Shortly after Steve Bannon visited Hong Kong last week to give a closed-door speech at a big investor conference hosted by CLSA, a Chinese state-owned brokerage and investment group, Trump’s former strategist flew to Beijing for a “secret meeting with the second most powerful Chinese Communist party official”, less than a month after the former chief White House strategist declared that America was at ‘economic war with China’, the FT has reported. The meeting occurred at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound, where Bannon meet with Wang Qishan, the head of the Chinese Communist party’s anti-corruption campaign. “The Chinese reached out to Bannon before his Hong Kong speech because they wanted to ask him about economic nationalism and populist movements which was the subject of his speech,” the FT quoted a “person familiar” with the situation. Mr Wang, who is seen as the second most powerful person in China after President Xi Jinping, arranged through an intermediary for a 90-minute meeting after learning that Mr Bannon was speaking on the topic, according to the second person, who stressed there was no connection to President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to China. As the FT adds, the (not so) secret meeting between Bannon and Wang will “stoke speculation that the Chinese anti-graft tsar, who has purged hundreds of senior government officials and military officers for corruption in recent years, may continue to work closely with Mr Xi during his second term in office.” Under recent precedent, Mr Wang, who turned 69 in July, would be expected to step down from the Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist party’s most powerful body. But his many admirers argue that as China’s most knowledgeable and experienced financial technocrat, he should stay on to help Mr Xi force through a series of stalled financial and economic reforms.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 22, 2017.
Dr. Per Bylund’s recently published article poignantly states one of the core problems in the Chinese economy and its the state-manipulated Keynesian foundation. I do agree with his opinion. And if we dig deeper into the exact situation of Chinese economy, we will find that it’s a typical failing of the Keynesian, cronyist system. By using the perspective of Austrian business cycle theory, lets take a look at China’s real estate industry, which is suffering more and more painfully from artificial credit issued by China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBC). During the 2008 global economic crisis, China’s central government issued the famous RMB 4 Trillion Stimulus Package Plan (equaling to $586 billion). Since 2009, the Chinese real estate economy has already suffered from three small economic cycles. As it is becoming more difficult for real estate companies to live on artificial prosperity, the duration of every business cycle has become shorter than the previous one. We also see more and more ghost cities because of the economic boom in every sub-economic cycle. There were at least 12 ghost cities founded in 2013, and the number of them jumped to at least 50 in 2017! Bankruptcy is happening more frequently among Chinese real estate enterprises. Since 2016, at least three real estate companies – with a combined debt of at least RMB 763 million – have gone bankrupt. The story of bankruptcy is continuing, with one of the biggest real-estate-driven enterprises, Wanda Group, facing financing problems. If Wanda no longer has access to cheap debt, it might not be able to refinance or roll over all its debt again. If Wanda has to face bankruptcy, it could possibly accelerate an end of the the current Chinese boom. The data from the Chinese local governments is also not optimistic; their debt levels have reached almost RMB 25 trillion (US$ 4 trillion) at the end of 2014. In 2015, even the PBC admitted in one of its annual reports saying that China’s financial system is facing higher instability and uncertainty.
Mining bitcoins is a notoriously electricity-intensive process better suited for areas where resources are subsidized by the government (like the mountainous Northern China, where a cluster of some of the world’s largest mining pools are located), or are at least exceedingly cheap. Cities like New York, are, of course, not ideally suited for the task of mining. But then again, if you’re not paying for the electricity, then it may as well be free, right? *** That, essentially, was New York City teacher Vladimir Ilyayev’s plan when he started mining bitcoin on his work computer, running the software during the evening while monitoring it from home, according to CoinDesk, which discovered paperwork relating to Ilyayev’s hearing before the BOE’s Conflicts of Interest Board. ‘According to a recently published disposition from the City of New York Conflicts of Interest Board, department employee Vladimir Ilyayev admitted to mining bitcoin between for a period of several weeks between March and April 2014. Bitcoin mining is an energy intensive process by which new transactions are added to the blockchain, generating new coins with every block that is created.’
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 1, 2017.
Three months ago we introduced China’s “silent hunter” experimental laser gun, and now, as CNN reports, in the waters of the Persian Gulf looms the US Navy’s first – in fact, the world’s first – active laser weapon. *** The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. CNN was granted exclusive access to a live-fire test of the laser. For the test, the USS Ponce crew launched the target — a drone aircraft. Immediately, the weapons team zeroed in. “We don’t have to lead a target,” Hughes explained. “We’re doing that engagement at the speed of light so it really is a point and shoot — we see it, we focus on it, and we can negate that target.” In an instant, the drone’s wing lit up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurtling down to the sea. The strike comes silently and invisibly.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 18, 2017.
New York City real estate, particularly the luxury market, is a popular refugee for world’s corrupt, self-dealing public servants and the crooked businessmen who bribe them. China cracked down on wealthy citizens seeking to stash their wealth in international real estate by adding several deterrents to its capital controls earlier this year (Among them, Chinese investors moving money out of the country must now sign a pledge saying it won’t be used to buy real estate, or investment securities). Shortly after, the New York real-estate – literally half a world away – was rattled by a crush of stalled deals. So, it’s unsurprising that the mystery behind the largest residential foreclosure auction in NYC history would have this kind of sordid backstory. Last month, we met Kola Aluko, a Nigerian oil magnate and the purported owner of One57’s Apartment 79, a $50 million apartment that will be sold next week in what appears to be the largest foreclosure auction in New York City history.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 16, 2017.
As President Trump’s “Infrastructure Week” comes to an ignominious end, NIRP Umbrella’s Alex Deluce reminds us that spending money on bridges to nowhere and cities of the future is anything but the stimulating panacea it is talked up to be… Is a Chinese credit bubble in the cards? Well, it will be interesting to see if China’s authorities can get through the unwind of US $3 trillion worth of excess credit and the distressed debt on banks’ balance sheets. From 2009 to 2016, more than 10 trillion of Chinese investment was thrown at infrastructure, ghost cities, and corruption thanks to a helping hand from the Chinese banks and foreign lenders eager to participate in the Chinese growth story. In fact, hundreds of new cities in China are essentially empty. The hope is that rural population someday move in. Roughly 40% of the 300 million Chinese expected to move into a town by 2030 will mostly be moving to smaller cities in the ‘chengzhenhua’ system. As OfTwoMinds’ Charles Hugh Smith recently explained, building bridges to nowhere isn’t just a waste of money in the present; it saddles the economy with productivity-draining costs for decades to come.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 10, 2017.
While tense trade negotiations between the US and Mexico over the price and quota for U. S. imports of Mexican sugar continue (a happy ending appears unlikely, especially after a Mexican sugar company on Friday called on the government to take action against American fructose producers and protect the local industry from US deals), a new protectionist measure involving sugar half way around the globe was unveiled on Monday when China – the world’s biggest importer of the sweet substance – said it will impose significant penalties on sugar imports following lobbying by domestic mills. According to the ruling first described by Reuters, up to a third of China’s annual sugar imports will be impacted by an extra tariff for the next three years on shipments that the government said had “seriously damaged” the domestic industry. The details: China currently allows just over 1.9 million tonnes of imports at a tariff of 15% as part of its commitment to the World Trade Organization. All imports above this amount are slapped with a 50% levy. After Monday’s ruling, the total sugar duty will nearly double, with Beijing imposing an additional 45% tax to these imports in the current fiscal year taking the total to 95%. This will fall to 90% next year and 85% a year later, China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement. The ruling exempted 190 smaller countries and regions from the new duty, including smaller producers such as the Philippines, Pakistan and Myanmar.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 22, 2017.
Xiao Jianhua, the Chinese billionaire whose abrupt disappearance from Hong Kong in January made waves internationally, had engaged in a week-and-half long negotiation with Chinese anti-corruption agents before he agreed to return to Beijing with them, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. The source, who is close to high-level discussions in the Chinese leadership headquarters at Zhongnanhai, also told The Epoch Times that the anti-corruption team is still in Hong Kong investigating other corrupt Chinese businessmen and officials residing in the semiautonomous city. Xiao, a 45-year-old China-born Canadian citizen, suddenly went missing from his serviced apartment in Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel on Jan. 27. Accounts in Hong Kong and Western press suggested that Xiao, who controls the holding company Tomorrow Group, was effectively abducted by the Chinese authorities and spirited back to mainland China. But Xiao had consented to be brought in by the authorities, according to the source in Zhongnanhai. The source said that Xiao and anti-corruption teams based in the Four Seasons discussed the conditions of the engagement for over a week before Xiao finally agreed to leave with them. While details of what transpired are scarce, it is likely that some level of coercion was involved, given mainland authorities presumably continue to enjoy leverage over Xiao, his wealth, and his family members.
With Moon Jae-In’s victory in South Korea, the period of tension on the Korean Peninsula is likely to end. With the rise to power of the new president, South Korea can expect a sharp decline in hostilities with North Korea as well as a resumption of dialogue with China. An expected and highly anticipated victory was confirmed in South Korea on May 9, with candidate Moon winning South Korea’s presidential race over his rivals Hong Joon-pyo (Liberty Korea Party) and Ahn Cheol-soo (People’s Party). After the resignation and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye over an immense corruption scandal, public opinion turned away from her party in favour of the main opposition representative, a center-left lawyer specializing in humanitarian issues. Moon spent several years in the opposition party advocating for greater cooperation in the region and dialogue with Pyongyang as well as with Beijing, representing quite a contrast to Guen-Hye’s pro-Americanism. Along the lines of Duterte in the Philippines, Moon intends to resume dialogue with all partners in order not to limit his options in the international arena. Such an approach reflects the essence of the multipolar world order: cooperation and dialogue with all partners in order to achieve a win-win outcome. Looking at the situation in the region, the victory of a politician who seems to have every intention of negotiating an agreement rather than supporting military escalation seems to provide for a hopeful future for China and her neighbors. The level of cooperation and trade between South Korea and China is fundamental to the economy of both countries, so a return to the negotiating table over the issues surrounding the deployment of THAAD are a hopeful sign that the business communities of China and South Korea value deeply.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 15, 2017.
On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) officially came into effect, virtually eliminating all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Bill Clinton, who lobbied extensively to get the deal done, said it would encourage other nations to work towards a broader world-trade pact. ‘NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs,’ said Clinton, as he signed the document, ‘If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.’ Ross Perot had a contrary perspective. Lobbying heavily against the agreement, he noted that if it was ratified, Americans would hear a giant ‘sucking sound’ as jobs went south of the border to Mexico. It’s a Complicated World Fast forward 20 years, and NAFTA is a hot-button issue again. Donald Trump has said he is working on ‘renegotiating’ the agreement, and many Americans are sympathetic to this course of action. However, coming to a decisive viewpoint on NAFTA’s success or failure can be difficult to achieve. Over two decades, the economic and political landscape has changed. China has risen and created a surplus of cheap labor, technology has changed massively, and central banks have kept the spigots on with QE and ultra-low interest rates. Deciphering what results have been the direct cause of NAFTA – and what is simply the result of a fast-changing world – is not quite straightforward.
It’s no secret that there is a concerted effort underway to do everything possible to remove President Donald Trump from office. From Russian ties to business conflicts of interests, both Democrats and Republicans are actively working to find chinks in the President’s armor. But for those with hope of change in their hearts, Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein says there is a possibility that Trump will eventually remove himself from office by filing his own resignation. Speaking to a crowd during a town hall-style Questions and Answers session, Feinstein was asked how Congress is going to deal with Trump’s alleged illegal activities: Journalist: We don’t know what’s happening but we know that he is breaking laws every day, he’s making money at Mar-a-lago, he’s getting copyrights in China, he has obvious dealings with Russia, the Dakota pipeline… there’s some many things that he’s doing that are unconstitutional… how are we going to get him out? Feinstein: We have a lot of people looking at this… Technical people… I think he’s going to get himself out… I think sending sons to another country to make a financial deal for his company and then have that covered with government expenses… I think those government expenses should not be allowed.. we are working on a bill that will deal with conflict of interest… it’s difficult…
This post was published at shtfplan on March 18th, 2017.
A South Korean court removed the president on Friday, a first in the nation’s history, rattling the delicate balance of relationships across Asia at a particularly tense time. Her removal capped months of turmoil, as hundreds of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets, week after week, to protest a sprawling corruption scandal that shook the top echelons of business and government. Park Geun-hye, the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, had been an icon of the conservative establishment that joined Washington in pressing for a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear provocations. Now, her downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia.
As discussed last night, in a historic ruling, the South Korean Constitutional Court upheld an impeachment decision against President Park Geun-hye, removing her from office on Friday over a graft scandal involving the country’s conglomerates at a time of rising tensions with North Korea and China. The ruling sparked protests from hundreds of her supporters, two of whom were killed in clashes with police outside the court. Park becomes South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office, capping months of paralysis and turmoil over a corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in jail. A snap presidential election will be held within 60 days. Her ouster caps a 5 month-long political scandal, whose verdict exposed fault lines in a country long divided by Cold War politics. The ruling to uphold parliament’s Dec. 9 vote to impeach her marks a dramatic fall from grace of South Korea’s first woman president and daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, both of whose parents were assassinated. While Park’s conservative supporters clashed with police outside the court, elsewhere, most people welcomed her ouster. A recent poll showed more than 70 percent supported her impeachment. Hundreds of thousands of people have for months been gathering at peaceful rallies in Seoul every weekend to call for her to step down.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 10, 2017.
In the hint that members of Trump’s administration may be “compromised” by conflicts of interest, the WSJ reports that Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross Jr, plans to keep millions of dollars invested in offshore entities “whose values could be affected by policies that he implements as commerce secretary.” Ross, the 79-year-old private-equity billionaire has said that if he is confirmed, he will sell at least 80 business assets and investment funds over the next several months. But he plans to hold on to investments in an oil-tanker company and 10 other entities that invest in shipping and real-estate financing, according to federal financial-disclosure and ethics filings. It isn’t clear why Mr. Ross is retaining these 11 assets. One particular assets which will raise eyebrows is a co-investment with the Chinese government’s sovereign- wealth fund in Diamond S Shipping Group Inc., one of the world’s largest owners and operators of medium-range oil tankers, according to its website. Ross’s private-equity firm in 2011 led a group of investors, including state-owned China Investment Corp., which injected a total of about $1 billion into the company. The Chinese fund was still a co-investor in 2014, according to a filing for an intended public offering that was later canceled. Diamond S Shipping Group, which is registered offshore but based in Greenwich, Conn., is private and doesn’t publicly list all its shareholders. The company, which has 33 tankers, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 13, 2017.
It has been a good day for Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci. First, he was named by Bloomberg as this year’s surprise Davos star (recall that he is the only member of the Trump team participating unofficially at the Swiss boondoggle. ‘I brought a food taster,’ Scaramucci joked in an interview on Bloomberg Television when asked about his solo mission). As a reminder, Scaramucci was recently named an assistant to the president and further told Bloomberg Television Tuesday that he will serve as a liaison between the White House and the business community, and work with local, state and foreign governments and trade associations. Which brings us to the second reason why Anthony is smiling. Today, as part of his shedding of potential conflict of interest, Scaramucci sold a majority stake in his SkyBridge Capital fund of funds, which has had prominent cameos in such movies as Wall Street 2, to HNA Capital U. S., which is controlled by Chinese billionaire Chen Feng, and RON Transatlantic EG. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, the deal, which includes the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, or SALT, is said to be valued at about $200 million according to Bloomberg, and could increase to about $230 million if certain conditions are met. SkyBridge’s senior management and investment teams will remain intact while Scaramucci will step down.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 17, 2017.
In a few short hours we’ll be treated to the President-Elect’s much-anticipated first press conference. We’re not sure there’s been a more eagerly awaited event of its kind in memory. As Bloomberg’s Richard Breslow notes, global markets (ex-Mexico and Turkey) have ground to a halt. You can cut the anticipation with a knife. Will the powerful trends we’ve seen for the last two months continue? Or reverse with a vengeance? All will be revealed. And investors will know exactly which the best trades to set up their year are. Don’t get your hopes up. But who knows? It’s a must-listen in any case. Investors will do their best to focus on comments and policy prescriptions specifically aimed at various sectors of the S&P 500. There will be a natural tendency to try to ignore as unpricable potential policies that affect massively important geopolitical and international economic issues. That might work in trading the S&P financials index this afternoon. But perhaps not so well for the Asia dollar index, where the countries comprising that measure are already being forced to speculate on what the acronym might be for a China-led economic and security pact.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 11, 2017.
While Russia continues to mostly mock and ridicule, and generally take in good humor, the constant allegations by the Obama administration that it “hacked the election”, without actually hacking the election – as in actually rigging or changing the votes – but merely exposing the corruption of the DNC and the cronyism of the Clinton Family Foundation, even if so far the highly confident US “intelligence agencies” have yet to demonstrate a shred of proof substantiating such allegations, China’s reaction to a similar accusation has demonstrated far less sense of humor. That may explain why Beijing quickly slammed Washington’s claims it engaged in mass spying, and demanded an explanation from the US about its own global spying activities, after a US report accused China of using two Chinese hotels as spy centres, an allegation Beijing dubbed a ‘groundless’ smear attempt. Last Wednesday, the Washington Times accused the 4PLA, a unit attached to the Chinese Defence Ministry, of using the Jintang and Seasons hotels in the capital Beijing to conduct espionage. As evidence publication cited an open-source intelligence dossier produced by the Army’s Asian Studies Detachment, as the source of its report. The document does not explain why and how the hotels were allegedly used by the Chinese for hacking.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 8, 2017.
As observed yesterday, one of the main reasons for the post New Year’s Day surge in Bitcoin to above $1,000 both in China and the US, is that over the past week, in order to further curb capital outflows, Beijing implemented a new set of capital controls according to which Chinese banks would be required to report all yuan-denominated cash transactions exceeding 50,000 yuan (around 7,100 US dollars) to the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), down from the current level of 200,000 yuan, according to a PBOC document released on Friday. Cross-border transfers more than 200,000 yuan by individuals will also be subject to the report process. In terms of foreign currencies, the report threshold remains at the equivalent of 10,000 US dollars for both cash transactions and overseas transfers. Amusingly, as Xinhua reported over the weekend, “the policy stoked worries that the government is trying to impose capital control in a disguised form” to which PBOC economist Ma Jun had the following retort “It is not capital control at all.” Translation – it is. And that’s not all, because overnight, China’s currency regulators, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) added its own round of capital controls when it said that it wanted to close loopholes exploited for purposes such as money laundering and illegally channeling money into overseas property. While the regulator left unchanged quotas of $50,000 of foreign currency per person a year, citizens faced draconian new disclosure requirements from Jan. 1, first and foremost requiring foreign currency buyers to indicate how they plan to use the money and when they plan to spend it.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 3, 2017.
When former Chinese Politburo member Zhou Yongkang was arrested in 2014 on corruption charges, the scale of his ill-gotten gains was astounding, totalling some $16 billion. When sums that large are involved, most of the assets have to be invested in financial instruments and real estate. But the list of physical currency found in his homes is revealing: 152.7 million Chinese yuan (valued at the time at $24.5 million), 662,000…10,000…55,000 Swiss francs — and US$275 million. The former head of China’s internal security services and one of the 10 most powerful men in China apparently preferred to keep his “petty cash” mainly in U.S. dollars. He’s not alone. China lost around $1 trillion to capital flight in 2015, before clamping down hard at the beginning of 2016. Much of this money leaves China via fake invoicing in Hong Kong, where the local currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Illicit outflows are also facilitated by casinos in the Philippines, South Korea, and on remote Pacific islands, all of which operate primarily in dollars. Predictions of the dollar’s demise and eventual replacement by the Chinese yuan, are a staple of global economic punditry, but they have little basis in reality. Of course China has become an important component of the global economy, accounting for more than 15 percent of global gross domestic product. But when Chinese people themselves prefer to hold dollars, there is little chance that the Chinese yuan will ever replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s key currency.