Economy

Customers wait in line outside a Shake Shack Inc. restaurant in Beijing, China on 20 September 2020. (Yan Cong/Bloomberg)

Is it possible to decouple from the world's biggest market and factory?

Despite US efforts to reduce reliance on China and decouple from it, the process will not be easy, given China’s enormous economic influence. Even with countries such as Vietnam trying to take China’s place as the “world’s factory”, their capacity is limited. However, this does not mean that China’s position is assured, as other countries are noticing China’s penchant for using its economic might as a bargaining chip.
Residents dine at a 500-metre-long table spanning across the length of the medieval Charles Bridge as restrictions ease following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Prague, Czech Republic, 30 June 2020. (David W Cerny/REUTERS)

Are the Czechs alarmed by China's buying power?

From media companies to hotels and football clubs, the Chinese have gone on a shopping spree in the Czech Republic over the past few years. Hong Kong commentator Chip Tsao notes that the Czech Republic was the first European country to fall in love with China, allowing the latter to acquire large stakes in Czech entities. But now, it seems that the love affair is not so rosy any more. The recent visit of Senate Speaker Miloš Vystrčil to Taiwan is just one chink in the relationship’s armour.
People are reflected in a puddle after a rainfall as they walk along a shopping district in Beijing on 18 August 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Will China's inward economic shift lead to a closed society?

Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently emphasised the concept of “domestic circulation”, or focusing on domestic markets. But while this might prompt concern that China’s economy may be shut off from the rest of the world, given current circumstances, this is unlikely. What China needs to guard against though, says Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong, is the groupthink generated by a closed loop of ideas.
A stretch of the 400-kilometre long China-Laos railway in Vientiane, 29 July 2020. (Xinhua)

China's Belt and Road Initiative faces huge challenges in Southeast Asia

Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.
A worker collects a package after it was delivered by an automated conveyer belt at a JD.com distribution center in Beijing on 16 July 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP)

China's e-commerce 'big four' locked in cut-throat battle

Media commentator Cai Enze frowns on the beggar-thy-neighbour approach of improving one’s business at a rival’s expense. In his view, big names in China’s internet market — Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and JD.com (known as BATJ) — should practise more openness and cooperation rather than rivalry and mutual blocks.
Participants of reality TV series Sisters Who Make Waves (《乘风破浪的小姐姐》). (Internet)

Rich and wealthy ‘little sisters’ are the new driving force of Chinese consumerism

“Little sisters” — young women urbanites between 20-40 who have high spending power and little financial commitments — are the new darling demographic for those targeting China’s domestic market. In fact, the 2020 market size of the “little sisters economy” in China is expected to reach five trillion RMB. In keeping their buy-in, integrating e-commerce with social apps is key.
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a mural inside Toyota's Mega Web showroom in Tokyo, 4 August 2020. (Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg)

Japan is not decoupling from China

As the coronavirus continues to affect supply chains worldwide, especially with China being a key hub, Japan is taking steps to diversity its sources and be less reliant on China. However, contrary to previous speculations, Japanese academic Shin Kawashima does not think that the Japanese government is attempting to decouple from China, in the way that the decoupling of advanced industries is being carried out in the US.
A security guard wearing a face mask walks past the Bund Financial Bull statue, on The Bund in Shanghai, China, on 18 March 2020. (Aly Song/File Photo/Reuters)

180 years later, China is still an outsider to the Western-led world order

The West has been setting up new rules and regulations targeting China's economic system, which they regard as a non-market economy that could undermine the proper functioning of international trade. These rules and regulations are formulated through international organisations, multilateral and bilateral trade agreements, and even as unilateral domestic laws. However, Chinese academic Zhu Ying says China is not buckling under pressure as its market economy is a mere means for China’s economic development, and not the end goal of its economic system.
An employee works on a production line manufacturing steel structures at a factory in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, China, on 17 May 2020. (China Daily via Reuters)

Can the domestic market save jobs, livelihoods and companies in China?

With Covid-19 uncertainty and downturns pummelling its export-dependent economy, China’s leaders are trying to steer companies towards the domestic market instead. This may seem like a case of putting old wine in a new bottle, as China has tried this route before. Significant challenges are proving yet again that achieving export sales domestically is no mean feat. Can export-driven companies brave the storm while they reinvent themselves and recover?