What I've Been Reading

New year celebrations continued in Chinese communities throughout the world. A record number of Chinese tourists visited Taiwan over the Lunar New Year. A total of about 40,000 Chinese tourists are expected this year, three times more than the number of tourists for the same season last year - according to the US-China Institute at the University of Southern California.

I remember when I was an analyst at Phillip Securities doing research, one place I looked at was the Taiwan hotel industry. Tourist hotel occupancy rate was expected to rise to 74.6% in 2009 from 64.7% in 2008 because of positive cross-Strait sentiment and policy deregulation. One concern was that report cited that the Won depreciated sharply against the yen, causing more Japanese tourists to pick Korea over Taiwan. However, if we can show that the RMB will appreciate significantly against the NT$ (likely), then tourists will also be more likely to pick Taiwan as a travel destination.

Not included in the report was a key cultural trend between China and Taiwan – that Taiwan entertainment industry has a significant influence over Chinese pop culture – hence, deregulation will result in more travelers to Taiwan – even if they do not end up staying for days in hotels.

Interestingly, this week Japan surpassed China as the largest holder of U.S. Treasury securities. The U.S. Treasury Department reported that China trimmed its U.S. debt holdings by $34.2 billion in December. To date, Japan holds $768.8 billion of U.S. Treasury securities while mainland China holds $755.4 billion worth of it.

On the sports front, China is doing much better than I expected (probably because I never paid attention to China’s winter sports development) at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. China won gold and silver in figure skating. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo became the first ever non-European couple to win the gold medal in the Olympic pairs figure skating event. From what I understand, that was China`s first gold in figure skating history of Winter Olympic Games. But with a little bit of both Chinese and Canadian pride, I was very surprised to learn that China won Bronze medal in curling - a sport originally invented in Britain. But unsurprisingly, the Chinese team was coached by someone from Montreal - fier d’être canadien!