First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Wife In Beijing Countdown: T-minus 3 days!

Not much to report today, so I think I'll rest a little in anticipation of my wife's arrival on Saturday (yay!) So today's post is just some interesting statistics and observations I've come across lately.

I've been following economic stories quite a bit since getting here, and on CNN today I saw a few points of interest in the crawl: Inflation in China was up something like 3.5% last month, mostly driven by rising food prices. Eggs are up, and so is pork - there's been some kind of disease in the hog population here.

In my building, the price of the breakfast buffet has gone from 30 yuan when I got here up to 38 yuan - don't know if that's a result of inflation, but interesting nonetheless. As China's economy becomes less and less controlled, it will be interesting to see what kind of effect rising prices for base necessities like food will have on a consumer culture like the one China is trying to develop.

Another interesting statistic that was sent around at work - the average Chinese woman spends 1/4 of her income on hair and makeup.

At the same time, the Shanghai stock market, which lost like 15% of its value last week, has been skyrocketing again, up almost 2.5% today alone, and is back within a couple hundred points of its record high from 2 weeks ago. (BTW, I'm going from memory here because I'm too lazy too look it up, so I won't swear by these numbers - but I am estimating conservatively.) Western economists say (and some coworkers confirm) that it is driven by individual investors, like the U.S. market in the late 90's.

Savings rates are down, especially among the young, so they spend more and invest heavily in stocks. (Although when you consider that China's savings rate is among the highest in the world, pushing 40%, I think, they have some room to give - especially compared with Americans.)

At the same time, companies are growing like gangbusters, and salaries are rising with it almost unrestricted - again, reminds me of my Web economy days in the early 2000's. One coworker said average raises are 10% or more a year, with promotions and new jobs often bringing in 25% to 50% salary jumps - in Beijing, anyway.

I know I'm making allusions beneath the surface here, and yeah, I'm thinking it seems crazy. But I make no prognostications - for one thing, I lack the education and the smarts to draw ANY kind of conclusion. For another, there's never been a country like China, never been this kind of growth in this short a time anywhere in the world, certainly not under a government as hands-on yet savvy as China's seems to be.

The one thing I DO know from my business-reporting days is that, individually, every number I've mentioned in this post is astounding, and they all are happening now.

One way or another, gonna be a heck of a ride.

So now it's off to dinner - mac and cheese tonight! (I was able to find some New Zealand butter and milk that said 'pasteurized' in English at Jenny Lou's.)