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China’s Covid Catastrophe: Contextual Evidence (Part 1: Demography, Economics)

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  • “45 Chinese cities with a combined 373 million people in lockdown… The 45 cities account for more than one-quarter of China’s population and roughly 40% of the country’s total economic output.” – The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2022
  • “At least 68 cities are in partial or full lockdown, according to data from the country’s National Health Commission.” – The Financial Times, Sept 6, 2022
  • “We really depend on China succeeding in this transition,” said Jörg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. “But frankly, it doesn’t look good.” – The Wall Street Journal, Feb 14 2022

Three years after the initial outbreak in Wuhan (which now seems to date from September or October 2019), city-wide lockdowns continue in China. The economic engine has been thrown out of gear. The 2nd quarter saw near zero growth in China’s GDP, with significant declines in industrial production, retail sales, and a rise in unemployment. The Chinese stock market has dropped by two thirds in a year and a half (a bigger decline than the U.S. stock market experienced in 2008).

The tightly-managed Yuan exchange rate has weakened sharply since the renewed lockdowns began in the Spring.

These are all signs of significant distress. Given China’s weight in the global economic system, as a producer and a consumer, everyone has a stake in the outcome of Xi Jinping’s Zero Covid program.

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The West has managed to stabilize the public health situation, through hybrid immunity and effective vaccines. A rough co-existence with the virus has been achieved, apparently, though at a price. The elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are still vulnerable. 200,000 Americans have died of Covid this year. But for most of us, the medical risk seems to be diminishing. The sense of crisis has faded. Most of us have been able to return to our more or less normal lives.

Our greater risk today is different. Western countries are exposed to the economic contagion created by China’s possibly failing public health initiative, and the damage it is doing to the world’s 2nd largest economy and all the supply chains that run through it. Zero-Covid is a huge gamble, and we are part of it.

Which poses an acute question: Does China have Covid under control? And what if it does not?

The data is not available to answer these questions directly, because China has not made it available. Several of my previous columns (listed below) have described the problems with official Chinese statistics. Beijing has withheld, concealed, deleted, or altered its Covid infection and mortality figures, creating confusion and doubt about what is really going on.

Overcoming “reasonable doubt” – the standard in the Law – does not require a confession by the accused in order to convict. If the circumstantial evidence is strong, the jury may be persuaded even without the Perry Mason moment. In this case, there are a number of factors that constitute the demographic, economic and medical context of China’s Covid experience which, taken together, can help fill in the huge blank left by Beijing’s assiduous suppression of the data.

The Covid Statistics

Let’s start with the basic statistics, and the fundamentally implausible picture they present.

The rate of Covid infections reported by China is said to be hundreds of times lower than nearby countries which have followed similarly severe lockdown and containment protocols.

China has reported less than half as many infections as the island nation of Cyprus, for example – despite having over 1100 times as many people. The only countries with fewer reported deaths per million population than China are North Korea, Western Sahara, and Vatican City.

The contrast with Hong Kong is telling. Hong Kong is a part of China, administered now by Beijing appointees. It has extensive contact with the rest of China. The city is subject to similar vaccination and containment protocols employed in China proper. Yet Hong Kong has reported more than 300 times the infection rate, and 350 times the death rate compared to the Mainland.

In 2020, New York had one of the least successful Covid control programs anywhere. Bureaucratic confusion, shortages of PPE, poor medical decisions, and political bickering between the State and New York City resulted in incoherent policies and very high mortality rates. In contrast, New Zealand had one of the most successful anti-Covid programs in the world, taking advantage of their remote geography and strong public health infrastructure, to impose extraordinarily strict countermeasures very early on. In effect, the entire population was quarantined for over a year.

  • “Throughout 2020, New Zealand was held up as one of a few countries that had successfully managed to contain COVID-19. This achievement stemmed from the government’s decision to close the country’s borders and to impose strict lockdowns. [It was] dramatically different from the response taken by most high-income countries, and became known as New Zealand’s ‘zero-COVID’ approach.”

New Zealand invented “Zero-Covid” and implemented it even before China did. As a result, New Zealand experienced a Covid death rate about 10 times lower than New York.

But New Zealand’s mortality rate is over 100 times higher than China’s official Covid death rate.

This cannot be correct, no matter how often Beijing’s propagandists repeat it. Fortunately, there are other sources of data that may shed light on the truth.

Demographic Indicators Bearing on the Covid Rates in China

There is a strange jump in the overall mortality rates officially reported by Chinese authorities, which coincides with the Covid outbreak. The crude death rate shows a gradually increasing long-term trend, as the population ages – until it suddenly jumps upward in 2019.

The annual rate of increase in the death rate spikes and remains elevated.

The uptick corresponds to almost 1 million excess deaths over these three years. Some kind of public health catastrophe has apparently taken place.

  • [In response to an earlier column in which this information was presented, some readers questioned the conclusion that Covid-related mortality could be the explanation. They suggested that there had simply been an increase in the number of elderly Chinese, and thus in the death rate. This is not plausible. Millions of sick elderly people do not suddenly appear on the scene, to promptly expire en masse. Overall mortality rates change slowly, unless there is an external “shock” such as a war, a famine (China’s Great Leap Forward in the 1960s), or… an epidemic.]

The same pattern appears in many other countries, including the United States. A smooth, stable trend line — that suddenly breaks upward.

Indeed, in 2020, the global crude death rate also broke trend, with the first increase in at least 75 years.

The most likely explanation is that these shifts — in the U.S., in China, and worldwide – are due to Covid. Which means that China has somehow concealed an enormous surge in Covid mortality – exactly what many independent observers have concluded (e.g., the models developed by The Economist magazine to estimate excess Covid mortality).

Macroeconomic Indicators

There are other, more indirect indicators that support this view. Consider the following structural aspects of the Chinese economy:

  • the rural/urban disparity in the quality of healthcare
  • the systemic weaknesses in Chinese healthcare in general
  • the effects of income levels and inequalities on healthcare outcomes

Rural vs Urban Differences in China

China is a deeply divided society, especially along rural/urban lines, and access to healthcare is a key marker of this inequality. The semi-captive rural population is at higher risk.

  • “Urban dwellers enjoy a range of social, economic and cultural benefits while peasants, the majority of the Chinese population, are treated like second-class citizens.
  • “At birth, every Chinese citizen is assigned one of two essentially permanent categories – either rural or urban – based on their parentage. Originally implemented in the late 1950s to control internal migration and keep urban labor costs low, the binary hukou system has created enormous inequality among the approximately 250 million rural migrants who have flooded Chinese cities in search of work. China’s urban population enjoys superior access to healthcare, education, and retirement benefits.”

Rural Chinese citizens who migrate outside the region in which they are registered often do not qualify for health care in the cities where they have come to work.

  • “Studies during 2014 and 2018 indicated that the Chinese rural-to-urban migrant workers (RUMWs)—villagers who migrate to urban areas for employment opportunities—seem to be put in a disadvantaged position. Their effective health insurance coverage is low, largely because they are geographically removed from their place of insurance registration.
  • “Even though RUMWs live in urban areas, they are still greatly marginalized by the urban health system. The percentage of RUMWs covered by health insurance in their flow-in areas has fluctuated between 18% and 20% since 2008.”

The issue has been extensively studied, and the deficits in health outcomes are striking:

  • “There are significant differential effects on rural migrants’ health that are mainly driven by the lack of access to healthcare. The effect of Hukou restriction is large and significant compared to other important determinants of health as smoking condition, evidence of previous diseases or marital status.”

Almost 300 million Chinese fall into this RUMW category, a vulnerable group nearly equal in size to the population of the U.S.

Aside from the migrant population, the quality of healthcare in rural China in general lags far behind the urban benchmarks.

  • “Large disparities still exist in both health and health service utilization within and between urban and rural residents due to the lower-income, fewer health resources, and less access to health insurance for the rural population.”

As acknowledged in an article published in 2020, “there is limited research on the rural-urban differences in health system performance in China.” But the same problem arises in many countries, including the United States, and we can gain some perspective on the problem by looking at the data available there.

Even though the U.S is a much richer country, health outcomes including Covid outcomes are much worse for rural areas in the U.S. compared to the cities. According to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota

  • “Covid infection rates are 54% higher in rural areas”
  • “rural Americans are twice as likely to die from Covid infections compared with their urban peers”
  • “unlike deaths in urban areas, the vaccine roll-out has not slowed COVID-19 fatalities in rural parts of the country due to low uptake”
  • “short-staffed hospitals and limited access to healthcare are contributing factors”

As noted, these disparities clearly exist in rural China as well, even if the Chinese data is lacking to document it thoroughly. And the scale is much greater. There are over 550 million people living in rural China, a vast reservoir of at-risk candidates for the spread of infection and illness.

The Systemic Healthcare Deficits in China

Even aside from the Urban/Rural divide, the baseline for healthcare quality in China is relatively low.

  • “China faces large shortages of doctors and other medical staff to meet surging demand.”
  • “China scores poorly on just about every healthcare metric…. Poorly paid doctors are notorious for overcharging patients for unnecessary prescriptions while even an ambulance ride to the hospital can set you back several hundred yuan. Discontent over this state of affairs has made medicine a dangerous profession in China with a surge in verbal and physical attacks, including murders, against doctors in recent years.”
  • “Per capita healthcare spending in China is increasing, but it remains low compared with other major economies largely due to underfunding by the Chinese government.”

China spends on healthcare only about 25% as much per capita as Korea, and just 7% of the U.S. level.

In terms of the human capital, a good measure of the strength of the healthcare system is the level of investment in front-line medical staff – e.g., the nurses who provide much of the hospital care to treat Covid patients. Again, China falls short.

Corruption is another aspect of the inadequacy of the Chinese healthcare system.

  • “Budget shortfalls in China’s healthcare institutions are a major cause of widespread corruption in China’s medical system.”
  • “Corruption among China’s hospitals and doctors is a widely acknowledged problem that has contributed to a low level of public trust in the country’s healthcare system. In many cases, doctors accept illicit payments, known as hongbao, from patients in exchange for a higher quality of care. The practice of hongbao is widespread in China: in a 2013 survey of residents of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, nearly one-third of respondents said they or a family member had given hongbao to physicians between 2000 and 2012. In addition to accepting these payments from patients, doctors and hospital officials also receive kickbacks for purchasing certain types of medical equipment or pharmaceutical products, a practice that has been described as ‘endemic’ in China. In a 2010 survey of Chinese doctors, 78 percent of respondents said healthcare companies could not compete in China without paying bribes.
  • “Corruption in China’s healthcare system is driven by persistent funding shortfalls that have created strong incentives for hospital systems and doctors to accept bribes. Low pay is a common complaint among doctors in China, and according to a 2017 white paper by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, a national professional association of medical professionals in China, the average annual salary of junior doctors in China was approximately $8,150.

A poorly funded, bribe-driven system staffed by underpaid, poorly motivated personnel further elevates the risk of inadequate response to the pandemic outbreak.

Income Levels and Covid Morbidity

Income — that is, the lack of income, poverty – has a significant effect on Covid infection and mortality rates. A study reported in Lancet last year looked at Covid outcomes as a function of income level in Mexico, a middle-income country with a per capita income 9% higher than China. The researchers found that:

  • “After controlling for COVID-19 diagnosis, sociodemographic variables, and co-morbidities, we find that persons in the lowest income decile had a probability of dying from COVID-19 five times greater than those at the top decile.”

Hospitalization rates, a proxy for the burden on the healthcare system created by Covid, show the same relationship to income levels.

Similar though less extreme results obtain even in rich countries with high quality universal healthcare, like Belgium (“excess deaths in the bottom income decile more than twice as high as in the top income decile”) and Sweden (“individuals in the first tertile of individual net income experienced ~75% higher mortality relative to those in the top tertile”). In the United States, the death rate for Americans living in poorer counties was 2-5 times higher than for rich counties. Another report found that the poorest decile of U.S. counties experienced 2.4 times higher death rate from Covid compared to the richest decile.

Of course Chinese data on this point is not available. Nevertheless, the disadvantage experienced by lower income groups is a universal finding in all countries. There is no reason to believe that China does not exhibit the same pattern. About 200 million people live below Beijing’s official poverty line, defined as less than $5.50 income per day (~$2000/year). Based on these studies (and many others), the risk for Covid is certainly elevated for this very large group.

A related economic factor is income inequality. In the U.S., a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported “a positive correlation between Gini coefficients [the standard measure of income inequality] and county-level COVID-19 cases.” The correlation varied with the season.

  • “For each 0.05-unit higher Gini coefficient, the adjusted relative risk of COVID-19 deaths was 25% higher in March and April 2020… 46% higher in July and August 2020…”’

The Gini coefficient in China is higher than in the United States – that is, the income inequality is worse. It is substantially higher than the median Gini level reported in the JAMA study. Again, a transparent reporting of Covid data from China would certainly reflect this heightened risk factor.


The vast inadequacies of the Chinese healthcare system are well-documented. Poor access to the system for hundreds of millions of Chinese, and holes in the insurance safety net; lagging investment in healthcare; inadequate medical personnel and facilities; corruption; rural poverty, and a continuing deficit in rural healthcare in general – these are the kindling for a conflagration, so to speak. Covid is the match, and the gasoline. Zero Covid is a desperate firewall against a much worse future. It is quite likely that the system may not hold up well under a full Covid onslaught – which may explain the stubborn commitment of the regime to Zero Covid despite the large economic penalties it entails.

The mortality data indicate that China has suffered some kind of public health crisis, with severe outcomes. It is obvious that this is connected with the Covid outbreak. But there is an even more alarming scenario: the next phase of the Covid catastrophe, when the firewall fails, may be far worse than anything China has had to confront so far.

In Part 2, we’ll consider some of the aspects of the medical and public health context which shed light on this alarming prospect.

Previous columns on this topic include:

Finance

Banks Are About To Face The Same Tsunami That Hit Telecom Twenty Years Ago

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I fear global bank regulators are about to make a decision that will unintentionally “obsolete” the banks, by prohibiting a coming tech pivot. Making this mistake would guarantee that the tech industry continues going around the banks, right as internet-native payment technologies are starting to scale.

The telecom sector offers a cautionary tale: When Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) was invented in 1995, most people disparaged it as a technology that couldn’t scale and wasn’t a threat to the telecom giants. Then, circa 2003, the technology to scale VOIP arrived – broadband – and within a flash, most of the telecom industry’s copper-wire networks became obsolete. Useless relics.

Bitcoin is a “Money Over Internet Protocol,” as is Ethereum, potentially. Just as VOIP moves voice data around the internet natively, Bitcoin and Ethereum move value data around the internet natively. Most people disparage Bitcoin, Ethereum, et al. as protocols that can’t scale and can’t possibly threaten the incumbent financial industry, just as they denigrated VOIP. But the scaling technology is now here – it’s called the Lightning Network, which is a Bitcoin layer 2 protocol. Its throughput capacity roughly equals that of Visa, and payments made over Lightning cost virtually zero. There are other scaling technologies, too. If I’m right and scaling technologies for internet-native money protocols have arrived, then many legacy systems operating in the financial system today will be obsolete within a handful of years.

As CEO of a new breed of bank – a dada-bank (“dollar and digital asset bank,” defined as a depository institution authorized to handle both and pronounced like “databank”) – my company lives with the problems inherent in the banking industry’s antiquated legacy systems every day. Culturally, banks have a history of building complex, “walled garden” IT systems. Fintechs sprang up in recent years to provide efficient front-ends that act as “middleware” between antiquated back-end systems and the user experience demanded by customers. Culturally, fintechs build the opposite of banks’ IT systems – fintechs generally build their systems to be as open and “low-walled” as possible to create network effects. Had banks done this, fintechs wouldn’t need to exist! But, until “Money Over Internet Protocols” came along, banks still had a role because fintechs still needed to partner with a legacy bank to settle their customers’ US dollar payments.

“Money Over Internet Protocols” at scale are truly a threat to traditional banking because they enable money to move outside the traditional, antiquated payment rails. To date, the US banking industry has lost roughly $600 billion, or 3% of its deposit base, to the crypto industry – and that happened before the “Money Over Internet Protocols” scaled! Despite all the legal, regulatory, accounting and tax problems faced by their products, and all the criminals and fraudsters running rampant (who should be in jail), the tech industry has proven its ability to go around the banks.

It will take Lightning a few years to lay down that proverbial broadband (scaling) infrastructure before the “Money Over Internet Protocols” hit their tipping point at scale. But make no mistake, it’s happening. The proverbial undersea cables that scaled VOIP are being laid before our very eyes.

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But the “aha!” of these “Money Over Internet Protocols” isn’t cost or scale. There are two “ahas” that matter far more: integration speed/cost and developer communities.

  • Integration speed/cost: Anyone in the world can become members of these emerging payment networks in the span of a few hours, using equipment that costs a few hundred dollars.

Banks’ IT systems will never be able to compete with that.

It’s not even a question whether legacy technology architectures can compete with these emerging protocols, for the simple reason that it’s fast, cheap and easy to join these networks. I recall a recent conversation with a B2B payments company, whose executive was very proud that his team whittled down to only 3 months the time required for its business customers to integrate with its system. In the legacy world, 3 months is impressive. But the paradigm has shifted: payment system integration time is now measured in hours, not in months or years – and in a few hundred dollars, not a few million dollars. It’s obvious which approach will win.

  • Developer communities: Open, permissionless protocols have huge developer communities, which compounds the speed of their ecosystem development and network effects. Network effects are all about compounding. The code libraries and developer tooling available for Bitcoin and Ethereum are critical infrastructure that banks’ proprietary systems cannot replicate. Moreover, these developer communities organically create interoperability. Banks’ “walled garden” systems with closed groups of developers will never be able to keep up with their pace of innovation.

So, what could be the role of banks in the world I’m describing? Answer: banks become software application providers, providing access-controlled applications that run on top of the open, permissionless protocols and to make them accessible even to unsophisticated users, just as the telecom companies do with VOIP. I’ll bet very few of us use the command line interface to make a phone call – even though we could use it if we wanted to, most of us pay to use telecom providers instead because they make the user interface so easy.

That’s what banks will do, too: provide access-controlled applications to ease the use of “Money-Over-Internet-Protocols.” Huge, successful businesses have been built exactly this way – as access-controlled applications running on top of open, permissionless internet protocols. Auto companies are just one of many examples – they’re software companies now, albeit providing software that runs on a different type of hardware.

What about central banks? What would be their role in the world I’m describing? No different. They’ll become providers of a software application for issuing fiat currency that runs on top of open, permissionless protocols, too.

That brings me back to my fear that global bank regulators (specifically, the BIS) are about to make a decision that “obsoletes” the banks. Why? Because the BIS is proposing bank capital treatment that would effectively block banks from interacting with open, permissionless protocols. If they do that, they are guaranteeing that the tech industry will just keep going around the banking sector.

The biggest concern of global bank regulators with banks using open, permissionless protocols, I suspect, is compliance. But banks don’t need compliance to be built into the base layer of their IT systems. Compliance can be built into applications that run above the base layer, and which control access. In fact, that’s what banks are already doing today with TCP/IP. Every bank uses TCP/IP, and yet strictly controls access to their online banking platforms. Criminals and sanctioned countries use TCP/IP today too, but banks have the tools to block them from using banks’ applications. Same thing with Bitcoin and Ethereum – banks have the tools to block illicit finance from using their applications. It’s easier to police illicit activity on open blockchain systems than it is in legacy systems.

At its pivotal juncture telecom was a heavily regulated industry, just like banking is today at its pivotal juncture. How, then, did the telecom companies pivot to become software companies and avoid obsolescence? Answer: regulators enabled them to make that pivot.

That’s what banks will become, too – software companies – but only if bank regulators enable banks to make the same pivot. If they don’t, then it will be obvious, looking back 10 years from now, why the tech industry won.

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Will Putin’s Military Mobilization Mean The End Of His War?

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Could Elvira Nabiullina be the next Russian President?

Last Monday evening I was driving along the contours of Cork harbour, not far from East Cork. The area has many claims to fame – for example, a local (Edward Bransfield) is credited with having discovered Antarctica in 1820. Less triumphantly, some local villages like Whitegate, Aghada and Farsid lost one third of their male populations during the Crimean War.

At the time, a great number of soldiers died from disease and the lack of basic medical procedures – whilst the French and British armies fought side by side against the Russians, casualties were far relatively far higher on the British side because of inferior medical equipment and practice – hence the acclaim with which Florence Nightingale’s techniques were greeted.

I thought of this recently when I read a post on the very different medical kits supplied to Ukrainian and Russian troops, respectively. Setting aside propaganda and donations from the West, the Ukrainian kit looked modern while that of the Russian soldiers could well have come from a museum or horror show. In that respect, the apparent wilting of the Russian army is not surprising.

Filaytev Diaries

More supporting detail on this comes from the 140 page long diaries of Pavel Filyatev, a career paratrooper in the Russian army who, driven to despair by the chaos within his regiment (in Kherson), wrote a long account of his experience in the Russian army. Armies are not pleasant places but his account of the systematic mistreatment of the Russian soldiers, their undernourishment, disorganization in battle and embarrassing under-equipment is telling, not just of the Russian army but of the Russian state. Needless to say, he is now in hiding beyond Russia.

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In that context, the mobilization of largely experienced soldiers to start with, and the co opting of prisoners into the Russian army, opens up many risks – for both Ukraine and Russia. Additionally, the coming referenda on the accession to the Russian Federation of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions is a sneaky, deadly moving of the geopolitical goalposts. Any attempt to liberate these areas of Ukraine would now, in the eyes of the Kremlin, an attack on Russia itself, and it has the right to respond as it sees fit.

From a military point of view, this elevates the risks around Ukraine, and in particular heightens the probability of a strategic mistake or tail event (i.e. such as the destruction of a NATO satellite or an attack on a Baltic state). Putin’s move also increases the risk of socio-political risk within Russia. As I am not a military expert but prefer to write on economic development and the rise and fall of states, I will focus on that.

The Filaytev diaries say much about Russia. It is a country that until recently had poor levels of human development, especially in healthcare and life expectancy (which has been rising from low levels). In this context, Vladimir Putin’s vision of Russia as a superpower is hollow – unless a nation can sustain improving levels of human development (through education, good healthcare, freedom of thought) it will not sustain the core drivers of growth, such as productivity. This a lesson for China, the UK and the US to follow. In China and the UK (productivity is falling) whereas in the USA life expectancy had dropped sharply (below that of China).

Incompetence

In coming years, I am sure many will write about the surprisingly poor quality of the Russian army, and in the context of this note, it is simply another marker for poor quality development. This is perhaps one reason why when emerging market crises strike, they happen slowly, then very quickly. Incompetent institutions, poor rule of law and a prohibition on intelligent policy making can for some time be camouflaged by superficial growth, but all very quickly melt away in moments of stress.

The risk is that other institutions go the same way. As Putin announced the mobilization there were rumours that the highly regarded head of the Russian central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, had resigned (she had apparently tried to do the same in March). This has not been confirmed but raises the question as to the seaworthiness of the full range of Russian institutions in a stormy geopolitical climate. Increasingly, the pressure will be on Russia, and from multiple angles.

As a last word, I want to return to the Crimean War. It is not inconceivable that Corkmen from villages like Whitegate were shelled by Leo Tolstoy, at the time a young artillery officer. Tolstoy’s experience of war affected him greatly. In the context of Putin’s recent mobilization it is worth recalling some advice he gave to a young man ‘all just people must refuse to become soldiers’. Many young Russians are thinking the same today.

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World Will Have Nearly 40% More Millionaires By 2026: Credit Suisse

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The world will have nearly 40% more millionaires in 2026 compared with the end of last year, according to a report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute released on Tuesday.

The five-year outlook “is for wealth to continue growing,” said Nannette Hechler-Fayd’herbe, Chief Investment Officer for the EMEA region and Global Head of Economics & Research at Credit Suisse.

Higher inflation “yields higher forecast values for global wealth when expressed in current U.S. dollars rather than real U.S. dollars. Our forecast is that, by 2024, global wealth per adult should pass the $100,000 threshold and that the number of millionaires will exceed 87 million individuals over the next five years,” Hechler-Fayd’herbe said in a statement.

Buoyed by rising stock prices and low interest rates, global wealth increased global wealth last year totaled $463.6 trillion, a gain of 9.8% at prevailing exchange raises, Credit Suisse said in its annual “Global Wealth Report 2022.” Wealth per adult rose 8.4% to $87,489, it said.

All regions contributed to the rise in global wealth, but North America and China dominated, with North America accounting for more than half of the global total and China adding another quarter, the report said. In percentage terms, North America and China recorded the highest growth rates — around 15% each, it said.

The United States continued to rank highest in the number of the world’s richest with more than 140,000 ultra-high-net-worth individuals with wealth above $50 million, followed by China with 32,710 individuals, the report said. Worldwide, Credit Suisse estimates that there were 62.5 million millionaires at the end of 2021, 5.2 million more than the year before.

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By contrast, this year looks tough. “Some reversal of the exceptional wealth gains of 2021 is likely in 2022/2023 as several countries face slower growth or even recession,” the report said.

Rises in interest rates in 2022 have already had an adverse impact on bond and share prices and are also likely to hurt investment in non-financial assets, the Global Wealth Report noted.

Longer term, growth will recover, Credit Suisse predicted. “Global wealth in nominal U.S. dollars is expected to increase by $169 trillion by 2026, a rise of 36%,” from last year, it said.

The beneficiaries will be more spread out globally, the report predicted. “Low and middle-income countries currently account for 24% of wealth, but will be responsible for 42% of wealth growth over the next five years. Middle-income countries will be the primary driver of global trends,” Credit Suisse said.

Click here for the full report.

See related posts:

The 10 Richest Chinese Billionaires

Taxes, Inequality and Unemployment Will Weigh On China After Party Congress

U.S. Business Optimism About China Drops To Record Low

Pandemic’s Impact On China’s Economy Only Short Term, U.S. Ambassador Says

@rflannerychina

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