As a kid in Germany, I engaged in underage beer drinking. I was too young to drive, so it didn’t bother anyone, except me the next day. It was when German beer consumption peaked at 151 liters per capita, the highest in the world. But then I went to America … and German beer consumption took a multi-decade dive. In the US and other Western countries, the beer industry is now morose as well, but it’s booming elsewhere.
I love wine, but I’m leaning towards Californian wines; they’re awesome and grow in my extended neighborhood. More precisely, I love drinking wine, not keeping it locked up in a refrigerated vault, and certainly not investing in it. Hence, I have little sympathy for those who were buying high-dollar French wines for the purpose of investing in them, instead of drinking them, and I certainly don’t feel sorry for them in their plight. But a plight it is.
An unrelenting, horrid wave of scandals about toxic ingredients in foods and medicines in China shows that regulators are unwilling and incapable of controlling it. It also shows a penchant—some evil tongues say it’s cultural—for pandemic cheating in order to get ahead in some way. And Chinese economic data falls into that category.
Every car sold in the US contains Chinese-made components. But suddenly, in the middle of a heated presidential campaign, the White House decided to show its dentures. “We’re certainly looking at that,” said Tim Reif, general counsel in the US Trade Representative’s office, though he insisted that the election had nothing to do with it. Yet, the culprits for the horrendous migration across the Pacific are everywhere.
2010 was a magical year in China. Among the world records: 18 million new vehicles sold. Due to unprecedented stimulus, sales had skyrocketed 33% that year and 54% in 2009—mind-boggling. It catapulted China to the number one new-vehicle market in the world, far ahead of the US which had never sold that many units in a single year. And it gave rise to a surge in production capacity. But now, the China auto bubble is emitting a sharp hiss.
Huawei is a prime example of Chinese companies scaling the value chain through innovation and technology transfer—top priorities in China’s five-year plan. But its efforts to become a major player in the US give the US government, and anyone concerned about national security, the willies. And now, these concerns dissolved another deal, yet the root problem remains.
We’ve seen photos of apartment buildings and neighborhoods, lavishly laid out with avenues and shopping centers where the only missing element was human life. And we raised our eyebrows at the revolts in front of real-estate offices when prices crashed. And we marveled at booming luxury car sales or the blistering stock market that blew up. Now they have another hot investment. And they pushed the US into second place, again.
The latest success—I suppose you could call it that, at least for those involved on the financial end—was the Kiekert deal last week. The company was founded in 1857 near Düsseldorf, Germany, and became the largest manufacturer of automotive door-lock systems. Its customers are GM, Ford, VW, BMW, and other automakers around the world. But now a Chinese company bought Kiekert, the sign of a sea change.
The EU filed a laundry list of complaints against Chinese dumping, from shoes to fasteners. Take ceramics. Household ceramics got hit last week; in 2011, building ceramics; in 2010, ceramic tiles—led to a punitive tax of 69.7%. Now, it has another target: Chinese steel. But the industry is the bully on the block. And it flexed its pumped-up muscles—and put at stake the very manna that European officials have been praying for.
Europe returned from its begging expedition to Beijing. Well, they called it a summit, one more in a series. They were trying to lure China into plowing part of its hard-earned foreign exchange trillions into the European bailout fund, the EFSF, and they made that dreadfully convoluted and opaque creature smell like a rose. Even a small amount would have been something. Anything really.