One Belt, One Road – China’s Modern Marco Polos Bring No Novelties Westward
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It took Italian merchant Marco Polo 24 years to get from 13th century Italy to China and back. The payback: he returned a wealthy man. In China’s 21st century vision, the modern version of this trade route is about to get a little smoother. But will returns on the new Silk Road be so high? ately and exclusively on made-in-China products, they wouldn’t bring all the blast furnaces and cement kilns back to life. Looking longer term, the potential demand is enormous. The Asian Development Bank estimates infrastructure needs for the region at $750 billion a year through 2020. China’s policy banks could put substantially more funds to work than the $40 billion available from the Silk Road Fund. Even so, difficult negotiations with host countries on which projects are priorities and whose national firms win construction contracts mean Asia’s infrastructure needs are unlikely to solve China’s overcapacity problems. Enhancing trade links has the potential to make a lasting impact. The area covered by the One Belt, One Road initiative includes about 50 percent of the world’s GDP and roughly the same share of global trade. Reduced transport costs should increase trade flows, bringing the benefits of greater competition and efficiency that come with it. The trouble is that while Marco Polo returned from China with his bag stuffed with oriental novelties, Chinese goods are already old news for customers on the new Silk Road. China is the top trade partner for close to half of the countries on the route. That doesn’t mean there isn’t scope to do more. It does mean the benefits from increased trade will likely come as a slow burn, not a quick blast. Finally, with all the roads in the region leading to the Middle Kingdom, and many of them paid for with their checkbook, China’s leaders hope that they will gain enhanced strategic influence. In that sense, One Belt, One Road falls under the same heading as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and island building in the South China Sea. All represent China’s attempt to expand its influence over everything from shipping routes for crucial oil imports to decision making in the global financial system. How that plays out remains to be seen. Strategic influence comes with economic weight – if One Belt, One Road and the government’s other efforts don’t reverse the deceleration in China’s growth, its strategic ambitions could be tough to realize. 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 Jun-14 Aug-14 Oct-14 Dec-14 Feb-15 Apr-15 Jun-15 China Machinery Engineering Sany Heavy Industry Shanghai Composite Index China Railway Construction Source: Bloomberg Series rebased to 100 as of Nov. 3, 2014 BY TOM ORLIK AND FIELDING CHEN, BLOOMBERG INTELLIGENCE ECONOMISTS Originally published on June 4. Construction Shares Rise on Infrastructure Spending Hopes For use by ROBERT KOH only. Redistribution only allowed with firm license. Call +12126179030 for info. July 2, 2015 bloombergbriefs.com Bloomberg Brief: Economics Asia 3 Source: Bloomberg BloombergBriefs.com % Share in China Total Trade (2014) % Share in World Total Trade (2014) Mapping China’s One Belt, One Road Ambitions One Belt starts in Xian in central China. Opening trade routes for China’s inland provinces is intended to accelerate catch-up to the more developed coast. President Xi Jinping announced the One Belt initiative in Kazakhstan. Beijing and Moscow vie for influence in central Asia, a region rich in natural resources. Strategic rivalry between Asia’s emerging giants could make it tough for China to realize gains from increased trade and investment with India’s 1.3 billion population. One Belt, One Road is China’s answer to the U.S. and Japan’s efforts to develop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional free trade area. The Strait of Malacca is a choke point for China’s energy imports. By opening new routes through Pakistan, Myanmar, and Thailand, China hopes to reduce vulnerabilities. Competing territorial claims in the South China Sea have become a flash point for tensions in the region. China’s island building has raised concerns about expansionist ambitions. Asia’s infrastructure needs – estimated at $750 billion a year through 2020 by the Asian Development Bank – could help absorb China’s industrial overcapacity. As China’s overseas population and assets increase, including in trouble spots in Africa and the Middle East, Beijing’s principle of non-interference in other countries will be tested. Beijing has promised to support companies and governments along the route if they wish to issue yuan bonds and use the proceeds to contribute to the plans. Africa requires $93 billion in infrastructure investment a year according to the World Bank. China’s tendency to bring its own materials and workers to overseas projects sometimes sparks tensions with host countries. The One Belt, One Road initiative ends where Marco Polo’s original Silk Road journey began – in Europe. Sclerotic growth has made Europe receptive to Chinese investment. The Silk Road Fund ($40 billion), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank ($50 billion) and China Development Bank have funds to kick start spending on roads, rails and ports along the route. Silk Road Economic Belt (Land Route) Maritime Silk Road (Maritime Route) West Asia & North Africa 7.4 5.4 European Union 14.5 25.1 East Europe (excluding EU members) 2.4 2.2 South & Southeast Asia 12.8 7.6 Central Asia 1.3 0.4 Mapping China’s One Belt, One Road Ambitions For use by ROBERT KOH only. Redistribution only allowed with firm license. Call +12126179030 for info. 4 July 2, 2015 bloombergbriefs.com Bloomberg Brief: Economics Asia China’s Road to Africa Closes Infrastructure Gap, Adds Debt Risk China’s engagement in Africa has a long history. In the pre-reform era, it was a checkbook diplomacy rivalry with Taiwan that motivated Beijing. In the reform era, China’s hunger for resources provided the drive for investment in everything from Angolan oil to Congolese copper. More recently, China’s technology firms have also arrived on the scene, with Huawei and ZTE building telecom systems for Ethiopia and others. One Belt, One Road levers existing plans for Chinese investment up the East African coast. Most notable is the $10 billion-plus Bagamoyo port in Tanzania. If realized, it would dwarf Mombasa, 300 kilometers to the north in Kenya, which currently serves as the naval gateway of East Africa. Chinese firms have also been awarded major contracts to build railways connecting the ports of Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam – Tanzania’s commercial capital – with inland countries. China’s One Belt, One Road initiative promises to expand an already active engagement with Africa. China’s deep pockets and dearth of natural resources and Africa’s mineral reserves and infrastructure needs make a compelling combination. Yet the misuse of increased fiscal space by some African states means China’s investment adds to debt risks. It’s the ability of Chinese firms to bring financing to the table that’s often been the deal-clincher. The bulk of investments are spearheaded by state-owned enterprises, with preferential financing supplied by the China Development Bank and Export Import Bank of China. The stock of Chinese investment in Africa has more than tripled to $26 billion in 2013 from $7 billion in 2008. China’s credit line to Africa is expected to expand substantially from the current $20 billion. For African nations, the headline benefits are clear. The World Bank says Africa needs $93 billion in infrastructure spending a year. Chinese investment, coming at a time when many western donors and businesses are retreating, helps build the roads, rails and ports needed to kick-start development. It also frees up domestic resources for spending on other priorities like health and education. Improved infrastructure has facilitated a boom in trade, underpinned by Africa’s China’s Trade Balance With Africa -40 -20 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 Jan-05 Jan-06 Jan-07 Jan-08 Jan-09 Jan-10 Jan-11 Jan-12 Jan-13 Jan-14 $ Billion Trade Balance China Exports to Africa China Imports from Africa Source: Bloomberg BloombergBriefs.com BY MARK BOHLUND AND TOM ORLIK, BLOOMBERG INTELLIGENCE ECONOMISTS Originally published on June 17. comparative advantage in commodities and China’s in low-cost manufactured goods. Africa’s sales to China more than doubled to $116 billion in 2014 from $55 billion in 2008. Reflecting the importance of the relationship, newly elected Africa leaders often make Beijing their first port of call, snubbing old colonial ties with the U.K. and France. There are also costs. Investment is often carried out by Chinese firms using Chinese workers, limiting the benefits to the host country. Growing commodity exports have done little to develop the labor-intensive manufacturing base necessary to draw Africa’s rural workers into a high-productivity factory sector. Indeed, an influx of cheap Chinese goods may stymie the development of Africa’s low-end manufacturing. There’s also a chance that loans turn sour – especially as falling commodity prices dent income for African borrowers. For some African states, easy investment from China has facilitated an increase in recurrent expenditure. Taken together with stimulus packages launched in response to the financial crisis, that has eroded the fiscal buffers created through debt relief and put them at risks of a renewed crisis. Ghana, for example, has seen public debt double to 67 percent of GDP in 2014, from 33 percent in 2008, according to IMF estimates. For China, there are costs in bad publicity when projects trigger social tensions. There’s also a chance loans turn sour, with recent reports of problems for Angola. Still, set against the gains from access to critical resources and greater strategic heft in the region, those costs look manageable. Compared with the paltry returns China gets on its investment in U.S. Treasuries, increased investment in Africa through the One Belt, One Road initiative looks a good bet. To see Bloomberg Intelligence economists’ real-time economic analysis VISIT: BI ECON For use by ROBERT KOH only. Redistribution only allowed with firm license. Call +12126179030 for info. July 2, 2015 bloombergbriefs.com Bloomberg Brief: Economics Asia 5 One Belt, One Road Won’t Move Dial on 2015 Growth: Simpfendorfer Q: What’s the significance of the One Belt, One Road initiative for China? A: China has captured one of the world’s most powerful brands. Everyone from Beijing bankers to Cairo taxi drivers knows and understands the significance of a new Silk Road. It places China at the center of the history and the destiny of the region. Q: What does it mean for China’s growth this year? A: One Belt, One Road won’t stop GDP growth from slowing. China is simply too big. Its five largest provinces would account for five of the Silk Road’s 10 largest economies. The other majors are India, Turkey, Korea, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Some of those, like Korea, already have developed infrastructure, so the demand for more isn’t great. Some of them, like India, have tensions with China so if there is building to be done, China’s firms won’t be first in line. Q: What does it mean for the rest of the region? A: The impact isn’t going to be substantial, but it will be material. The region suffers from a shortage of capital. The One Belt, One Road scheme and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have funds. But it’s important to remember that lack of funds is only China’s One Belt, One Road initiative has been painted as everything from a response to home-grown economic problems to a masterful reshaping of the regional economy. Ben Simpfendorfer, head of Silk Road Associates, has spent 20 years working in China and the Middle East. Bloomberg’s Chief Asia Economist Tom Orlik asked him to help sort the genuine oasis from the speculative mirage. one of the barriers to building better roads, rails and ports. There are also issues with bureaucracy, local politics. That means China won’t be able to mirror its domestic success so easily. Q: Where in the region do you expect to see the biggest results? A: The greater Mekong region is the litmus test. Trade is already taking place, but there’s a significant population and scope to do much more. For countries like Cambodia and Laos, this could be a game changer. To start moving the dial for China, One Belt, One Road would have to start unlocking the potential in countries with larger populations like Pakistan, Indonesia and India. Q: Is there a specific project or milestone we should look to for signs the initiative is gaining traction? A: Look for projects in the region’s bigger economies. Success here would be meaningful, especially for their near neighbors. Look also for signs that the initiative has kick-started infrastructure projects that have already spent years on the drawing board. To me, that would signal policy announcements are translating into change on the ground.
Originally published on June 17. Q: What’s the strategic significance of this initiative? A: It’s a smart move by China. They are branding a change that is already taking place in the world’s center of economic gravity. The Silk Road is China’s backyard. The country’s commercial influence is growing steadily, whether that applies to its oil imports or construction service exports. It will be hard for the U.S. to resist the change. Q: The route passes through some trouble spots – in the Middle East and Africa. What’s the benefit of China to building a road into a conflict zone? A: Little benefit unless there are strategic interests, such as building a land route through Pakistan that provides China with access to the Arabian Sea. But it’s an important question as the region’s security will be key to the initiative’s success. History shows that the old Silk Road only flourished during periods of stability along the route. Q: China’s overseas investments haven’t always gone well. What are the risks? A: China must collaborate with foreign companies – whether that’s big multinationals or local conglomerates. Foreign partners can provide local knowledge or global expertise. In the rush to go abroad, many Chinese companies preferred to go it alone and have since struggled, especially the provincial state-owned enterprises. Ben Simpfendorfer is founder and managing director of Silk Road Associates, a Hong Kongbased advisory. He is the author of “The Rise of the New East” (Palgrave: 2014) and “The New Silk Road” (Palgrave: 2009), and is also the former chief China economist at RBS. GLOBAL GROWTH How Strong Is the Engine? Read it here. SPECIAL ISSUE http://bit.ly/globalgrowth2015 For use by ROBERT KOH only.
Bloomberg Brief: Economics Asia Chinese Steel Capacity May Go West With One Belt, One Road Meeting all of Asia’s demand for railways, pipelines, power stations and other projects may generate demand for 272 million tons of steel through 2020, according to Bloomberg Intelligence estimates. If the program is fully funded and rapidly put in place over five The large-scale investments needed to build the One Belt, One Road plan will boost demand for steel and encourage a shift in China’s production capacity to western countries as it becomes easier to bring in raw materials. years it could add as much as 5 percent a year to Chinese steel demand.
The boost to demand for China’s firms will depend on the availability of funds and the political will to back projects, as well as negotiations with foreign partners as to which Steel Output Along the New Silk Road 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1,000 Million Tons / year Source: World Steel Association BloombergBriefs.com BY YI ZHU, BLOOMBERG INTELLIGENCE ANALYST Originally published on June 25. nation’s firms will benefit. The short-term demand push has not yet started due to lack of clarity in investment amounts and implementation schedules. Construction due to the plan may prompt Chinese steelmakers to build more capacity in Southeast Asia, West Asia and African countries along the new trade link, by setting up integrated steel mills with nearby iron-ore mines. This could help China close capacity where it is surplus to requirements at home and ramp up operations where demand is greater overseas. That could also reduce anti-dumping cases against Chinese firms. Hebei, the largest steel-producing province, plans to send 5 million tons of capacity overseas by 2017 and 20 million tons by 2023, according to its “Go Global” strategy. The westbound connection would also push China to upgrade domestic infrastructure linking its coast to the interior, generating demand for high-value-added steel products to build pipelines and high-speed railways, among other things. While China is seeing a surplus of low-end steel products, it has a shortage of high-end steel offering
Economics Asia 7 Asean and Central Asian Cement Markets Show Promise of Growth Developing nations in Asia will need to spend about $750 billion a year to fund infrastructure projects through 2020, according to the Asian Development Bank. If fully realized, those investments may spur 580 million tons annually in cement demand based on historical correlations with fixed-asset investment. That is about 25 percent of China’s output. Average cement output per capita in southeast and central Asian nations are 380 kilograms and 300 kilograms, respectively. This is less than the global average of 600 kilograms and China’s 1,800 kilograms, implying large potential demand. Chinese cement companies may extend their overseas expansion, lured by a promising outlook for demand and higher profitability than in China. For example, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are net cement importers that buy from Thailand and Vietnam. Local cement prices range from $70 to $100 a ton, compared with China’s $45 a ton. Anhui Conch is the most ambitious of these firms, aiming to build 50 million tons a year of overseas capacity in the next decade. Turning the promise of expanded overseas demand into reality will require funds for construction, political will to push through bureaucratic obstacles and the ability of Chinese firms to negotiate entry into new national markets. China’s cement companies that plan to expand to Asean and Central Asia should see long-term benefits from the enormous cement demand that is set to be generated by the One Belt, One Road initiative. The current capacity of these regions totals about 290 million tons, equivalent to about 10 percent of China’s total and 70 percent of that for its largest cement producer, China National Building Materials. Cement Output per Capita and Urbanization Rates 0 200 400 600 800 1,000 1,200 1,400 1,600 1,800 2,000 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Kilograms % ←Urbanization Level (2014) ←Urbanization Level Annual Change (2010-15) Cement production per capita → Source: World Factbook, IMF, Bloomberg Intelligence BloombergBriefs.com BY MICHELLE LEUNG, BLOOMBERG INTELLIGENCE ANALYST Originally published on June 25. Note: Countries with lower urbanization rates, higher changes in urbanization and lower cement output per capita tend to have more room for cement demand growth. Read it here. SPECIAL ISSUE BRIEF CHINA’S SMOG Clearing Skies Without Killing Growth http://bit.ly/BBGChinaSmog For use by ROBERT KOH only. Redistribution only allowed with firm license. Call +12126179030 for info. 8 July 2, 2015 bloombergbriefs.com Bloomberg Brief: Economics Asia Improved Infrastructure to Streamline Shipping for Exporters As land access opens up, exporters will have the choice to optimize the various modes of shipping via air, sea, road and rail or use a modal mix. Freight movement by road may grow, especially as exporters may increasingly use combinations of air-and-road or rail-and-road to optimize supply chains. Rail between China and Europe currently takes 20-to-25 days, while sea freight takes double that time. Implementation of infrastructure projects related to OBOR may shorten lead times as high-speed rail begins to replace multiple rail gauges and as customs clearance procedures are streamlined. In January of this year, China started the Transports Internationaux Routiers, also known as the International Road Transport, accession process. If implemented, it will enable goods to transit from origin to destination by road in sealed load compartments. The shipments would be able to Transport of Notebooks From Central China to Netherlands 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Ocean Rail* Sea-Air Air ←Time (Days) Cost (USD/Unit)→ Source: DB Schenker, Rail Logistics & Forwarding BloombergBriefs.com
* Block Train Service BY JOHN MATHAI, BLOOMBERG INTELLIGENCE ANALYST Originally published on June 29. pass smoothly through customs of different countries since duties and taxes liable are covered by international guarantee. Using major EU countries under the TIR system as a basis for comparison, TIR is likely to boost trade as customs clearance may go paperless and procedures may be whittled down to a single day.
Need To Know:
“Is this another case of deja-vu? The frenzied equity sell-offs we witnessed in China this month – and its extreme surges and retreats – is not unusual for a famously spiky stock market. But this time, it took place against a backdrop of a very different China, adjusting to a slowing economy and re-balancing economy.”
“Investment fundamentals have not played a central role in the market and this correction was, once again, a response to a speculative fervor. It’s important to note that China’s investors are mostly retail and momentum-orientated in nature, with a history of moving in and out on speculative hype. Only time will tell if this mindset will change with reform initiatives now being implemented.”
“It’s also notable that Hong Kong didn’t experience such extremes, with its deep institutional investor base keeping its markets relatively calm. Anomalies have emerged however and the persistent divergence between dual-listed China A shares and Hong Kong H shares really is one of the most striking in global markets. While the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect program works well technically, the spirit of connecting China with global markets remains an aspiration. Further opening up should, over time, impact the spread as institutions gain heft over retail investors.”
— Tim Craighead, Director of Asia Research for Bloomberg Intelligence.
- Market Developments:
29/7 China’s Currency Policy Sinks Into Disarray Amid Rout in Stocks [News]
22/7 World’s Wildest Stock Market Submits to Communist Party Rule [News]
21/7 China Keeps a Tight Rein on Yuan a Decade After End of Peg [News]
17/7 China Has the World’s ‘Safest’ Equity Market, HKEx CEO Says [News]
14/7 China Opens Interbank Bond Market Wider to Foreign Investors [News]
9/7 How China’s Market Meltdown Threatens Top Banker’s Reform Agenda [News]
9/7 Who Blew Up China’s Stock Bubble? [News]
- Charting At Bloomberg:
Technical Analysis: China’s Stock Nosedive May Be Over, Technical Indicators Show
China’s equity market has been a roller-coaster ride for investors over the last year. So much so that during the most recent rout, policymakers introduced an array of new measures aimed at market stabilization.
Technical indicators are, however, signaling that the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index is poised for a rebound. A market breadth analysis provides a barometer of a particular market’s overall health. A stock’s relative strength index (RSI) is used to measure the velocity of a security’s price movement to identify overbought and oversold conditions.
A Bloomberg analysis shows the percentage of overbought stocks was elevated before the crash, but now there are hardly any overbought stocks. For more details, click here.
[Contact us for more information or to find out about other functionality on the Bloomberg Professional service]
- From Bloomberg Analysts:
Tom Orlik (Economist): It’s been a wild ride on China’s equity market, with the Shanghai Composite Index rising from just above 2,400 in November 2014 to a high close to 5,200 in June, before plunging back toward 3,700 in early July. Along the way there have been four rate cuts, three reserve requirement cuts and, most recently, a raft of measures from the government aimed at stabilizing the market. This chart maps out the recent history of policy and market moves.
Bloomberg Brief 7.7.2015: China’s Market and Policy Timeline, by Tom Orlik
Tim Craighead (Research Director): The persistent divergence between dual-listed China A shares and Hong Kong H shares is one of the most striking anomalies in global markets. The average premium of 64 actively trading mainland China stocks versus Hong Kong shares was 109% on July 8. While the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect program works well, the spirit of connecting China with global markets remains an aspiration. [Click for presentation]
BViews In The News
The Disconnect Between Dual-Listed Stocks – Click and listen from 17m 10s
Tim Craighead on RTHK Radio (Hong Kong)
A Bloomberg economist discusses what’s next for China’s markets – Click to watch (in Chinese)
Fielding Chen on OneTV/NowTV (Hong Kong)
Chinese Economy Shielded from ‘Spiky’ Sharemarket – Click to read
Tim Craighead in the Australian Financial Review
- On The Radar:
– Launch of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect [News]
– China and Hong Kong begin cross-border sales of funds [Update: News]
– Inclusion of China’s mainland stocks to MSCI’s benchmark indexes [Update: News]
These commentaries were originally published in the Bloomberg Brief: Economics Asia and on the Bloomberg Economics wire. For more analysis and data, run BI ECON on the Bloomberg Professional Service.