A new year has arrived but the hangover – economically speaking – remains. China’s factories are still struggling, with the purchasing managers’ index in negative territory for a third consecutive month in December. Manufacturers face a “triple-whammy” of shrinking exports, relatively weak domestic consumption and overcapacity – and no one knows when it will end. Beijing is still sufficiently spooked by the global economic downturn that it refused to sanction Bank of China’s investment in French private bank La Compagnie Financier Edmond de Rothschild. The deadline for the deal has been pushed back to the end of March. However, it appears China has no qualms about buying more oil. As crude prices fall, Chinese imports increase. Analysts say China’s oil reserves have grown by 25 million barrels (roughly a quarter of total reserve capacity) since August and the government is encouraging firms to increase inventories. According to media reports in Japan, this hunger for commodities has led to China drilling in an East China Sea gas field that Beijing and Tokyo had agreed to develop jointly. China’s Foreign Ministry claims the area in question does not lie in disputed waters. So far there has been no “but they would say that” retort from Tokyo.