BlackRock, Fidelity Lose Out in $1 Trillion China Pension Market

Link: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/blackrock-t-compete-free-advil-000000028.html

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China launched private pension plans for the first time last year and Beijing has ensured that domestic banks and fund managers win the vast majority of the new business in a market that may eventually grow to $1.7 trillion. Global companies including BlackRock and Fidelity International Ltd have been off to a slow start.

Given their tiny asset bases in China, most foreign money managers have so far been excluded from pilot trials in 36 cities, allowing banks like Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and China Merchants Bank Co. to grab all the inflows. To cement their lead, the banks are offering everything from cash incentives to free ibuprofen for each new account.

“The first bite at the cake here won’t be easy” for foreign companies, said Zhou Yiqin, president of GuanShao Information Consulting Center, a financial regulations specialist.

While it’s still early days for the new pension scheme, the head start for domestic companies illustrates the daunting challenges for global firms eyeing a piece of China’s $60 trillion financial services sector. From mergers advice to stock sales and trading, Wall Street is struggling in a market that combines endless potential with stiff local competition and regulatory roadblocks.

China’s fledging private pension system is loaded with promise, as Beijing desperately tries to entice retirement savings to support an aging population. The number of people over 60 is expected to jump more than 50% by 2040, according to the World Health Organization. China’s population shrank last year for the first time in six decades.

To address the problem, China has launched three pension pillars. The first two — a compulsory state-backed plan and a voluntary corporate matching option — don’t come close to meeting the future needs of most pensioners. Savings in the government-led program covering urban employees may run out by 2032 and face a shortfall of more than 7 trillion yuan by 2035, according to Citic Securities Co. estimates.

Author(s): Bloomberg News

Publication Date: 28 Mar 2023

Publication Site: Yahoo Finance

China’s population falls for first time since 1961

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-64300190

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China’s population has fallen for the first time in 60 years, with the national birth rate hitting a record low – 6.77 births per 1,000 people.

The population in 2022 – 1.4118 billion – fell by 850,000 from 2021.

China’s birth rate has been declining for years, prompting a slew of policies to try to slow the trend.

But seven years after scrapping the one-child policy, it has entered what one official described as an “era of negative population growth”.

The birth rate in 2022 was also down from 7.52 in 2021, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, which released the figures on Tuesday.

In comparison, in 2021, the United States recorded 11.06 births per 1,000 people, and the United Kingdom, 10.08 births. The birth rate for the same year in India, which is poised to overtake China as the world’s most populous country, was 16.42.

Deaths also outnumbered births for the first time last year in China. The country logged its highest death rate since 1976 – 7.37 deaths per 1,000 people, up from 7.18 the previous year.

Author(s): Kelly Ng

Publication Date: 17 Jan 2023

Publication Site: BBC

(Updated) New Hong Kong Watch report finds that MSCI investors are at risk of passively funding crimes against humanity in Xinjiang

Link: https://www.hongkongwatch.org/all-posts/2022/12/5/updated-new-hkw-report-finds-that-msci-investors-are-at-risk-of-passively-funding-crimes-against-humanity-in-xinjiang

Report PDF: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58ecfa82e3df284d3a13dd41/t/638e318e6697c029da8e5c38/1670263209080/EDITED+REPORT+5+DEC.pdf

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A new report by Hong Kong Watch have found that a number of pension funds may be passively invested in at least 13 China based companies where there is credible evidence of involvement in Uyghur forced labour programs and construction of internment camps in Xinjiang.

 As part of the report, Hong Kong Watch found that major asset managers are exposed passively to these companies as a result of their inclusion on Morgan Stanley Capital International’s Emerging Markets Index, China Index and All World Index ex-USA.  

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Commenting on the release of the report, Johnny Pattersonco-founder and a research fellow at Hong Kong Watch, said:

“13 companies on MSCI’s emerging markets index are either known to have directly used forced labour through China’s forcible transfer of Uyghurs, or been involved in the construction of camps. Given this Index is the most widely tracked Emerging Markets index in the world, it raises serious questions about how seriously international financial institutions take their international human rights obligations or the ‘S’ in ESG.

Our view is that firms known to use modern slavery or known to be complicit in crimes against humanity should be classed alongside tobacco as ‘sin stocks’, or stocks which investors do not touch. Governments have a duty to signal which firms are unacceptable, but international financial institutions must also be doing their full due diligence. It is unacceptable that enormous amounts of the money of ordinary pensioners and retail investors is being passively channelled into firms that are known to use forced labour.” 

Publication Date: 5 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Hong Kong Watch

Hong Kong Watch gives evidence to the Canada-China Relationship Committee on ESG investment & country risk analysis

Link: https://www.hongkongwatch.org/all-posts/2022/12/1/hong-kong-watch-gives-evidence-to-the-canada-china-relationship-committee-on-esg-investment-amp-country-risk-analysis

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On Tuesday, Hong Kong Watch’s co-founder and trustee, Aileen Calverley, and Director of Policy and Advocacy, Sam Goodman, gave evidence to the Special Committee on the Canada–People’s Republic of China Relationship on the exposure of Canadian pension funds to Chinese stocks and bonds.

Hong Kong Watch has previously written extensively on the question of ESG, business, human rights, and Canadian pension funds exposure to Chinese companies linked to gross human rights violations, including the internment camps in Xinjiang.

In his remarks, Sam Goodman, discussed why China should be considered an ESG investment risk, recommending that:

  • Lawmakers consider sensible regulations to define ESG, label China as an ESG risk, and introduce a blacklist like the USA to restrict investment in Chinese firms with questionable human rights, environmental, and governance credentials.

In her remarks, Aileen Calverley discussed the risk of pension fund investments in China in the event of sanctions, recommending that the Government:

  • Include a China Country Risk Analysis in the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
  • Encourage publicly controlled pension funds to avoid exposure in China.

The full committee hearing can be watched here.

Publication Date: 1 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Hong Kong Watch

Baby bust: China’s looming demographic disaster

Link: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/baby-bust-chinas-looming-demographic-disaster

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According to a new UN report, China’s population growth has collapsed by 94 per cent, from eight million a decade ago to just 480,000 last year. What’s particularly worrying for Chinese leaders is that this means a rapid reduction in the working population. The previous set of projected figures suggested that by the year 2100, China’s 15- to 64-year-old population would be 579 million. This has now been revised down to 378 million, a 35 per cent fall. If this prediction plays out, the implications for China – and the rest of the world – could be brutal.

Today, every 100 working-age Chinese need to support 20 retirees. If trends continue, by the turn of the next century, every 100 workers will have to support 120 retirees. This means China will have the largest drop in working-age population among any of the G20 economies by 2030, with more than 23 million fewer Chinese. In percentage terms, Japan and South Korea will shrink even faster – but they became rich before birth rates began plummeting.

Author(s): Rana Mitter

Publication Date: 6 Aug 2022

Publication Site: The Spectator UK

Visualizing the Coming Shift in Global Economic Power (2006-2036p)

Link: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/shifting-global-economic-power/

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China is expected to surpass the U.S. by the year 2030. A faster than expected recovery in the U.S. in 2021, and China’s struggles under the “Zero-COVID” policies have delayed the country taking the top spot by about two years.

China has maintained its positive GDP growth due to the stability provided by domestic demand. This has proven crucial in sustaining the country’s economic growth. China’s fiscal and economic policy had focused on this prior to the pandemic over fears of growing Western trade restrictions.

Author(s): Raul Amoros

Publication Date: 13 Jun 2022

Publication Site: Visual Capitalist

Animated Chart: China’s Aging Population (1950-2100)

Link: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/cp/chinas-aging-population-problem-1950-2100/

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The one-child policy defined China’s demographic transition for over three decades.

But to combat an aging population and declining birthrates, the government scrapped the policy for a new two-child policy in 2016. Despite this massive change, China still faces a growing demographic crisis.

The above animated population pyramid from James Eagle looks at the distribution of China’s population by age group since 1950, with projections up to the year 2100.

Author(s): James Eagle

Publication Date: 27 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Visual Capitalist

Dude, Where’s My Stuff

Link: https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/institutional/insights/market-insights/eye-on-the-market/dude-where-is-my-stuff/

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COVID has disrupted supply chains in two major ways: surging demand for imported consumer goods in the West due to pandemic work from home trends and other home improvement spending, and a decline in workers required to maintain and operate these supply chains. The surge in US import demand has led to a sharp rise in eastbound freight rates (see charts for Shanghai->LA and Shanghai->Rotterdam). However, westbound freight rates have not risen nearly as much, leading to an odd and problematic phenomenon: incentives for container owners to move them back to China empty to accelerate receipt of eastbound freight rates, instead of waiting for containers to be refilled to earn westbound freight rates as well. This is illustrated in the fourth chart which shows departing containers from LA/LB: a lot of them started leaving empty once eastbound freight rates surged. This further exacerbates supply chain issues, since US goods (i.e., grains) that were supposed to depart US railcars and warehouses for export remain in place, occupying space that US imported goods were destined for. 

Author(s): Michael Cembalest, Chairman of Market and Investment Strategy

Publication Date: 27 Sept 2021

Publication Site: JP Morgan

British pension funds plough more cash into China

Link: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/british-pension-funds-plough-more-155119851.html

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British pension funds are ramping up their investment in Chinese companies despite growing tensions between the West and the Communist state.

According to a new report by Hong Kong Watch, a pro-democracy advocacy group, the amount of cash invested by Western pension funds and other institutional investors in China has hit a record high in recent months.

It comes amid rising criticism in the West about China’s human rights record, including its brutal treatment of Uighur Muslims and its suppression of democracy campaigners in Hong Kong.

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The report cites the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), one of the UK’s largest private pension schemes, and Legal & General, Britain’s biggest pensions manager, as two British firms with “problematic” investments in China.

It found that L&G’s China fund was previously investing UK pensions in Zhejiang Dahua Technology, which is alleged to produce facial recognition software for the Communist Party that detects the race of individuals and alerts the police when it identifies Uighur Muslims.

L&G has since divested from Zhejiang Dahua Technology.

Author(s): Simon Foy

Publication Date: 22 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo Finance

Huge Credit Stress Starting in China May Easily Rock the Whole World

Link: https://mishtalk.com/economics/huge-credit-stress-starting-in-china-may-easily-rock-the-whole-world

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If funding stress signs don’t emerge, don’t conclude that there is no contagion. Contagion is playing out already if you know where to look.”

The mess in China does not stop with Evergrande. 

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Everglade shows the theft of wealth and money in a giant Ponzi scheme, not to be confused with real savings (i.e. net tangible assets at true market value)!

There is no savings glut. 

The alleged savings glut is nothing but a fiat Ponzi scheme where central banks have to keep money supply soaring to keep asset prices (based on debt) from imploding!

How much longer this setup can continue before it blows up in a currency crisis, war with China, or some other major economic disruption remains a key mystery.

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 20 Sept 2021

Publication Site: MishTalk

How Beijing’s Debt Clampdown Shook the Foundation of a Real-Estate Colossus

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-beijings-debt-clampdown-shook-the-foundation-of-a-real-estate-colossus-11631957400

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The party has ended. Years of aggressive borrowing have collided with Beijing’s crackdown on debt, leaving the developer on the brink of collapse. Construction of Evergrande’s projects in many cities has stopped. The company has faced a litany of complaints and protests from suppliers, small investors and home buyers who sank their savings into properties the company promised to deliver.

Cash is so short that this summer, the developer said it began paying bills to contractors and suppliers with unfinished apartments instead of actual money. A paint supplier based in the southeastern province of Fujian said Evergrande recently paid off the equivalent of $34 million in bills with three unfinished properties, which the supplier is trying to sell. At a construction firm in Wuhan, more than 200 employees have been forced to take pay cuts because some of Evergrande’s bills are past due, a manager at the firm said,

Former and current employees say layoffs are adding up, and free meals that Evergrande used to provide for staffers at its headquarters have been canceled. In central China’s Hubei province, Evergrande has asked the local government to take over homeowners’ funds held in escrow accounts so they can’t be seized in legal disputes with creditors, according to people familiar with the matter.

Evergrande didn’t respond to requests for comment. The company said on Sept. 14 that its apartment sales have slowed markedly since June, its asset-disposal plans haven’t materialized, and it has hired financial advisers — a move that brings it closer to a potential debt restructuring.

Author(s): Xie Yu and Elaine Yu

Publication Date: 18 Sept 2021

Publication Site: WSJ

China Property Fear Spreads Beyond Evergrande, Roiling Markets

Link: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/hong-kong-stocks-sink-evergrande-023055601.html

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Growing investor angst about China’s real estate crackdown rippled through markets on Monday, adding pressure on Xi Jinping’s government to prevent financial contagion from destabilizing the world’s second-largest economy.

Hong Kong real estate giants including Henderson Land Development Co. suffered the biggest selloff in more than a year as traders speculated China will extend its property clampdown to the financial hub. Intensifying concerns about China Evergrande Group’s debt crisis dragged down everything from bank stocks to Ping An Insurance Group Co. and high-yield dollar bonds. One little-known Chinese property developer plunged 87% before shares were halted.

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index slumped 3.3%, its biggest loss since late July. The selling also spilled over into the Hong Kong dollar, offshore yuan and S&P 500 Index futures. Holiday closures in much of Asia may have exacerbated the volatility, traders said.

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“The repercussions from Evergrande’s prospective collapse will likely contribute to China’s ongoing economic deceleration, which in turn anchors global growth and inflation, and casts a pall over commodity prices,” wrote analysts led by Phoenix Kalen, head of emerging-market strategy in London.

Author(s): Catherine Ngai and Ishika Mookerjee

Publication Date: 20 September 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo Finance