As you start the New Year, so it will continue. That’s why people prepare for the festival by cleaning the house. It is particularly important for debtors to repay outstanding loans – or at least get their credit situation into halfway decent order.
Mega-conglomerate HNA, leveraged to the moon after its wanton asset-acquisition spree, is finding this hard, so it is trying a different tactic – portraying itself as a victim. It faces, its co-chairman says, the same ‘reactionary forces countering China’s rise’ in a ‘conspiracy against the Communist Party Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core’.
We have no idea who ultimately owns HNA. If it holds wealth on behalf of Beijing’s current ruling insiders, the claim that anxious bankers and dumpers of bonds are hostile to the nation would have some resonance. But if that were the case, it could make some discrete phone calls.
Assuming that HNA is not that well-connected, this looks like a desperate and opportunistic appeal for solidarity and empathy from lesser to greater factions of China’s kleptocrat elite. As a diversion, this is ‘the dog ate my homework’ for grown-ups to the nth degree. And as a display of shoe-shining, it is magnificently putrid – these guys make Hong Kong’s toadying tycoons look like pathetic amateurs. Playing the national leadership’s very own whiny victimhood card shows an audacity bordering on panache.
To end the 12th moon on such a bold, death-defying note might be greatly auspicious. Or maybe HNA (and Dalian Wanda and others) are in for a really crappy Dog Year of panic-selling and unravelling, with implications of horrible bad luck for the whole state-capitalist debt-pyramid mafia regime. I look forward to finding out.