Will China allow a truly free market?

David MoonBlog

An initial public offering (IPO) is the process by which a company raises equity capital from outside investors. It unofficially signals that a business is in the Big League. An IPO is a symbolic recognition of capital as necessary of factor of production and its role in powering the world’s economic engine.

The largest IPO in the history of capitalism now belongs to Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group. The company raised $25 billion on a single day a little more than a week ago.

The previous record holder was the Agricultural Bank of China, which raised $22.1 billion in its 2005 IPO.

In 2006, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China raised $19 billion and the previously state-owned Bank of China raised $11.1 billion, meaning that four of the five largest IPOs were Chinese companies.

The 2008 $17.8 billion Visa IPO was to crack the top five.

Is it possible that we are finally realizing the long anticipated awakening of China as an economic force? Has the Middle Kingdom finally joined the white-shoe world of Wall Street?

For almost 40 years I’ve been reading and hearing predictions about the massive economic opportunities that would exist when 1.3 billion Chinese consumers began sending yuan to the US in exchange for our products. Instead, Americans are sending dollars to China in order to buy shares of their companies.

Market research firm, GlobalScan reports that since 2005, Americans are less likely than Chinese to believe that a free market economy is the best economic system. Other studies find that a greater percentage of Chinese view capitalism favorably than do US respondents.

The US is now competing with Turkey as the country where individuals’ attitudes are most quickly turning away from capitalism.

Are economic attitudes in China and the US permanently moving in opposite directions?

As Russians painfully discovered, it is more difficult for a country to adjust to some form of capitalism than it is to start that way.

Ultrasonic is a smallish Chinese urban footwear company with about 1,450 employees in mainland China. On September 12, the company announced that it couldn’t locate its CEO.

Both he and all of the company’s cash were missing.

Ten days later, the missing CEO somehow issued a statement, explaining that he had simply been on holiday with his grandson and didn’t keep in touch because he lost his cell phone.

He also denied taking the money, but promised to return it.

He did not explain why he and his grandson needed to “borrow” more than a billion yuan from the company to haul around with them on a hike through the Wuyi Mountains or a canoe trip down the Min River.

The response of the company and of Chinese securities regulators will be a measuring stick of how serious they are about free markets.