Sidney Leng

Sidney Leng

Reporter, China Economy

Sidney Leng is a contributor to Inkstone. He covers the Chinese economy for the South China Morning Post.

Location
Hong Kong
Language spoken
English, Mandarin
Areas of Expertise
China news, economics
Beijing is censoring a French economist Xi Jinping once praised
When French economist Thomas Piketty published his acclaimed Capital in the 21st Century in 2013, it was an immediate hit upon release in China, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. The nearly 700-page book, an analysis and critique of modern capitalism and inequality, even won praise from President Xi Jinping. In a 2015 speech he used its findings on surging inequality in the United States and Europe to claim that Marxist political economy was as relevant as ever. But Piketty’s new book Capital and Ideology, which expands on the theme of inequality, looks increasingly unlikely to have the same success after falling foul of China’s censors. Published outside China last year, it has yet
The stark reality of China’s wage gap
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Index features a single, illuminating number that helps you make sense of China. $141: How much the poorest 40% of Chinese people make per month. China’s top economic data agency on June 15 said that more than 40% of China’s population, or more than 600 million people, earned only about 1,000 yuan ($141) per month last year. With $141 in China, someone could buy about 45 Big Mac meals or buy one pair of Nike Air Jordan shoes.  The data agency confirmed a figure quoted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a press conference in May that left many middle-class Chinese in disbelief. Some internet users expressed shock at how many people were left behind in China’
Beijing wants to turn the ‘Chinese Hawaii’ into a trade hub to rival Hong Kong
China has unveiled plans to turn its southern island of Hainan into the mainland’s answer to Hong Kong or Singapore, as it tries to dampen the risk of decoupling with the United States. Beijing on Monday outlined a package of special policies to make the tropical island a free-trade port by lowering the income tax rate for selected individuals and companies, scrapping import duties and relaxing visa requirements for tourists and business travelers. The island province of 9.5 million people will also enjoy freedoms in terms of trade, investment and the movement of people and data, according to the plans. The project to create a regional trade, shopping and shipping center in Hainan – which at
US semiconductor giant scraps its only China factory
An American technology giant has closed its semiconductor factory in China, dealing a potential blow to China’s bid to own a bigger slice of the market of a technology crucial to its global ambitions. The US chip giant GlobalFoundries confirmed that it has halted operations of the facility and placed employees on an “employee optimization plan,” a commonly-used euphemism for lay-offs.  The facility was GlobalFoundries’s only factory in China. While its closure has little to do with the US-China rivalry –  it never managed to get off the ground – the announcement comes amid an escalating tech war with the United States. The symbolism is rich. China is struggling in its efforts to boost its d
With a poor social safety net, is China prepared to handle a job crisis?
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown tens of millions out of work in China, piling pressure on the country’s patchy social welfare network and creating a major policy challenge for Beijing. While the Chinese government has vowed to handle the sharp rise in unemployment, some economists have warned that the structural changes in the economy that helped absorb waves of unemployed in the past are no longer present to help in the current situation. A failure to revive the services sector and private businesses, which account for the vast majority of jobs, could darken China’s economic future and undermine the Communist Party’s narrative that its model of governance will lead China to a great reju
China’s jobs crisis could give leaders sleepless nights
Years of social progress in China are at risk of being undone as the world’s second-largest economy grapples with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic that has driven unemployment to historical highs. Over the past few years, the country’s labor market has been underpinned by the rise in service sector jobs, allowing newly laid-off factory workers to take up employment as delivery drivers or store clerks. But the pandemic has broken this virtuous cycle, fanning the government’s worst fears about massive unemployment and the potential for ensuing social unrest that could undermine its iron grip on power. Across the country, it is not uncommon to see stores closing or popular rest
Is lockdown worth it?
China’s unprecedented and, at the time, controversial decision to lock down the city of Wuhan at the end of January was quickly rolled out across the country, turning cites into ghost towns as businesses not deemed essential to daily life were closed. The mandatory closures of restaurants, bars, bookstores, hairdressers and nail shops proved successful in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Last week, the lockdown was removed, with many other cities across China also returning to normal. But the debate over whether such draconian emergency measures to contain the virus are necessary, or even desirable, is far from over. China is citing its mass closures as a key part of its success in br
China sees fewer business closures amid coronavirus crisis. That’s bad news
Extreme lockdown measures to fight the coronavirus in China paralyzed the country, including the ability to actually close a business, data shows. About 460,000 Chinese firms closed permanently in the first quarter this year, the lowest number since 2015. In 2019, close to 1.5 million companies closed in the first quarter. In 2018 that number was over 1 million and in 2017 it was just under 900,000. In a normal year, a significant decrease in business closures would be something to cheer. But China’s lockdown measures mean people were not able to set up or close businesses and file for bankruptcies. New business registrations from January to March fell 29% from a year earlier to 3.2 million
Inside China’s race to sell coronavirus testing kits to the world
As the horror of the coronavirus outbreak in China was unfolding over January’s Lunar New Year holiday, a group of technicians were holed up in a Nanjing facility with a supply of instant noodles, working long hours to develop testing kits for diagnosing the virus. Already at that point, the coronavirus had ripped through the city of Wuhan and was spreading rapidly around China. A handful of diagnostic tests had already been approved by the central government in Beijing, but hundreds of firms in China were still scrambling to develop new ones. “I did not think about applying for approvals in China,” said Zhang Shuwen, founder of Nanjing Liming Bio-products. “The application takes too much ti
Travel bans and racism deter Chinese students from studying overseas
The coronavirus outbreak will likely lead to a drop in Chinese students and tourists abroad, as Chinese citizens face entry bans and xenophobic attacks globally.  The epidemic has infected more than 110,000 people and killed more than 3,800 globally, most of them in China. Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea have also been hit hard by the virus.  Although the spread of the virus has slowed in China, analysts say the travel restrictions imposed on Chinese travelers will have continuing effect on the education and tourism sectors worldwide.  In the United States, a Boston-based Chinese student agent said applications had dropped significantly following the virus outbreak, exacerbating an existi