Today’s China Readings May 17, 2012

"Sinocism is the Presidential Daily Brief for China hands"- Evan Osnos, New Yorker Correspondent and National Book Award Winner

The economic news is getting more negative by the day. On the heels of a cover package in the most recent issue of Caixin (放贷难_财新网) on the problems banks are having making new loans and a Caijing report that New Loans by China’s Big Four Banks Near Zero in Early May, the Wall Street Journal elaborates in China’s Banks Are Ready to Make Loans, but Find Limited Takers. Patrick Chovanec, who is now so bearish (and not without reason) that we may learn his bile is being extracted for a special high-end elixir, wrote a depressing and worrisome blog post in which he argues that China Real Estate Unravels. Caixin has another article that suggests the deterioration of the real estate market means that Beijing may no longer push back on local government attempts to loosen restrictions-地方再探救市. Remember, the real estate slowdown has been engineered by the government, which is intentionally constricting demand, but it increasingly looks like the policies are overshooting on the downside. In what is likely an unintentional move to stimulate construction, Chinese media reports that increasing numbers of subsidized housing buildings are so shoddy that they will have to be torn down and rebuilt-全国多地保障房被指偷工减料 部分须推倒重建 .

For those looking for less bearish views CLSA is out with a more sanguine report titled Misunderstanding China Popular Western illusions debunked (PDF) and the long and excellent podcast of a May 1 Brookings-Caixin Media Symposium–Structural Reforms and China’s Economy–is now online. Depression about the state of the economy is not leading to more wine consumption, as the Lafite bubble has collapsed, wine prices overall are declining, interest in wine investing is waning-购 拉菲“坠落”:重挫温州游资-and China is seeing a slowdown in bottled wine imports.

Bloomberg reports that Chen Guangcheng should receive his passport to leave for the US by May 21-Chen May Get China Passport by Next Week. Yesterday’s discussion of Chen should have included a mention of Gady Epstein‘s excellent story–Suppressing dissent: The emperor does know–in the most recent Economist that examines the treatment of Chen and debunks the widely held myth that somehow Beijing (aka The Center) does not know about the harsh stability preservation tactics of local officials. The New York Times article China’s Obsession With Stability Can Come at the Cost of Laws clearly benefited from the the Economist story.

Today we not only have more toxic food problems but we also have a budding toxic cosmetics scandal. Dementia-causing, alum-tainted rice noodles have been discovered in Jinan (济南黑作坊日产千斤毒米线 明矾过量或致痴呆) and McDonald’s is growing so fast in China that it plans to almost double the number of its employees in China.  Now we learn that you have to be careful with your Chinese creams. “Heavy Metal” Cosmetics (no, not a brand for fans of metalheads like Kaiser Kuo) appear to be not uncommon in the China market–“金属”化妆品勃兴调查,

The South China Sea continues to be hot. Vietnam has declared that it will not recognize China’s fishing ban and that in fact the ban covers territory that really belongs to Vietnam (越南:不承认中国南海休渔令). Vietnam’s “insolence” is now the top topic on Sina Weibo. Phillipine president Aquino has announced that the Philippines will Buy Military Jets Amid Sea Dispute With China, and, coincidentally (?) a US navy attack submarine has docked in Subic Bay. The authoritative Information Dissemination blog discusses the domestic challenges China will face in any outcome that does involve “total victory” over the Philippines on this issue.

I do occasionally write more than just this daily post, and last night’s Midnight In Peking, Murder In Beijing discusses the excellent book Midnight in Peking and the 2006 unsolved murder of a beautiful Italian woman in Beijing.

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