Tag Archives: Wang Qishan

A Square Peg In A Round Hole

Wang Qishan is an experienced banker and has the most expertise among the likely candidates for slots on the Politburo standing committee when it comes to economic reform. Yet he is slated to be the Party’s top disciplinarian. Unless this is some deep seated plot to crack some of the most entrenched vested interests that stand in the way of economic reform, and this Bystander doubts it is, much as we would like it to be so, it does not bode well for the future of economic reform under the incoming leadership. Wang does have a track record of being a firefighter, though, so the crackdown on corruption could be more effective than was similarly promised when the Hu-Wen leadership took over a decade back.

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China Looking To Buy More Russian Energy On The Cheap

Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, is due in Beijing at the start of next week for a state visit during which energy deals between the two countries will be on the agenda, particularly kicking on a stalled long-term deal for Russia to supply China with natural gas. The two countries are already striking deals on several energy fronts — coal, oil, atomic power and renewable energies, as well as natural gas — as Moscow seeks to expand its sales to what is now the world’s largest energy consumer and Beijing seeks stable long-term supplies to meet its needs.

At the end of August, a Chinese spur to Russia’s Siberian Pacific Ocean pipeline was completed, part of a 20-year $25 billion loans-for-oil deal between struck in 2008 between China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft, and its largest pipeline operator, Transneft. Earlier last month, China said it would  lend Russia an additional $6 billion repayable in increased coal supplies over the next 25 years. This week, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin has been in Tianjin for an annual bilateral meeting on energy, during which three specific oil and coal deals were signed.

Sechin and his Chinese counterpart, Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, also found time to attend  a foundation-laying ceremony for the centerpiece of the oil deal, a new $5 billion joint venture refinery that will be 49% owned by Rosneft, 51% by CNPC. Rosneft will supply some two-thirds of the 10 million metric tons of crude a year that will be processed  by the Tianjin refinery. This will be the first time a foreign oil company has had such a significant presence this far downstream in the Chinese oil industry, and that will be extended in a planned second stage of at least 500 retail gas stations in China.

The 2008 loans-for-oil deal lets China import 300,000 barrels a day of Russian oil for 20 years starting in 2011 on pricing terms favorable to the Chinese side. Russia is hoping that any natural gas deal it can strike during Medvedev’s visit won’t be so one-sided, though the precedents aren’t encouraging. Late last year, tentative agreement was reached to build two gas pipelines with the capacity to deliver 68 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas per year, but pricing issued have stalled further progress on a delivery contract for the natural gas. Medvedev is likely to propose a scaled back deal to supply 30 billion cubic meters per year. Given the competition from Central Asian natural gas, he may not be able to make much headway on getting Beijing to pay anything approaching market prices, but even getting the negotiations going again would be progress.

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China’s Turn To Lecture U.S. On Economy

Wrapping up the bilateral economic talks, U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson called them full of “straightforward back-and-forth”, while his counterpart Vice Premier Wang Qishan used the phrase “constructive, candid and pragmatic.” (Xinhua’s report on $20 billion trade aid and other agreements here.)

The global financial crisis dominated the meeting, giving Chinese officials an opportunity to lecture the U.S. about the shortcomings of its financial system as opposed to U.S. officials lecturing about China’s trade practices, currency, product safety and financial regulation, which is how these biannual sessions have tended to go in the past.

There is no high ground for anyone to occupy any more.

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Wang Tells Paulson That The U.S. Has To Look After China’s Interests There

A curious turn of phrase from Vice-Premier Wang Qishan during his opening speech at the latest bilateral strategic economic talks with his American counterpart U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson:

”I hope the United States will take all necessary measures to stabilize its economy and financial markets as soon as possible and to ensure the security of Chinese investments and interests in the United States.”  (fuller reports from Xinhua here).

The first half of that is straightforward enough and could have come from any recent meeting of international leaders from the G-7 up. But to what does the second half refer? Investments by state agencies such as China Investment Corp. and state-controlled banks and other enterprises which have been battered by the fall in global equity markets? We noted yesterday that CIC had lost $6 billion on its stakes in two U.S. financial firms, Morgan Stanley and the Blackstone Group.

Or was Wang referring to the 60% of China’s $2 trillion of reserves that are held in dollar assets? A substantial share of those are U.S. Treasury bonds and debt issued by troubled U.S. mortgage lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, both now effectively under U.S. government control.

It is no secret that some top officials have been worried for a while that the dollar’s decline was eroding the value of those holdings and questioning whether it made sense for China to continue to increase them. Not that the dabbling in equity markets by way of diversification and to juice yields to offset that has necessarily turned out well in the circumstances (see CIC above).

However, with the U.S. having to fund an expensive bailout, and China being one of the primary surplus countries that will have to provide the cash, the internal debate about growing China’s dollar-denominated reserves will continue. China has little choice but to continue to fund America’s deficits if it wants to avoid global recession, but it also wants to avoid throwing good money after bad. One sign of its willingness to get tougher with the U.S. over this is its willingness to let the yuan depreciate against the dollar over recent weeks, a move that helps China’s exporters even though it reverses Beijing’s compliance with the U.S.’s long standing pressure to get the yuan to rise against the dollar and to stop being what its American critics, including President-elect Barack Obama, have called a currency manipulator.

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