The soaring debt load of local governments is a major threat to financial stability and economic growth in China. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, local debt increased by 67 percent to 17.9 trillion CNY (2.95 trillion USD) – an amount equivalent to 30 percent of Chinese GDP. And these numbers don’t even reflect debt accumulated outside official balance sheets.
The suicide bomb attack on the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan in August 2016 highlighted China’s rising external vulnerability in a region at the heart of its signature foreign policy project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). For the first time, attackers with alleged ties to militant groups in Syria targeted a Chinese mission in Central Asia. This event will speed up the development of a more pronounced Chinese security posture in the region and beyond.
For fugitives from Chinese justice, good hiding places in Europe are getting fewer and further between. France’s extradition of Chen Wenhua from Paris to Beijing in September 2016 was widely celebrated by Chinese media and officials alike. The official from Zhejiang province was sought back home for embezzling funds totaling EUR 2.7 million euros (USD 2.9 million).
When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) convenes its 19th Party Congress in late October or November this year, the 2,300 delegates will discuss and endorse the Party’s strategic goals for the next five years and elect a new central committee. The day after the congress concludes, the newly elected committee will appoint the top leadership team tasked with implementing those goals. The Party Congress will also give the first authoritative indication on future CCP leadership constellations beyond 2022.
The air in China is bad. Just how bad could be seen in a video that went viral in 2016. It showed a sickly looking yellowish cloud swallowing Beijing’s Dongzhimen business district. Another useful resource, which effectively illustrates China’s enormous pollution problem, is the World Air Quality Index’s visual map, which supplies real time measurements of air quality from measuring stations in thousands of cities across the world.
Asset price bubbles have become a permanent feature of China’s financial system. In 2015, eager individual investors entered the country’s previously lackluster stock markets in large numbers. Share prices rose to record highs over the summer before they crashed. Similarly, speculative investments in the real estate markets have led to rapid price increases, primarily in first- and second-tier cities. Between the onset of the bubble in mid-2015 and May 2017 housing prices in major cities increased by an average of 38.9 percent.
At the annual meeting of the National People's Congress that begins March 5, one group clearly stands out – the 114 of the nearly 3,000 delegates of the National People's Congress (NPC) that are on the Hurun list of richest Chinese.
China’s richest people account for close to 4% of the members of the body that officially acts as China’s national legislature. This high level of representation is at least somewhat ironic in a nation that still follows Communist doctrine.