Highlights from the last week of China business news.
A devastating winter is taking its toll on China. The civil affairs ministry has estimated exactly how much damage, in financial terms: US$4.5 billion. Dozens of people have lost their lives in the treacherous weather weather, the worst in 50 years. Electricity grids, roads and railways are overstretched as unusually heavy snow and rainfall batter the country. This has been compounded by the impending Lunar New Year holiday, which will see millions of workers returning to their home provinces by road and rail. The weather has left hundreds of thousands stranded: In Guangdong, 200,000 people claimed ticket refunds at the Guangzhou railway station, while another 200,000 continued to try their luck waiting. The country’s top leaders appear to be in full swing. Premier Wen Jiabao popped up at the Changsha railway station – and, just 24 hours later, at Guangzhou station – to show his support for stranded travelers. The People’s Liberation Army has reportedly mobilized half a million troops to clear roads of snow. China’s top meteorologist has said that snow and rainfall will ease on February 2, although it will still take weeks to get transport and electricity systems back to normal capacity.
It’s all about consumption. For deprived doughnut enthusiasts in China, Dunkin’ Donuts announced it will open more than 100 stores across the country in the next 10 years. For now, however, it’ll start with less than 10 stores in Shanghai. Just in case doughnuts weren’t sufficiently nutritious, McDonald’s said it will open 125 new restaurants in China this year. Half of those will feature drive-through windows – a sure way to tap into that lucrative middle-class market. These corporate announcements are bolstered by figures from the National Bureau of Statistics that show domestic consumption has overtaken foreign investment as a share of GDP in 2007. Bring on the doughnuts and burgers, we say.
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