The year that was

WiC’s 2011 predictions: how did we do?

The year that was

In our 88th issue – published in December 2010 – we looked back at eight of the big themes that we’d tracked since the inaugural issue of Week in China. That was the easy part. We also took a stab at that oh-so-dangerous of arts: prediction. We listed ‘8 Things to Watch in 2011’.

In the interests of accountability, how did we do?

Our first and last predictions were the most accurate. Our opener: we forecast “Why 2011 could be the year property prices finally fall”. This turned out to be true. And our last ‘thing to watch’ was also prescient: “China mulls options for North Korea after Kim Jong-il”. The Dear Leader died just before Christmas, reawakening the debate about how Beijing deals with its unpredictable neighbour.

We also honed in on the importance of the Chinese market to multinationals, talking about how a rising number of firms will make more money in China than in their home markets. Yum Brands (owner of KFC and Pizza Hut) remains the poster-child for this theme. It stepped up its China presence later in the year with its acquisition of local hotpot chain Little Sheep (take a look at our December Focus Issue on the Magnificent Seven to see some of the other international firms cashing in on the China market).

Another of our predictions didn’t take tremendous foresight, we have to admit. We forecast increased volumes of offshore yuan bonds (issued in Hong Kong and known as dim sums). A total of Rmb189 billion ($30 billion) was raised in 2011, versus Rmb42 billion in 2010. (For more coverage of the Rise of the Renminbi, see the Focus issue section of our website.)

We were also correct that high-speed trains were an area to watch – but not quite for the reasons we envisaged. We foresaw controversy as China sought to sell trains and track abroad, as foreign manufacturers launched patent infringement suits. Not so: but China’s bullet trains became one of the year’s biggest talking points after the tragic Wenzhou crash in July.

Likewise we also warned of potential trade conflict between the US and China. While there was plenty of noise on this front – particularly from sections of the US Senate – saner heads prevailed in 2011. Even so, President Obama’s exclusion of China from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in November points to escalating annoyance in Washington at Chinese trade policies.

The two areas that we identified that were less topical in 2011 than thought? Little of note happened in China’s electric car industry (as a result of which self-proclaimed industry leader BYD saw its stock price get smashed).

And likewise our guess on the pending reform of the urban household registration system – something which disadvantages migrant workers in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Reform is still pending as we write…

As to this year? At this stage we’ll stick to saying it will be harder to predict than 2011. But we’ll be writing plenty of stories over the next few weeks that point to the bigger themes ahead.

Issue 88 can be downloaded from www.weekinchina.com, in case you are interested in reading more.

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