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from Ian Bremmer:

Chinese reform is coming, but not the political kind

In a western democracy like the United States, we assume that the best time for a leader to accomplish something is in the first year of his first term. The election has just ended, the opposition is still scattered, and the legislative mandate is intact. Everybody still talks about Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first 100 Days for a reason.

In authoritarian governments, like China’s, it’s supposed to be different. Steering such a large bureaucracy takes time, as all the moving pieces catch up with one another. What matters is minimizing risk surrounding the transfer of power, and then engaging in a slow buildup of consensus. And yet, Xi Jinping is proving the conventional wisdom wrong. After just six months at the helm, Xi is already clearly on track to accomplish far more than his predecessor Hu Jintao.

The constellation of China’s leadership left Xi Jinping with more room to maneuver upon taking office: the Politburo Standing Committee, the top brass in China’s government, was consolidated from nine members to seven. Over the next few months, Xi built up a track record of successful reforms. He has worked at overhauling the banking system and shaking out its bad loans. Through his anti-corruption efforts, he has increased the accountability for the leaders of state-owned enterprises and provincial leaders. He improved product safety and the environment by changing the reward structure for the people in charge and implementing air pollution regulations. We’ve also seen the establishment of a free trade zone in Shanghai.

Despite all this progress, there is vastly more to do. But Xi seems up to the task -- and he is eager to get started. Over the weekend, one of Xi’s allies, Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, promised even further reforms at the upcoming Third Plenum meeting of party leadership from November 9-12th, declaring it will usher in “unprecedented” policy changes and reform.

from Breakingviews:

China buzzword bingo shows slow move forward

By John Foley
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China’s rulers give little away. So at the five-yearly Communist Party Congress, details matter, from the order the new leaders come onstage to the arrangement of portraits on the front page of People’s Daily. To see what’s on the mind of outgoing party leader Hu Jintao, there’s another option: buzzword bingo.

from Breakingviews:

Obama continuity is good for China-U.S. ties

By Richard Beales
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The United States and China couldn’t have more different political systems. But with Barack Obama re-elected on Tuesday as U.S. president and China’s new leaders taking over next week, there is reason to hope they can see eye to eye. If Obama builds on America’s recent prudent diplomacy, the two superpowers’ rivalry can be constructive.

from Breakingviews:

Clean break could give China reformists hope

By Wei Gu
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

China could benefit from a clean break. President Hu Jintao may quit his official positions in the ruling Communist Party when new leaders come in early next year, according to a report on Reuters. That would be a change from the path of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin. It would leave the incomers more room to make their mark, and push through reforms with less distraction from factional fighting.

from Breakingviews:

Five ways to hedge against a China slowdown

By Wayne Arnold

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s no surprise Hu Jintao, China’s president, wants to talk up his economy. He spoke about continuing robust growth over the weekend as he headed for the G20 summit in Mexico. But the latest data showing city house prices down 1.5 percent, along with tumbling industrial production, suggest a slowdown.

from Thinking Global:

China’s political intrigue ventures west

Imagine that an American intelligence agency organizes an “exercise,” as one occasionally does, on how to manage an unwanted but inescapable Washington role in a Chinese leadership struggle. Throw in the following scene-setting facts:

    With the Chinese Communist Party confronting a decisive leadership transition, a provincial police chief takes refuge in a U.S. consulate and spills the beans on a corruption and murder story swirling around Bo Xilai, whose populist, Maoist campaign threatens the establishment. Just a week before the visit to Washington of Vice-President Xi Jianping, who is in line to become paramount leader this autumn, President Obama takes sides. Although Bo’s forces are circling the consulate, the U.S. releases the police chief to Beijing’s leaders. With that crisis solved and Chinese leaders indebted to Obama, a blind human rights activist dramatically escapes house arrest and takes refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. With Secretary Hillary Clinton arriving for a high-level Sino-U.S. summit, both sides enter crisis management mode.

It’s no wonder that the intellectual salons of Washington have grown a bit bored with the ongoing U.S. election campaign and have shifted their interest instead to Chinese domestic politics. The reasons are obvious: The details are juicier, the drama is more immediate and the historic stakes are considerably more significant.

from George Chen:

Property under attack in China

Property under attack in China While U.S. President Barack Obama hopes to see a quick property market recovery to boost investor confidence, China’s intentions for its own property market are the diametric opposite – not because it wants to damage investor confidence, but rather to cool growing social unrest prompted by fast-rising property prices. On Jan. 26, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao hosted a cabinet meeting to discuss the latest property market situation. As a result of the top-level meeting, Wen announced his new "eight-point" guidelines, considered by many analysts as the toughest so far and probably his last major effort to curb property prices: 1. Local governments should set 2011 property price-control targets and make them public 2. Land supply for affordable public housing should be stepped up and the pace of construction increased 3. Properties sold within five years of purchase will be subject to a sales tax based on the selling price 4. The minimum down payment requirement on second homes will rise to 60 percent from 50 percent 5. Land supply for residential property this year should be no less than the average annual figure from the previous two years 6. Home-purchase limits will be adopted nationwide. Local governments should limit home purchases by non-local residents and those who have already purchased more than two homes. 7. Local government should take responsibility for stabilising property prices (in other words, those who fail to do their job could be punished) 8. Increased education to encourage more sensible property investment to create a more stable market for the long term Wen, whose nickname is “Grandpa Wen” for his usually warm public personality, has pledged to rein in property prices before the end of his final term in office in 2012. But time is short and progress has so far been limited, so he has decided to take action once again. Among the eight points, the most important is of course to raise the down payment minimum for second-home buyers. Local media have already reported a sharp rebound in property transactions, one or even two times more than usual since the beginning of the year in some big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. With the anticipation of more policy curbs, Chinese home buyers feel compelled to sign deals more quickly and more aggressively. Early this week, official think-tank the China Academy of Sciences released its 2011 forecasts, including an estimate that property price growth may slow but will still rise about 12 percent on average. Such forecasts should serve as clear cautions to Premier Wen if he wants to keep his promise before he retires. Ironically, property prices have risen more than ever before since Wen took power. Of course, you can't blame him. All this, I say, is a natural process and the result of strong economic growth and increasing personal wealth. But just like a coin, everything has two sides. Those who get rich (as late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said "let some people get rich first") are happy to get their homes. Those who miss the chance ... oops ... perhaps Premier Wen can do more to get them on track. For global fund managers, who are still talking about the beautiful China story: Wake up, please, because 2011 looks like a truly strange and difficult year for China, if not for the whole world. Chinese banks are under pressure, thanks to endless reserve ratio increases. Property is now under attack. Commodities prices continue to rise in global markets and most people say it’s too complicated to understand how commodities and futures products work. So, tell me which is relatively speaking the safest area to put money? Perhaps property if you are a firm believer in yuan appreciation, which could be even faster this year for the sake of Sino-U.S. relations? I do believe President Hu Jintao doesn’t mean to disappoint President Obama after his successful state visit. Apparently, Zhang Xin, CEO and co-founder of leading Chinese developer SOHO China, is still a big fan of the business. There is little reason to expect new measures by the Chinese authorities to rein in property prices will be any more effective this year than in 2010, she said. What happened in 2010? It was considered the toughest policy year for real estate in China. And the result? Property price rose more than 20 percent on average. "So what, you say? Do what I do. The property market is already out of the government's control. It’s too late," a fund manager summed up the recent property policies for me when we had lunch recently. Then he ordered another glass of wine despite complaints about his lower bonus this year, given mediocre fund performance in 2010. My fund manager friend is probably what Deng was talking about -- those who get rich first. He's now looking to buy his third home in Shanghai.

Hu, Wen

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

While U.S. President Barack Obama hopes to see a quick property market recovery to boost investor confidence, China’s intentions for its own property market are the diametric opposite – not because it wants to damage investor confidence, but rather to cool growing social unrest prompted by fast-rising property prices.

from Environment Forum:

Hu’s visit is over, but China’s ecological footprint lingers

CHINA-PARLIAMENT/The Chinese flags have disappeared from Washington's wide avenues after China's President Hu Jintao's visit this week, but one statistic is still in the air: the rapidly expanding size of the Chinese ecological footprint, compared to the huge but slowing impact U.S. consumers have on global supplies of food, water, fuel -- everything, really.

China and the United States are generally considered to hold the top two spots in the world for emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases. But how do they compare when consumption of all goods is taken into account?

from Breakingviews:

U.S. politicians could learn from Chinese moms

By James Pethokoukis
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington has triggered debate about whether the United States should copy his country's hands-on economic model. But the Middle Kingdom's feisty "tiger mothers" may provide a better guide. A new book extolling their tough-love approach could help America escape its debt trap and boost growth.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Braving the weather

President Barack Obama quipped that Chinese President Hu Jintao was brave for going to his hometown at this time of year. But what about the visit to Capitol Hill today?

Between the warm reception at the White House and the chilly weather in Chicago, Hu met lawmakers who were quite cool in their welcome. They brought up China's currency, human rights, the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner who wasn't allowed to attend the ceremony, Tibet, the economy and trade. USA-CHINA/

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