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.
Hillary told her donor base at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel last Thursday that Russian cyber attacks were both ‘a personal beef against me’ and meant to undermine ‘the integrity of our democracy.’ Of course, absent from the speech was anything realistic acknowledging that there is a global trend against corruption that is unfolding worldwide. Hillary will blame everyone and everybody but herself. Obama in his press conference is trying to address the contradictions surfacing when Clapper told Congress there was no evidence of a Russian hack on November 17th. Obama now says when he saw Russian President Vladimir Putin in China in early September, he told him to ‘cut it out’ and that there would be some serious retaliation if he didn’t.’ Obama now says that after of that meeting, the government did not see further tampering of the election process. The Wall Street Journal says Obama goes off the Hillary script.
While the US has been bombarded by the artificial, mainstream media-fabricated concept of “fake news” for the past month, a strawman erected in an attempt to impose creeping limits on free speech and eliminate any outlet that does not comply with the government narrative and is accused of being “Russian propaganda”, China does not need to beat around the bush. Instead, it has shortcuts, like newspaper editors unexpectedly “falling” to their death. Case in point: Liu Jiandong, the general manager the 21st Century Business Herald, a major Chinese newspaper group that has been in trouble with the government for alleged blackmail and corruption, mysteriously “fell to his death on Monday”, the newspaper said. The 21st Century Business Herald carried a short statement on its official microblog from publisher 21st Century Media Ltd saying 21st Century Media’s general manager, Liu Jiandong, had fallen from a building and died despite efforts to save him. As Reuters adds, Liu took up his job in January 2015, which he was dedicated to, and was “upright and honest”, the paper said, adding an investigation was going on. In a “suicide” that was a carbon copy of the death of Monte Paschi’s David Rossi, the police in the southern city of Guangzhou, where the newspaper is based, said it had responded to a call about a man “falling from an office building.” Police only identified him by his family name, Liu, and said he was a company general manager.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 13, 2016.
As we move into the final month prior to this year’s presidential election, the tempo of dramatic world events and developments that are breaking daily is mind-boggling. Every single day we are seeing more outrageously desperate actions on the part of the globalists and their US government minions. Among the latest unfolding developments this week all fast tracking towards world war against Russia is NATO’s violation of international law deploying AWACS (Airborne Radar Warning and Control system) in Syria despite only Syria and Russia possessing the legal right to control the embattled country’s airspace. With both US and Turkish boots on the ground in northern Syria and US-led coalition airstrikes regularly invading the sovereign nation’s airspace, recently targeting Syrian soldiers andplans to kill more, along with former acting CIA director Mike Morell’s recent call to begin killing Russian soldiers, the latest warpath rant comes from Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley who is now threatening Russia (as well as China and Iran) with nuclear war. Spoken just like a true grade school bully on a playground, he boasts, ‘We will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before!’ This is the kind of moronic leadership that rises to the top of the Empire food chain? I’m afraid so. God help us when his most likely next commander-in-chief is the warmongering bulldog herself Hillary Clinton who’s not any more civilized nor humane. She’s already made it very clear that any real or perceived cyberspace attack on America coming from anywhere in the world constitutes an act of war and a military response against the cyber-perpetrators’ country. After already vowing to bomb Iran and with her constant accusations blaming Putin for everything gone wrong in her miserable life, including exposing her DNC corruption scandal responsible for rigging her presidential election, she is also all but promising to launch World War III against nuclear powered Russia. Incisive insider Paul Craig Roberts and even Putin have both said so. The neocon insanity that she represents is committed to perpetrating both suicidal and genocidal mass murder. With a total of 7,100 US nuclear warheads as of August 2016 and an estimate reported two years ago of 2,150 operationally deployed nukes, America could destroy itself four times over while Russia’s 7,300 nuclear weapons would likely carry the same tremendous overkill power. When we’re all dead, it hardly matters who has what? As the Benghazi ringleader who gave the stand down order that sealed the fate of four murdered Americans would say,’What difference does it make?’ The sheer madness in control of our planet right now actually believes the elite can simply hunker down in their underground luxury bunkers, take a long nuclear winter’s nap and a few years later emerge like Rip Van Winkle unscathed in their grandiose fairy tale. Talk about madness!
The annual Conservative Party conference commenced last Sunday, and the media focus was mostly about the Government’s stance on Brexit. This is hardly surprising, because Mrs May is being secretive, avoiding stoking a public spat with the EU by negotiating in public. The only hard news to emerge was that Article 50, formally giving notice of Britain leaving the EU, would be triggered by the end of March, in other words before the end of this tax year. Brexit is mostly about trade deals, which is why big business is lobbying furiously, and EU functionaries are winding up their punitive rhetoric. In the US, Donald Trump has also wound up the rhetoric over trade, threatening to tear up NAFTA and refuse to ratify the trans-Pacific partnership. He also attacked China, accusing her of stealing American production and jobs. We should never believe anything a politician says on the stump to gain votes, but if nothing else Trump does seem to have identified electoral resentment on the trade issue. This article looks at the theory behind trade, and finds that free trade, not the promotion of vested interests, should be the clear economic objective. But it also concludes that differing approaches to this thorny subject could accentuate the split between world trade into two separate streams, between fast-growing emerging economies and an increasingly sluggish old order. Corn laws and Smoot-Hawley Free trade first became a political issue in Britain when the 1815 Importation Act, which imposed tariffs on imported grain, led to artificially high grain prices, benefiting landlords at the expense of the poor. This was repealed by the Importation Act 1846. These Acts were known as the corn law and its repeal respectively. The debate prior to the 1815 Act is echoed today, with producers always seeking to disadvantage foreign competition to the detriment of the consumer. However, there’s every reason to believe that the abolition of trade barriers and tariffs would be similarly beneficial to contemporary economies as the Importation Act 1846 was to both Britain and the global economy then. Equally, if this is true, then trade restrictions and tariffs hinder economic progress, and any country embarking on greater trade restrictions is therefore pursuing a deliberate policy of unemployment. For evidence that it is indeed true, we need look no further than the catastrophic introduction of the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 in the US.
This post was published at GoldMoney on OCTOBER 06, 2016.
China is turning Japanese. That’s the increasingly held view of observers comparing China’s frenzied real-estate market with the epic bust that more than two decades ago hobbled one of its biggest economic rivals. While the two scenarios aren’t a carbon copy, similarities between China’s record credit boom in recent years and Japan’s bubble era have been made at various times by a number of economists and investors. Now, those voices are being heard more often – even within China. Huang Yiping, a Peking University professor who advises China’s central bank, warned Saturday about leverage that continues to climb, saying that the top risk is more and more investment generates less growth. ‘That’s exactly the story that unfolded in Japan.’ The worry is that China repeats Japan’s mistake of not reining in excess credit and shutting down insolvent borrowers quickly enough, exacting longer-term damage to growth in the world’s No. 2 economy. With potential expansion rates coming down across developed nations, the global pain would be magnified. ‘What really troubles me is that this extended real-estate bull market has gone hand-in-hand with an extended period of rapid credit growth, debt accumulation, and some questionable practices on the part of both lenders and borrowers,’ said Russell Jones, who had a front-row seat working as an analyst in 1990s Japan during that country’s demise.