Iran’s president Raisi, FM die in helicopter incident: state media

This file photo taken on Aug. 29, 2023 shows Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran. Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and Iran's Foreign Minister died in a helicopter accident, according to local media. Photo: Xinhua

This file photo taken on Aug 29, 2023 shows Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Iran’s Foreign Minister died in a helicopter accident, according to local media. Photo: Xinhua

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian died in a helicopter incident, media reported Monday.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred.”

A hard landing due to the bad weather happened to the helicopter carrying Raisi and other senior officials in the northwestern province of East Azarbaijan on Sunday.

Iran’s state media said images show the helicopter crashed into a mountain peak.

MNCs seek fresh growth points in China

A view of the booth of Schneider Electric SE during an expo in Shanghai. PHOTO/CHINA DAILY

In China, Covestro AG, a German chemicals manufacturer, is setting up a new plant in Zhuhai, Guangdong province; Schneider Electric SE, a French industrial conglomerate, will build an industrial park in Xiamen, Fujian province; and Bridgestone Corp, a Japanese tire company, has announced it will invest 562 million yuan ($77.6 million) in China over the next three years.

These seemingly unconnected corporate developments have one thing in common: they represent a trend of multinational corporations seeking fresh growth points in China’s green transformation and rapid development of its high-end manufacturing sector.

Against the backdrop of global economic uncertainties, the idea of ensuring secure and sustainable investments has gained traction worldwide. MNCs, particularly those dealing in high-end materials, industrial parts and components, and green-related industries, are prioritizing long-term returns.

To this end, they are establishing more innovation centers and advanced factories in China to sustain competitiveness while navigating future challenges.

For example, Marelli Holdings Co Ltd, an Italian-Japanese mobility product supplier to the automotive industry, will expand its engineering team in China from 800 to 1,000 soon to meet surging demand for innovation.

David Slump, the group’s president and CEO, said Marelli will ride China’s electric vehicle wave by supplying products ranging from automotive lighting and electronics to software solutions to its partners in the country.

Dismissing some Western nations’ “China overcapacity” narrative, especially in the areas of new energy industries, Slump said that China, recognized globally as a major EV market and home to some of the world’s leading EV manufacturers, will create substantial opportunities for global companies aiming to sustain robust growth in this burgeoning sector.

Eager to cut carbon emissions, many countries are building infrastructure like charging facilities, battery swap stations and capable grid systems to facilitate their consumers driving EVs on the road, he said.

With around 50,000 employees and 170 plants and research and development centers across the world, Marelli also ships products manufactured at its plants in China to other parts of the world, including Mexico, Thailand and Germany.

Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro, said he opposes the “China has overcapacity” narrative and is not a fan of excessive regulations, especially in markets where free trade is essential.

Excessively prohibitive measures and restrictions may not effectively boost productivity, and criticizing perceived overcapacity is not the right way to global cooperation, said Steilemann, adding that about 75 percent of Covestro’s planned investment in the Asia-Pacific region will be in China over the next three years.

Debunking the fallacy of ‘Chinese economic data less transparent’

Economists' VIEW logo

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Since the beginning of this year, foreign media outlets and institutions have been throwing mud at the Chinese economy by accusing it of a “lack of transparency in Chinese economic data.” Citing cases of individual Chinese provinces revising data from previous years, they claimed that the revisions were due to a previous falsification. 

However, on the other hand, institutions such as the IMF have maintained high expectations for China’s economic growth. For example, in early February of 2024, the IMF released a report predicting that China’s economy will grow by 4.6 percent in 2024. On April 10, Goldman Sachs released a research report raising its forecasts for China’s year-on-year economic growth for the first quarter of 2024 to 7.5 percent and a 5 percent from 4.8 percent for the whole year. 

How can we debunk the fallacy of “lack of transparency in Chinese economic data”?

To begin with, China’s economy is currently undergoing a period of structural adjustment, requiring attention to both addressing existing issues and sustaining robust development momentum. It is necessary to consider these two aspects as a whole rather than just looking at one-sided data.

Since 2022, China’s real estate sector has undergone a major adjustment, leading to a continuous weakening of the related industry investment chain and exposing debt risks in some regions or companies. Over the past 20 years, the real estate market has been booming, but the drawbacks brought about by a development model based on high leverage, high debt, and high turnover need to be addressed. Moreover, the interests involved in this industry are very broad.

Even so, at least seven or eight years ago, the government, enterprises, and academia were actively planning for new industries, new models, and new arenas, accumulating a considerable development foundation. Therefore, new growth points have emerged, including new-energy vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, photovoltaic equipment, among others. 

In sectors including infrastructure construction, clothing, food, housing, transportation, education, healthcare, and aged care, China’s robust domestic demand market continues to thrive, driven by a sizable population, ongoing urbanization, and rising consumer spending levels – attributes not fully shared by other major economies.

According to the latest statistics, the total number of middle-income individuals in China has exceeded 500 million. China is the world’s second-largest consumer market and second-largest import market, as well as the largest automobile market, consumer electronics market, and online retail market. China’s manufacturing industry accounts for nearly 30 percent of the global total. The robust domestic market cycle, along with a steady export market, provides a solid foundation for the Chinese economy to weather fluctuations in the real estate sector.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for March showed that the PMI has been in the expansion territory for five consecutive months. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has moderately rebounded, and exports have also increased. This indicates that the Chinese economy is indeed undergoing structural adjustments, and the process of eliminating the dependence on real estate is also underway. The consistent trend of economic stabilization and recovery persists.

Second, the lack of structural research on China’s economic data, confusing concepts, and oversimplified comparisons all contribute to “self-misleading” conclusion of the fallacy of “lack of transparency in Chinese economic data.”

When analyzing economic data, it is important to observe in terms of both amount and structure, as well as the corresponding context. In times of significant economic changes, it becomes even more essential to have structural analysis in mind. 

A very typical case is that many foreign media and institutions have claimed that “foreign investment is not coming to China” based on the data from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE). In fact, the rules for data statistics by the SAFE and the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) are different, and from the perspective of both the stock and increment of foreign investment in China, the situation is not negative, and there are even some promising aspects. There is no such thing as “lack of transparency in Chinese economic data.”

Taking the foreign direct investment data from the second quarter of 2023. There are differences between the data from SAFE and MOFCOM. In fact, the SAFE data was compiled according to the “asset/liability principle,” while the MOFCOM data was compiled according to the “directional principle.”

Currently, most countries, including China and the US, compile foreign direct investment data based on the “directional principle” because this method can more directly reflect the source of investment and assess the situation of foreign investors entering the country, making it easier for international comparisons. 

Generally, foreign direct investment data compiled with the “asset/liability principle” is usually higher than the data compiled with the “directional principle.” However, in recent years, there have been cases where the latter is higher than the former. Regardless of which data is used, it is not accurate to simply say that “Chinese economic data is not transparent” or to conclude that “foreign capital is withdrawing from China.”

Last but not least, foreign media and institutions view the Chinese economy with an ideological bias, deliberately exaggerating and sensationalizing individual cases in an attempt to influence public perception.

Driven by their own sense of superiority, some foreign media and institutions do not accept the reality that the Chinese economy is steadily recovering and can withstand internal and external pressures. They hold biased and skeptical attitudes toward Chinese economic data. 

By highlighting the cases of data falsification by some Chinese companies, they magnify external concerns with the aim of influencing the perception of China’s economic governance. In response, we must not only pay full attention to and legally crack down on the falsification of data by individual companies, continuously improve supervision mechanisms, but also firmly counter the narrative of “lack of transparency in Chinese economic data” by some foreign media and institutions.

Currently, the various levels of investigation teams directly under the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), including provincial, municipal, and county-level teams, are legally conducting data collection and screening, playing a significant role in ensuring the accuracy of data. Based on these data collection efforts, they are cracking down on cases of false reporting, over-reporting, and under-reporting. 

For a long time, China’s economic governance and decision-making have been based on seeking truth from facts, relying on data from the NBS to have a full understanding of objectively existing problems. In recent years, a series of specific measures to boost the economy have been proposed based on these data and changes in the internal and external environment. Therefore, China does not have the motivation to “obscure” economic data. 

The author is a senior financial observer. [email protected]

Shanghai, Beijing, other cities improve foreigners’ payment service

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have stepped up efforts to improve means of payment for foreign travelers, a move to promote inbound tourism and high-level opening-up. 

Shanghai, frequently picked up by overseas visitors as their first stop to China for business, study or sightseeing, will optimize payment service linked with bank cards, promote the use of cash and facilitate mobile payment to meet the diverse preferences of foreigners, Hua Yuan, vice mayor of Shanghai, told a press conference on Thursday.

“We have improved the cross-border payment functions of UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat Pay to facilitate mobile payments on the side of Chinese merchants. UnionPay can support users of more than 180 overseas wallets to make payments, and Alipay can support e-wallets from 10 countries and regions to make payments in China, Hua said.

In terms of bank cards, the city has newly opened more than 37,000 foreign card point-of-sale (POS) terminals, covering sites of commerce, culture and tourism, and airports. 

The total number of foreign bank card POS swipes, and the per customer transaction value in Shanghai are both leading other cities in the Chinese mainland, said Hua.

Shanghai also has a large number of yuan cash withdrawal or exchange outlets, including more than 8,000 automatic teller machines (ATMs), over 3,500 Chinese bank outlets, and 183 foreign currency exchange outlets.

Hua said that Shanghai will promote the full coverage of foreign card withdrawals of yuan cash from ATMs stationed in the city.

On Tuesday, the Beijing municipal government released an action plan to optimize its payment services. 

The capital city will continue to improve the user-friendly level and convenience of payments such as mobile payments, bank cards and cash. As of the end of December, the city will have basically solved the payment difficulties of elderly people, foreigners coming to Beijing and other groups.

“In Shanghai, everything can be paid for by using a QR code – this is very different from my home. It’s super convenient,” an Australian tourist who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.

“It makes Shanghai feel much more international and connected. It also helps in keeping track of how much you spend – which is great for a shopaholic like me,” the tourist said.

Alejandra Clemente Romagnoli, a tourist from Mexico who has visited Shanghai, told the Global Times that she usually uses Alipay or WeChat Pay, and the accounts are associated with her Chinese bank cards. 

“It is very easy to use mobile payments. Just take your cellphone and go out. In Mexico, I had to carry cash and a bank card,” she said.

The two cities’ moves came after China released on March 7 a guideline to better meet the payment needs of foreigners, which experts said is conducive to boosting domestic consumption while demonstrating the country’s commitment to high-level opening-up.

“By installing new foreign card POS machines and promoting the facilitation of payments, these cities have provided a more convenient and efficient payment environment for foreign tourists,” Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“These measures have also promoted consumption and expanded domestic demand, further boosting China’s economic growth,” Wang said.

Wang added that a convenient and efficient payment environment can reduce the transaction costs of enterprises and improve the efficiency of capital utilization, enhancing competitiveness.

By promoting payment facilitation, China can enhance its attractiveness in the international investment market and attract more foreign investment, he said.