Opinion

George Chen

The next 48 hours

George Chen
Mar 29, 2011 03:32 UTC

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

What might you do in the next 48 hours in China? A number of things — how about rushing to nearby supermarkets to stock up on soap and shampoo if you are a price-sensitive consumer?

No kidding!

Retail prices for those products are set to rise sharply in China from next month. At least two industry leaders — Procter & Gamble and Unilever — were reported by Chinese media to have decided to lift detergent and soap prices by up to 15 percent next month.

State television on Monday showed images of empty store shelves in some cities as residents raced to hoard P&G and Unilever products before the price rises went into effect.

However, officials and statisticians in Beijing seemed less worried about rising inflation. Last month, we heard that the spokesman of powerful economic the planner, National Development and Reform Commission, said inflation should peak in February. Then Yi Gang, deputy governor of People’s Bank of China, the central bank, assured investors that the government was confident that inflation would not to exceed the 4 percent target for the year.

It’s easy to speak but difficult to act. We know your target but the question is, of course, how will you make it happen? I mean in the market, for Chinese consumers, and not just for the sake of the statistics that are rapidly losing credibility among ordinary Chinese people as real life fails to improve.

My Shanghai holiday

George Chen
Mar 10, 2011 02:35 UTC

food

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

While Chinese lawmakers gathered in Beijing for the annual parliamentary meeting, I returned to my hometown Shanghai for a holiday.

The  lawmakers are keen to discuss China’s macroeconomic matters these days, but I am more interested in being a microeconomic observer. For example, how much does an apple cost in Shanghai these days?

During my holiday, I brought my girlfriend, a Hong Kongner, to Shanghai No.1 Food Store on the historic Nanjing Road. The store is a favorite place from my childhood as I felt I could buy food items from all over the world under one roof.

Moutai, the stronger spirit of China?

George Chen
Dec 17, 2010 10:10 UTC

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

Have you ever tried Kweichow Moutai, the Chinese liquor also known as baijiu? If not, I am afraid some people may say you don’t really know China that much.

Leading Chinese liquor producer Moutai, which has fans worldwide from first Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to former U.S. President Richard Nixon, said on December 16 that it would raise prices on its products by an average of 20 percent from next year, another clear sign of how difficult it will be for Beijing to rein in inflation.

Moutai’s price increase came as a surprise but turned out to be good news for its Shanghai-listed shares — up more than 3 percent by Thursday’s market close — and Moutai is one of the most expensive stocks in China, nearly 207 yuan (US$31) per share. In fact, the news of Moutai’s price increase also helped the entire retail sector as more analysts put buy ratings on retail stocks for 2011 as inflation is now clearly confirmed as a very important investment theme for next year.

LePad, China’s answer to the iPad

George Chen
Dec 14, 2010 04:55 UTC

Lenovo

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

If Apple calls its tablet computer the iPad, what will China’s Lenovo name its new rival product? The answer: LePad. No kidding.

Lenovo CFO Wong Wai Ming said during an interview at Reuters offices in Beijing on December 13, when attending this week’s China Investment Summit, that the world’s No.4 PC maker would launch its LePad tablet computer in China within the next few weeks and was also planning a smartphone to run on China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA 3G network as it moves beyond its traditional PC base.

I’m not trying to give a free advertisement for Lenovo’s LePad in my column today. The reason I raise the matter is mainly to draw your attention to how fast Chinese companies can react to new international consumer trends and the quick success of new products such as Apple’s iPad. In less than half a year, ZTE Corp launched a tablet PC in October that sold for a far lower price than the iPad, even though it looks very much the same.

What the iPad means for China

George Chen
Dec 8, 2010 06:39 UTC
What does the iPad mean for Chinese consumers? Let me offer you a choice before you read this column – do you want the good news first, or the bad news? In fact, it’s the same story. For those who recently bought a first-generation iPad, here is the bad news – Foxconn Electronics, manufacturer of Apple Inc products, plans to begin shipping a new version of the iPad tablet, known as iPad 2, by as early as the end of February, according to a Dec. 7 news report by DigiTimes. The report, citing unnamed sources from the Taiwan-based components maker, said the iPad 2 would mainly be supplied by plants in Shenzhen belonging to Foxconn, parent of Hon Hai Precision Industry. An initial shipment of 400,000 to 600,000 units is expected. And the good news? Of course Hon Hai investors and those who want an iPad but have yet to buy one should be happy. For Apple fans in China, the next big question is of course when the new iPad 2 will arrive in the world’s No.2 economy. Consumers there have already complained about long back orders for the iPad and iPhone 4 since the two products were launched earlier this year. As such, specialist “Apple smugglers” from Hong Kong to mainland China should be happy to see new arbitrage opportunities! Chinese gadget makers may soon catch up with this opportunity to add whatever new functions the iPad 2 may have to their own “iPad killers”. Hong Kong- and Shenzhen-listed ZTE Corp launched a  tablet PC in October that sells for a far lower price than its Apple counterpart, and we should expect more Chinese competition for Apple in 2011. Or should I say innovation? Despite fast-rising inflation, Chinese consumers have yet to stop buying new gadgets, as higher salaries means more disposable income. Products such as the iPad also fit the show-off culture of the so-called “new money” class in China — those who are much richer than the middle-class and who become rich within just a few years for various reasons, such as successful property speculation — so Apple should not be worried that Chinese consumers will tighten their budgets for non-necessities and high-tech devices next year. During a recent visit to my hometown Shanghai, I was told by a senior Shanghai government official that the iPad was a very popular Christmas and New Year gift within government and business circles. Hardly a surprise. To those who have already bought an iPad, don’t be too disheartened – pass it on to your son or even grandson. Like a Qianlong dynasty vase is now worth tens of millions of dollars, first-generation iPads may someday be a national treasure too!

ipad

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

Let me offer you a choice before you read this column – do you want the good news first, or the bad news?

In fact, it’s the same story. For those who recently bought a first-generation iPad, here is the bad news – Foxconn Electronics, manufacturer of Apple Inc products, plans to begin shipping a new version of the iPad tablet, known as iPad 2, by as early as the end of February, according to a Dec. 7 news report by DigiTimes.

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