Sunday, September 07, 2014

The China Boom Story: Alibaba and the 40 Thieves

I suspect the Alibaba IPO may well prove to be the high water mark of the China Boom Story in more ways than one.

We all know the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. Poor woodcutter Ali Baba discovers the 40 Thieves' secret cave where they stashed all their ill-gotten wealth. Various adventures follow, with the loyal slave girl being the heroine who repeatedly saves Ali Baba from death at the hands of the Thieves and their resourceful, cunning leader.

My favorite filmic depiction of the story is the 1934 film Chu Chin Chow starring Chinese-American actress Anna Mae Wong as the heroic slave girl. (Another Arabian Nights' inspired fantasy also stars Wong as a loyal slave girl: the 1924 silent film The Thief of Bagdad with Douglas Fairbanks and Anna Mae Wong. Clearly, Hollywood's favored role for Miss Wong was loyal "exotic" slave.)

On the current stage, the drama being played out is that of Chinese Internet company Alibaba, which is set to go public on the U.S. stock market next week in a staggering $21 billion IPO (initial public offering). Many market pundits expect the current rally in stocks to continue through next week, if for no other reason than to insure the investment banks dump all the Alibaba shares on a credulous public at full pop. Alibaba To Raise $21 Billion In Historic IPO.

The IPO share price of between $60 and $66 would peg Alibaba's value around $160 billion.

Behind the rah-rah, Alibaba's fair market value is problematic: What's an accounting puzzle like Alibaba (really) worth?
As the world’s largest e-commerce company prepares to go public, its murky financials don’t make it any easier for investors to figure out the company’s value.

In the bigger picture, the same can be said of the entire China Boom Story, which has supported the global expansion of trade, commodities and stocks for the past two decades: is it for real, or is it fundamentally an elaborate facade of carefully designed props, borrowed money and opaque accounting?

Let's start by stipulating that the great wealth created by China has been generated by the hard work of its enormous workforce, many millions of whom have toiled back-breaking hours in mind-numbing factory jobs to better the prospects of their children, many of whom were left behind in the rural villages the parents left as migrant workers.

This story has been told in two documentaries: China Blue and Last Train Home.

The largely untold story of the China Boom is the vast thievery that has siphoned off much of the wealth into the hands of a crony-Communist Party-state few:

-- peasants' land stolen by local governments and their crony developers

-- wages stolen from workers by unscrupulous factory owners and their thoroughly corrupt government cronies

-- value stolen from consumers via the substitution of shoddy or even poisoned ingredients for the product being advertised (top Party officials get all their food from secret organic farms)

-- product design and intellectual property stolen by copycat manufacturers who pirate everything under the sun without paying a yuan of royalties

-- corrupt officials stealing from everyone via bribes, illicit partnerships, shares in land development deals, etc. etc. etc.

-- last but not least, the European, American, Japanese and Korean corporations that are complicit in all these layers of officially sanctioned theft to lower the wholesale cost of their $40 jeans (retail) to $4 from $5 to maximize their gargantuan profits at the expense of the officially exploited. (Interesting how that reduction didn't result in any corresponding reduction in the retail price.)

Few dare ask if the Alibaba IPO isn't just the latest in an unending string of officially sanctioned thievery of the credulous or powerless. Is Alibaba worth $160 billion as advertised? Based on what earnings? By what accounting standards? How much of these net earnings will actually flow to shareholders?

Or is the Alibaba IPO just another snatch-and-grab by U.S. investment banks anxious to skim their share of the China Boom Story before the whole flimsy backstage set implodes in the collapse of shadow banking and shoddy real estate development?

I suspect the Alibaba IPO may well prove to be the high water mark of the China Boom Story in more ways than one: the apex of Wall Street's greedy complicity in selling the fantasy, the apex of "China's real estate bubble is not a bubble, and no, it will never pop," and the apex of the wealth divide between the handful of thieves who are busy transferring their wealth out of China and the reach of those they ripped off, and the exploited mired in a polluted factory to the world that cannot possibly prosper without a permanently expanding real estate bubble and an equally permanent global expansion.

The Chinese thieves are busy stashing their ill-gotten wealth in the West. Perhaps it's just a matter of time before the modern-day equivalent of loyal slaves arise to take back what was stolen from them.

Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
go to Kindle editionAre you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $20

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers(25 minutes, YouTube) 

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Thomas D. ($25), for your most generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.Thank you, Karl L. ($50), for yet another superlatively generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your remarkably steadfast support and readership.

Terms of Service

All content on this blog is provided by Trewe LLC for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at anytime and without notice.

Our Privacy Policy:

Correspondents' email is strictly confidential. This site does not collect digital data from visitors or distribute cookies. Advertisements served by third-party advertising networks such as Adsense and Investing Channel may use cookies or collect information from visitors for the purpose of Interest-Based Advertising; if you wish to opt out of Interest-Based Advertising, please go to Opt out of interest-based advertising (The Network Advertising Initiative)
If you have other privacy concerns relating to advertisements, please contact advertisers directly. Websites and blog links on the site's blog roll are posted at my discretion.

Our Commission Policy:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I also earn a commission on purchases of precious metals via BullionVault. I receive no fees or compensation for any other non-advertising links or content posted
on my site.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP