Once again, Alibaba is coming to the rescue of the Chinese economy. Not content with selling everything possibly imaginable online and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and a whole new industry, it wants to take tackle a problem that has overwhelmed the world’s best economists: China’s debt pile. The dirty mess of toxic loans gets bigger and more dangerous by the day and officials want it to disappear.
So when Zhu Min, a deputy manager for the International Monetary Fund, said on Wednesday at an IMF meeting in Washington DC that China has the tools to deal with its rising debt problem, people listened closely. Little were they expecting the secret weapon to be China’s most exciting company.
But that’s the word on the street following news that Alibaba has agreed to buy a controlling stake in Tianhong Asset Management, thus expanding its presence in financial services. Sources said the company will use its planned fleet of trucks to shuttle bits of the debt piles to shoppers. A private sector company helping to clean up a state-created mess? Maybe China is serious about financial reforms.
One problem the mighty Alibaba probably can’t help clean up is the shocking state of pollution in northern China, which just doesn’t want to go away. It was so bad on the last weekend of the recent National Day holiday that roads were closed in the capital and flights delayed. Earlier in the week President Xi Jinping said China would prioritize reform over growth – hopefully the environment can be put ahead of economic statistics too.
Until that happens concerned citizens might have to hope that the country’s entrepreneurial drugmakers can produce a successful vaccine against smog. Those prospects were raised recently after Chinese firm secured approval from the World Health Organization for a self-developed vaccine, the first domestic enterprise to achieve this.