The Definitive Guide To China - Must Read

Tyler Durden's picture

“After a great deal of time spent travelling in China, reading about China and thinking deep thoughts about China, I have come to the conclusion that the most profound thing one can say about it is this: China is exceedingly big.”

David Pilling, Financial Times

Following up on the earlier news of more Chinese rate hike speculations, we present what is arguably the most comprehensive summary of the country that conventional wisdom sees as becoming the world's biggest economy within a decade, and less than conventional wisdom sees as the biggest bubble in the history of the world. As report authors HSBC point out: "What emerges from this guide is a more complex picture of China than even many experts have assumed. For anyone hoping to conclude a business deal in China it offers this message: don’t assume you only have to deal with decision-makers in Beijing. You must also make sure local officials are on your side. Whether you are a China expert or a mere beginner, we hope you enjoy what follows." Must read for everyone (especially Americans) to get a sense of what the future rulers of the world will be like.

Some of the key observations:

  • This “bottom up” perspective on China, rather than the usual “top down” one, has thrown up some extraordinary statistics.
  • By 2020, China will have six provinces with an annual GDP of more than USD1 trillion, equal to six countries the size of Russia (or Spain or Canada).
  • With 47% of the population now living in cities, eight Chinese cities have a population of more than 10m, and 93 have more than 5m. By comparison, in the US only New York City has a population of more than 5m.
  • Beijing, China’s Washington DC, is also China’s Silicon Valley. Its Zhongguancun area saw 23 high-tech IPOs in 2009, against just one for Silicon Valley. There have been another 35 IPOs so far in 2010.
  • Kunshan, one of 2,000 county-level cities, produces more than half of the world’s notebook PCs, or 85m units – and yet IT manufacturing is not even its top-ranked industry.
  • Suzhou, one of 280 prefecture-level cities, has a per capita GDP which is 70% and 46% higher than Beijing and Shanghai, respectively.
  • Jiangsu, a province little known to outsiders, is poised to overtake the much better-known southern province of Guangdong to become China’s largest provincial economy as early as 2012.
  • The 1.5m inhabitants of Erdos, a city rich in natural resources in the otherwise poor western part of the country, will have a higher GDP per capita than Hong Kong in three years time.
  • Among the 1m villages – the lowest unit in the administrative chain – there are some extraordinary contrasts, for example, between the fiercely-capitalist Huaxi, where every ex-farmer is a millionaire, and the communist Nanjie, where collective interests still prevail over those of individuals.

What are the report's implications in a nutshell:

What does it mean for China’s future when local officials have widespread powers over land sales, infrastructure, commercial and residential property construction, natural resource exploration and foreign direct investment?

First, sizzling growth should continue for at least another five years. Local governments have managed to beat Beijing’s growth targets by a few percentage points every year since 1980. Published data for the coming 12th Five-Year Plan from 2011 to 2015 show most provinces remain ambitious in their targets.

Second, these growth ambitions have increased inter-regional competition. Provinces have far more ambitious plans for the expansion of their rail networks and clean energy activities than those stipulated by national targets. In some cases, the local target is double the national one. One reason for this is that to get promoted in China, you have to outperform your peers.

The danger, however, is that over-investment leads to overcapacity. For example, Kunshan’s strong position in IT is being challenged by the municipality of Chongqing. Together they could soon supply 80 per cent of the world’s notebook PCs – raising concentration risks as well as oversupply concerns.

Third, overcapacity may lead to bad credits. For example, a recent report submitted by the China Academy of Science to the State Council raised concerns about unsustainable debt levels and the risk of loss-making activities. It noted that the 1,000km Wuhan to Guangzhou bullet train, which started operating earlier this year, was running at less than half its capacity and would never make enough money to pay off the loans used to finance it.

Fourth, policies at the centre risk being less effective if they are quietly resisted by local authorities. Beijing launched its fierce crackdown on property speculation in April – and yet eight months on, not only have prices barely moved downwards, volumes actually rose again in September and October. Not a single city has rolled out the much expected property tax. Vested interests have also blunted Beijing’s repeated calls for consolidation in the country’s iron and steel industry.

All this and much more inside:

Inside the growth engine: A guide to China’s regions, provinces and cities


h/t Paolo

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Spalding_Smailes's picture

Thanks TD !!!


A few China stocks/watch ~


gwar5's picture

Thanks for the tips on stocks.

pyite's picture

Is there a non-flash version of this?  If it's a PDF why not just link to the pdf?

infotechsailor's picture

the pdf (and several other very nice China Report PDFs) here, but it required signing up:

Spalding_Smailes's picture

..."On Dec. 2 in Beijing the Chinese government declared a strategy of promoting solar photovoltaic power generation across the country through various demonstration projects, which coincides with the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico.

The initiative is sponsored by four departments: the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the National Energy Administration.

Thirteen development zones around the country have been recognized as the first demonstration projects for the solar power generation. Zhang Shaochun, vice minister of finance, said that the effect of the existing demonstration projects, which was put into operation in 2009 and 2010, would be further exploited so that the application would reach at least 1,000 megawatts annually since 2012. A stable solar power market will be in place and expand as a result.

Reuters reported on Friday that China's central government is considering allocating 1.5 trillion yuan to support seven strategic industries, including alternative energy"....

BEIJING — China is considering investments of up to US$1.5 trillion over five years in seven strategic industries, sources said, a plan aimed at accelerating the country’s transition from the world’s supplier of cheap goods to a leading purveyor of high-value technologies. The targeted sectors include alternative energy, biotechnology, new-generation information technology, high-end equipment manufacturing, advanced materials, alternative-fuel cars and energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies.

tom a taxpayer's picture

I wonder if the Ministry of Truth was also a sponsor of the Chinese initiative.

revenue_anticipation_believer's picture

SUCKERS, you NEED to believe THAT China is already on the way to BUST...

good, stand out of ways SUCKERS...i have actionable investment needs, and TRUTH finding is FUNDAMENTAL to that...

tis article is very stimulating, finally i have a 'handle' and a proper 'attitude' to enable real truth seeking ABOUT China...

Dr_Dazed's picture

Suckers the Chinese LOLIPOP will burst with FULL flavor in your portfolio!  WHEN not if the NAMED names go Hyper-PARABOLIC.

tom a taxpayer's picture


"Reuters reported on Friday that China's central government is considering allocating 1.5 trillion yuan to support seven strategic industries, including alternative energy". Given the U.S./China balance of payments pours $ into China, and assuming 1$=.15 yuan, another way to say this is: "Reuters reported on Friday that China's central government is considering allocating $225 billion of trade surplus from the U.S. to support seven strategic industries, including alternative energy, in their effort to further bury the U.S.".


George Orwell's picture

China will not be investing trillions in infrastructure or alternative energy.  It takes oil to build infrastructure.  And it takes oil to make solar panels, wind turbines, etc.  

There is not enough oil in the world for China to build out the same way Europe and North America did.

We are on a collision course with destiny.  That destiny is nuclear war with China.  We will have already started 2 wars in the middle east to secure oil.  We will start 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc wars to secure even more oil.

It's a fight to the death.  You drive to work.  You drive to drop off/pick up your kids.  You drive to go grocery shopping.  You will NOT give up driving without a fight.

Our nuclear submarine fleet will converge around China's coasts and launch the ICBMs that will wipe out all the major coastal cities in less than 10 minutes.  They will not have the capability to strike back when this scenario plays out within 10 years.

Think it won't happen?  Think it's bad?  Why the fuck can't you stop driving your car?  Yes, because you cannot stop burning oil for your car China will have to be nuked.  So that you can continue to burn the oil to get your ass around town.

It's thunderdome at a planetary scale.  Two countries enter.  Only one country can survive.  Get it?  Either you give up driving or you nuke China.  There is NO OTHER WAY.  Are you going to give up driving?  Yeah, I didn't think so either.


George Orwell



Quixotic_Not's picture

Is the US gonna evacuate Japan before this *preempitve* nuking of the PRC?

If not, Japan will be dead too from the fallout.

Did you think up this hyperbole all by yourself?

Seer's picture

So, I take it that your response is a "No" (you won't give up driving)?

But, it matters not, nuke or not, you WILL end up NOT being able to drive in the future (not unless you're very wealthy, and then at that point one would want to ask why one would want to be a big target).

China is perched on the precipice of the world's biggest tipping point.  For that which cannot go on forever won't.  The growth levels have been achieved via fossil fuels.  FACT.  In order for China's growth to continue it would have to suck up a greater percentage of the world's diminishing fossil fuel reserves.  No, it's not hyperbole at all, it's easy logic...

fajensen's picture

There is good and bad "news" rolled into the same thing: "Five Year Plans" - Anyone who believe that targets are achieved the way "management" who requested the figures be met are one of:

1) managers,

2) fucking retarded,

3) never worked at all above the level of "facilities service manager",

As Soon As some idiot introduces target figures in an organisation then the purpose of the organisation instantly mutates into providing the desired numbers - anything else is not "strategic", therefore "Fuck It"!!

Mix in a communist dictatorship where noone can actually check or limit what government can do and you will get dazzling target figures - every time (even though they have to produce only left-shoes to meet them).

AnAnonymous's picture

Anyone who believe that targets are achieved the way "management" who requested the figures be met


You did not read the article closely enough. The answer is in. Read the extract where it states about regions beating national plan expectations since 1980.

The Chinese are parading virtues of plans for something that comes naturally with the stage of developpment they are in. Same drivel as parading the absence of plans as the enabler of the something.

Plans/no plans, it would not matter much at present times. Come back in 100 years and the chinese will no longer be able to do what they are doing, plans or no plans.

As the West is unable to mimic what is happening in China, plans or no plans as the origin of the phenonemum, the stage of developpment, is way behind in the Western world.

Seer's picture

"Mix in a communist dictatorship where noone can actually check or limit what government can do and you will get dazzling target figures - every time (even though they have to produce only left-shoes to meet them)."

I wish people would get it, that it's not "communism" or any other ism other than BIG-ISM that results in such distortions (from which the elite hide).  The US is hardly a paragon of truthfullness: yes, people will say all sorts of things why it doesn't work, most because the theoretical isn't being met, as though the theoretical, when made up by and operated on by humans can EVER be met!).

BigJim's picture

This prediction seems to ignore the fact that China is a nuclear-armed state, and if the US were to nuke it, it would respond in kind.

Even if the US were to somehow pre-emptively destroy all China's nuclear retaliation capacity - a very big if, it seems to me - a sufficient amount of China's industrial and military capacity would be left to harm US interests all over the world. Iran getting nukes and ballistic missile technology? It's a dead cert. Unless the US nukes the entire China landmass.. in which case we'll all die from fallout and nuclear winter.

So, to recap, the US wouldn't nuke China. It would be suicide. That's the whole point of having a nuclear arsenal - no other state can inflict serious damage on the homeland without facing annihilation in return.

financeguru500's picture

Your exactly right Jim.

Consider that China now has a larger Naval fleet than the U.S. and is continuing to grow. Also I don't even want to comtemplate the standing army they have. Probably 10 times the size of ours. And they are advancing technologically faster than the U.S. Everything points to a bad situation.

Oh, and to the people who say "They can't do anything without oil." Consider the fact that China has kept their currency debased because they don't need it to be valuable for their current growth. Once they hit the "wall" where they cannot import any more oil due to other countries such as the U.S. using oil, all they have to do is let their currency rise in value which will in turn diminish the value of the Dollar preventing the U.S. from importing as much oil thus allowing China more oil. It is so easy to see coming and one day it will. My prediction will be $10+ gasoline in the U.S. as soon as China's growth is impaired by the U.S.' stagnation. Possibly 2011? Who knows, but its almost guaranteed.

AnAnonymous's picture

If not, Japan will be dead too from the fallout.


US PR mindset: consider that the job started in WW2 is over at last.

Can you think of one opportunity when the US citizens shied away from this type of collateral damage? I cant think of one single case.

But the US will be generous enough to offer depolluting schemes to the surviving Japanese people, funded on debt schemes extracted from the Japanese people. US generosity type.

fajensen's picture

Pop a MIRV on Saudi and the US military grinds to a surprisingly sudden stop. Everyone knows that - even China and Iran.

obelisks's picture

Even Nostradamus predicted that the Eagle and the

Bear would fight the  Dragon in the final nuclear war

AnAnonymous's picture

There is not enough oil in the world for China to build out the same way Europe and North America did.


Pyrrhic victory. The problem is that the West hit the line of unsustainability of the various Ponzi  scheme it has been built on before China started its dream of rising up its population welfare.


Die Weiße Rose's picture

you're not going to Nuke no-one George Orwell, because you are broke !

owing your Uranus to the Chinese Emperor,slaving in some old China sweat shop factory punching holes into cheap Donuts at 6.66 Yuan per day, to pay back all those Loans to China,for when you went ballistic on QE and Stimulus.Your great US dream of World domination is truly over and gone, because you lost the plot and you're broke and besides; no-one will put up with your crap for much longer. No need to drive anymore either when you have no Work or Job to go to,you wont even need a computer to cry to,and no booze to get drunk either, posting garbage

cause the US of is BROKE...BROKE...BR©ƒ®  :P

dussasr's picture

The good news is that the US is only TEMPORARILY broke due to dreadfully misallocated resources.  If you default on the debt, cut government in half, and eliminate un-Constitutional "services" then what you are left with is a country with vast resources, resiliency, and potential.  10 years later and you are looking great!

pan-the-ist's picture

Sorry bud, but when the people take the country back you can expect more socialism this time around.

We won't have employer based health care to drag the economy down, and social security will be paid for up front.

In short, we will be like Canada.

Vaccaro's picture



...then what you are left with is a country with vast resources, resiliency, and potential.


The Gaza - ization of the USSA.



YHC-FTSE's picture

Call me a wishy-washy liberal with flowers in my hair, but I would rather lick gum off the pavement than be responsible for murdering a billion people. 

I know the figures are daunting, but the transition to sustainable energy may not be as bad as you think (In some places). The incredible pollution of China's cities is being used as an impetus to move to wean off fossil fuels, but the irony is, they have to use coal and oil in order to do it. This peak use has been predicted for as long as I can remember, and hopefully there will be a significant reduction for fossil fuels in line with depletion and increased competition. 

goodrich4bk's picture

False choice.  People will not give up transportation but they will give up expensive transportation. If it costs $20 to go 5 miles to the store and back, people will combine trips, car pool, take a bus.  I don't predict nuclear war.  I predict that within 5 years many people in suburbs will be using a Google/Iphone app that organizes "flash carpooling".  You start your day by inputting the names of your destinations (the app automatically pinpoints their location and your present location) and the times you need to arrive (for example, if you have an appointment you put in the time, otherwise you put in a range).  A central computer then gives you a list of possible rides being offered, ranked by closest in distance.  If you accept an offer, the driver is paid automatically through a PayPal account so many cents per mile.  Members to this "flash carpooling" are prescreened and given a passcode, texted to you, that is good for that one ride.  This way, the driver and passenger know more about each other than you presently know about your neighbor (with whom you would probably drive to the store without worry).  This will start with young people who are not able to earn enough to afford a car, and they will combine it with ZipCar (when they really need their own wheels) and mass transit (for longer distances).

Go ahead and rant about how people are too set in their ways, but I think young people are not.  And the benefits of meeting new people (free networking opportunities) who, by definition, live in your own community, will be valued more than you may think.


thefatasswilly's picture

Orwell, have you considered the contingency of new, slightly less (LOL, the IRONY) destructive weapons, such as biochemical weapons?

Would nukes even be necessary?

66Sexy's picture

Emerging markets are priced up and already missed for investors. China is sitting on a real estate bubble that includes property titles that are not even fee; they are leases. Now, along with interest rate hikes, the government is "discovering" property taxation.

Property values are propped up because real market fundamentals are not expressed. For example, usually when a building is 90% empty, rents would come down to spur demand. However, when wealthy speculators own 90% of these units and dont need the income generation now, the rents are artificially high. But what about when they need the income generation? True market forces become a reality, and rents get suppressed downward.

And then theres the stories of how chinese men cannot even get married unless they own a home. Now, homeownership of a leasehold property is a cultural necessity.... sound familiar? Like USA circa 2003/2004? Or the fact there are stagnant high rise development projects from 2005, and old western marketing bilboards reflecting prices of a pre-collapse era...

Point being, after all the sexy sizzle and smoke and mirrors, fundamentals always win.

malek's picture

You cannot own land in China, you can only lease it for 99 years.

Or so a Chinese woman told me...

gwar5's picture

"Why lease land for 99 years when you can lease 33 women for 3 years each?" --- Bang Dae-Ho

spekulatn's picture



Great stuff gwar5.

Bananamerican's picture

"man with 33 women is like man with 33 penises...all fucked up"-Go Long Wang

Jupiter's picture



Absolutely hilarious hahahah.



revenue_anticipation_believer's picture

SO!  in London, during the big property/rent bust, in Oct 74-Jan 75 there were for sale, for lease signs on COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS all over, never saw such a thing...AND 999 year leases too! never heard of that...but 999 lease is, of course, the same as ownership...

and China IS a Communist Country, officially still, and the concept of private ownership of REAL ESTATE is probably still verboten...JUST lease 99 year makes sense...its about the concepts of Henry George Usa REGARDS socialist economies must not allow private land ownership to be a distinct 'rent' to the max, thereby confiscating 'passive rental income/profits'...


Biggus Dickus Jr.'s picture

I'm not impressed.  margins are getting crushed from higher input costs and lower final sales prices.  Even slave labor has its limits.  I think Krugman is right on this one.  The only way to shake them loose from their dollar peg is to choke them with dollars.  Yes there will be collateral damage.  Innocent investors will be killed, and there may be riots in china when Rice shoots up 30 percent in a year.  This old wily empire still has some mojo.

malek's picture

You forgot to mention the vicious Chinese savings glut as one of the main causes for all US troubles. </irony>

Seer's picture

Exactly!  Why others should see this as so hard to figure is beyone me...

drnovinnamu's picture

Can anyone please get a link to be able to download this report as a PDF?


Would be greatly appreciated.



Locodonkey's picture

Hey I hate scribd too. I found a work around. Basically download doPdf and print the scribd file to that. It took about 3 minutes and I ended up with a 47mb pdf but it looks great. 


how to here:

reader2010's picture

In the financial history, every massive credit binge all ended up in tears. This time is different in China?

gwar5's picture

I need to visit China before the window closes. One of the places still in my bucket list. An amazing place it must be.

I recently read a very brief snippet of something similar, perhaps here at ZH, indicating how diffferent provinces are in their economic rates and rates of housing inflation -- like comparing different countries. This confirms it. Perhaps chronic Chinese leader paranoia about stability always being paramount, to keep the whole thing from flying apart, is well founded. 

Meantime the locals: What happens in Yunnan Province, stays in Yunnan.

Or, as one internet star was overheard to say right before he went down on Anhui (Province),  "The sky is high and the Emporer is far away" -- Bang Dae-Ho

KTV Escort's picture

Go, amazing it is, been there many times. And if you're single, line up a "tour guide" or two a month before you visit... ChineseLoveLinks should do the trick.

In Shenzhen recently I picked up a China Daily. 2 articles stood out. 1 mentioned China will need 15 trillion (US) to fund infrastructure build out in the next 10 years as so many are moving to the cities. The other said Guangdong Province (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, etc) is experiencing a shortage of workers, thus wages are rising.

RoRoTrader's picture

With 47% of the population now living in cities, eight Chinese cities have a population of more than 10m, and 93 have more than 5m. By comparison, in the US only New York City has a population of more than 5m.


i was working in NY and met a Chinese. i asked about China and where he was from. he smiled and said you know it? i said no. he told me it was larger than NY and there were many other cities in China larger than NY that Americans had never heard of.


that was more than 10 years ago.