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Nov 21, 2014
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Alibaba’s huge finance arm is a mystery to most

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By John Foley

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

Alibaba’s finance arm is one of the secrets of the Chinese e-commerce group’s success. Yet investors in the listed Alibaba Group don’t control a single share of the business, and can’t reliably estimate its worth. That puts them at a disadvantage to a select group of insiders with a seat on both sides of the table.

Nov 11, 2014
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China embraces troublesome cult of consumption

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By John Foley 

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

China has no more potent symbol of consumer power than “Singles’ Day”. Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that invented the shopping frenzy which takes place every Nov. 11, shifted $2 billion of goods on its websites in the first hour of trading. If consumers kept that up all year, retail sales in the People Republic would be five times bigger than they actually were in 2013. Fortunately, they don’t.

Nov 10, 2014
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Obama and Xi compete to put the “I” in “APEC”

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By John Foley 

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

There is no “I” in “APEC”. Yet the leaders of China and the United States are both using the Beijing round of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation this week to push their own agendas. Using the global stage to play domestic political games leaves room for dangerous mistakes.

Nov 6, 2014
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China’s next GDP goal: trash the target

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By John Foley

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

China’s days of picking a number for GDP growth and moulding the economy to fit are probably over. At the same time, its planners still seem wedded to symbolic statistical goals. Targeting a range for national output, rather than any single figure, would be an elegant way to square the circle.

Nov 4, 2014
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Alibaba delivers chunky growth, but at a cost

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By John Foley

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

After pulling off the largest share offering in history, Alibaba has raised expectations through the roof. The Chinese e-commerce group came close to meeting them on Tuesday with quarterly results – its first as a public company – revealing a 54 percent annual growth in revenue. That may justify the 50 percent runup in its shares since September. But profitability has slipped, and the company’s explanation doesn’t offer much comfort.

Oct 23, 2014
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China’s capital defences have sprung a major leak

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By John Foley

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

China’s strict capital controls are designed to shield the economy from flighty foreign money. In practice, they haven’t stopped a tremendous build up of fickle cash from abroad. There’s enough to create a serious nuisance if it starts to flow the other way.

Oct 16, 2014
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Real estate rescue may not help China’s developers

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By John Foley

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

If you cheapen it, they will come. China’s large real estate companies are going all-out to shift their properties, aided by recent reductions in mortgage rates and the relaxation of local restrictions on who can buy. When developers sell more for less, however, there is grief ahead.

Oct 15, 2014
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CICC loses a princeling, gains investment appeal

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By John Foley

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

To lose a princeling looks careless, but no worse. That should reassure backers of China International Capital Corp, the Chinese investment bank whose well-connected chief executive has just resigned.

Oct 13, 2014
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China’s Agile Property only the worst of the best

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By John Foley

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

Agile Property is crumbling. The Chinese real estate developer needs urgent financial assistance after the authorities detained its chairman and it had to cancel a $360 million rights issue. The shares fell by as much as 30 percent on Oct. 13. Yet in China’s property sector, it is just the worst of the best.

Oct 1, 2014
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Hong Kong harmony hits Beijing’s worst fears

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By John Foley

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

Protests often start out peaceful, then fizzle out, or descend into chaos. So far, Hong Kong is turning that playbook on its head. Demonstrators whose demands for democratic elections were met with tear gas and batons on Sept. 29 had, by the next day, settled into a kind of happy, harmonious state. For the authorities in Beijing, that’s potentially an even more nerve-jangling state of affairs.