News roundup: How will China deal with local government debt?

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Top China news for November 14, 2016. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at

Trump, local debt and key catchphrases from Xi Jinping in the Chinese state media

The Communist Party’s house newspaper People’s Daily headlined with a story about Xi Jinping’s phone call with American president-elect Trump in both its English and Chinese language versions. There’s more detail and analysis of their communications in a Bloomberg story titled Xi tells Trump cooperation ‘only choice’ for U.S.-China ties.

Xinhua News Agency, however, gave Trump a break and began its Chinese website with the caption “How exactly to implement ‘Chinese style’ local government financial restructuring.” It links to a special package of articles on local debt issues, emphasizing that local governments must have a plan for repaying any new debts that they incur. The articles have not yet been translated into English.

On the People’s Daily WeChat channel, which is written in a breezy tone more familiar to young mobile phone users than the stodgy style of its newspaper, the headline article is a list of 25 key words used by Xi Jinping since he assumed the presidency of China at the 18th Party Congress in 2012. It is a handy guide to the language and key concepts that animate political conversation in Xi’s China; the People’s Daily list is here, and SupChina has produced a special translation of these key insights into Xi’s rhetoric.

Other China stories to watch are linked below.


  • China pumps the brakes on U.S. dealmaking after Trump win / Bloomberg
    Chinese companies looking to do deals in the U.S. are being advised by lawyers and bankers to take a “wait and see” approach on whether Donald Trump will create a more challenging environment for cross-border business.
  • Will Trump start a trade war against China? / Global Times (state media)
    “If Trump imposes a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports, China-U.S. trade will be paralyzed. China will take a tit-for-tat approach then. A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. U.S. auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and U.S. soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S.”
  • China-U.S. economic ties run deeper than official estimates, a new report says / WSJ
    Estimates from Rhodium Group indicate that U.S. companies invested at least $228 billion in China since 1990, or about three times as much as the government figures from the two countries.
  • China investment uptick could be over before it begins / WSJ
    Private investment growth has increased for two consecutive months but remains low, and the uptick may simply indicate that the decline has bottomed out.  
  • Will China’s financial bust ever come? / Bloomberg
    A credit-to-GDP gauge from the Bank for International Settlements shows that China reached a record high of 30.1 percent in March 2016. “It’s the single most reliable indicator of looming financial crises, according to the BIS, which found in a 2011 analysis of 36 countries that a majority of banking crises followed readings higher than 10 percent.”
    Related: For a more sanguine take, listen to our Sinica podcasts: Why China bears are wrong: An interview with Andy Rothman and Arthur Kroeber vs. The Conventional Wisdom.
  • An outspoken finance minister retires / The Economist
    Former finance chief Lou Jiwei “came to office in 2013 promising to change the system and restructure local government debt. He failed on both counts: local government spending as a share of the total has risen from about 65 percent in 2001 to about 85 percent in 2015, transfers from the center have widened, and local governments’ borrowing has increased.”
  • Chinese copper firm buys owner of Hollywood’s Voltage, maker of ‘The Hurt Locker’ / Reuters
    Anhui Xinke New Materials, a firm with no previous involvement in the entertainment business, will buy an 80 percent stake in holding company Midnight Investments for $350 million.
  • China’s Singles’ Day legacy: Mountains of waste / CNN
    The environmental group Greenpeace warned against the long-term impact of China’s November 11 shopping day promotions, as it estimates that China recycles only about 20 percent of packaging.


  • Chinese official advocates stronger relationship with U.S. under Trump / Los Angeles Times
    “Analysts say Chinese leaders are looking for a more transactional relationship, one that doesn’t delve into human rights and stays out of geopolitics. They hope Trump, a businessman with no political experience, will offer that possibility.”
  • China tries to make sense of Donald Trump / The New Yorker
    “There’s a great deal to be worried about, and yet one hopes that, as pugnacious and vindictive as Trump is, he is also proud and thin-skinned, a man intent on maintaining the veneer of a winner,” writes Jiayang Fan.
  • Opinion: How Trump is good for China / NYT
    “Trump is a resolute businessman with little ideological underpinning. Without the shackles of ideology, even the most competitive rivals can make deals,” writes Eric Li. “This is a new day for the world’s most consequential bilateral relationship.”
  • China revives ‘comrade’ in drive for Communist Party discipline / Financial Times
    “An effort by the Chinese Communist Party to revive the term ‘comrade’ has raised eyebrows among the country’s gay community, which has embraced the revolutionary greeting and made it its own.”
  • Throwing labor activists in jail won’t solve China’s structural problems / Quartz
    “Structural problems like industrial restructuring, relocations, and downsizing cannot be removed by repressing civil society,” says Chris Chan, a sociology professor at the City University of Hong Kong. The crackdown on workers’ rights activists is the subject of a recent complaint filed by the International Labor Organization.
  • Opinion: Beijing tightens its grip in Hong Kong again / NYT
    “Beijing faces a difficult choice. After taking a hard and exceptionally intrusive stance by banishing the two legislators from LegCo, it would be wise now to adopt a softer line — and try to depoliticize the atmosphere by giving the top job in Hong Kong to someone less alienating than C.Y. Leung,” writes Yi-Zheng Lian. “But how can Beijing show a loyal attack dog the door? Besides, what guarantee is there that the fires of separatism wouldn’t spread in a gentle wind?”