“BABA” we hear. At work, at home, walking down the street, it seems the only thing on the lips of China hands these days is Jack Ma’s bouncing baby IPO and its four-letter stock ticker symbol (which just happens to be a homonym for “daddy” in Mandarin). But not us, dear readers. In five days of news briefs, we pestered you only twice with further word on perhaps the surest thing in China news since Zhou Yongkang’s ouster. After all, there was plenty going on outside the floor and beyond the doors of New York’s storied bourse.
Why not, say, take a gander at economic indicators? Factory growth, we learned, hit a six-year low in August – a simply unconscionable rate of 6.9%. Not content to let factories steal the show, foreign direct investment in China hit a 2 1/2 year low, down 1.8% from a year prior. Shanghai’s stocks, not to be outdone, themselves promptly tumbled 1.8% as well, their worst fall in six months. But home prices outdid them all, with a spectacular slump of 11% in the first eight months of the year. As bad as these figures are, they could be worse. And we’d just as soon rather the rest of the economy resist the peer pressure to join in, lest numbers begin to enter the terrible teens. Acne and angst will do China’s economy no favors.
Really though, it’s not all bad. Why, the People’s Bank of China proffered RMB100 billion apiece to the country’s biggest banks, we learned on Wednesday. And a poll found that most Chinese were thriving financially… provided you ignored the countryside. And Xi Jinping himself was in India the past few days, penning deals with no less a personage than Prime Minister Modi to start talks of nuclear power provision and open an industrial park in Gujurat (never mind the troops rattling sabres in the Himilayas along the China-India border). And depending on your feelings about hydrocarbons, you might find the news of CNOOC’s gas field discovery south of Hainan and the possibility of Kurdistan oil heading for Chinese ports reason to rejoice.
And BABA wasn’t the only offer in the news, we might ever-so-gently remind. Sinopec said it would sell a stake in its retail unit — you know, those crummy convenience stores stapled on to their gas stations. And Dalian Wanda’s real estate branch even filed for a listing in Hong Kong. Plus the job market is on the mend, if Apple’s latest opening is any indication: the company’s seeking a new manager for government data requests in Beijing. Meanwhile Chinese developers are investing billions on projects in big Western cities, which we assume has nothing whatsoever to do with the recent news that half of wealthy Chinese were considering a move abroad.
What’s that? Alibaba? Oh fine, we relent. We confess the company raised its IPO to US$21.8 billion to meet demand from investors frothing at the mouth. Acknowledge the IPO raised that same amount for the company, which was valued at $167.6 billion when last we checked. But that’s all you’ll get from us on the subject. We’re too busy wondering about Shanghai’s FTZ. Word on the street says something’s up, and we’re inclined to know more.