“Things Are So Bad That…”

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Some random anecdotal evidence of the grim turn things are taking in China and how quickly it has happened.

Exapts are leaving: rentals in apaprtment buildings popular with foreigners in Beijing have fallen by about half in recent months. This is good news for me as I am looking to move to a cheaper place. But landlords are already sounding a bit desperate. For all those savvy investors who thought they couldn’t lose by buying a fancy place and covering the mortgage by renting to overpaid foreigners, doom is looming as agents say buyers for top end properties have dried up. There’s also increasing gossip about departures at the previous jammed international schools, with Korean students (of whom there are huge numbers) particularly seriously affected, the grapevine says.

Nobody is traveling: At the beginning of the year it was hard to get much more than a 10 per cent discount on flights from Beijing to Shanghai, China’s most travelled route. Now 50 percent or much more on the roughly 1200 renminbi fare are normal. In fact, if you’re willing to go in the (relatively) early morning (ahem. eight thirty), you can pay as little as 200 RMB. I know because I just did but see for yourself at this ticket booking site. Two of the country’s largest airlines, China Eastern and China Southern, have already received a bailout of 3 billion yuan from the government. More to come, surely. (Though they should get a boost from the drop in oil prices?)

Nobody is visiting: I was told that a famous international hotel had precisely 20 guests staying in its 260 rooms a few days ago. And no bookings of any significance for the upcoming holiday season.