Economic Watch: Foreign firms ride China's "new economy"

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-03 23:37:32|Editor: Yang Yi
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BEIJING, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- As China's "new economy" goes from strength to strength, more and more foreign firms are jumping in for a slice of the pie.

Shared bikes flood the city streets, diners pay for meals on their smartphones, electric cars whizz down the roads: in the rapidly shifting picture of China's new economy, foreign companies are not absent.

Apple is betting big on this emerging market. Two weeks ago, its mobile payment service Apple Pay launched its largest-scale marketing campaign since entering China, offering perks including up to 50 percent discounts on purchases for a week.

Despite a much smaller presence than its Chinese rivals Alipay and WeChat Pay, the country's massive mobile payment market is hard to ignore for the U.S. tech giant.

The general merchandise volume of China's third-party mobile payments reached 38 trillion yuan (5.7 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2016, up more than 200 percent from 2015, according to estimates by consultancy iResearch.

Apple's interest is not just in mobile payments. Last year, it made an investment of 1 billion dollars in Chinese on-demand mobility provider Didi Chuxing. This spring, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited bike-sharing start-up Ofo during his China tour.

The sharing economy is taking off in China, so is its appeal to foreign investors. The country's top bike-sharing companies, Ofo and Mobike, have attracted investment from the United States, Japan, Singapore and elsewhere.

Some foreign firms see business opportunities come in an indirect way. One example is the U.S.-funded Dow Chemical (China) Investment Company, which signed a memorandum of understanding with Mobike in May to help the latter develop lighter and more eco-friendly shared bikes.

U.S. home-sharing company Airbnb has said it plans to more than triple the size of its China workforce this year and double its investment in the market to better serve Chinese travelers.

E-commerce is another success story in China's new economy. Online retail sales reached 3.1 trillion yuan in the first half of this year, a surge of 33.4 percent from a year earlier.

While Chinese firms Alibaba and grab the limelight, their U.S. rival Amazon is also doing well.

On Black Friday last year, sales at Amazon China doubled from a year earlier, according to a company report. The number of active users of its cross-border shopping service soared 22 times by December 2016 from two years earlier.

In a move to tap deeper into China's Internet economy, Amazon in June partnered with Migu, a China Mobile subsidiary with one of the country' s largest mobile reading platforms, to launch a new Kindle exclusively for Chinese readers.

China's spectacular growth used to be built on cheap manufacturing, low-end exports and smokestack industries. Now, with a wealthier domestic consumer base as well as technological progress, it is reconfiguring the economy for more consumption, more innovation and less pollution.

The sight of new energy vehicles (NEVs) on China's roads is increasingly common. About 510,000 NEVs were sold in China last year, up 53 percent year on year, and the number is expected to hit 800,000 this year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

International brands are doubling down on the market. Tesla has Asia's largest supercharger station in Beijing and plans to add over 300 supercharger stalls in the country this year, more than the combined increment of the past two years.

Denmark-based world-leading biotechnology company Novozymes sees long-term opportunities in China's industrial biotechnology sector as China transits to a greener, innovation-driven economy.

"We believe China's efforts to build up an inclusive business environment, and the relentless efforts to drive supply-side reform with an emphasis on sustainable growth, will lead to more business opportunities," said Sara Dai, Novozymes regional president of Asia Pacific.

Official data also showed growing foreign interest in China's new economy. In the first half of 2017, foreign direct investment (FDI) into China's high-tech manufacturing and services rose 11.1 percent and 20.4 percent year on year, respectively.

During the same period, FDI in information technology services, a significant part of the new economy, jumped 35.6 percent year on year, said Gao Feng, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce.

Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings wants to increase investment in China's new economy, said Wu Yibing, Temasek's joint head of China.

The transition of China's economy has brought about a number of very attractive sectors including high-tech, non-banking finance, life science and consumption, Wu said.