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Jul 21, 2014
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The perks and pitfalls of depending on Jack Ma

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By John Foley 

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

Buy a share in Alibaba and you place your trust in Jack Ma. The Chinese e-commerce giant’s founder, executive chairman and spiritual sultan will remain a controlling force even after the company completes its massive initial public offering later this year. The $100 billion-plus question for prospective shareholders is whether they can depend on him to always act in their best interests.

Jul 15, 2014
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China’s corruption purge nears tricky second phase

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By John Foley 

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

China is entering the second stage of its colossal fight against graft. Nabbing high-profile culprits was a good start. Now, other miscreants have to believe the same could happen to them. Finally, the rewards for good behaviour must be made comparable to the spoils of wickedness. From here, things get tougher.

Jun 26, 2014
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China’s subway splurge only half on right track

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By John Foley

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

Take a trip on Beijing’s subway during rush hour and it’s clear that building more lines is a good idea. Asking international capital markets to pay for them, though, is not. Beijing’s issue of a $190 million bond to finance urban transit has been a hit with investors. But in general, public funding for public transport still looks the best route.

Jun 11, 2014
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China’s vanishing metals corrode confidence

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By John Foley 

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

Faith in metal-backed lending in China is corroding – and so is confidence in the country’s giant credit system. Authorities and banks including Standard Chartered and CITIC are investigating whether traders at Qingdao port used the same lot of copper and aluminium to back multiple loans. Vanishing collateral isn’t a new problem, but could prove to be China’s weakest link.

Jun 10, 2014
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China’s mini-stimulus verges on micro-management

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By John Foley

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

Fine-tuning and micro-management are close cousins. China’s central bank is tending toward the latter. The latest policy tweak will let some banks lend more to the rural sector, and fits a wider regulatory trend of selective easing. But it adds needless complexity, and takes China further from its stated goal of being more market-driven.

Jun 4, 2014
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China wrestles with repression of financial sort

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By John Foley 

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

China is richer and more stable than when tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square 25 years ago. Then, incomplete political reforms led to chaos, violence and retrenchment. While there’s little risk of that now, a similar dynamic is playing out in the financial system.

May 21, 2014
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Chinese real estate is in real trouble

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By John Foley

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

China’s property market is built on a vicious triangle. There are three ways the pressures building in the real estate industry could show: shrinking investment, disappearing funding for developers, and lower prices. Though they’re all related, the effects and remedies are different.

May 13, 2014
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China’s other e-commerce giant is priced to go

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

Being second has its advantages. JD.com, China’s number two e-commerce company, has set an indicative range for its initial public offering that values it at around $23 billion. That’s far behind the $100 billion-plus price tag attached to rival Alibaba. But it leaves room for a decent performance.

May 9, 2014
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Big Ad merger sorely misjudged its audience

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By John Foley

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

Publicis Omnicom has gone the way of New Coke and Microsoft Zune – ideas that looked great on paper, but sorely misjudged their audiences. The merger of the two advertising agencies was called off after it became clear the deal couldn’t be completed in a reasonable time frame, the two said on May 9.

May 9, 2014
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Alibaba finance arm better out than in for IPO

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By John Foley

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

Alibaba’s secret weapon is its payment division. Yet Alipay isn’t part of the Chinese e-commerce company’s upcoming initial public offering. The company is “conceptually” thinking about reuniting them, according to people familiar with the situation. But the status quo, however strange, looks better.