The China Bubble


In a presentation at last week’s Web 2.0 conference, Morgan Stanley Internet analyst Mary Meeker did her annual data dump, quantifying the Web’s growth in dozens of ways. (You can watch a video of the presentation here, although it frustratingly does not show the actual slides, which you can find here). One data point in particular really stood out for me. In 2003, the combined market capitalization of China’s publicly traded Internet companies was $5 billion. Today, it is $50 billion.

Of course, it’s not just Chinese Internet stocks that are going gangbusters. Floyd Norris at the NYT points out that, of the top 20 most valuable companies in the whole world as measured by market cap, 41 percent are Chinese, surpassing the 38 percent represented by American companies. Contrast that to 1999 when U.S. companies represented 77 percent of the top 20. And in 1989, it was Japan that dominated with 73 percent of the list. Maybe the China bubble won’t pop until China hits at least 70 percent and a Chinese Internet company is on the list. Or maybe it will deflate over time as more Chinese stocks become available to investors, who are currently fighting over a limited supply of shares.

(The Chinese companies on the list today include Petrochina (which has a larger market cap than GE), the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (which is more valuable than Microsoft), China Petroleum, China Life, and China Construction. The only Chinese technology company on the list is China Mobile. Google doesn’t even rank in the top 20.)