Feb 13

Companies and financial institutions in Shanghai’s free trade zone are now allowed to borrow from overseas in both Chinese and foreign currencies with greater flexibility, another step toward capital account convertibility in FTZ financial reforms, the Shanghai headquarters of the People’s Bank of China said yesterday.

Companies, banks and brokerages will not need to apply for administrative approval to borrow from overseas under the special free trade account system used in the zone, the Shanghai headquarters said as it released regulations regarding offshore financing and risk management.

They will be allowed to raise up to twice the value of their registered capital but the actual amount of money they can get will depend on the currency, its use and the term of the loan.

For example, companies will not be able to use their full quota if they borrow foreign currency loans on terms shorter than a year, the Shanghai headquarters said.

Previously, non-financial companies were only allowed to borrow yuan from overseas and the amount was restricted to no more than the registered capital of the company.

Banks previously were not allowed to borrow yuan from overseas.

The move is part of the authorities’ efforts to boost the economy by lowering borrowing costs for companies and banks, and is a step toward capital account convertibility as the rules set up a unified management system for offshore fundraising in local and foreign currencies, said Zhang Xin, the Shanghai headquarters’ deputy director.

The new policy could further lift Shanghai’s status as a financial center as the area of the Shanghai free trade zone is planned to quadruple to cover the Lujiazui financial area, Jinqiao development area and Zhangjiang High-Tech Park, Zhang said.

Wang Jianxin, deputy head of Shanghai Pudong Development Bank’s free trade zone branch, said the new rules will enable borrowers to get low-cost foreign currency loans within half an hour, and companies will enjoy greater freedom during cross-border trade and investment.

The annual interest rate for a foreign currency loan could be half that of a one-year loan in yuan, Wang said.

It is the first time foreign currency transactions are being allowed under the free trade account system, and the bank said it will continue to drive financial reforms including capital account convertibility and interest rate liberalization in the zone.

It said offshore fundraising regulations for companies are basically complete after yesterday’s announcement and it will consider opening up individual offshore borrowing.

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Jan 07

China Watch Blog has learnt that the US Senate has approved Janet Yellen’s nomination to head the US Federal Reserve by a vote of 56 to 26, something which comes as no surprise as the financial industry was abuzz with this news since last year. She’s the first woman to lead the US central bank in its century-long history.

Ms Yellen has long focused on fighting unemployment and backed the Federal Reserve’s recent efforts to spur the economy with low interest rates and huge bond purchases.

She will begin her four-year term on February 1, replacing Ben Bernanke, who’s held the job for eight years. Janet Yellen has been Fed vice chair since 2010.

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Apr 09

China Watch Blog reports that when Yahoo! recently banned working from home, some companies followed suit. At the same time, hosts of other companies still believe that working from home increases productivity, creativity, and improves employee morale.

So is the issue really virtual work or the lack of good management coupled with an inability to capitalize on the virtual work environment?

The New World of Work: From the Cube to the Cloud is the new, eye-opening book from experts Tim Houlne and Terri Maxwell that underscores startling statistics about the global labor force.

There is a New Currency: The truth is that the new currency for top tier talent is freedom. These people came to the realization long ago that gold-watch retirements are a thing of the past, and to ensure a long-term career meant taking matters into their own hands. Since the benefits offered by corporations such as insurance and paid vacations are not part of this new world of work, freedom and flexibility became the desirable traits.

Spend the New Currency with Better Management: Progressive companies attract creative, productive talent with the way they “manage people,” which truthfully is not to manage people at all. Rather than buy into the “productivity can only be seen” mode of thinking, companies that embrace the virtualization of work product attract that always sought after motivated self-starter.

To capitalize on this new work currency, companies must:
• Manage the process and outcome, not the people.
• Utilize more peer to peer management to encourage collaboration.
• Invest in cloud technology to manage projects.
• Understand virtual collaboration both from a technology and communication standpoint in order to get the best ideas.
• Physical presence does not improve creativity. Creative people engaged in the idea and committed to a solid outcome do.

Top talent in the workplace today has options and they can choose freedom. They do not feel the necessity to work out of a cubicle so they will be more inclined to choose a position with a company that gives them freedom; offering options that encourage creativity, improve morale, and lead to greater productivity.

About The New World of Work: From the Cube to the Cloud: The New World of Work provides the knowledge to propel careers and businesses forward with a better understanding of next-generation work by explaining how to become a Virtualpreneur™ and highlighting how businesses can compete for virtual talent. Learn more by visiting www.newworldofwork.com.

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Nov 16

China Watch Blog reports that for years, the American have accused the Chinese of being copycats. And now for a change, the American Gwei Los also are copying the Chinese culture by producing new USD1.00 notes for Ang Pows (Lai Sees) for the Chinese in America to
celebrate Chinese New Year.

According to a Xinhua report, the U.S. Treasury Department on
Wednesday unveiled the “Year of the Snake” one-dollar notes, as a
special seasonal gift featuring Chinese traditional culture to
celebrate the 2013 lunar new year.

U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, who unveiled the 12th addition to the
Treasury’s Lucky Money Collection, said the Year of Snake represents
wealth and prosperity and will bring good luck and signify success for the coming new year.

The significance of bringing up with festive product and celebrating
the lunar new year is important to Asian communities as well as the
U.S. society as a whole, said the Treasure who was also born in a
Chinese lunar year of the Snake.

The Treasury will offer 88,888 Year of Snake notes, available for sale from Thursday. The “Year of the Dragon” lucky money product, with a record of 108,888 notes for sale, was sold out within a week last November. Rios believed the “Year of the Snake” product will make another success.

The “Year of the Snake” is one of the 12 zodiac signs associated with
the Chinese Zodiac, where 12 animals represent a rotating 12-year
cycle. Many Chinese believe their fate and character is tied to the
zodiac symbols in the year in which they were born.

The product features an uncirculated one-dollar note with a serial
number beginning with “8888” as the number 8 is seen by the Chinese
and Asian communities a symbol of good fortune. This lucky money
product is exquisitely designed with decorative Chinese symbolism and
is packaged in a red folder with gold foil.

Jun Barn, one of the designers for the lucky money products, said the
team has combined the Chinese traditional art of paper- cutting with a colorful design to attract U.S. customers as well as the dotting of
cherry blossom pattern which is popular in the U. S. society.

The Lucky Money products have been well received both domestically and internationally, since the Bureau of Engraving and Printing introduced such kind of products in 2000.

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Jun 28

China Watch Blog has learnt that a woman has recently turned to the Investigation Bureau in Taiwan to help her exchange bundles of damaged bills originally worth a total of NT$1 million for new ones after she found the files of cash she stored in her safe had been eaten by termites.

However, the forensic expert only managed to piece together NT$26,000 in notes from the piles of damaged bills, according to a local media report.

The woman, surnamed Chen, who graduated from a Taipei university last year, was originally going to spend the NT$1 million to study aboard, according to the Chinese-language Apple Daily report.

It took her eight years of hard work to come up with the money which she stored at a safe in her house. This April, Chen found that termites had eaten most of the piles of cash in the safe.

She later sought out the Investigation Bureau for help after a bank refused to honor the bills.

The bills were sent to the bureau’s forensic unit for further examination. They will be honored based on the number of bills the experts succeed in restoring.

After spending a week trying to re-piece the notes, forensic experts only managed to restore NT$26,000 from the piles of money, the report said.

The bureau urged people to put their money in banks to avoid similar incidents from happening again.

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Jun 26

China Watch Blog has learnt that strong currencies are pushing up the cost of living for expatriate staff assigned to Asia, with the latest survey showing it is more expensive to live in Shenzhen and Guangzhou than in central London.

“The strengthening of Asian currencies is the dominant factor contributing to the region being more expensive for visitors than it was 12 months ago,” said Lee Quane of ECA International.

“In that period, the yuan has continued to strengthen while the yen has appreciated by almost 8percent against the US dollar. Many Western currencies, including sterling, the euro and Swiss franc, have weakened. As a result, people coming from these economies into Asia will notice a considerable difference in costs.”

Tokyo remains the most expensive location in Asia. Beijing and Shanghai are rapidly moving up the list, surpassing Singapore and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is Greater China’s third most expensive city, sitting in 36th place globally, and also significantly ahead of central London. Within Asia, Hong Kong is the ninth most expensive location for international assignees, behind Beijing and Shanghai at Nos5 and 6.

Shenzhen and Guangzhou sit just behind Hong Kong at 10th and 11th place respectively in the Asian rankings. They are 55th and 56th in the world, compared with London, which is 62nd.

“A year ago the cost of purchasing goods and services in ECA’s cost of living basket was almost 10percent more expensive in London than when purchasing the same items in Guangzhou, and 15percent more than in Shenzhen,” Quane said.

“Now the cost of living in these cities for international assignees is approximately 1.5percent and 2 percent more, respectively, than in London where, unlike in the mainland, prices have increased at a much slower rate than the year before and sterling has depreciated against many major currencies.”

Globally, the rapid rise of Beijing and Shanghai has seen both cities overtake a number of locations in Australia, Brazil, Europe and the United States, including Rio de Janeiro (31st), Paris (34th) and Manhattan (40th).

Tokyo is the most expensive location both in Asia and the world and Japanese cities occupy the top four places in Asia.

Beijing’s move up the global rankings has also been dramatic: it is now the world’s 20th most expensive city, up from 48th place in the same survey last year.
While Hong Kong has remained in ninth in the Asia rankings, the city has climbed back up the global ranking following last year’s fall.

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Jun 18

China Watch Blog has learnt that China’s efforts to make the yuan a global currency may be hampered by the lack of an independent monetary policy, fragile domestic financial markets and an “unbalanced” economy, a report edited by an adviser to the nation’s central bank warned.

“In the process of yuan internationalization, it will be hard to gain the confidence of the international community in the value of the yuan if monetary policy lacks sufficient independence,” according to the report, edited by Chen Yulu, from the International Monetary Institute of Renmin University in Beijing.

Chen is an academic adviser to the People’s Bank of China and president of the university, the Shanghai Daily reported.

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Apr 17

China Watch Blog has learnt that the International Monetary Fund welcomed a decision by China’s central bank on April 14 to widen the yuan’s trading band against the dollar in a major step towards loosening currency controls.

The yuan is currently allowed to trade 0.5 percent on either side of a midpoint price set by the central bank every trading day.

The new rules — seen as a shift towards adopting more market-oriented reforms — will come into effect today and allow the currency to fluctuate by up to 1.0 percent either side, the bank said in a statement.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde described the move as an “important step.”

“This underlines China’s commitment to rebalance its economy toward domestic consumption and allow market forces to play a greater role in determining the level of the exchange rate,” Lagarde said in a statement.

Saturday’s announcement means that the yuan will be allowed to fluctuate further against the dollar.

The bank said the change was decided “in order to meet market demands… (and) enhance the flexibility of RMB (the renminbi, as the yuan is officially known) exchange rate in both directions.”

“In view of the domestic and international economic and financial conditions, the People’s Bank of China will continue to fulfil its mandates in relation to the RMB exchange rate, keeping RMB exchange rate basically stable.”

The announcement came after China said Friday its economy grew at its slowest pace in nearly three years in the first three months of 2012, expanding by 8.1 percent

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Apr 17

Shenzhen’s Qianhai, labeled South China’s Manhattan in the making, is planning to pilot a cross-border yuan-loaning service between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, according to new financial reforms announced by the city government last week. The proposed reforms are still pending approval from the Central Government.

Shenzhen plans to allow its companies to take out yuan loans from Hong Kong banks and vice versa. The service aims to bolster the development of Qianhai by taking advantage of low-interest renminbi loans from Hong Kong banks.

The average one-year lending rate in Hong Kong is about 3 percent, while the one-year benchmark lending rate on the mainland is 6.56 percent.

Businesses and financial institutions in the 15-sqkm Qianhai in Nanshan District will be encouraged to issue yuan bonds in Hong Kong to raise funds for their development, the document said.

In addition, a State-level fund of funds for start-ups in emerging industries of strategic importance will be established in Qianhai.

By the end of this year, an over-the-counter stock exchange will also be set up in Qianhai, the first regional exchange of its kind in the country. Shenzhen is also planning to allow transnational companies to set up centralized treasury management agencies and global settlement centers in the city.

Qianhai, 15 square kilometers of reclaimed land north of Shekou, was written into China’s 12th five-year plan for 2011-15 as a testing ground of strategic importance.

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Apr 15

China Watch Blog has learnt that China will double the yuan’s trading band against the US dollar next week as the country improves the currency’s flexibility and its pricing mechanism.

The central bank economists said the long anticipated move signals an end for straight appreciation of the yuan, and is among the government’s recent financial reforms to improve the economic structure even at the cost of slower growth.

Dealers will be able to trade the yuan within 1 percent, up from the current 0.5 percent, on each side of the official central parity rate starting tomorrow, the People’s Bank of China said in a statement.

The Shanghai Daily reported that it is the first increase since 2007, when the band was widened from 0.3 percent.

“China’s current foreign exchange market is developing more maturely and trading entities are more capable of pricing independently and managing risks,” the statement said.

Qu Hongbin, a chief economist with HSBC, said the “symbolic move” of widening the trading band implies the trend of the yuan’s one-way appreciation has come to an end.

“The yuan will be ushered into an new era of truly two dimensional fluctuations,” Qu said.

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