Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Latest thoughts on the Chinese economy / the ‘new normal’

December 16, 2014

China held its Central Economic Work Conference last week, chaired by president Xi Jinping, so here are a few thoughts on the current state of the Chinese economy and a few links to an article I have written, and talks I have given, recently about the Chinese economy.

First up, the slogan du jour is definitely ‘new normal’ (???). Xi Jinping has been using this for about six months, but now he is really using it. Xinhua’s short, official report on the conference has ‘new normal’ in the headline and ‘new normal’ six times in the text. See here for the English version.

What does it mean? It means that local politicians, state firms, and everybody else should dial back their expectations about credit and growth. The increase in both is slowing and that is the way it is going to be as China undertakes a deleveraging process in the banking and corporate sectors. There is not going to be the kind of collapse in growth that many have predicted. The government has plenty of room to fine tune the slow-down, Chinese exports remain competitive, and the global economic environment, while not great, is not a disaster from the perspective of China’s needs. Look out for reported GDP growth in 2015 between 6-7 percent.

Against this background reforms will continue to increase the extent to which the market prices credit in China’s economy. There has already been a big shift in favour of lending to the private sector since the global financial crisis (see my review of Nicholas Lardy’s new book, below), and this is one aspect of an ongoing financial liberalisation process. To my mind, this explains the recent strong performance of the Chinese stock market much better than claims it is down to an interest rate cut (which wasn’t really a cut at all given falling inflation). Previous run-ups in the Chinese market have coincided with periods of financial sector deregulation. The difference this time I suspect is that the bull market will last longer.

All in all the outlook is a not unattractive one: slower growth, better credit rationing hence higher quality growth, and a rising share for consumption in the economy at the expense of slowing investment. The main risk — as was the case during Zhu Rongji’s long period of ‘structural adjustment’ in the 1990s — is that the central government listens to local politicians who say they cannot maintain ‘social stability’ without more credit and growth. Zhu didn’t listen to such imprecations, and we have to hope Xi won’t either. As the slogan says, China needs and is getting a new normal. Otherwise the books really cannot be balanced and financial system risk will become unmanageable.

Later re. the new normal: Damian Ma has written an excellent piece for the new issue of Foreign Policy around the theme of the ‘new normal’. Well worth a read, with a lot more detail than I can offer here.



Below is a link to download the review of Nick Lardy’s latest book, Markets Over Mao, that I wrote for the latest China Economic Quarterly. The book makes an important contribution to the optimists’ case that China will overcome its current slough of non-performing loans in the banking system.

2014 CEQ Q4 final Markets Over Mao review


This next link is to a download of a synopsis of a talk I gave at the Madariaga College of Europe in Brussels (an EU think-tank) a couple of weeks ago. It is about how China’s development model is similar and dissimilar to those of Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The theme will be familiar to anyone who has read How Asia Works, but there are some additional, up-to-date thoughts about China as well as responses to questions raised by the Brussels nomenklatura. The precise topic I was asked to speak on is ‘What can east Asian countries learn from China’s economic policies?’

2014-Dec-01 – Madariaga – CN lessons to East Asia_final


The Youtube video below is a speech I gave at the National University of Singapore in October (blog entry about that trip here) on the subject of ‘When will governance matter to China’s growth?’ (governance here meaning institutions like a free and fair and prompt judiciary). Roger Cohen of the New York Times speaks first about the role of the US in east Asia. Then I speak at roughly the 25-minute mark. Then there is a joint Q&A.



And here is another Youtube video where I spoke separately about How Asia Works at the National University of Singapore. There is quite a long Q&A in which lots of questions about development from a more Singaporean perspective are addressed.



A perfect 10

November 28, 2012


















There have been a few of these cock-ups in recent years. But this latest one takes the biscuit.

The People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, has reprinted a story from The Onion claiming that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been voted ‘sexiest man alive’.

The Associated Press explains here. Or read the same in the Washington Post. The original Onion article is here. Sadly The People’s Daily has now taken its story down.

The gentle breeze of British hypocrisy

November 12, 2011

The Economist has published its sixth, and presumably final, cover story on Silvio Berlusconi. The headline – ‘That’s all folks’ – is supposed to evoke the cartoon quality of his premiership. But coupled with a backdrop of Sil set in a painting of end-of-Empire Roman lassitude, it is too busy. Far more visually effective was the June 2011 cover with a simple photo of Sil and the line ‘The man who screwed an entire country’.

I haven’t been the biggest fan of The Economist’s coverage of Italy because it has focused so overwhelmingly on Sil — rather than on a the malaise of an entire professional class which he symbolises. What sets Italy apart is that, relative to its level of economic development, it has the most backward, self-serving professional class and professional institutions of any state in the world. This includes, but is far from limited to, its political and legal and fiscal institutions.

There is also a very English undercurrent of hypocrisy in the manner in which the British elite discusses the Italian crisis with a told-you-so attitude. The Economist is particularly guilty of this, putting the boot in to the German response to the crisis on a weekly basis.

What is forgotten is how the Germans are left to do the political heavy lifting in Europe almost single-handedly. They have a French ‘assistant’, but he is barely worthy of the name.

If Britain had joined the Euro, things would have been different. There would be two big political grown-ups in the Euro-zone instead of one, and that would have made the job of dealing with Italy so much easier.

You cannot argue with Britain’s decision to stay out of the Euro from a selfish, pragmatic perspective, but anyone who supported that decision should limit themselves when yelling from the sidelines about what to do now. How would you like to be Merkel, put in a team with Sarko, and expected to sort out Greece and Italy?

If Britons are honest, they must concede that post-war Germany has done the bulk of the work in creating a stable, prosperous and progressive Europe while the British — famed as people of action — stood around bitching. And when Britain realised it desperately needed to be inside the Common Market in the early 1970s, it needed German support — against French opposition — to get in.

Germany, not Britain, is the moral leader of Europe in the past half century.

With respect to selling postcards of hangings (Perugia versus Bristol redux)

July 30, 2011

Chris Jefferies case: exquisite psychological investigation wrong again...

Chris Jefferies. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA

Here is a salutary outcome from the Bristol murder case highlighted in my Perugia versus Bristol post of January 2011. Eight tabloid British newspapers have been swiftly and efficiently hit with substantial defamation damages after they attempted to convict Chris Jefferies on the basis he looks a bit odd. (And he wears an anorak. And he’s a teacher.) It is going to be very interesting to see how many Italian newspapers are hit with substantial damages for their reporting of the Sollecito-Knox satanic ritual murder trial after it turns out Sollecito and Knox aren’t satanists after all. Will Italians also realise that it is not necessary to have a criminal libel law in order to sort this kind of thing out, just a functioning judiciary?

The damages award as reported by Roy Greenslade in the Guardian on 29 July:

Eight national newspapers have made public apologies today to Christopher Jefferies for the libellous allegations made against him following the murder of Joanna Yeates,

The titles – The Sun, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record, Daily Mail, Daily Star, The Scotsman and Daily Express – have also agreed to pay him substantial libel damages, thought to total six figures.

The solicitor for Mr Jefferies, Louis Charalambous, told Mr Justice Tugendhat in the high court hearing that the newspapers had acknowledged the falsity of the allegations, which were published in more than 40 articles.

Ms Yeates, a Bristol architect, was killed in December last year. After her body was discovered, Mr Jefferies, who was her landlord, was arrested by police.

In subsequent days, into early January, the newspapers ran a series of articles about Mr Jefferies that were inaccurate and defamatory.

Charalambous, of Simons Muirhead and Burton, said after today’s hearing:

“Christopher Jefferies is the latest victim of the regular witch hunts and character assassination conducted by the worst elements of the British tabloid media.

Many of the stories published in these newspapers are designed to ‘monster’ the individual, in flagrant disregard for his reputation, privacy and rights to a fair trial.

These newspapers have now apologised to him and paid substantial damages.”

Bambos Tsiattalou, the solicitor who advised Mr Jefferies after he was taken into police custody, said that the media were given a fair warning to be careful about what they published.

He said: “We warned the media by letter, immediately following Mr Jefferies’ arrest, in the strongest possible terms to desist from publishing stories which were damaging or defamatory.

“We were dismayed that our warnings went unheeded and are pleased that the newspapers in settling Mr Jefferies’ claims have acknowledged the extent of the damage to his reputation.”

The papers’ publishers – News International, Trinity Mirror, Daily Mail & General Trust, Express Newspapers and Johnston Press – will now have to fork out substantial sums in damages and legal fees.

But Charalambous pointed out that once the rules over conditional fee (no win, no fee) agreements change next year, “the victims of tabloid witch hunts will no longer have the same access to justice.”

via Eight newspapers pay libel damages to Christopher Jefferies | Media |

And there’s more:

Plus the two best-known UK tabloids have been found guilty of contempt of court (a charge that is filed against them too rarely). This is what italian papers should go down for, having leaked the Perugia investigation before it was complete, in brazen contravention of Italian law. Problem is that Italy doesn’t apply the law, most obviously because it is the police and the magistrates who do the leaking. Or did I misunderstand something?

Here is the Guardian again:

Joanna Yeates murder

Christopher Jefferies was intially declared a suspect and arrested in Joanna Yeates murder case, but was released later without charge. There was intense media speculation about his life. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA Wire/Press Association Images
The Sun and the Daily Mirror were found guilty of contempt of court for publishing a series of “extreme” articles about a suspect who had been arrested by police investigating the murder of the landscape architect Joanna Yeates.

The Daily Mirror was fined £50,000 and the Sun £18,000 after the high court ruled that the papers posed a “substantial risk” to the course of justice in their reporting on the arrest of Christopher Jefferies, Yeates’s landlord, who was later released without charge and was entirely innocent of any involvement.

The Daily Mirror fine is the biggest against a British newspaper for contempt since 2004, when the Daily Star was fined £60,000 for revealing the identities of two Premiership footballers at the centre of high-profile gang rape allegations.

In a separate legal action eight national newspapers, including the Daily Mirror and Sun, collectively paid six-figure libel damages to Jefferies following allegations made about him in January, when the police hunt for Yeates’s killer was at its height.

In a written judgment on the contempt of court action handed down at the high court, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Owen described the Daily Mirror articles as “extreme” and “substantial risks to the course of justice”. The judges said the Sun’s coverage of Jefferies created a “very serious risk” that any future court defence would be damaged.

Lord Judge said: “The articles in the one issue of the Sun were written and laid out in such a way that they would have conveyed to the reader of the front page and the two inside pages over which the stories were spread that he was a stalker, with an obsession with death, who let himself into the flats of other occupants of the building where Miss Yeates lived, and that he had an unhealthy interest in blond young women.”

The court gave the Daily Mirror publisher Mirror Group Newspapers extended time in which to launch a petition for permission to appeal to the supreme court.

Vincent Tabak, a 33-year-old engineer, pleaded guilty to manslaughter but has denied murdering Yeates, who was found dead on a roadside verge in Failand, Somerset, on Christmas Day 2010. Tabak, who lived next door to Yeates, is due to go on trial accused of murder at Bristol crown court in October.

Tabloid media coverage at the time of Jefferies’s arrest was intense, with speculation about the suspect rife in newspapers and the internet. Dominic Grieve, the attorney general who brought the court action against the two papers, issued a rare warning to the press at the timeabout their reporting.

Two of the three articles found in contempt of court were published the day after Grieve’s warning, on New Year’s Day. The attorney general welcomed Friday’s judgment, saying: “[The Daily Mirror and Sun] breached the Contempt of Court Act and the court has found that there was a risk of serious prejudice to any future trial.”

Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, echoed the attorney general’s warnings in March when he said that media focus on suspects in recent criminal cases had been “startling” and “far removed” from what it was just a few years ago.

Contempt of court proceedings are infrequently issued against newspapers. It is more unusual still for the attorney general to take action in defence of an individual who has not been charged.

Eight national newspapers separately issued a public apology to Jefferies over libellous claims made about him in the aftermath of his December arrest. The Sun, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record, Daily Mail, Daily Star, the Scotsman and Daily Express agreed to pay the retired public-school teacher damages.

Lawyers acting for Jefferies said he had been the victim of “regular witch hunts” in more than 40 articles in the tabloid papers. Bambos Tsiattalou, the solicitor who advised Jefferies after he was taken into police custody, said that the newspapers had ignored warnings to be careful about what they published.

Lush places

March 31, 2011

The Star, The Express, The Times, and The Telegraph. Are there any other British newspapers that are now run for less than five quid a week? This, from The Telegraph, is a collector’s item. Evelyn Waugh could not have made it, or indeed the photo of the 13-year-old author, up. (Apologies that the typeface becomes WordPress standard.)



For pics you likely have to go to the Torygraph original, here. But the text is a feast of itself:

David Cameron out of stride with wife Samantha

Huffing and puffing, a red-faced and heavy-legged David Cameron plods along a pavement on his weekly jog, forcing one foot in front of the other on the unforgiving tarmac.


Both David and Samantha Cameron have enlisted the help of personal trainer Matt Roberts (Right) Photo: STEVE BACK


By Nick Collins 7:30AM BST 28 Mar 2011

Meanwhile his wife Samantha breezes through a leafy park accompanied by personal trainer Matt Roberts, looking confident, relaxed and brimming with energy.

Perhaps Mr Cameron was feeling drained or short of sleep, but a careful look at the recent photographs leads to a different conclusion – that while his wife would be well-equipped to tackle a marathon, the Prime Minister is simply not as adept at running as he is at running the country.

In fact, if Mr and Mrs Cameron decided to take exercise together or compete in a race, Samantha would be likely to comfortably outpace her husband, according to an expert analysis of their respective running styles.

While Mrs Cameron’s relaxed upper body enables her to make the most of her energy, the Prime Minister appears rigid, uncomfortable and exhausted – hardly a surprise given his primitive technique.

Despite having recently given birth, Mrs Cameron’s wider stride means she covers almost a third more ground each time she puts her foot down than her husband, and is at much lower risk of injury.


  1. Sam Cam gets personal 10 Mar 2011
  2. David Cameron feels the chill on morning jog 24 Nov 2010

By taking too narrow a stride, lifting his toes too high and running in an upright position the Prime Minister is not only slowing himself down but risking shin splints, knee problems and arthritis, according to analysts.

Sam Murphy, a running coach and author of Running Well, said: “I would say Samantha needs a bit of tuition – but compared to her David has appalling technique.

“The first thing I noticed about the Prime Minister was the straightness of his leg on landing – he should bend his knees to dissipate the shock and aim to land with his foot below the knee rather than ahead of him to decrease the impact force.

“People tend to think running is like walking, and that if they want to go faster they should put their leg out further, but actually it is more like cycling. If you want to go faster you want to turn your leg over more quickly.”

To add to Mr Cameron’s embarrassment, he ought to be better at running than his wife because his masculine frame gives him an innate head-start, she added.

“Women biomechanically have more issues to overcome, for example their pelvis is wider, so their thighs are more likely to roll inwards which can put excess force on the knees. There isn’t any advantage that Samantha Cameron would have over David – quite the opposite in fact.”

Both David and Samantha Cameron have enlisted the help of personal trainer Matt Roberts – whose clients include supermodel Naomi Campbell – to help them stay in good shape.

But while Mrs Cameron appears to be benefiting from the fitness expert’s guidance as she jogs alongside him, Mr Cameron may not have taken quite so many lessons on board.

Bob Pritchard, an Olympic trainer with 40 years’ experience of analysing and improving athletes’ technique, said Mr Cameron’s stride width of 50 degrees, compared with his wife’s 65 degrees, is one of the lowest he has ever seen.

In a blog posted on the website of the California-based Somax Performance Institute, Mr Pritchard wrote: “David Cameron recently led some of his Afghan troops in a run and provided an excellent example of how not to run.

“David Cameron is covering 40 per cent less ground than the average, slow marathon runner. Good marathon runners have a stride angle over 100 degrees, which means that Cameron is covering 60 per cent less ground than they are.”

The difference in the couple’s stride angles may not sound like much, but even an extra degree of width can make an enormous difference to the amount of ground a runner is able to cover.

Mr Prichard said in an interview: “The Prime Minister’s wife has a bigger stride angle than he does, though not by much.

“But since you cover two per cent more ground with each stride for every degree you increase your stride angle, she covers 30 per cent more ground with each stride than her husband.

“As in governance, it is not how much you do but how efficient you are that counts.”

The key problem behind Mr Cameron’s awkward style, Mr Pritchard said, is tension – hardly surprising in a man with one of the most demanding jobs in the country.

“Basically, he is tense and stiff. You can see evidence of this tension in his toe lift, which is a phenomenal 27 degrees. Good runners don’t bother to lift their toes when running, as it is a waste of energy.

“Plus, when the toes are lifted like Cameron’s, it forces the runner to land on his heel, which slams the foot flat on the ground, violently stretching the very muscles that the runner is contracting to maintain toe lift.”

Mr Cameron could face worse than the humiliation of being overtaken by his wife if he fails to adapt his style because a short stride can lead to the softening of the cartilage around the knee, long-term knee problems and even arthritis in later years.

Forced stretching also tears fibres in the shin muscles, which can lead to problems as severe as shin splints and stress fractures, the British-born coach said.

However, Mr Cameron is unlikely to change his running style any time soon if he heeds the advice in the official London 2012 Olympics running guide, according to the expert who wrote it.

John Brewer, professor of sport at Bedfordshire University, said: “I have seen lots of top runners and many of them have styles which on the face of it look slightly ungainly, but these are elite runners and that in itself must suggest that they are doing something right.

“In my opinion, the more you try to change someone’s running style through analysis, the more likely it is that you will cause an injury. Naturally the body will need to adopt a running style that suits the individual.”

The danger of comparing the two pictures, he said, is that they only capture a moment in time – but even that is enough to draw some conclusions about the Camerons’ respective running styles.

Mr Brewer said: “Samantha looks fine. The key thing when anyone is running is to stay relaxed and she certainly looks as if she is doing that. The Prime Minister looks more tense, so I would recommend he stretches more before running to improve the flexibility of his hamstrings and calf muscles. That will help him push off more firmly, take a longer stride and make each stride seem that much easier.

“His head is looking more upwards and his neck and shoulders are tensed, so he certainly looks more rigid than Mrs Cameron. His hands are also clenched – that makes you tense and also prevents you losing a lot of heat from your palms, which is important when you are running.

“A lot depends on how tired he is – as people get tired they tend to tense up. But on the face of it Samantha Cameron is certainly the more aesthetic looking of the two.”