Perhaps it’s just our having been in the business for a full quarter-century, dear readers, but we’ve started to find all the hypotheticals creeping into China headlines a bit wearisome of late. If we see one more “set to,” “plans,” “calls for,” “seen to,” “weighs,” “considers” or “mulls” we’ll blow our ruddy top, we will. But we suppose some possibilities are worth looking into, from time to time.
For instance new home prices may be on the road to recovery, or so they say. Has most of the positive traction come from top tier cities? Yes. Do those account for a vanishingly small amount of total sales on the mainland. Oh, heavens yes. But after 13 months of without an upward jot we’d say a potential revival is worth keeping an eye on. No issue there.
Or maybe stop to consider the attacks on two major online privacy tools that likely originated in China. Have the attacks been definitively traced to state hackers? No. Did pretty much all of the attacks focus on websites visited by groups often critical of central government policies? Yep! Should the 15 major Chinese sites whose failure to patch a software vulnerability, thereby enabling the attacks, maybe look into that? We should hope so.
Then there’s the Bank of Communications exploring reforms including limited privatization and employee stock ownership. Will these potential changes fundamentally alter the bank’s structure? No. Would it still be a state-owned enterprise by definition? Of course. But these changes are notable because they set a possible template for changes at other banks. Our conscience is clean.
Of course sometimes you have to drop “maybe” and go with “allegedly,” as when a Swiss firm allegedly scammed Chinese investors out of $1.2 billion after promising returns as high as 10% a month from currency trading. Do we know for sure that the firm was duping them? No. Does the case say something about the naiveté of even extremely successful Chinese investors? Yes. Is it nonetheless hilarious that two dozen mainland millionaires had to fly from China to Geneva to look into the matter because they’d believed it was possible to get a 10% monthly return on investment? Absolutely.
We suppose the most abstract news item last week was word that the People’s Bank of China is exploring ways to redirect money flows away from the stock market and back to the real economy. Does banks’ continued reticence to lend make growth difficult? Yes. Do we know for certain whether the central government will divert funds away from the stock market? No. But after the mortifying fall by stocks in Shanghai and Shenzhen this week, we don’t suspect it will be quite as much of a problem.