State capitalism & more things

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State capitalism

State capitalism has been created in various forms in China since opening up. Some of the new forms have aspects that impacts the relative attractiveness of doing business in or with Chinese companies.

Opening up

Historically since opening up China has been a mixed market model. There were small private businesses including many farmers. There was the state owned enterprises, a direct descendent of Mao’s work units and businesses that the government wanted to keep a strategic hold on.

Shenzhen biennial
Taken at an exhibition that was part of the Shenzhen Biennial, when I was there back in 2010

Grey zone and hybrid companies

Grey zone companies

A classic example of a grey zone company would be Huawei. In their 2019 paper Who Owns Huawei, Balding & Clarke make a convincing argument that Huawei is a state controlled company, if not state owned in the conventional sense. This view is supported by:

  • The state hacking of Nortel which Huawei disproportionately benefited from in their subsequent telecoms carrier contracts and 5G technology
  • State bank vendor financing on behalf of Huawei at negative interest rates that telecoms providers like BT and Vodafone were given
  • The ‘princess’ Meng Wanzhou case in Canada

Zichen Wang translated a Chinese academic paper that pointed out an alternative view. Yes the ownership structure was a shit show, was pretty much the one point of agreement between the two papers.

But that much of this was down to domestic practice influenced by classic state capitalism and modern business law that China brought in and still doesn’t square up with what was happening on the ground in terms of business laws.

You can make up your own mind if this is an element of state capitalism.

Hybrid companies

An example of this would be the Stellantis | Guangzhou Auto Company joint venture that made Jeep branded SUVs for China. These joint ventures were basically the way the Chinese government coerced technology transfer from western firms to local firms. The Stellantis JV has gone into bankruptcy and GAC seems to have its own range of capable SUVs based on Stellantis expertise gained over the years.

Huawei’s joint venture with 3Com allowed the telecoms giant to build a large enterprise networking business to compete with the likes of Cisco Systems. At the time that China first rolled out its Golden Shield internet censorship platform, it relied on Cisco technology, and China would want to remedy this under its state capitalism system. Huawei now supports internet censorship around the world. This form of state capitalism has been common in a number of developing countries over the years, but China was particularly successful in using it in a coercive manner to enhance state capitalism rather than just driving economic growth.

Rise of the hybrid firm – Gavekal ResearchToday, 48% of onshore listed companies, representing 67% of market capitalization, have a mixed bag of major shareholders from the private and state sectors. While many of those companies are still clearly controlled by either state or private shareholders, a large and significant group of firms occupies an intermediate position that is harder to characterize. – on China’s state capitalism system

How China’s communist officials became venture capitalists – Times of IndiaThe US and other Western governments have long been wary of the economic power of China’s “state capitalism,” fueled by giant state-owned companies and an industrial policy driven by subsidies and government mandates. But policymakers need to pay more attention to what’s really propelling China’s growth: private firms with minority government-­linked investments. “The distinction between state-owned and private has been important for policymakers outside China and for analyzing the Chinese economy,” says Meg Rithmire, a professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in comparative political development in Asia and China. “That boundary is eroding.” – see also Chinese banks vendor financing deals which is the real reason behind Huawei’s growth (alongside stealing IP and other proprietary elements: Nortel cough, cough)

Influenced firms

Influenced firms are a particularly pernicious part of the Chinese state capitalism system. The Chinese economy has always relied on relationships and even patronage of government power brokers similar to Malaysia, Thailand and Korea. But the state has looked to move personal bonds to state bonds. Much of this comes from National Intelligence Law 2017; that puts demands on Chinese citizens, Chinese companies and anyone connected to China.

Like the more widely reported Cybersecurity Law (which went into effect on June 1) and a raft of other recent statutes, the Intelligence Law places ill-defined and open-ended new security obligations and risks not only on U.S. and other foreign citizens doing business or studying in China, but in particular on their Chinese partners and co-workers.

Of special concern are signs that the Intelligence Law’s drafters are trying to shift the balance of these legal obligations from intelligence “defense” to “offense”—that is, by creating affirmative legal responsibilities for Chinese and, in some cases, foreign citizens, companies, or organizations operating in China to provide access, cooperation, or support for Beijing’s intelligence-gathering activities.

The new law is the latest in an interrelated package of national security, cyberspace, and law enforcement legislation drafted under Xi Jinping. These laws and regulations are aimed at strengthening the legal basis for China’s security activities and requiring Chinese and foreign citizens, enterprises, and organizations to cooperate with them. They include the laws on Counterespionage (2014), National Security (2015), Counterterrorism (2015), Cybersecurity (2016), and Foreign NGO Management (2016), as well as the Ninth Amendment to the PRC Criminal Law (2015), the Management Methods for Lawyers and Law Firms (both 2016), and the pending draft Encryption Law and draft Standardization Law.

Tanner, M.S. Beijing’s New National Intelligence Law: From Defense to Offense (July 20, 2017). United States: Lawfare.

China’s companies rewrite rules to declare Communist Party ties – Nikkei Asia – the latest party congress has heralded a new chapter in state capitalism with all of China’s companies rewriting rules to declare Communist Party ties, rather than shareholder responsibility.


The cost of doing business amidst the culture wars is an entirely new question of risk | CityAM 


For Young Chinese, Even State Sector Jobs Are No Longer a Safe Bet the public sector hasn’t lived up to its reputation of being a safe haven. Nearly three years into the pandemic, many of China’s local governments are facing eye-watering fiscal deficits and implementing austerity measures. And those cuts are hitting civil servants hard. Wang had originally expected to earn at least 250,000 yuan ($34,600) per year at his new job. In reality, he estimates he’s being paid just 160,000 yuan. His basic salary has been cut by 30%; his social insurance payments haven’t risen as promised; part of his annual bonus has never been paid. Instead, Wang finds himself forced to work regular unpaid overtime shifts, helping to implement the town’s virus-control policies, and trying to cut back spending at home. His plans to trade in his boring SUV have been put on hold indefinitely.

Chinese ‘police stations’ in Canada under investigation | Hong Kong Free Press – there is a definite turning point around the illegal Chinese police operations against its diaspora. I expect United Front activities to be the next point of focus and you could see triad organisations treated less like organised crime and more like the paramiilitary or terrorist arm of the United Front

China wants homegrown logistics firms to take on FedEx, UPS | Quartz 

The World According to Xi Jinping: What China’s Ideologue in Chief Really Believes | Foreign Affairs best read in comparison with this: There is no hope the Communist Party can reform — Q&A with Frank Dikötter – The China Project. The FT’s take: Maximum Xi | Financial Times  


Chip Shortage Forces Toyota to Issue Metal Keys for Japan Cars | Jalopnik and New York state passes ‘Right to repair’ bill for electronic devices – Telecompaper – both could see a move for more repairable less software cloud dependent products

Why isn’t the internet more fun and weird? – I was rereading this and it seems more powerful today than it was when I read it back in 2019


How the U.K. Became One of the Poorest Countries in Western Europe – The Atlantic“Between 2003 and 2018, the number of automatic-roller car washes (that is, robots washing your car) declined by 50 percent, while the number of hand car washes (that is, men with buckets) increased by 50 percent,” the economist commentator Duncan Weldon told me in an interview for my podcast, Plain English. “It’s more like the people are taking the robots’ jobs.” That might sound like a quirky example, because the British economy is obviously more complex than blokes rubbing cars with soap. But it’s an illustrative case. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the U.K. manufacturing industry has less technological automation than just about any other similarly rich country. With barely 100 installed robots per 10,000 manufacturing workers in 2020, its average robot density was below that of Slovenia and Slovakia. One analysis of the U.K.’s infamous “productivity puzzle” concluded that outside of London and finance, almost every British sector has lower productivity than its Western European peers. Read alongside – What British politics looks like to the rest of the world – The Face TL;DR a joke that makes their country look good by comparison.

Economy improves in Q3 but faces mounting risks | Merics on China but the numbers in Europe, in particular Spain and Germany are bad: Eurozone manufacturing output falls at sharpest pace since initial COVID- 19 wave as demand for goods plummets | S&P Global 

Semiconductor market continues to fall … | EETimes – guess that the economy isn’t going to pick up for a while. You can measure industrial activity and likely predicted consumer demand by following the trends in the semiconductor market. More structural pain due as well – We must prepare for the reality of the Chip Wars | Financial Times 


Japan cannot survive without Russian oil, warns trading house chief | Financial TimesSome analysts have expressed concern about Itochu’s heavy exposure to China through its 10 per cent stake in Citic, but Okafuji stressed that its risks were lower since its investment was in a government-owned company. “Currently, what they are doing in China is to move private assets from private companies to government-owned companies to reduce the gap between the rich and poor,” he said. “Our objective is to contribute to providing a prosperous lifestyle to the Chinese people, so I think the Chinese government welcomes that.” – I expect that the Chinese government and CITIC will tear the face off Itochu


Paul Graham’s Legacy | I, Cringely – god save us from blockchain garbage


Concerns mount over German Chancellor Scholz’s upcoming trip to China | Axios – it looks like there is a battle royale brewing between the German public and their large corporates. Add to this: Ports in a storm: Chinese investments in Europe spark fear of malign influence | South China Morning Post  and Watching China in Europe with Noah Barkin55 percent of Germans believe he (Scholz) is out of his depth), deepens divisions in his government, and undermines its quest for a common European policy toward Beijing, a goal that was spelled out in black and white in the three-party coalition agreement. More worryingly, it shows that Scholz and his advisers still have a steep learning curve on China. Germany’s sway with Beijing depends on a united front in Berlin, in Europe, and across the G7. Scholz has managed to torpedo them all in the span of a few weeks. To be clear, the problem is not that Scholz is meeting with Xi. The party congress showed that Xi may be the only member of China’s leadership who is worth talking to these days. And it is normal for Scholz, who has been chancellor for nearly a year but unable to meet with Xi in person because of China’s restrictive COVID-19 rules, to want to sit down for a face-to-face with the country’s newly anointed leader for life. But the when, where, and how of this first meeting are important. And Scholz has whiffed on all three. The situation is reminiscent of his predecessor Angela Merkel’s decision, two years ago, to hurry through the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) weeks before Joe Biden entered the White House. Like Merkel, Scholz is gifting Xi a geopolitical victory without much in return. And he is voluntarily sacrificing whatever leverage his government might have had with China. He may not realize that but members of his own government—some of whom have been working diligently for months on a new, tougher China strategy—are furious. “As long as the German chancellor doesn’t buy into his own government’s China strategy, then it is worthless,” one German official fumed. “The Chinese can see the divide in Berlin and Europe, and believe me, they will find a way to exploit it. It is absolutely fatal. And what is so stunning is that Scholz has done all of this of his own free will.”

Hong Kong

America’s Biggest Financial Firms Are Still Collaborating with the Sanctioned Hong Kong GovernmentAfter an increasing number of critics began to pile on, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Executive Commission on China Representative Jim McGovern and Senator Jeff Merkeley, a coalition of 20 U.S.-based Hong Kong activist groups, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, Citibank’s Jane Fraser claimed that she had tested positive for Covid-19 and will pull out of the summit. The rest of these executives have only a couple of days to come down with similar illnesses or unexpected family commitments, but I’m not holding my breath and Hong Kong Summit Surrounded by Drama Before It Even Begins – Bloomberg – Top executives pull out after getting Covid; storm approaches. Event aimed at showing city is back in business after pandemic

National security: Ex-leader of Hong Kong Tiananmen vigil group demands prosecution disclose more info – Hong Kong Free Press HKFP and High-profile national security trial of Hong Kong democrats to begin after Lunar New Year, court reveals – Hong Kong Free Press HKFP 

BN(O) Hongkongers and Britain’s Chinese proficiency deficit — AgoraHK 


Are Technologies Inevitable? – by Matt Clancy also worthwhile reading Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants


Kiko Mizuhara finds Heaven in Tokyo – The Face 


9 in 10 marketers spend time in making global marketing locally relevant: report | Advertising | Campaign AsiaMarketers say local requirements are kept in mind by headquarters when making decisions, however, the majority (82%) feel they spend too much time educating HQ on Singaporean nuances and needs. 47% of marketing decision-makers in Singapore say that senior leadership in regional or global offices are misaligned with local marketing teams, there is a lack of local understanding of effective channels, and in some cases, there’s an assumption that a global approach will work across countries. Over a third (36%) of marketers believe in localising content for maximum ROI, however, the local tone, diversity and humour in campaigns is often not well understood by global offices teams


Hong Kong editors used Stand News to praise criminals and promote illegal ideologies, says prosecutor at sedition trial | South China Morning Post – which gives you an idea of how far Hong Kong has changed after the National Security Law


Inside the world of Wikipedia’s deaditors – The Face 

Naspers Denies Report It’s Selling Its Tencent Stake to Citic – Caixin Global 


11.11 shopping festival turns to long-term, sustainable growth | Marketing | Campaign Asia – Amid competition and economic uncertainty, more brand participants in China’s preeminent e-commerce festival in China may be seeking deeper customer engagement beyond driving up GMV with discounts. – Some thoughts: Chinese consumers are changing

  • Growth is changing towards disproportionately benefiting domestic brands and is very much in line with Xi Jinping’s vision
  • Economic growth is happening at the slowest pace in decades affecting consumer confidence and future consumer spend

The macro-environment is changing too:

  • Economic growth is no longer a Chinese government priority
  • Chinese personal data laws are not marketer friendly


US to deploy B-52 bombers to Australia as tensions with China mount | Financial Times 

‘We do rely on China — but so does every university’ | Scotland | The Times – admission by Edinburgh university principal


China to kick off ‘World Internet Conference’ next week with Beijing set to promote its vision of internet governance | South China Morning Post – The annual internet event will see participation from Huawei, Alibaba, Kaspersky and Infosys. Participation by western firms has diminished in recent years amid strict Covid-19 measures and Beijing’s crackdown on Big Tech


Apple’s Online Store and Information Systems Chiefs Are Leaving (AAPL) – Bloomberg…

– The departures mean Apple is losing at least three vice presidents — the highest manager level below Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s executive team — in recent weeks. Evans Hankey, Apple’s vice president in charge of industrial design, is also leaving the company, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month. Chief Privacy Officer Jane Horvath has departed Apple in recent weeks as well, taking a position at a law firm


Xi Jinping Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Vietnam’s Communist Party Chief – The Diplomat – The elaborate ceremonials of Nguyen Phu Trong’s state visit are a reminder of the alternating attraction and resistance that underpin Sino-Vietnamese relations

Web of no web

Metaverse could open new kinds of cybercrime, Interpol warns, with scams operating differently in virtual reality | South China Morning Post 


Trio conduct 6G reconfigurable intelligent surfaces trials …Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces can be programmed to modulate the phase of electromagnetic waves and reflect signals into blind spots, enhancing coverage and improving user experience. The low cost, low energy consumption and easy deployment, of RIS have attracted broad interest in 6G research and made it a popular candidate technology. The technical trial mainly evaluated the deployment effects and performance of sub6 GHz RIS and mmWave RIS in different indoor and outdoor scenarios. The tests modelled deployment conditions with and without RIS, different incidence and reflection angles, different deployment distances, etc. Recorded performance index parameters included RSRP, throughput and others. The trial participants worked together to carry out several RIS test projects yielding hard data that makes a strong argument in favor of continued RIS technology development.