HEARD IN BEIJING
"Break a promise in one place, be subject to restrictions everywhere."
- Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party
Some context: That’s how Xi described China's nascent social credit system in 2016. The Party is intent on using the system to make China a more honest place. More in the Tip Sheet below.
Trivium's daily newsletter system aims to provide honest information to China watchers everywhere. Help us expand the scope of our readership by clicking here to subscribe.
We love feedback, so don't be shy about getting in touch to tell us what you think!
THE TIP SHEET
FINANCE & ECONOMICS
1. The PBoC’s currency toolkit
Yesterday we described the central bank's most recent move to slow depreciation of the CNY – hiking the amount of reserves that banks have to hold against certain FX transactions.
We wrote that it was likely to be the first in a series of moves. An important article in the 21st Century Business Herald outlines the central bank's wider toolkit.
The piece highlights the PBoC’s “counter-cyclical factor,” which helped set the CNY on an appreciating course in 2017.
Some context: The counter-cyclical factor is one element of the calculation that the PBoC uses to set the CNY’s opening price each day – it is used to counterbalance the previous day's market moves.
More context: The PBoC introduced the factor in May 2017. But in January, stopped using it, since it was no longer needed to counteract currency weakness.
Get smart: The PBoC is likely to reintroduce the counter-cyclical factor soon to help fight depreciation.
Get smarter: That should slow the pace of depreciation. But it won’t reverse things like it did last year. Only a détente in the trade war will do that.
21st Century Biz: 稳汇市还有哪些大招可用
FINANCE & ECONOMICS
2. Data dump: current account edition
The PBoC released current account data for Q2 on Monday.
The key number:
Q2 saw a surplus of USD 5.8 billion – up from a USD 34 billion deficit in Q1.
Some context: The current account is a measure of cross-border transactions that includes not just the trade in goods (i.e. the trade surplus) but also trade in services, repatriation of corporate earnings, and a few other metrics.
More context: In Q1 2018, China saw its first current account deficit in decades, as Chinese spending on travel abroad overwhelmed its earnings from exports.
Bloomberg has more detail:
"The growing services trade deficit, which includes outbound tourism, education, entertainment as well as purchases of foreign technologies and patents, highlights the changing nature of China’s economy.""[The resulting cumulative H1] deficit was larger than expected as foreign companies transferred profits out of China in the second quarter."
Get smart: China’s large travel services deficit is an underappreciated element of the trade war. It makes China vulnerable given that it represents a big channel for capital outflows. But it also represents another avenue for China to reduce spending into the US economy as the trade war deepens.
Bloomberg: China's Current Account Returns to Surplus on Trade Rebound
FINANCE & ECONOMICS
3. National guarantee fund coming
Here’s some good news for small business.
A national financing guarantee fund has been set up with registered capital of RMB 66 billion.
Some context: The State Council decided to set up the fund to help small businesses access bank funding at the end of March.
The fund has 21 shareholders, the biggest of which are:
The Ministry of Finance (Mof), which owns more than 45%The big five state-owned banks, which together own another 22.7%Nine joint-stock banks, which together own around 21%What the fund does: It provides guarantees for loans given by local financial institutions to small businesses.
Wang Yi, director general of MoF’s Finance Department, explains why the government set the fund up:“Establishing a risk sharing mechanism with commercial banks is critical.”Wang has a benchmark in his head:“In Taizhou and Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, government guarantee funds are responsible for 65%-80% of losses…, and the remaining 20%-35% are borne by the bank.”
Get smart: This should actually facilitate more lending to small businesses.
POLITICS & POLICY
4. Party wants to monitor how honest you are
Wang Huning has been absent from public view for over a month (see yesterday’s Tip Sheet).
But the Central Commission for Guiding Cultural and Ethical Progress – which Wang heads – is hard at work.
Some context: The commission is the top Party organ in charge of propaganda and ideology.
On Monday, Xinhua announced that the commission has launched a new campaign to “improve the level of integrity in society.”
The campaign has identified 19 behaviors that it wants to curb, including:
Telecommunication and internet fraudFake news on the internetGenerating and disseminating rumorsTax fraud and evasionSetting up illegal NGOsThe commission’s secret weapon: The social credit system.
The campaign aims to:“establish a comprehensive credit record in all fields and establish a credit information network covering the whole society”
Some context: The social credit system is a government initiative to track the behaviors of all citizens and score them according to how socially beneficial they are. Citizens with low scores will face difficulty in accessing credit – or even getting plane tickets. For citizens with high scores, these things will be made more convenient.
Get smart: The social credit system is still years from being functional.
Get smarter: It might actually find public support if it makes life easier for most citizens.
Xinhua: 中央文明委组织有关部门开展诚信缺失突出问题集中治理 着力提升全社会诚信水平
POLITICS & POLICY
5. Beidaihe beach Party, part 2
We are pretty sure that Xi Jinping is at the beach (see yesterday’s Tip Sheet).
But on Monday, he still took time out of his vacation to issue instructions calling for more patriotism (Xinhua):
“Xi…said the spirit of Wang Jicai, former head of the militia post on Kaishan Island in east China's Jiangsu Province, should be pursued by hardworking people in the new era.”“Wang resolutely stuck to his post without any complaint or regret, composing an extraordinary chapter in a life on an ordinary post, Xi said.”“On July 27, Wang died of sudden illness on duty at the age of 58.”Some context (Telegraph):“In 1938, the Japanese navy had stopped at Kaishan island on their way to occupy the port of Lianyungang, which they rebuilt and used as a major base to transport coal, iron ore, salt and grain.”“Ever since, the occupation of the tiny outcrop has been a point of national pride for China, and a strategic imperative.”
Get smart: Xi’s never too busy to beat the patriotism drum.
CPC: 习近平对王继才同志先进事迹作出重要指示强调 要大力倡导爱国奉献精神
Xinhua: Xi calls for promotion of patriotism, dedication
Telegraph: The lonely couple who guard a storm-tossed outpost of China
POLITICS & POLICY
6. China's new hypersonic jet
China’s got a new aircraft. And it’s really fast:
“China has successfully tested a new hypersonic aircraft that could one day be used to carry missiles at such speeds as to make them unstoppable, according to scientists involved in the project.”“The Starry Sky-2, which is an experimental design known as waverider – for its ability to ride on the shock waves it generates – completed its first test flight on Friday at an undisclosed location in northwest China, the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics said in a statement issued on Monday.”Why it matters:“Although still at the experimental stage, once fully developed, waveriders could be used to carry warheads capable of penetrating any anti-missile defence system currently available.”It’s not just China:“China is not alone in developing hypersonic weapons, the United States and Russia are too.”
Get smart: China will continue to invest heavily into military technology. That means the rest of Asia will as well...