Christmas with Chinese characteristics
The holiday season is coming, which means people usually act just a little bit nicer. They donate to charity, help at the local food shelter, or do their part to support the local economy for gaudy plastic ornaments. Some play Wham!’s “Last Christmas” on repeat (no, it’s not weird). For two whole weeks Charlie Sheen is mandated by law to shut up, and North Korea observes a brief “juche no crazy” policy. This week, much of China got on board with this Christmas spirit. Santa brought a sled full of gifts for Beijing’s economist policy makers: Inflation hit a 14-month low and money supply growth (as measured by M2) hit a 10-year low in November, giving Beijing’s panjandrums room to stimulate the economy (and keep their jobs) in the coming year. Wen Jiabao announced that he will soon be getting his wassail on in Myanmar, where he plans to regale a summit of increasingly pissed-off Mekong River countries with the story of baby Jesus. Then, China, the US and India found themselves underneath the mistletoe, where even the baby Jesus was amazed to see them agree to a climate pact. (Well, they agreed to agree on a climate pack in four years, as long as no sticking points get in the way first…imagine that!) Finally, Huawei pulled off a great Grinchy trick: It vowed to no longer contribute to the persecution of Iranian dissidents – outside Iran, all bets are off – then returned home to bake another batch of its special pumpkin bars.
Of course, the week also had its share of Krampuses. Chinese officials reassured us that not everything had turned bizarro by giving the bird to Microsoft, and investors in full Scrooge mode pushed stocks to a two-year low, scaring the innocent children at Haitong Securities. Chow Tai Fook Jewellery – oh man, do THEY know the value of a good holiday – bravely played the role of that one little child who tries to cozy up to Grinch; naive warmth and affection eventually melt a hard exterior to reveal the misunderstood creature inside. For that noble effort, Chow Tai Fook got veritably whacked. Now to be fair, investors have reason to be grumpy. Sino-Forest, the bad boy which has come to epitomize all that is wrong with Chinese companies, promised investors they’d explain everything and make it better. Instead, it (cackling) slapped investors with the legal equivalent of “we ain’t gonna pay, b****.” Meaning someone somewhere really needs that holiday cheer right about now.