APEC, APEC, APEC. Like “BABA” before it, this four-letter acronym – referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing that just began – has relentlessly monopolized our news feed this week.
To kick things off, we learned that the US had taken all possible measures to ensure that a new China-backed trade pact wouldn’t see the light of day during the meeting. But maybe China won’t need the help, at least if smartphone sales are any indication. It turns out tech tiger Xiaomi, popular at home and across the region, saw earnings rise 84% last year according to a leaked document, and word circulated earlier in the week the company was valued at $40-50 billion in funding talks as its profit-hungry gaze turns further abroad.
Slick tech aside, China will need better ties to the rest of the world if exports keep sagging. Manufacturing kept slowing, and revenue at the Canton Fair fell compared to this time last year. We suppose the Pearl River Delta could use a dash of that old-time demand for low-cost assembly from whatever friends China has left among its regional neighbors, since China’s services PMI showed growth at a 9-month low in October. Little wonder the central bank decided to throw over 1.5 trillion (with a “t”) yuan at the economy. China’s banks aren’t feeling the hurt, though: Bank fees hit a four year high thanks in no small part to big tech-company deals like that of Alibaba, whose first quarterly earnings report showed revenue was up even though earnings were down.
Elsewhere along the Pacific Rim, Mexico’s balmy shores will soon play host to a confederacy of bullet train construction companies led by China’s CSR and China Railway Construction. And a rising tide may lift all boats ’round the ocean, but it was low tide indeed for Chinese shipbuilders as an influx of orders failed to translate into proper profits for beleaguered shipwrights nation-wide. The skies, however, might soon get a little friendlier for Chinese airlines thanks to CALC’s agreement to buy 100 planes from Airbus.
And for all the APEC-related proclamations issued forth from behind the tall walls of Beijing’s Zhongnanhai leadership compound, it seems that some neighboring local governments pretty much ignored demands to shutter polluting factories to ensure clean air for the summit. As if on cue, reports surfaced this week showing that China had 670,000 smog-related deaths in 2012, that 40% of its arable land was so badly polluted as to be useless and that the country’s cancer survival rate five years out from diagnosis was only 30.9%, and even lower in the countryside.
It’s little wonder China’s netizens coined a new term for the temporary reprieve from haze-gray skies that was seen early in the week, which is now applicable to all fleeting phenomena that quickly prove too good to be true: “APEC blue”.