to match China’s national rejuvenation road map.The first yardstick in 2035 will see essential public services made equal for everyone, while by 2050 income gaps will be narrowed to a reasonable range.Unlike under former leader Mao Zedong, who tried to equalise wealth…

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China’s housing bubble fuelled its spectacular growth, but is the country ready for a day of reckoning?

October 11, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China’s indebted property developers are symptoms, rather than the cause, of its housing problem.The nation’s real estate boom, which started in 1999 when then premier Zhu Rongji privatised home ownership, is one of the most spectacular economic phenomena in recent history. It has profoundly changed China’s urban landscape and improved living standards for hundreds of millions of people.But it has also tilted wealth towards the state and capital over labour, and, more importantly, changed the…

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China’s population crisis is here to stay, but is Beijing doing enough to limit the fallout?

October 4, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]It is shocking to hear the government of Anhui, a rural province in central China that is traditionally a key source of migrant workers for coastal areas, acknowledge its birth rate is “falling off a cliff”. The province, which has a population that is slightly smaller than France, may only have 530,000 births this year, which would be about half the 984,000 it recorded in 2017, according to local authorities. France, as a reference, had 696,900 births last year.The situation in Anhui is…

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China’s raid on its Wall Street to keep many bankers awake at night as Beijing probes top institutions

September 27, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The news that China’s disciplinary watchdog will send inspectors into the country’s financial regulators and its top state-owned financial institutions to look for signs of corruption, negligence and disloyalty could soon be keeping some Chinese bankers awake at nights.In the coming weeks, disciplinary officials will be parachuted into China’s top 25 financial institutions to ask questions, review complaints and reports, knock on doors and open files and locked cupboards. This would be like…

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China Evergrande is not a Lehman Brothers moment, but its fate spells trouble for long-term growth

September 20, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Chaotic scenes of hundreds of angry creditors outside the offices of China Evergrande demanding their money back have made for surreal viewing.After all, the property developer looks quite solid on paper, with billions of dollars worth of assets that outweigh liabilities, and years of reported profits.Until recently, chairman Xu Jiayin, or Hui Ka Yan in Cantonese, looked the picture of a well-connected Chinese businessman – rubbing shoulders with tycoons in Hong Kong and being hosted at the…

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China’s ‘common prosperity’ can start by addressing discrimination against migrant workers

September 13, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China’s common-prosperity push can start with correcting the unfair treatment of the country’s 285 million migrant workers – a group of people that has contributed to the country’s rapid economic maturation, but which has been mistreated in many ways.Beijing’s emphasis on common prosperity – an effort to make everyone moderately prosperous – came after it declared victory in eradicating “absolute poverty”, a milestone that ensures basic food, shelter, education and health care for all 1.4…

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China’s ‘nanny state’ push shows how far Beijing will go to get children behind national rejuvenation efforts

September 6, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The statesman who transformed Singapore into one of the world’s richest and cleanest places famously defended his form of governance by saying, “If Singapore is a nanny state, then I am proud to have fostered one.”Lee Kuan Yew’s sense of pride in the powerful city state, which can tell its people what to do and what not to do in their day-to-day lives, is being echoed in Beijing as the Chinese government takes that approach to new heights with its efforts to restrict how teenagers spend their…

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China’s common prosperity push is long overdue, but the rich don’t need to worry about their wealth

August 30, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Beijing’s push for so-called common prosperity has fanned concerns whether China’s own Gilded Age of massive wealth creation is coming to end.While it is probably true that money cannot have its way like it used to, it would be wrong to worry about a state-sanctioned wave of redistribution of wealth.To start with, the goal of common prosperity is long overdue. The search for a fair society is deeply rooted in communism and China’s traditions, the two sources of official Chinese ideology.It is a…

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China tech wades through uncharted waters as old trust comes under new scrutiny

August 23, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]A once-unthinkable risk is looming large for China’s technology firms: the legitimacy of a legal corporate structure that allows them to take money from foreign investors.The so-called variable interest entity (VIE) structure has been in place for two decades, and it is the centrepiece underlying China’s tech sector boom – American venture capitalists are able to skirt Chinese regulatory restrictions to profit from services in China, while Chinese entrepreneurs can use foreign money to engineer…

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Investing in Chinese tech stocks based on state media reports can be like reading tea leaves, and just as risky

August 16, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]China’s state-backed newspapers and publications are garnering interest from an unintended group of followers: investors in China’s tech stocks.A news story running on an inside page of a Chinese newspaper could lead to billions of dollars worth of market value being erased in mere minutes. And an opinion piece penned by a researcher could lead to wild swings in stock prices from Hong Kong to New York, even though no listed company is directly mentioned.The sudden surge in influence among state…

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China’s soft technology power is as important as its physical hardware that launches rockets

August 9, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on China’s technology giants has fanned the flames of a sidebar discussion about the value of “hard” technologies versus “soft” ones.A popular notion is that hard technology, such as a powerful new piece of machinery, helps give countries a competitive advantage over rivals, whereas soft technology, such as an app, mainly entertains consumers and could spoil people. From that perspective, some now argue that China is expending too many resources on soft technologies,…

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China’s push for Communist Party leadership at grass roots level to help common prosperity

August 2, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]With China keen to knit the vast country of 1.4 billion people together around a centralised power structure, an important policy document was released last month concerning grass roots governance and modernisation.The blueprint reveals Beijing’s vision for how the country’s villages and urban communities should be managed in the next decade.A key takeaway is that the leadership of the Communist Party, or the role of Communist Party cells, should be strengthened at a local level.In particular,…

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China’s population crisis needs more help than just scrapping fines for having too many children

July 26, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Last week’s decision to abolish China’s 40-year-old policy of imposing hefty fines on so-called surplus births puts the final nail in the coffin of the country’s notorious family planning regime.

The fines started in the early 1980s and instilled fear throughout society to discourage births. They could immediately bankrupt a family.

In some provinces, the maximum fine was set at 10 years of the local average income for both the father and the mother, or a couple had to pay a one-off cash…

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China’s new data security laws show the days of ‘wild west’ information grabbing are over for Big Tech

July 19, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]A new business reality is looming in China’s technology sector.As the central government builds a data regulation regime that restricts or bars companies from grabbing personal information, the days when a technology start-up – blessed by an innovative business model or a genius algorithm – could quickly build up a business empire are over.Beijing is slowly tightening its hold over Big Tech and imposing its authority over data produced in the country.The recent passing of the Data Security Law…

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Didi won’t be last IPO to pursue New York listing, but China’s cybersecurity review closes loopholes

July 12, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Will Beijing continue to allow initial public offerings (IPO) by Chinese technology firms in New York?The answer to that question is being considered after China released a new draft cybersecurity proposal over the weekend, which gives an obscure office within the Cyberspace Administration of China the right to virtually veto any technology company planning to list on foreign exchanges.But another question being asked is, will the cybersecurity review office veto all applications, or will it…

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China tech investors may find that Pekingology is a must-learn term

July 5, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Nothing better reflects the sweet financial marriage between China and the West than this model: venture capitalists from the West Coast of the United States provide funding to the brightest entrepreneurs in China, helping them reach hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers in a short time span via internet technologies. Then Wall Street banks arrive to help them walk through the legal and regulatory labyrinth before an eventual public offering on the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq…

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Confucius called it xiaokang, and it is worth celebrating in a well-off China

June 28, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]President Xi Jinping is expected to declare in the coming days that China has built up a comprehensive well-off society – one of the two “centenary goals” of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.It is an achievement that is hard to overestimate. That a huge society of 1.412 billion people is officially no longer poor, but rather “moderately prosperous” – i.e. xiaokang – is wonderful news for the world. By every economic and social-development indicator, China has progressed substantially. Chinese…

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China is logically cracking down on its private tutoring sector, but why is Beijing taming it now?

June 21, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]An infamous slogan from a private education institution in China targeting toddlers states, “you can train your kid with us here, or we train his competitors”.It is lines like this that convince parents to throw money at extra classes to improve exam performance or to add skills from painting to programming languages like Python onto the résumés of their children.Few parents in China can afford to allow their children to have a slow start in life, with entry into kindergartens and schools…

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China’s anti-sanctions law is a defence mechanism, not an attack weapon

June 14, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The new anti-sanctions law rushed through by China’s lawmakers last week is Beijing’s latest attempt to defend itself against a perceived new wave of hostility against Chinese individuals and institutions.Beijing foresees Chinese companies and individuals at growing risk of being sanctioned by foreign governments in coming years over their involvement in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.As such, the Chinese government needed to beef up its legal defence against such threats. It is essentially a defensive…

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China must take stock of its birth-planning policies and learn from the past

June 7, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]With “birth planning” fading from Beijing’s vocabulary as couples are now allowed to have three children, it is time for Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough review.One perspective among analysts is that China’s family-planning policy – in reality, its stringent birth restrictions – helped facilitate the country’s economic rise by staving off a “population explosion”.The restrictions are said to have reduced births by 400 million and kept China’s population from surpassing 1.7 billion…

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China’s Gen Z are ‘laying flat’, but does this new work, life attitude pose a social and economic threat?

May 24, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]A growing number of China’s Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010, are embracing a “laying flat” attitude about work and life as they throw in the towel in the face of tough competition and opt for a simple, frugal and lonely life.It is hard to quantify the scope of the new social psychology, but the attitude is certainly gaining popularity in an increasingly rigid social structure with a yawning gap between the rich and the poor.Let us imagine a dormitory at a top university in Shanghai…

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China’s Gen Z are ‘laying flat’, but does this new work, life attitude pose a social and economic threat?

May 24, 2021

[unable to retrieve full-text content]A growing number of China’s Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010, are embracing a “laying flat” attitude about work and life as they throw in the towel in the face of tough competition and opt for a simple, frugal and lonely life.It is hard to quantify the scope of the new social psychology, but the attitude is certainly gaining popularity in an increasingly rigid social structure with a yawning gap between the rich and the poor.Let us imagine a dormitory at a top university in Shanghai…

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