Asia-Latin America Round-up — 12 May 2017

Highlights

Chinese construction giant to buy stake in Hudson Square dev site in $140M deal — The Real Deal
China Construction America (CCA) entered contract this week to acquire the vast majority of a development site at 537 Greenwich Street and 110 Charlton Street, with 229,000 buildable square feet. The deal for an undisclosed amount would value the site at north of $140 million, or $625 per buildable square foot, sources told The Real Deal. Cape Advisors, the other owners, plans for a 27-story, 167-unit residential property on the site. The article says CCA has also recently approved $1 billion worth of equity investment in public-private partnership projects.

Jack Ma courts Midwest America in bid to raise exports to China — FT
The Alibaba chief has begun laying out plans to bring 1m small businesses to the group’s platform, talking about them on a conference call earlier this week. His comments touched on the June conference Alibaba will host in Detroit, the “first key driver” of a campaign to encourage US farmers and businesses to export to China:

Mr Trump was “very excited and supportive” of the plan, said Mr Ma, who supports his bid to promote “made in America” products. 

“[Trump] said the American Midwest is the centre, where there are so many small and medium-sized companies,” said Mr Ma on a conference call with reporters. “China has 300m middle class [shoppers]. We need good stuff from outside China . . . Trump said Midwest America is definitely the place.” 

In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes $500,000 ‘investor visa’ to wealthy Chinese — Washington Post
Jared Kushner’s Sister Highlights Family Ties in Pitch to Chinese Investors — NYT
Last weekend the Kushner Companies held an event — along with the Chinese company Qiaowai, which connects U.S. companies with Chinese investors — to pitch investment in their Journal Square project in New Jersey. They are looking to get Chinese investors under the EB-5 via program, that allows foreign investors a visa if they invest half a million dollars in specially defined projects. Highlighting the fact that Jared Kushner is the US President’s son-in-law was received poorly by observers.

China-Latin America

Ecuador dips toe into Chinese mango market — Fruitnet

Ecuador is evaluating the results of its first mango campaign in China after securing access to the market late last year. Having taken their first tentative steps with small volumes of airflown fruit, shippers are assessing the performance of different varieties and fine-tuning their programmes in preparation for next season.

China, key partner for Argentina's agricultural sector — Xinhua
Argentina has been named the guest of honor at SIAL China 2017 — Asia's largest food innovation exhibition, to be held in Shanghai from May 17-19 — in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the establishing of diplomatic ties. Last week Argentina's Agency of International Investments and Trade (AAICI) signed a deal with Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, so that products from Argentinean SMEs could be sold on Alibaba's electronic platform.

Xiaomi expands in Latin America via Mexico — CNET
TheChinese smartphone maker on Tuesday said it would start selling two of its phones, the Redmi Note 4 and the Redmi 4X, in Mexico. Xiami also launched a mobile app for its fans called the "Mi Community LATAM.” Mexico is a first step for deeper penetration of Latin America, per the firm:

"Mexico is a really important market for us and acts as our starting point to reach the rest of Latin America," Donovan Sung, director of product management and marketing for Xiaomi Global, said in a press release. "We hope to continue growing our presence here with the constant support of our passionate Mi fans.”

Mexico warns U.S. of alternatives on trade, points to China — Reuters
Mexico’s economic minister is using upcoming bilateral meetings with China to send a message to the current US administration that Latin America's No. 2 economy "has lots of other alternatives" amid tense trade negotiations.

China Econ/Policy

Music Video: The Belt and Road is How — New China TV
Kids from Belt and Road countries get you ready for next week’s conference with a song and video (with rap break) that has been on constant rotation in the Novam Portam offices.

B&R can build links to South America — Global Times
Jorge Heine, Chile’s Ambassador to China, pens an op-ed in an official paper ahead of next week’s meeting. He notes that for Brazil, Chile and Peru, China is already their No.1 trading partner, and that if Southern Cone nations want to increase their share in the Chinese market, they need to invest in infrastructure. He says Chinese construction companies are especially well-positioned to build that infrastructure, and entities such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Chinese policy banks or the China-Latin America funds should be available for such projects.

Tightened Belt: China Skimps on Its Grand Trade Plan — WSJ
China faces resistance to a cherished theme of its foreign policy — The Economist
These pieces highlight some of the strategic shortcomings of the One Belt One Road project. Per the Economist, the scheme is running into three linked problems: it is unclear what its priorities are, or who is running it; finding enough profitable projects to match its vaulting ambitions; and locals in some countries are angry about what they view as China’s heavy-handedness. There’s also an interesting bit in the Economist about how the project’s name has evolved from “Silk Road economic belt” to "Yidai Yilu" (One [land] Belt, One [maritime] Road) to now the Belt and Road Forum — which the magazine helpfully points out becomes BARF as an acronym.

Opinion | China is bent on world domination — but not in the way you think — Washington Post
The Post’s conservative op-ed writer Fred Hiatt rings the alarm bell on China’s global pretensions:

China is bent on world domination — not with its missiles and aircraft carriers, but by controlling solar energy, cloud computing and other industries of the future. 

That is an only slightly exaggerated version of a warning coming from the American chamber of commerce in China. It sent a delegation to Washington last week to warn that “China’s aggressive mercantilist policies are one of the most serious threats facing the future of U.S. advanced technology sectors,” as their policy paper says — and that the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to counter the threat.

Chinese Millennials—Already Big Homeowners—Use Apps to Snap Up Overseas Property — WSJ
According to the WSJ, about 70% of Chinese millennials, own a home, the highest share of respondents from nine countries and regions who were surveyed in a recent HSBC study. Chinese parents often register home purchases under their child’s name to prepare the child for marriage and raising a family, which likely boosts the percentage. Purchases abroad are increasing, as a hedge against yuan depreciation and to find affordable homes in cities with cleaner air.

Is China the World’s New Colonial Power? — NYT
Betteridge's law of headlines states: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” However, this extensive profile of China’s eoncomoic and commercial presence in Africa highlights many practices — importing Chinese workers, ignoring environmental issues, buying off local decision-makers, among others — that local policy-makers in Latin America have expressed to us as they consider engaging China. Addressing these challenges, both on the investing side and on the host country side, will be key to ensuring that Chinese investment overseas continues to be welcomed.

Warren Buffett has many fans in China but few true followers — The Economist
A brief article highlighting the activities of Chinese businessmen who have been likened to the Oracle of Omaha, including Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun, and Wu Xiaohui of Anbang. The article points out that these entrepreneurs have been acting in a very un-Buffett-like way, taking on debt and making speculative investments. Companies which have been more Buffett-like tend to be "big, boring, mainly state-owned insurers. Hewing to official rules, they have been more cautious about using debt."

Chinese Estates Buys Listed London Building for ₤175M — Mingtiandi
Hong Kong based China Estates has bought 11-12 St James’s Square, a listed commercial building in London’s West End from the Employees’ Provident Wealth Fund of Malaysia for ₤174.9 million ($227 million).

Sino-Ocean Land Buys SF Office Building From Gaw Affiliate for $42M — Mingtiandi
Beijing-based Sino-Ocean Land — a subsidiary of food processing conglomerate COFCO — purchased 1161 Mission Street, a 65,000 square foot office building in San Francisco for $42 million, or $640 per square foot.

American Universities Are Welcoming China’s Trojan Horse — Foreign Policy
Article highlights some of the problems that universities have had with China’s Confucius Institutes. The author says Confucius Institutes serve as a vehicle for Chinese propaganda, restricting what the teachers they supply from China can say, distorting what students learn, and pressuring American professors to censor themselves. As a result, the University of Chicago, Penn State, Sweden’s Stockholm University, France’s Lyon University, and McMaster University in Canada have all closed their Confucius Institutes.

A Chinese Giant Is on a Global Buying Spree. Who’s Behind It? — NYT
A good background of the HNA group, that has grown from a early 90s founding to go on a global spending spree. The hook is accusations last week by Mar-a-lago gadfly Guo Wengui that relatives of a senior Chinese leader, Wang Qishan, had a stake in the company.

Why Tencent will be the biggest company in the world by 2025 — Vito Petan
A profile of Tencent Holdings, the WeChat owner that in April broke into top 10 largest companies in the world with a $305 billion valuation.