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當蘇聯解體遇上日本失落的十年[漢英對照]
新聞報導 -
作者 Leo | 禪定   
2010-06-14


(picture source: iBlog Oakville)

一個詞彙 – 中國。

最近、國際媒體不斷的報導著富士康四十萬員工深圳廠自殺與勞工動亂事件,促使我個人思考。 以下是個人摘要與看法:

“勞工運動盛行的背後絕非理想。 而是乏人問津的基礎面統計 – 人口統計。 今年、中國勞動年齡層、15至64歲、的人口比例達到71.9%的巔峰。 亦是30年來足年累月的最高點。 再加上1980年以前、「一子化政策實」施前、的生育率膨脹,推動了勞工資源在30年間成長了33%。 並助長中國南部以出口為導向的血汗工廠 (“China's Dwindling Resource,” Philip Bowring, International Herald Tribune, June 3, 2010)。”

富士康並非寂寞的承受勞工糾紛:“根據相關人士透露,上周、日商本田公佈同意1900位員工於其一南中國廠加薪24%至32%,以藉此平息已長達兩周的罷工。 於此各大沿海地區工廠困頓於勞工短缺之時,大型製造業已頃向提高工資、並迫切吸引員工 (“As China's Wages Rise, Export Prices Could Follow,” David Barboza, June 7, 2010)。”

另一 (更大的?) 人口定時炸彈:

“五年後將有另一個重要里程碑:勞動年齡層人口的絕對值於2015年達頂峰後將足年遞減。 事實上 勞動人口之巔峰可能已來臨;只因學齡延長,導至加入勞動族群的年齡已從15歲攀升。 而女性參與勞動市場也可能在現今的70%已達頂峰 (“China's Dwindling Resource,” Philip Bowring, International Herald Tribune, June 3, 2010)。”

如果中國的超級房地產泡沫破裂,座鎮當地的外資企業之年輕勞工短缺之問題或許暫時舒緩,但卻提醒我們另一個中國的經濟問題。 名對沖基金經理 Jim Chanos 接受「美國商業週刊」採訪時 (“Short-Seller Jim Chanos: Red Flag Over China,” Charlie Rose, BusinessWeek, April 8, 2010),曾推測中國將瘋狂於房地產,時至“2010年末、或2011年:”

Chanos 並表示中國房地產泡沫“比杜拜還糟糕一千倍:” “我認為中國的不動產市場糟透了。說穿了、我們所講的是一個世界級 – 也許是獨一無二世界級 – 不動產泡沫。”

以下為此基金經理於訪談時所指出的要點與觀察:

“我們將泡沫訂意為,舉債炒作導至資產價格高漲後,此資產 – 租代用不動產、商辦大樓、獨立屋 – 賺取的現金流不足夠償還舉債的金額。”

“根據最新報導… 當地某一建商正計畫著重新建造一整個全新的「紐約時代廣場」於北京郊區,內設32個百老匯歌舞廳。 又在中國聽說些古怪的建案,類似杜拜的「室內滑雪場」。”

“…[你提的中國建案案例]的建築非大眾所用。 不是中產階級所能購買的房子。 那是一些大都會的高級獨立屋、和高級商辦大樓。 舉個例子、現在中國某些都會區的建築成本每平方英呎約100至150美元,比起西方國家的標準並不高。 但這表示此類沒地板、沒牆壁、沒家電用品的獨立屋,將花掉一對中國雙薪夫妻十萬至十五晚美元。 假設這對夫妻約三十出頭,他們的綜合年薪約七千至八千美元。 你算算。 即使他們的年薪為一萬至萬五千美元,他們還是扛不起十五萬美元的房子。 這好像某人年薪四萬,卻於美國房市泡沫化後購買一棟六十至八十萬美元房子。 你應知那次是怎麼結束的 [註1]。”

他又指出: “歷史上有著類似中國之外匯存底與經濟比例的經濟體 [註2],為1989年的日本、與1929年的美國。 所以不須多談 [註3]。”

現在的中國是否類似八零年代末的日本?

在日本資產泡沫化高點時,舉債炒作房產,將東京皇居的土地推升至超越整個美國加州的國土。 九零年代初的經濟萎縮冷卻了此債台高築所引發的瘋狂驅動力。 這後果,與日本人口老化所造成的微弱消費需求導至「失落的十年」。

財經作家 Harry Dent 對日本經濟與人口狀況做出以下的觀察: “二次大戰期間的生育率崩跌,導至日本於九零年代初的經濟趨緩、即1990至1992…二次大戰後、1947至1950期間、亦軍隊歸國後,日本生育大幅提升。 也因此日本經濟得以於1992至1996年間反彈;但只小幅反彈,因為經濟泡沫的破裂,加上被債台高築的企業和房產炒作爛帳所崩塌的銀行體系,已讓日本經濟元氣大傷。 而較嚴重的趨緩接著在1996年末、1997年初開始。 日本於1950至1957年期間新嬰出生量大跌,而此期亦是美國與其他國家嬰兒數量龐大增加之時。 延加47年以反應個人顛峰消費 [註4],這也意謂著日本將於1997至2004期間消費力嚴重趨緩 (The Roaring 2000s Investor: Strategies for the Life You Want, Harry S. Dent, Jr., p.p. 81-82)。”

中國的問題不只於此。 多數商品於1999或2000年觸底。 以歷史為依據,原物料長期牛市為期約二十年。 這表示我們大約還得歷經十年的食品與能源價格飛漲。 以下是中國人口定時炸彈的另一個副作用:

“全中國現在只有一億零六百萬15至19歲的勞工,小於一億二千二百萬位20至24歲的族群 。 中國現在四、五十歲的人口為三億七千八百萬、但只有兩億七千三百萬三十歲以下的人。這個現在還繼續著的青年人口之遞減在鄉下最為顯著。 當鄉村人口更加老化後,對農業將有若干影響。 雖農地交易已現行實施,農地易主整頓後是否能產生足夠的規模以加快農業現代化? 此外、鄉村人口凋零與水源短缺是否造成食物危機? (“China's Dwindling Resource,” Philip Bowring, International Herald Tribune, June 4, 2010)”

值得省思…。 所以我們可以此劇情段論: 債台高築後,比杜拜還嚴重一千倍的中國不動產泡沫破裂,同時、對生產與消費均有負面影響的人口定時炸彈亦引爆;此刻的國際背景為原物料商品價格高漲,而中國的農村卻人口銳減、環境毀損、亦飽受惡性忽略。 我看到的是惡性通膨、處處暴動、大規模饑荒、和接下來的政治混亂…。

到最後是、前蘇聯模樣的分裂 – 和瓦解。

所以富士康、台商、以及工業國家跨國企業的勞工動亂要如何解決? 有一個有點極端、但比加薪還有效的好方法: 切割、認列賠損、馬上快速離開中國。


[註1] 請參考2007年開始的美國房市泡沫(英文)。

[註2] 中國之外匯存底兩兆萬美。

[註3] 請參考日本泡沫經濟與三零年代的經濟大恐慌

[註4] 經統計、47歲通常為一生當中消費開銷最龐大時。

DISCLOSURE: The information contained in this article should not be misconstrued as an offer to buy or sell securities. Always consult a professional advisor before making an investment. The author holds no positions in Chinese securities nor in Renminbi.


When USSR Disintegration Meets Japan's Lost Decade

In one word – China.

The recent international media's reporting on suicides and labor unrest at the 400,000 employee Foxconn factory near Shenzhen got me thinking.  Here are some gathered notes and musings:

“ ...[B]ehind the surge of worker activism [such as the Foxconn incident that lead to a doubling of worker's wages so far] lies not ideology but some dull, fundamental data – demographics.  This year the percentage of China's population of working age people (15 to 64) peaks at 71.9 percent, the culmination of a steady rise over 30 years.  Together with the birth bulge which preceded the introduction of the One Child policy in 1980 this increase drove workforce growth of 33 percent in 30 years and helped to fuel the export sweatshops of southern China (“China's Dwindling Resource,” Philip Bowring, International Herald Tribune, June 3, 2010).”

Foxconn isn't alone in suffering from labor-relations problems: “Last week the Japanese automaker Honda said it had agreed to give about 1900 workers at one of its plants in southern China raises of 24 to 32 percent, in hopes of ending a two-week strike, according to people briefed on the agreement...Big manufacturers are moving to raise salaries because they are desperate to attract new workers at a time when many coastal factory cities are struggling with labor shortages (“As China's Wages Rise, Export Prices Could Follow,” David Barboza, June 7, 2010).”

Here is another (perhaps bigger?) demographics time-bomb:

“ Another important marker is just five years away: The absolute size of the working age population will peak by 2015 and then decline gradually.  In practice, the peak of available workers may have already arrived because more people stay in school longer and thus do not enter the workforce until much later than 15.  The participation of women in the workforce at 70 percent is as high as it is likely to get (“China's Dwindling Resource,” Philip Bowring, International Herald Tribune, June 3, 2010).”

If the gigantic property bubble in China bursts, that might temporarily alleviate young worker shortage problem of foreign firms investing in China.  And this leads us to another big problem of the Chinese economy.  As depicted in an interview by BusinessWeek (“Short-Seller Jim Chanos: Red Flag Over China,” Charlie Rose, BusinessWeek, April 8, 2010), the hedge fund manager Jim Chanos guessed the time for China's real estate mania to end “...in late 2010, 2011.”

Chanos also thinks that China's real estate bubble is “a thousand times worse than Dubai:” “I think it's going to be that bad for the property market in China.  Let's be clear: What we're talking about is a world-class – if not the world-class – property bubble”

Here are more of the hedge fund operator's facts and observations from the same interview:

“What we define as a bubble is any kind of debt-fueled asset inflation where the cash flow generated by the asset itself – a rental property, office building, condo – does not cover the debt incurred to buy the asset.”

“...[A]ccording to a news report...there's a developer that's going to put in a new Times Square in suburban Beijing, replete with 32 Broadway theater.  You're beginning to hear about these bizarre developments in China, indoor ski resorts similar to what we saw in Dubai.”

“...[T]he real estate being built [in China] is not for the masses.  This is not affordable housing for the middle class.  This is high-end condos in major urban areas and high-end office buildings.  Just to give you an idea, right now construction costs in China are starting to hit $100 to $150 per square foot in some cities.  That doesn't sound like a lot by Western standards, but it means a condominium basically presented to you with no floors, no walls, no appliances costs the average Chinese two-income couple $100,000 to $150,000 U.S.  That Chinese two-income couple in their 30s probably makes combined $7000 or $8000 a year.  You do the math.  Even if they were making $10,000 to $15,000 a year, they couldn't carry a $150,000 condo.  This is very similar to someone making $40,000 in the U.S. At the height of our bubble buying a $600,000 or $800,000 house.  We know how that ended.”

He further observed: “The last two economies that had similar foreign currency reserves [as that of China's current $2 trillion] relative to the size of their economies were Japan in 1989 and the U.S. In 1929.  I'll let that be the end of that discussion.”

Do you see a similarity between China and Japan in the late '80s here?

In the height of the Japanese asset price bubble, debt-fueled real estate speculation drove the price of the land beneath Tokyo's Imperial Palace rediculoustly high: It was worth more than the entire state of California.  The early '90s recession cooled this debt-fueled but insane dynamics.  Its aftermath coupled with Japan's aging-population-induced weak demand resulted in ushinawareta jūnen, the “lost decade.”

Here is author Harry Dent's observations on Japan's economy and demographics: “That drop-off in births during World War II caused an economic slowdown in Japan in the early '90s, from 1990 to 1992...Japan had a strong surge in births after World War II, from 1947 to 1950 when the soldiers came home.  That caused the Japanese economy to rebound after 1992 into 1996, but at a lower rate because of the incredible devastation from the bursting of the economic bubble and the collapse of the banking system due to bad loans to corporations and real estate speculation.  But then the real recession started in late 1996 and early 1997.  Japan had a steep decline in births, or a baby bust, between 1950 and 1957, the very years when most countries, including the United States, had their largest baby booms.  That means a dramatic slowdown in consumer spending from 1997 into 2004 on a 47-year lag for the peak in spending (The Roaring 2000s Investor: Strategies for the Life You Want, Harry S. Dent, Jr., p.p. 81-82) ...”

China's problem doesn't end here.  Many commodities bottomed in 1999 or 2000.  Historically, a secular commodities bull market in commodities lasts about two decades.  That means we are likely to have approximately one more decade of rising food and energy prices.  Here is another side-effect of China's population time-bomb:

“For China as a whole there are currently only 106 million workers in the 15-19 age group compared with 122 million in the 20-24 group.  China now has 378 million in their 40s and 50s but only 273 million under 30.  The decline, which is continuing, in the number of the young and mobile has been greatest in rural areas...[W]hat will happen to agriculture as rural populations get ever older.  Will consolidation of land holdings, now that transfers of agricultural land are allowed, happen on a big enough scale to allow the rapid mechanization of farming?  Or will rural de-population and water shortages threaten a food crisis (“China's Dwindling Resource,” Philip Bowring, International Herald Tribune, June 4, 2010)?”

Good questions.  So we are left with the following scenario: the debt-fueled Chinese property bubble which is one thousand times worse than Dubai pops simultaneously with the implosion of baby bust time-bomb that have negative consequences on both production and consumption side of the economy; at a time of soaring global commodities prices while the Chinese country-side is being de-populated, environmentally degraded, and grossly neglected.  I see hyperinflation, widespread riots, mass starvation, and the ensuing political instability...

All leading up to a Soviet-style breakup – and break-down.

So what to do with Foxconn and all the Taiwanese and rich country multinational firms' labor unrest issue?  I have a better, though dramatic, solution than simply raising the workers' salaries: Cut losses and get the hell out China ASAP.

DISCLOSURE: The information contained in this article should not be misconstrued as an offer to buy or sell securities.  Always consult a professional advisor before making an investment.  The author holds no positions in Chinese securities nor in Renminbi.


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