BEIJING — Eye-catching quarterly gains by Apple and Alibaba in China have provided fresh proof that growing online and high-tech consumption may be coming to the rescue of the country’s economy.
Both e-commerce giant Alibaba and the iconic Apple reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Oct 27, thanks mainly to strong performances in the Chinese market.
“There is no lack of demand in China so long as companies provide products that are the apple of Chinese consumers’ eyes,” wrote economics pundit Yu Fenghui when commenting on Apple’s performance on his blog.
Apple’s sales nearly doubled in China despite concerns of an economic slowdown. The company reported $12.5 billion in revenue from China, almost a quarter of its total.
Alibaba on Oct 27 announced faster revenue growth of 32 percent in the third quarter of the year. The revenue of $3.49 billion beat expectations as its growth slowed to 28 percent in the second quarter from 45 percent in the first.
The New York-listed Alibaba has been under tremendous pressure this year amid worries that a slowing economy might drag down consumer spending in the world’s second-largest economy.
But Alibaba defied the doubters through expansion. “We are winning in mobile and remain focused on our top priorities, including internationalization, expanding our ecosystem from cities to villages, and building a world-class cloud computing business,” said CEO Daniel Zhang.
China is shifting its economic drivers. Compared with investment and exports, consumption has been a less conspicuous source of growth for the country in recent decades, but it is catching up fast.
In the first nine months, retail sales of consumer goods in China rose 10.5 percent. Meanwhile, the high-tech sector grew 10.4 percent year-on-year, outpacing value-added industrial output by 4.2 percentage points.
“Some must win, some must lose. This time, the iron and ore sector became a loser, as the government plans to put more emphasis on the green economy, improve the industrial structure and support low-carbon energy consumption,” said Zhang Shuyu, a researcher with the University of International Business and Economics.
China’s once-sizzling steel industry has cooled as the economy shifts gear from export- and investment-oriented growth to consumption- and service-oriented expansion, hurting industry profits and forcing factories to close.
In the first nine months, medium-sized and large steel producers suffered losses of 55.27 billion yuan ($8.7 billion) in their main businesses, more than double the 21.7-billion-yuan loss registered in the first half year, the China Iron and Steel Association announced on Oct 28.
Crude steel output also continued to decline. In the first eight months of 2015, output fell 2 percent year-on-year, with the dive accelerating from 1.8 percent in the first seven months. In the January-June period, the sector posted its first half-year drop in nearly 20 years, according to data from the National Development and Reform Commission.
“Providing upgraded products and services can be a way out for the losers,” said Zhang Shuyu.
Although China is experiencing growing pains in shifting from old drivers of growth to new ones, new industrialization, IT application and entrepreneurship have generated strong domestic demand and great potential for future growth, according to the researcher.
“I know some people are worried about the economy, but we’ll continue to invest,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook told Xinhua. “If you look at the long term, it’s clear that China is a great place to be.”
Apple will open its 25th Apple Store in greater China this weekend, closing the gap on the goal of 40 stores by mid-2016. Meanwhile, there are around 1.5 million developers in China working on projects related to Apple operating system iOS.