INDUSTRIAL China is alive and well despite concerns of an economic slowdown. It just doesn’t look like it did before – or at least, what everyone is used to.
Data this past week showed a dismal picture: Industrial output rose 3.8% from a year earlier, which was below expectations, fixed investment grew slower than forecast and credit, usually a sign the economy is pushing through, was weak.
Property sector figures, long taken as an indication that authorities were going to keep developers’ debt-fuelled building extravaganza on course, were depressing all around.
Other numbers, though, paint a different picture: Beijing’s priority areas are doing just fine.
China electric vehicle (EV) battery installations increased by 114% while EV production and sales both grew by over 100% in July. Overall suppliers’ delivery times are currently well above the average level since January 2020, but for emerging industries that include high-end equipment manufacturing, EVs and other sectors have risen sharply over the past few months.
In addition, despite what the sentiment surveys tell you, foreign direct investment into China’s high-tech manufacturing increased 31.1% in the first six months of the year.
South Korean investment climbed 37.2%, while the United States was up 26.1%.
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The truth is, Beijing’s industrial priorities on the development of high-tech sectors haven’t changed much from those laid out in recent five-year action plans.
This week, the ministries of science and technology and finance laid out a plan for 2022 and 2023 for measures including financial support and tax incentives to boost companies’ technical capacities and ability to innovate – onshore and offshore.
Investors and China watchers didn’t want to believe that the factory floor of the world could selectively upgrade itself and gain the market share as it has.
Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a bullish assessment on China’s sudden technological heft.
It’s more about taking a deeper look at the changing anatomy of the country’s industrial economy.
Expectations based on what China Inc used to be will, therefore, fall short. It is already moving up the value ladder.
EV battery technology and the entire supply chain around it, including metal processing, have found a home in China. Firms in priority sectors continue to boost their capital expenditure.
Longi Green Energy Technology Co, a solar panel materials maker with a market capitalisation of almost US$70bil (RM312.8bil), announced last week that it was spending an additional 6.95 billion yuan (US$1.02bil or RM4.6bil) on top of the 19.5 billion yuan (RM12.9bil) already announced to increase capacity for a solar cell and module production project in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.