"It will be a U-shaped recovery"

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Interviewed By Emmanuel Daniel

China is slowly turning the corner from the pandemic and questions over its economic recovery are becoming more pressing. Top thought leaders discuss how and when this recovery could happen as well as other opportunities and challenges along the way.

With China past the peak of COVID-19 infection, when and how will its economy recover? We invited four top Chinese insiders to find answers to these timely and burning questions. In an in-depth conversation with Emmanuel Daniel, they gave a sense of how the pandemic is playing out for them and shared insights on mapping out China’s economic recovery.

  • Nomura’s chief China economist Lu Ting focused on the corporate dimension. He identified buying opportunities in the bond market and discussed funding as well as capital market and M&A opportunities;
  • JD Digits chief economist Shen Jianguang provided deep insights on China's consumption patterns. He said China is coping with this pandemic better than other countries due to its e-commerce capability as well as digital technology;
  • CreditEase founder Tang Ning, who is still selling wealth products to his clients, gave two interesting perspectives on what small businesses are doing to manage credit risk and how the wealthy think about and manage risks; and
  • Professor Zhang Jun of Fudan University offered an economic perspective on the topic at hand. He discussed China’s measures to absorb the pandemic’s negative impacts, including the government's plan to send students back to universities.

Summary of key topics discussed and debated:

  • Economic recovery may be slower than expected and the Chinese government’s effort to help supply side recover will be critical, especially in financial relief provided to small businesses.
  • Between 60% and 70% of companies cannot survive without any help or business for three months.
  • The crisis has put going digital on top of everybody's agenda, offering a great window of opportunity in technology innovation
  • JD’s heavy capital investment in digital technology, distribution and delivery system has given it the advantage to deliver goods without any interruption amid the pandemic.
  • E-commerce’s development relies on government’s investment in telecommunications infrastructure.
  • The market may be more volatile than in the past two months and a likely U-shaped recovery, demand-driven complexities cannot be overlooked at the same time.

Here is the session’s full transcript:

Emmanuel Daniel (ED): Welcome to the first of our COVID-19 series podcast by the Asian Banker on a platform we now call RadioFinance, for all of us around the world who are joining in this session.

I'm here in Singapore, working from home. In Singapore, there is a directive that we should try to be at home as much as possible. The Singapore government has done a very good job in terms of trying to balance the need to contain the coronavirus and have life proceed as normally as possible. But, everywhere else in the world, where The Asian Banker has an office, in Kuala Lumpur, there's a full lockdown, all our staff are working from home; in Manila, there's a full lockdown, all our staff are working from home. Beijing was in lockdown until recently, and our staff have now gone back to working from the office. In Dubai, our staff are also still working from the office, but there are a lot of restrictions in terms of what we can do.

For all the rest of you, I know that many of you, in many large corporations around the world, are getting used to this idea of working from home. So, I took the liberty of organising this first RadioFinance session from my home, where I get to have a view of Singapore's container ship movement.

I must say, there's been a lot of regional ship movements lately, which gives me the idea that trade is not necessarily going through a bad phase except that it's probably redirected, and so on. There's lots of anecdotal information and insights that we can get from all the different phases that many of us live in.

The question that we want to have answered in this first session is really how is China going to work its way over the impact of the coronavirus. Many of us have seen that bell curve chart, where China is perhaps on the other side of the bell curve, where the rate of transmission has started to decrease dramatically, while the US and several European countries are now on the rise.

Of course, there are also large countries that we need to worry about – India, Africa and the southern hemisphere where we do not yet know what the impact of the crisis is going to be like in the next six months or so. But for this particular session, let's focus on China.

We have incredible guests – I would say, because you're now “guests” in my house. So, I shall call you guests rather than panellists and in fact, the whole language by which we organise meetings have to start changing.

I'm very happy to have Professor Zhang Jun, the professor, responsible for the School of Economics in Fudan University in Shanghai. Lu Ting, who is the China chief economist at Nomura, also based in Shanghai. Tang Ning, a very good friend of mine and the founder of CreditEase, who drew “credittech”, which is using technology to deploy credit to the economy as a concept. He has a very strong front seat view of how credit is being deployed in China, but he also runs a wealth management business, so that's also an interesting dimension to look at. And Shen Jian Guang, the chief economist of JD, the organisation at the frontier of the consumption economy in China and the platforms by which people spend and get their everyday needs met in China today.

Now, let me just start by sharing with you some charts that will help guide our conversation today.

The big challenge in the bell curve is to keep the peak as low as possible, to keep as many countries as possible not affected by or not have the emergency and keep medical facilities from being overwhelmed by the pandemic.

Now, for the purposes of our discussion, the first thing I like to remind all of us is that 2020 is different from 2003. In 2003, China made up last about 10% of the global economy, about 5% of imports and 5% of exports. Today, China exceeds 20% but 25% of the global economy, and both on the import and export side, very considerable bellwether as it were, of both demand and supply in the global economy.

Something to be taken note of is the fact that the growth of global trade has been levelling off in the last few years. That's why we see, for example, a great deal more protectionist measures in several economies. Also, technology itself is making it possible for a lot of production to take place closer to consumption. A lot of activity was already taking place in that dimension as the COVID-19 virus started take hold.

Needless to say, manufacturing and business activities in China had fallen off the cliff in February because of shutdowns. What’s interesting is that consumption of coal has started to come back on again and it's almost at 2019 levels, which means it's actually a proxy for production for the use of energy in manufacturing, especially in the northern part of China. So, this chart is quite encouraging in that coal consumption is an indication of production.

Out of all countries around the world. Australia seems to be the most affected by China because it's the country whose export is more dependent on China than most others, and then comes Korea and New Zealand and so on.

From a global perspective, it's the small countries, like Mongolia and Angola, which have a greater percentage of dependence on China than the large countries. That will put in perspective the fact that larger countries will be able to absorb the dependence on China a lot more than the smaller countries.

The People's Bank of China has been lowering financing costs through a lot of different measures, reduction in interest rates, deferment of taxation, personal and corporate tax, as well as incentives for a number of social and infrastructure activities in the economy.

As we follow all of these developments on the market front, it's quite interesting to see that China's stocks continue to sort of outperform, I think because 70% of corporate ownership in China is actually state-owned, so that is able to give a lot of anchor to the capital markets going under, as much as the rest of the world as seen. But at the same time, the promise of policy stimulus and the start with a low valuation anyway, so the downside of the Chinese capital market has not been as adverse as that of other economies.

With those preliminary points, let's get right into the conversation. The first person I would like to ask for comments is Professor Zhang. The top of my question in everybody's mind is do you think we are going to see a V-shaped recovery or a U-shaped recovery? Or, are we expecting a double-hill type of recovery, which is a W-recovery? And what are the data that you are looking at to construct your own idea of how China will evolve?

Zhang Jun (ZJ): It is most likely a U-shaped recovery of Chinese economy after COVID-19. I check the data almost every day and I walk around in my community to see how business in the shopping mall behind me has been going on daily. if you look at the shops, around 70% to 80% of all the shops are open, but I think less than the half of the retail business is back to the normal.

Another way to look at the recovery of the economy is to look at traffic, especially in the weekdays. As you could see the traffic on the street, it is almost as normal as usual, which I think [suggests] the recovery of the normal lives could be very quick.  

But still, there is a pending issue, especially as people still believe the virus is still there. We have to be more cautious about everything. Schools are still closed down today, so it will still take time for the economy to be fully recovered.

Right now, the big concern of everybody is the virus coming back from overseas. Especially in the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, airports have been very concerned about Chinese coming back from overseas. That would have taken a lot of time for the government, in order to keep virus under control on a national level.

For the recovery of the economy, I think [it] may be a little slower than we expected.

ED: Professor Zhang, you are reflecting the feel of the ground. There is still cautiousness, even for ordinary people. Schools are still closed and even in terms of everyday life, we are looking at a kind of lack of optimism, but everyday life hasn't quite come back in full force yet. So, that's what you're reflecting at the moment.

Let's ask Tang Ning. As I said at the introduction of this session, Tang Ning, you have a good feel of the demand for credit by small businesses. What do you see happening on that front and how's that different from today? What has come back? Where are the desperation points in China right now?

Tang Ning (TN): Thank you. I have a very unique view because CreditEase is vice chairman of China's Small Business Association. We work very closely with the association in conducting surveys targeting medium-sized and small businesses.

What we see is that small businesses are hit hard, but at the same time, they are very resilient. They are learning to become more digital. You start to see that digitization is becoming really huge in China.

Before the crisis, people talked about going digital, but [in] a much trial-and­-error, not absolutely necessary [manner]. After the crisis, going digital is on top of everybody's agenda. That's one key thing. We see that small businesses and mid-size businesses are being able to utilise technology to do new business models.

For example, we are doing video. There are many Chinese companies, businesses [that] have become online stars, they call these multi-channel networks. I’ve become a star, actually. Video real-time show, it's very effective, because it gives you one data point like February or March, our productivity has been 400% compared with it in the previous year.

It is a huge productivity enhancement, because we serve small businesses from both credit and equity investment side. Our fund invests in leading funds, which in turn invest in our small businesses doing cutting-edge technology. They do very creative businesses through digital ways.

ED: Tang Ning, you're an amazing salesman because you're still selling your funds in a difficult period in economy, but what are you telling your customers now, the ones who buy your funds? Are you telling them now's the time to buy because the market has tanked out? Or now's the time to buy because there's value in terms of the assets that you're investing in? What is the message that you're giving your customers right now?

TN: Well, first of all, China is really relatively value these days. China is recovering from the virus situation and doing a better job than in other parts of the world. Secondly, technology innovation is the future of China and is where our future value will come from. Investing in technology innovation is the key thing and those technology Innovation companies [feel] less heat in the crisis, because they are more digital and less reliant on the ground and facilities.

People also need to learn to be long-term. All the short-term speculation and activities don't create real value. China's capital markets are getting better and better, and it recently pushed through some new policy encouraging venture capital (VC), because VCs were not allowed to exit early in the past. Now. If you are part of the company for five years, you can exit entirely from your position. That's very encouraging for Chinese VCs.

I think after the crisis, we'll have a great window of opportunity in technology innovation

ED: Yeah, actually Tang, you are so involved in many facets of the business that are the industry and the economy, you've actually raised a number of points that we need to build into the conversation.

Let's just get the next person online, Lu Ting from Nomura. When you see some of the incentives that the government is putting in place in China, such as holding back on collecting taxes, incentives for small businesses, and even the incentives for the markets, what do you see on all of these points, Lu Ting?

Lu Ting (LT): The Chinese markets, especially stock markets, have been doing relatively well compared to markets in Europe and the United States. Europe, at the moment, is down more than 40% and the US is down more than 30%. In China and the rest, down around 10%, as on the first day of Chinese New Year holiday, then it's up, now It's down again.

There are two reasons behind small volatility. The first reason is China's just lucky because the worst of China's coronavirus was in the last week of January and the first week of February, which was Chinese New Year holiday, and the market was closed.

China successfully avoided that worst moment for its stock markets. I have to say that if the stock markets were open at the end of January or in the beginning of February, it must have been quite ugly.

The second reason is the Chinese government's success, relatively successful in containing the virus. And not compromising, they have greatly flattened the curve. As you can see, at least I think, based on the official statistics, the new cases in China in the past two weeks have been somewhere between 30 to 80. Most of the new cases are imported infections.

As you know, the market has built some confidence in the Chinese government's strategy in containing the virus, but we all have to be cautious for the next few months. Most likely, the market will be volatile, perhaps maybe more volatile than in the previous two months.

There are two reasons [to be cautious]. First one is there may be a risk of second wave because of those imported infections as a result of the global spread of the coronavirus. Anyway, I think the percentage of those people test positive but without any symptoms is quite high. There might be a risk for transmission in China, even now when the new cases are relatively low.

The second reason of course, is China slumping export. We expect China's export growth will be a minus 30% for the next two quarters because of the global pandemic. That's why I think economic fundamentals would have been relatively bad, both for the first quarter and the second quarter.

In this regard, I do agree with Professor Zhang, that it's not a V-shaped [recovery], it's more like a U-shaped recovery.

ED: Can I ask, Professor Zhang, from the kind of incentives that governments have been throwing at economic problems up to now, a lot of that has been directed at the demand side of economics, do you think that there were things should have been done on the supply side to at least keep China going, and keep the supply chains going? Are there going to be issues on the supply side in the foreseeable future?

ZJ: Definitely, I think what the Chinese government is doing is simply to help the supply side recover as soon as possible, because the biggest suffering from the virus are actually the small businesses. I think the policy focus must be placed on the recovery of small businesses.

So fiscal policies, as well as the monetary policy at this moment, can be in the minister way, in order to keep the small businesses going and prevent them from closing down or [going] bankrupt. So that could make stunning growth of employment in China. I think the government recognises the issue of unemployment as a result of this epidemic, not just simply focus on the growth target, because it sustains employment and puts everything in order. Once China has recovered from the epidemic, it is going to create demand for the rest of the world.

It looks like everybody's hit by the virus, so it is simply an issue of the supply side. But as you mentioned, it will turn into the demand side when everybody's suffering in the supply side. You must have somebody, most likely China, to move first. With Chinese economy to recover first, it will create the demand for the rest of the economy and lead to recovery.

ED: Lu Ting, would you have a perspective on that, that China's own domestic spending can sort of kick off a U-shaped recovery globally?

LT: It's a tough question. As both of you have mentioned before, I think this is both a supply shock and also a demand shock. At this moment, I believe that perhaps maybe the supply shock is still a major shock for China, regarding its impact on the Chinese economy.

I believe that for the next few months, supply shock is still something of a big concern. The reason for this is that, as some of you mentioned before, even the Chinese government just really want to push for resumption of business, but they still need to be very cautious because they are also worried about a second wave. I heard that some of movie theatres, for example, restaurants, were asked to open a week ago, but now they were asked to be closed again. In this regard, at least at this moment and maybe for the next one or two months, I think on the supply side, we are not back to the normal situation yet.

Because of this, financial incentives are still very important in China. It's unlikely for China just two years demand stimulus just to reach a decent growth in the next few months, to boost the Chinese economy and also to boost the global economy.

In this regard, I think we can compare China now and China in the beginning of 2009. At that time, there was no virus but there was a global financial crisis. But China launched massive 4 trillion stimulus – of course, it's actually bigger than 4 trillion. In 2009, China's big demand stimulus helped stabilise the global growth, otherwise global growth will be much worse.

But this time around, I think the Chinese government's capacity to use such a big stimulus to boost demand, I will say it's a much smaller scale, just because the virus itself, still, actually has a big impact on the Chinese economy.

ED: Shen Jian Guang is already online. If we can get you online, I just wanted to ask you, Shen, from the perspective of a chief economist of JD, which is really at the frontier of the digital economy on the consumption side in China. What do you see taking place? What do you see in terms of confidence in consumption that drives your business?

Shen Jianguang (SJ): Thank you very much for inviting me. For JD, one interesting thing is through the development of e-commerce in the last decade, and as well as the logistics system, I think China actually coped with this pandemic. I think China is much better than most other countries, due to this capability to utilising ecommerce as well as digital technology. For example, even during the worst period of the pandemic in Hubei province, there were over 1,000 deliverymen from JD still working. JD can deliver all the medical supplies to the hospitals and deliver goods to all the households in Wuhan. This is quite exceptional nowadays.

I just read news about now in Europe and America, Amazon orders will be delayed for about a week. I think through the development of logistics system and e-commerce system in the last decade, China actually can still deliver goods – like JD – within one day for all the households that need supplies.

ED: Shen, you must tell us, what is it about China, that when it comes to execution, even in distressed times like these, is able to execute flawlessly. This is something the rest of the world really needs to study a lot deeper. Now, from a new line of perspective to give us an idea of, why does JD not have logistics issues and why does Amazon have logistics issues? Is it the size of economy, the last-mile delivery, the payment system? Give us a sense.

SJ: The first thing is about the investment in digital technology, in delivery system. JD has been investing in this transportation system logistics system for the last decade. It's spending a huge amount of investment. I think that's very important. Also, the government’s spending a lot of money on infrastructure in telecommunications. You can see in many countries. There's news is that the network, there are many people know working online, but the infrastructure cannot support this surge in the usage of internet, like video conference, for example.

At the same, JD has developed so many warehouses around China, this is also very important. We have all the warehouses owned by JD and all the delivery workers belong to JD. 

ED: How much of that is technology and how much of that is human resources? With the argument that in China, labour is a lot cheaper than the West, would that be an argument?

SJ: Yeah, I think it’s both. First of all, even regarding the technology side, JD has invested in building many warehouses across China. For some warehouses, there is no single human workers inside.

Everything is automated. This increased efficiency grossly, then it enabled JD to deliver accurately to 95% of Chinese villages within 24 hours. This has been achieved even before the pandemic. We can deliver to 95% of Chinese counties within 24 hours after they make orders.

ED: That's just JD, right? Because you also have Tencent, Alibaba and all of the others as well.

SJ: No, that's very different that we are doing, it’s a very unique model. Alibaba is a platform model, mostly, they don't have their own warehouses. They have the alliance with the forwarding companies. But we are integrated, this is a huge advantage of this kind of model. Amazon doesn’t have this model, so they use UPS to do the final delivery. JD is the only company with this this unique model, that we purchase the goods by ourselves to put in our warehouses and deliver to the households and companies using our own workers.

ED: The economic model is different, because Alibaba sees itself as a federation of different suppliers who do not have control or ownership, whereas JD actually purchases the goods and sells it off to the final buyer. You own your distribution, logistics, warehouses and so on.

SJ: That's right. That's a very unique model. It's capital-heavy; you have to invest all this in warehouses. It's very capital intensive and very labour intensive. You have all these workers, official JD workers, we pay all the social benefits.

ED: Were you profitable before the crisis?

SJ: Yes. Last year our total profit is over $1.41 billion (RMB 10 billion) already, but that's actually after many years of losses. Our CEO, Mr. Richard Liu, said that “we invest first.” So, we built the infrastructure and we are now gaining all the benefits of doing this. Because capital market used to question this model saying you invest too much, you have too many workers. But actually, this model started [bearing] fruit, not only been profitable before the pandemic, but also a huge advantage of this model during the pandemic that we can deliver without any interruption.

ED: What are the new things that the pandemic is teaching you at the moment in terms of the demand of customers? Is it more towards consumables, food or discretionary spending? What is it?

SJ: This is actually been advantage of being a chief economist. I have the micro data, as well as the big data. What I can see is very clearly the discretion is that consumption of jewellery and luxury goods has been declining. People are spending money at home. For example, many people are buying kitchenware, whether they're cooking by themselves. That's why food and fruits, these kinds of purchases have been surging rapidly. So, it's looking exciting at home, and these kinds of goods like sportswear have been doing very well.

I think the lesson is digitalization of the whole economy will speed up, very clearly in the fintech industry. So, there is no interruption for the online banking business. There is no interruption in online insurance and online wealth management business. It is much better than offshore.

ED: Both for yourself and Professor Zhang, I want to ask this question. What do you foresee in terms of unemployment in China? Do you see that there will be an attrition at certain levels? Of course, China is about 70% state-owned economy and 30% private enterprise, and a lot of that is in the south of China. The private enterprises already face a lot of attrition on the export side of the economy. How do you think, overall, the sense of job security will evolve?

SJ: It's globalisation. From what I learned, Chinese exporting companies are facing this constellation of cancellations of orders due to the situation in Europe and America. The global demand has been declining for sure. That's why exporting companies are facing difficulties. I think that's what we see – cancellations, but if this is prolonged, job problems will surface.

ED: What do you worry about JD being a consumer-oriented organisation or platform?

SJ: So definitely, the income is very important. People have income and they consume. If their income declines, of course, the purchases will decline even though we are doing much better than the offline shops. That's actually the issue that I think the government needs to step in through like issuing consumption vouchers.

ED: You're not experiencing that right now, but how long do you think you will need to hang on?

SJ: I did a study and looked at 10,000 Chinese-listed companies. I found that 8,000 small and medium-sized companies can actually survive at around three months without any business. Actually, 60%-70% of the companies cannot survive without any help. That's why the government has stepped in to help those companies. I think that's like a giving consumption voucher and that gave us some by the subsidy, also exempted them from some fees. That's very important. The government rescue package is the key to prevent unemployment.

ED: Let's ask Professor Zhang his comments on unemployment, on survivability of business and demand.

ZJ: China’s unemployment rate will rise, this is foreseeable. I think the government has recognised that. The immediate response of the government policy right now is about expansion, about 10-20% of enrolments of graduate studies at colleges and universities. We're going to have over 8 million college graduates this summer. We have to enrol more students back to universities for graduate studies. That's part of the policy response from the government to raising employment on a national level. I think China is always facing these problems in different periods of time. But the point here is, you have to make sure that the costs for your people to give up another job and take a new job is easier. You have to path the way for the people being easily moving from one place to another.

When lot of small businesses closed down, some people would find a new job in a tertiary sector. The policy should be placed somewhere where they can't guarantee such where moving is much easier. The recent package of policies probably a tender over by the government at this moment, is liberal created an incentive policy, firstly, for the business owner for more employment. You probably get subsidised a little bit. Overall, the employment level in China after the damage could be modest.

ED: There are already policies in place, not just to kick-start consumption but also to reabsorb the workforce into different parts of the economy, even sending them back to school. That's very good and I'm very happy to hear that. Tang Ning, I asked you initially to talk about small businesses, but you also run a very successful wealth management business. Let me ask you this question. What are the rich people worrying about in China now?

TN: One is about risk management. People have a different idea or better idea about risk management. It is a very complex situation right now for people who have done very good asset allocation, who have done very well separating personal wealth from enterprise. They can sleep well at night, but for those who haven't yet, who had a single direction, like a bet on stock market, real estate market, or any one single asset class or who didn't do this separation of personal wealth, family wealth from an enterprise, their companies may run into bankruptcy and so on, they are really in trouble.

Going forward, people will have a better understanding of asset allocation, such as global asset allocation, family trust, separating the wealth from enterprise, buying insurance, and so on. People have a different mindset.

Second, some very smart people, experienced investors start to take positions, but many we've observed feel panic. They say, this is an uncertain time, shall we invest? Probably not. But actually, if you follow Warren Buffett, if you don't have money, that's a different story. But if you have money, if you can manage your cash flow, you should actually invest in now, as opposed to investing in a market that’s hyped. During market downturns, investment returns are always much more attractive, because your enterprises’ value is more valuable. Entrepreneurs are doing fine.

ED: You're not telling your customers to go back into the market now, are you? We are not in freefall.

TN: We are, but we also tell them they should do asset allocation and should be long term, not short-term speculation, not just like a direction trade. Like a one-way street going into stock market or going into some other like housing market? No, it's got to be balanced. It's got to be long-term, it's going to be value-oriented, like technology, innovation. We talk about that. People shouldn't invest back into the old economy, which is suffering most. I think following these principles that people should come into the market, big time for support, assuming they have money.

ED: Some of these are very practical things that would be relevant in a country where new wealth is very strong, but what about investing abroad? Like investors who look outside China, what are they thinking?

TN: Well, I think they are really going global but much more than just investing in dollar assets or so on. These days, you must have heard stories about their kids having trouble coming back to China from the UK or from the US. They are paying huge airfare for a ticket. That is also globalisation, like family planning, education and so on. Many entrepreneurs, like importing, exporting businesses, they are actually repositioning their companies.

These companies are becoming more domestic demand-oriented. I think, as you said, I totally agree. There'll be a lot of the supply chain and kind of shifter considerations that show up.

After the crisis, it's going to be a new world, it's going to be a new market environment. For Chinese enterprises and entrepreneurs, they have to reposition themselves for this new world. They need to become more domestic-oriented, more digital, more agile.

ED: Lu Ting, can you add in comments? State them from an economist’s point of view, especially from an investment banking point of view. What is your sense of companies of good value that you know that investors can buy into in China, M&A activities, and also private equity in terms of companies that can be rehabilitated to this process? What do you see in the corporate scene in China right now?

LT: That's a very tough question. Of course, it's also very important while also very practical. First of all, we may not be at the bottom of the market yet. The volatility for the next couple months could be quite high. For people with a very short horizon of investment, this is not a good time just to put your money into it. But if for those people with a long-term perspective, I think this is a good time to spot, to identify good opportunities.

I can give you a long example. A week ago, a $900 billion bond market in Hong Kong and Singapore, in the middle of this month, the price down somewhere around like 20 to 30% in just a couple of days.

Actually, this is a golden opportunity for people to buy if they have enough cash – if they have cash which they can hold, use for long term investment. Just in the past week, some of the prices have been up like 30 to 50%. This is a very good opportunity to spot these kinds of rare opportunities when the market is in disruptions. This is just one example; we have other examples. Some of those Chinese companies, which I believe have long term value, but could have been 30 to 50% because of the virus.

Some of the companies based in Hubei – Wuhan, for example – I believe that it's just a short-term problem. I don't think the virus will hit Wuhan forever, but the stock prices of those companies have been significantly hit and I believe this is also a good opportunity. Anyway, I think this is a good time just to find opportunities.

ED: In terms of the RMB-USD rates, are there currency risks that you see that we need to be concerned about? Because it's one thing to buy dollar bonds, it's another thing to be sitting on dollars.

LT: I don't worry so much about dollars. The dollar is very strong and very expensive, but I don't think there is a big downside for US dollars because I don't think there will be any other currencies which could pay US Dollars as global.

ED: Yeah, actually, you just drew out a point of a conversation that we probably have to have separately on that, which is the dollar still the currency for refuge at a time like this. That's a whole conversation on, so it's amazing. Thank you very much for that.

But, how do you think Chinese companies that have access to the dollar market or the foreign efficient bonds outside of China are coping right now in terms of meeting the bond obligations and so on?

LT: I do believe there will be some risks, but I think markets should not exaggerate. The risks are that for the next few months, most likely, as I mentioned before, China's export growth slowing down quite a lot. My estimate it would have been down 30%. But in the meantime, China's input growth will also be down. But this year may not be a better year for China's balance payments. Why? Well, because global oil prices have been down so much and it tries oil importing the world. Based on my estimate if oil price on average down 50% from last year's level, China will save $100 billion.

This year, if China's current account balance payments maintain good shape, I don't think there will be a payment crisis for China's dollar bond markets. On the other hand, I think the Chinese government has been much more cautious than before and had a lot of these new regulations to limit the supply of these new bonds. The Chinese government doesn't really want to see massive defaults of dollar bonds.

ED: Gentlemen, you've given me an amazing perspective of what's happening on the ground in China. We all know that the state is putting in place incentives and countermeasures to hold the economy together. It's very good to hear from Professor Zhang that the state has been putting in place measures to absorb the negative impacts, such as unemployment and so on. You're investing in infrastructure such as education and so on.

Tang Ning gave us two perspectives: one on what the small businesses are doing in terms of credit risk, as well as what wealthy people are thinking – or the way in which they think about, or maybe the way in which Tang Ning has been influencing them to think about diversification of risk. But even in that, he's given us a perspective in terms of how his clients have been trying to work their way through the process.

Shen, thank you very much for the perspective on JD. As an economist with a frontline view of consumer spending, you actually see all those numbers, and that there's been a focus on consumables, on food. This is predictable in that sense. Let's focus on discretionary spending at the moment. I asked you this question. How do you think it's going to play out in the next few months, you have a rule of thumb, which is three months spending, and both on the corporate side and on the individual side?

So, gentlemen, all of you and Lu Ting ended it off for us in terms of corporate dimension, in terms of funding, as well as capital and maybe M&A opportunities and you're saying that it is still early days, in terms of the downside risks still, to play. I hope that we will be able to build on this conversation. It's probably a conversation that we probably have to have three months down the road, when the US economy starts to show its full shape in terms of the impact of the pandemic on its domestic economy, and then there's a dimension in terms of China's largest export partner and the demand side becomes clear as a result.

This is a continuing conversation. I will be holding others chats with other people in the industry as we go along in the next few weeks. Please join me in thanking our current panellists, and please look out for RadioFinance sessions in the next few weeks. Please do give us your feedback in the comments section, whether it's on YouTube or on the various platforms on which we are presenting these sessions.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Featured Guests:
Lu Ting

Chief China Economist, Nomura

Shen Jianguang

Vice President, JD.com;
Chief Economist, JD Digits

Tang Ning

Founder and CEO, CreditEase

Zhang Jun

Dean, School of Economics, Fudan University

Emmanuel Daniel
Chairman, The Asian Banker
About the series:

The COVID-19 Series is a collection of radio sessions that will be broadcast live on LinkedIn to about 30,000 listeners in the financial services sector to survey the impact of the pandemic across the globe, potential aftershocks the industry may face and possible line of action in the days ahead.


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