Sunday, April 10, 2016

China - the origin of the next crisis?

Financial times had a very good video that I thought will be good to share here. It's about 15 mins long and it talks abut the end of the China's miraculous growth which is fueled by the influx of migrant workers streaming into the factories and offering their labour for a low wage. This video shows the plight of the migrant workers as the economy slows down and what they intend to do when they go back to their rural villages.

As I watch this video, I was quite taken aback by some of the things in it - things that you don't expect to happen for China. They talked about the increase in the wages of workers there but factories not having enough orders, so a portion of the factories went bust and the workers have to seek employment elsewhere. They are not talking about Singapore, but about China. I mean, we have pretty high wages and fixed cost of rentals and so the cost of manufacturing in Singapore is considered high. That's why you don't see a lot of lower end manufacturing factories (making shoes, t-shirts etc) over here. But isn't everything made in China these days? If even China factories are facing a downturn in orders, then who are taking over the orders? Which country has even lower cost of manufacturing than China? You will have to watch the video to catch a hint of it.

The second thing that shocked me was how fast economically China had progressed since the last 30 years. I think they are currently facing the situations that many developing-turned-developed countries faced as they progressed - that of higher expectations by their labour force and also the higher cost of living and wages, which will mean that they are no longer attracting new investments that are okay in the past because everything is relatively cheap. As many countries around the world are annoyed by the influx of China migrant workers going into their country to seek better paying jobs, the Chinese are also facing cheaper and harder workers from other countries going into their borders to seek better job opportunities. I totally didn't expect that. But I guess globalization is like a knife - it really cuts both ways.

The last point I'm going to talk about is an interesting financial/investing topic - that of the impending failure of the Chinese economy as it heats up and bringing the world economy down with it. The talking heads had been saying that since I first started investing in the stock market in 2006. They had been speculating that China will be the cause of the next crisis. But it didn't happen and the great financial crisis happened over at US side as their mortgage-debt-housing market exploded. Then the Brazil/Spain/Portugal/Greece saga over at the EU side came to dominate the scene. And now we're back one full circle to point at China again? You really have to watch the video to find out a little more about it, or the link here to read up.

I think it's better to just know what we're going to do should something major happens, instead of debating to no end where the next financial crisis will originate. I know what I'll do. I'll freaking save up and build up my warchest now so that I can declare war! LOL


Createwealth8888 said...

But, hope we don't bet on the wrong side of the War. :-)

B said...

Good video. I think given how their govt and state owned can keep their policies within in, there's a lot of policy or power they can issue so it's really playing against time. But having said that, maybe I am 90 and we are still waiting for crisis from them lol.

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

Haha, that's true :) Not easy, must work hard to save money, then invest properly, and also add some luck elements to it to make it out strong and alive...who says investing is easy? haha

la papillion said...

Hi B,

That's true. They are not really democratic and if forced, they can enact policies that are not market oriented, up to a certain degree. But from the book I've read, China might have bigger issues ahead. The book said that inequalities between the inland and coastal cities will always trigger the next revolution causing the system to reset, so it's not easy to balance both economic growth as a whole country and the rising tensions between the richer coastal cities and the poorer inland cities.

Well, regarding China being the next origin, I think if they ever is the origin of a crisis, it shld be bigger and meaner than the GFC. It's going to be very very ugly.

athulican said...

I would take these kind of "ang mo" made videos with a pinch of salt. Not that I favours the chinese govt. They, too, falsify numbers to justify their own agenda. Foreign media do their research and draws conclusions from their data, but they do not know chinese, the nature of the people, their culture, their behaviour. Remember western fund managers have been calling for china's hard landing for years. In retrospect, I don't think it classify as any kind of landings. The communist party, whether you like it or not, is doing a good job managing a huge population. Although the FT video is interesting, I don't share it's view of fear (whether it is genuine or intentional).

la papillion said...

Hi athulican,

Haha, you're perceptive! Well, I think all mass media has a certain agenda and there's no such thing as a neutral one (even that is an agenda by itself). But you're right, they have been waiting for China to be the wolf that will maw down the world's economy for years, but so far, it had been a disappointing bet for them. I think a broken clock will also be right twice a day, but unlike the broken clock, we won't know exactly when they will be 'proved' right. I certainly don't feel the fear factor in the video though.

Thanks for commenting! Not sure if I've seen you here before...I don't think so.

Cory said...

China is going through structural change and they will succeeded. A lower growth in China is more due to investment has gone to SE Asia. The world economy is still cruising which why DJI is still up there when Shanghai undex collapsed.

athulican said...

la pap, we've met. (sorry for the anonymity)

SMK said...

athulican is right.

the only way to see it for yourself is to be there.
I have been to various Chinese cities over the past 5 years.
they were flying 2011 to 2012 then the business owners started telling me they were moving their money to properties. then late 2013, they start reducing their purchasing of properties and some moving to stocks. by 2014, the corruption fighting drained a lot of resources from certain industries. by 2015, primary industries were shutting down. but a lot of other industries are moving up. ;)

don't look at 3rd party anecdoctal evidence. be there, see for yourself.

the good thing is we don't need the economy for the equity market to do well. ;)

Sillyinvestor said...

Hmm. LP,

I watched the whole video

Pray, which country dun face the problem China is facing, unless the initial phase of cheap labor is unsuccessful?

What is the problem with migrant workers going back? The video talk about the economy like China is only a manufacturing economy that is purely labor intensive

When pay increase, where the money go?

Think they barking the wrong tree and put the cart in front of horse.

It's the lack of demand causing migrant workers to say bye bye, not high cost per se, while I do not deny the factors. During the 4 trillion stimulus, all companies are expanding ... Build first, think later. Factories whenever because the central is pumping in money ...

Factories are built, and there is overcapacity... So those with non-competitive factories go to lala land. Just track the s-chips in sgx and u know what happen, especially with over expansion

la papillion said...

Hi Cory,

I just think they are all taking turns. Sometimes US, sometimes China, sometimes EU, haha! Somewhere someplace must be failing that causes the world to topple. Well, a bull rise up on a wall of worries :)

la papillion said...

Hi Athulican,

Haha, I might have an idea of who you are...though can't be certain lol

la papillion said...


Haha, I like that last line of yours :) But I've mentioned I have no great fear of whether China is going to topple. I also can't believe I believed it back in 2006. But hey, 10 yrs already, China is 'still' toppling haha

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Quite insightful comments, I like it.

What I like about the video is not all these factual things, but rather the plight of those workers affected by macro events bigger than they can control. One of them goes back to farming for those with land while those who don't have goes back to open some small shops or invest. It's the 'Great Return to the Rurals' that is very interesting to me.

Unfortunately, we have no rurals to go back to when things don't go well for us. The bloody island is one whole CITY lol

Rolf Suey said...

Hi LP,

Thanks for the vid. I finished watching.

Having been handling businesses and travel all over China (not just Shanghai and Beijing), in the last more than a decade, I felt that many westerners do not understand China even for those who been staying in the country for a couple years. Their relationship with the Chinese people is boss to subordinate normally, it's different. They thought they know but Culture/Language is too diverse!

I been to Vietnam umpteen times and it was only after 4-5 yrs of trying and failing that I finally manage the first deal there and subsequent more deals. While its a cheaper alternative to China, the way of doing business is seriously far too complicated. People I must say is less productive than China, but improving. A force to reckon with but needs time.

Don't ever discount China.... I tend to agree on what Ray Dalio mentioned about China below:

Ray Dalio On China
Very similar to the situation that USA use to go through in the past. The issue is you cannot have debt cannot rise faster than income. And this is happening in China now.

China needs to have a slower rate of debt and they need to restructure that. USA has 3 major debt restructuring and done that successfully. It is going to be a different kind of industry. E.g. steel industry in USA changing into consumption then to digital technology.

China needs to restructure their economy which is a difficult thing to do, and they also have a balance of payment issues. (i.e. outflows).

Leadership to manage it matters! According to Ray Dalio’s contact in China, he claimed that China has very capable people in leadership. But not the stock market handling recently. That is not capable. Dalio thinks that China leadership capability is equal to the best in the world.

Heart Transplant
It is like China is going through a Heart Transplant! You need to right execution but it is going to be fine in the long term after the operation but it weakens you. But you will get through it and be better than before.

Balance of payment issues
It is difficult because money is leaving the country. China has lots of control because many enterprises are state-owned-enterprises (SOE). China can open the bond market to have greater control over it.

Devalue currency
Will China devalue its currency? Ray Dalio does not know and he said it is too close to call.

la papillion said...

Hi Rolf,

Thanks for your views on the ground! I wouldn't know because I've not been there before, but you're right, sometimes the reported views are vastly different from the ones of a native or people living there.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see when this sleeping dragon wakes up :)