Can we still rely on China?


Date: Thursday 11th September 2014

Venue: Lloyd’s Register’s General Committee Room, 68 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3.

Host: Tom Boardley, Marine Director, Lloyds Register Group Ltd

Speaker: Mr Shicheng Yang, Chief Executive, COSCO UK Ltd

Subject: Can we still rely on China?

Report by James Brewer

11th-september-2014-can-we-still-rely-on-chinaMr Yang spoke off the record but there is no secret that the shipping and finance community – as represented by those who gathered to hear his talk – is intensely interested in prospects for trade and economic growth in regard to the powerhouse of the East.

One member of the audience went so far as to say: “Shipping made China [what it is] today.”

On that reading shipping may well be the backbone of the Dragon economy, but it is unclear exactly what priority Beijing accords to the industry although formally there is a policy to boost its strength. There is keen interest to see where shipping comes in the pecking order among national priorities including defence, agriculture, manufacturing and the production of power.

Delegates to this meeting were aware that China’s leader Xi Jinping has cooled the chase for high-speed economic growth.

Other economic shifts are taking place. China has been a net importer of coal for the past five years, but the rate of such imports has slowed. The nation is expanding its own coal production.

There was discussion about the basic needs of the 1.3bn people of China and recognition that this meant the import, for instance, of large amounts of soya beans from the United States. It was clear too that the maritime capacity of Hong Kong remains a valuable support to the Chinese economy.

Delegates raised several other macro-issues, such as risks of financial defaults, potential disruption of the Suez Canal and the impact that might have on China and on Chinese investment in the Greek ports sector, and new tax provisions which may fall on charter income, freight and other activity of overseas shipowners and charterers.

Our IMIF chairman Jim Davis thanked Mr Yang for his remarks, and expressed appreciation to Mr Boardley and his colleagues for hosting the event.