New 10-year visa for Chinese visitors in the U.S.A

A new visa extension for US and Chinese citizens is expected to boost US tourism and is being looked upon as a positive step in relations between the two super powers.
US President Barack Obama announced on Monday in Beijing that the US and China had agreed to a reciprocal 10-year visa policy for tourists and businessmen. Speaking during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Obama said the move would “benefit everyone”.
It will allow citizens of each country to travel between the two countries for up to 10 years on a single visa, putting China on level footing with other major trade partners like Brazil and several European countries. Travelers and students can currently receive one-year visas. Students will also now be able to obtain five-year visas. The visa extensions will start on Wednesday.
The change is expected to be a boon for the US economy, creating up to 440,000 American jobs by 2021 because increased tourism and business spurred by visits from more than 7 million Chinese would generate nearly $85 billion in revenue, according to a White House estimate.
Last year 1.8 million Chinese travelers visited the US, contributing $21.1 billion to the economy and supporting more than 109,000 American jobs, according to a White House estimate.
The tourism industry accounted for 2.8 percent of US GDP and nearly 70 million international tourists spent $166 billion in the US in 2012, according to the US Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.
“Where this will make the most impact is on the repeat traveler to the US from China,” said Evan Saunders, CEO of Attract China, a Boston and Beijing consultant that helps US businesses attract Chinese tourists.
He said many Chinese visitors who want to make multiple visits to the US won’t have to go through what can be a time-consuming process of renewing a visa every year.
“By 2018, Chinese tourists are expected to be the top overseas traveler to the US,” Saunders told China Daily.
What do US businesses have to do to take advantage of the projected influx of tourists?
“US businesses need to utilize the Internet and social media to engage the Chinese consumer,” said Saunders. “And they need to do it about six months before the Chinese tourist departs for the US.”
In 2012, Obama issued an executive order to ease the issuance of visas to visiting Chinese and to speed up the visa request process at China’s US consulates.
“This convinced hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors to choose the US as a leisure and shopping destination and knowing that an average Chinese visitor to the US spends an average of $7,000 per trip, the impact on the US economy could be measured in additional billions,” said Pierre Gervois, CEO and publisher of China Elite Focus Magazines.
The visa extension will bring explosive growth to the tourism industry, said Ralph Zhu, marketing director of US International Trip, a California-based travel agency which expects 300,000 customers from China this year.
“The biggest growth may come from Chinese students studying in the US,” he said, “A student may spend three or four years in the United States. Under the new visa policy, their family and friends won’t worry about renewing their visas and therefore are more likely to visit them every year.”
The Chinese account for about 28 percent of the foreign students studying in the US according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Door report.
The basic visa processing fee will remain the same, according to the US State Department.
Obama arrived in Beijing earlier for a week-long trip to the region and the APEC summit. Later he is scheduled for a state visit with Xi.
“The fact that President Obama announced these changes with what he termed the strong approval of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a major multi-lateral event like the APEC summit is a positive step,” Kenneth Lieberthal, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution,told China Daily.
However, Lieberthal said the agreement’s effect on the relationship between the two super powers will probably be muted.
“It’s a huge and complicated relationship. Still it does suggest that both sides want to accomplish some positive things. The new visa requirements will provide a boost to travel and it will increase interaction between the two countries. That is always a good thing,” he said.
Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this report.
Article by PAUL WELITZKIN, China Daily USA, New York
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Alibaba, lenders team up for SME financing

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd teamed up with seven banks on Tuesday, jointly offering loans of up to 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) to China’s small and medium-sized enterprises as the e-commerce conglomerate looks to further build a credit rating system based on online transaction histories.

The cooperation involves Bank of China Ltd, China Construction Bank Corp, Ping An Bank Co Ltd, China Merchants Bank Co Ltd, Bank of Shanghai Co Ltd, Postal Savings Bank of China Co Ltd and Industrial Bank Co Ltd.

According to the Hangzhou-based e-commerce giant, companies that had export transactions of more than $100,000 through Alibaba’s online platforms over the past six months can apply for such loans. They can get 1 yuan worth of bank credit for every $1 in exports.

The online transaction record is the only thing required for the loan.

Wu Minzhi, vice-president of Alibaba Group, said that about 89 percent of SMEs in China find it difficult to get loans because they can not satisfy banks’ requirements.

“As an e-commerce company with lots of transaction data on our platforms, we want to make it easy for all of the export-focused companies to do business,” Wu said.

By narrowing the credit gap between SMEs and banks, Alibaba is looking at the bigger picture of building an environment based on big data that can facilitate every aspect of trade, from information to data and logistics, he said.

Wei Qiang, general manager of Shenzhen One Touch Business Services Co Ltd, Alibaba’s export service subsidiary, said that more than half of the export-focused companies are expected to move their brick-and-mortar trade business to online platforms in the next 10 years.

“That will create a trade service market that is estimated to be as big as 10 trillion yuan,” he said.

As they cope with rising production costs in China, many Chinese exporters are keen to get financing services. He Guodong, manager of Shenzhen Xingjisheng Electronics Co Ltd, said he secured a loan of 5 million yuan from China Construction Bank through the financing service offered by Alibaba.

“My company had an export volume of 260 million yuan in 2013. In the past, banks rarely lent to us, because they didn’t trust the financial data we offered,” he said. He said transaction records provided by Alibaba are very convincing, as it acts as the third party for such transactions.

Li Ye, an analyst at the Internet consultancy Analysys International, said traditional banks can actually benefit from the financing service provided by Alibaba.

“The costs for banks to do due diligence in order to grant loans to SMEs are very high. There are so many SMEs and the amounts they want to borrow aren’t much compared with big enterprises. So big data can be used as an important way for banks to control credit risks without making heavy investments,” she said.

Tmall.com, the business-to-consumer platform owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, rolled out a financing service on Wednesday to help car purchasers in China get unsecured loans of up to 60,000 yuan ($9,606).

The new service underscored the Hangzhou-based e-commerce conglomerate’s strong ambition to conquer a new sector – the online car market.

Tmall has gained fame mainly through the sales of clothes and shoes online.

“China is the world’s largest car market with a total sales of more than 20 million units last year. The number of cars sold through online platforms is quite small compared with the giant size of the market,” said Wang Licheng, a senior executive of Tmall, which allows brands to sell directly to customers.

Vehicle shoppers can apply for interest-free loans that allow them to pay off their balances over as long as 18 months, depending on their shopping records and creditworthiness on Tmall and Taobao, Alibaba’s online marketplace.

Participating automakers include Shanghai General Motors, which operates Tmall.com flagship stores for the Chevrolet and Buickbrands,andSAICMotorCorpLtd,formerlyShanghaiAutomotiveIndustryCorp.

The program is the latest move by Alibaba to leverage its strengths in data and finance to tap into new markets. On Tuesday, Alibaba introduced a program that provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises in China.

The car loan program is run by the Small and Micro Financial Services Group, a company spun out of Alibaba Group that includes Alipay. It operates the popular Yu’ebao money market fund. Rather than funding the loans itself, Small and Micro Financial Services acts as an intermediary to verify the creditworthiness of loan applicants.

During a promotion from July 25 to Aug 11 last year, 17 vehicle brands with Tmall.com storefronts sold 3,400 cars valued at 80 million yuan through the website.

However, most of the online vehicle transactions do not really qualify as pure e-commerce, because the buyers generally make down payments online, then go to physical locations to make the remaining payments, said Pan Wei, analyst with the Beijing-based Internet consultancy Analysys International.

There are many online platforms that aim to build automobile e-commerce “empires”, but most merely serve as online media outlets that feed vehicle-related information to potential buyers, said Pan.

Autohome Inc, a leading online portal for vehicle information, formed a strategic partnership with JD.com, Alibaba’s largest competitor in China, in June to develop automobile e-commerce and to facilitate real transactions online.

Pan said that Alibaba enjoys a strong advantage in automobile e-commerce as it has integrated financing service on its online platform.

“But the move doesn’t guarantee a promising future as most people still aren’t used to buying high-priced items such as cars online,” he said, adding that it will take a lot of time for consumers to form this habit and for online retailers to create new methods to increase user loyalty.

Chinese regulators have given the go-ahead to Alibaba Group Holding’s online payment affiliate Alipay

Chinese regulators have given the go-ahead to Alibaba Group Holding’s online paymentaffiliate Alipay to take control of fast-growing fund firm Tianhong Asset Management Co as thee-commerce giant bulks up its push into online finance.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) approved Zhejiang Alibaba E-Commerce Co, the parent company of online payment company Alipay, to purchase 51percent of Tianhong, according to a filing from Tianhong shareholder Inner MongoliaJunzheng Energy & Chemical Industry Co on Thursday.

 

Alipay gets regulator nod for Tianhong dealAlibaba files for $1 billion IPO inUS
Alipay gets regulator nod for Tianhong dealAlibaba helps make China’slargest fund

Alibaba is gearing up for what could be the world’s biggesttech IPO, and online finance has become anotherbattleground for the firm. Though the business unit will belargely kept separate from the offering, it could play animportant role in the entire company’s future growth. 

Tianhong has gone from near obscurity to running China’sbiggest money market fund by assets under management(AUM) in just months after it launched fund platform Yu’eBao, or “leftover treasure”, with Alipay in June last year.

Yu’e Bao’s one-year interest rates are higher than a bank’sregulator-restricted rates for one-year deposits, and are anincentive to deposit money with the platform.

Yu’e Bao, which people can run from their smartphones, isalso linked to China’s biggest online payment platformAlipay, similar to PayPal. Users can dip directly into Yu’eBao to buy products on Alibaba’s huge online shoppingwebsites and anywhere else that takes Alipay.

Alipay’s investment, valued previously at 1.18 billion yuan ($189.11 million), will see the firminject 262 million yuan in registered capital into the fund, according to the filing.

Tianhong had 554 billion yuan in AUM in the first quarter of 2014, from just 10.5 billion yuan ayear earlier, according to Z-Ben Advisors, a Shanghai-based investment managementconsultancy.

Nation becoming top mobile phone market

Nation becoming top mobile phone market

Smartphones are advertised at a China Mobile Ltd store in Shanghai.Chinese shoppers are expected to buy morethan 400 million smartphones this year and the amount is on track to break 500 million by 2016, AnalysysInternational said. AFP

 

China will become the world’s largest mobile phone market by revenue for the first time byyear end, overtaking the United States, an industry report said. Internet guru Mary Meeker hasidentified the country as the most mobile nation in the world.

Phone sales will reach $87 billion in China during 2014, a jump of 53 percent year-on-year.That compares with $60 billion projected sales in the US, Strategy Analytics said.

 

Nation becoming top mobile phone marketTop 10 Chinese smartphonemakers 

Nation becoming top mobile phone marketSmartphones lift flat-panel sector 

Smartphones dominate sales. Chinese shoppers will buymore than 400 million smartphones this year, according tolocal research company Analysys International. Theamount is on track to break 500 million by 2016, it said.

 

Meeker acknowledged China’s role in the global mobileInternet sector. The world’s second-largest economy ismoving swiftly to become a leader in mobile commerce,helped with applications installed on smartphones,according to Meeker. She is a partner at venture capital firmKleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

As of last year, more than 500 million Chinese were usingmobile devices – primarily smartphones – to connect to theInternet, according to the China Internet NetworkInformation Center. The penetration rate of mobile Internetusers rose to a record 81 percent in 2013.

China beat the US in terms of smartphone shipments in2012.

The growth in mobile devices is driven by the country’srapid shift to fourth-generation telecommunications technologies, analysts said.

Leading players, such as Samsung Electronics Co, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and LenovoGroup Ltd, have pledged to expand their distribution channels, and a widening productoffering is diversifying demand in China.

Although China leads the global mobile phone market in many ways, the Strategy Analyticsreport said the US is most likely to remain the most valuable market by profit for a while.

“High average selling prices and huge operator subsidies will make the US a very profitablemarket for major device brands such as Apple and Samsung,” it said.

Nation becoming top mobile phone market

The world’s leading smartphone brands may find it difficult tomaintain a high growth rate in China, where analysts said thehigh double-digit expansion may be nearing its end.Additionally, local players are vigorously expanding businesseson their home turf.

Lenovo, better known for its PC business outside China, isbetting on smartphones for future profit. The Beijing-basedcompany became the second-largest smartphone vendor inChina by the end of the first quarter, data from AnalysysInternational showed. Its 12.3 percent market share only lagsbehind Samsung.

Coolpad – Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific(Shenzhen) Co Ltd – as well as Huawei and Xiaomi Corpenjoyed near double-digit market share and Apple’s sharedropped to less than 7 percent.

Bryan Wang, China head at consultancy Forrester Research Inc, said 4G is a necessaryfeature for companies such as Xiaomi to put into their portfolio as Chinese are eager for fasterInternet speeds.

 

Nation becoming top mobile phone market Nation becoming top mobile phone market
Samsung-Apple battle enters second round Apple Inc out, home brands in

China’s millionaire machine slows

China’s millionaire machine has slowed, suggesting that the country’s economic weakness is reaching the top of the economy.

China’s millionaire population grew 3.6 percent last year, adding 100,000 millionaires and bringing its total millionaire count to 2.9 million, according a new report by the Chinese wealth website Hurun. The growth rate marks a sudden slowdown from the double-digit millionaire growth in China in recent years.

By contrast, the U.S. added 640,000 millionaires last year, bringing its total to 9.63 million, according to Spectrem Group. Spectrem defines millionaires as households with investible assets of $1 million or more. 

A man exercises in front of residential buildings along the Shing Mun River in the Sha Tin area of Hong Kong, China.

Jerome Favre | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A man exercises in front of residential buildings along the Shing Mun River in the Sha Tin area of Hong Kong, China.

The number of Chinese worth $16 million or more grew 4 percent to 67,000, according to the report from Hurun and the Industrial Bank. 

Of the 100,000 new millionaires, 30,000 were in Shanghai, 17,000 in Guangdong and 15,000 in Beijing. Beijing still has the most millionaires in China, with 490,000, according to the report.

The report also looked at the health and hobbies of Chinese millionaires. It said the overall “spiritual satisfaction” of Chinese millionaires is relatively high, while the richer millionaires show even higher degrees of satisfaction.

But China’s notorious pollution levels are reaching the penthouses: 87 percent of Chinese millionaires are dissatisfied with pollution levels.

Chinese millionaires spend an average of three hours a week exercising, with jogging, badminton and swimming listed as their top three forms of exercise.

Richest self-made billionaires in Asia

Patrik Stollarz | AFP | Getty Images

They read an average of 10 hours a week, but richer millionaires read 15 hours a week.

“Chinese millionaires are setting aside more time than I expected towards reading and learning, as well as exercise,” said Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher Rupert Hoogewerf.

The top three hobbies of the Chinese rich are fine dining, travel and exercise. Millionaires traveled an average of once a year and spent an average of $10,000.

—By CNBC’s Robert Frank

China enters new luxury market era

If you want to get some idea just how important China has become as a luxury consumer market you don’t have to go further than the recent Beijing auto show.

What started out as a low-key event in 1990 has grown into the biggest and most important stage for the world’s auto makers, especially those at the luxury end where models are tailored to China’s affluent.

Wander the streets of Beijing and Shanghai and you are sure to see BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes,Porsches, and Ferraris – just about any top-end auto brand that comes to mind.

By 2020, China is expected to be the world’s biggest luxury auto market, according to Dan Ammann, president of United States auto giant General Motors, who shares this view with many of his competitors in North America andEurope.

 

The explosive growth of China’s emerging middle class has brought with it sweeping economic change and social transformation and will continue to do so, says global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. By 2022, more than 75 percent of China’s urban consumers will be earning 60,000 yuan ($9,600) a year.

McKinsey says that in terms of purchasing power, that is between the average income of Brazil and Italy.

In 2000, just 4 percent of urban Chinese households were within that range.

Analysts say the middle class and upper middle class will be the principal engines of consumer spending in the decade ahead.

More than a third of the money spent around the world on high-end bags, shoes, watches, jewelry and ready-to-wear clothing now comes from Chinese consumers either domestically or abroad when they travel.

Within the next year, Chinese tourists could be spending as much as $194 billion annually inEurope, the US, Asia and other vacation spots, according to Morgan Stanley in a research note on luxury companies.

Chinese travelers are already the world’s biggest spenders, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

The UN group says that by next year the number of Chinese travelling abroad will exceed 100 million, although some analysts say that may happen this year.

Earlier this year, The Economist said: “How much China spends is striking. Even more so is the way it spends”.