Dear scoutAsia users,
We are very pleased to announce that we have added Xinhua's English language news service to scout's ever expanding content stream. This now features almost 30 publications from around the Asian region, as well as the Nikkei Asian Review, the Financial Times and our own, exclusive scoutAsia Research pieces.
While Xinhua is an official outlet of the government in Beijing, the breadth of its coverage and its access to Chinese policymakers, officials and academics is unrivalled. That makes it valuable for all of us interested in China. Of course, we have to retain our critical distance when interpreting its opinions but that is true of any new source.
Looking through Xinhua's coverage of the past few days, I have spotted a number of articles that make me question recent gloom about consumer spending during last week's Chinese New Year holiday. Travel, for example, seems to have been strong, with more than 60m domestic rail trips, up over 4% year-on-year, as well as over 6m international visits to 97 different countries - up by 12% with Thailand and Japan once again the most popular destinations.
Back home, spending on household electronics and mobile phones was buoyant, presumably to the benefit of the likes of Haier, Xiaomi and Huawei, as well as online marketplaces like JD.com and Alibaba. The Chinese also spent more on experiences - both restaurants and, especially, movies, with China's first two homegrown sci-fi films turning into blockbusters. Even demand for luxury goods -- which would be the first to drop in a genuine downturn -- is set to rise this year, according to a new survey
In the corporate sector, meanwhile, our own recent survey suggests that private companies, which have been badly squeezed under President Xi Jinping in recent years, are finding it easier to get access to bank loans again.
None of this is to deny that the Chinese economy is slowing and that the debt built up since the financial crisis remains a huge problem that will need to be solved eventually. However, the worries over China's near-term prospects have been overdone in my view. Chinese consumers and businesses are still spending and investing and official policy has swiftly -- though cautiously -- turned supportive. Investors have noticed and mainland stocks are up some 6% so far this year, admitedly after a dreadful 2018.
Now if only China and the US could settle their trade dispute...