A TUSK TASK: As the world’s biggest consumer of illegal ivory, the potential future extinction of African elephants may hinge on China

Published in FOCUS magazine in May 2014.

The rise of China’s middle class means people can spend their disposable incomes on cars, electronics, and tragically, ivory. Principles of feng shui state that ivory disperses misfortune and drives out evil spirits, while Chinese culture declares it symbolic of wisdom and nobility. Either way, it makes a great gift. Furthermore, ivory, or xiangya literally translates to ‘elephant’s teeth’; consumers are not often aware that elephants must die to harvest their tusks.

Many see the commodity as a safer investment than the questionable housing market, bringing about its nickname of ‘white gold’. China’s increased involvement in Africa’s infrastructure over the past decade has streamlined the ivory trade supply chain, making it easier to illegally ship between Africa and Asia. In October 2012, authorities confiscated four tons of ivory, valued at US$3.5 million, from two cargo containers in Hong Kong, followed by 1.4 more tons two months later. Since the ships had passed through various ports to disguise their origins, Interpol believes organised crime was responsible.

In 1989, an international treaty banned the trade of ivory, killing the business in China. With ivory shops closing, the initiative was hugely successful. Once again, elephant populations grew. However, a 2008 exception to this treaty allowed Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana to sell an ivory stockpile to China and Japan for US $15 million. With this new supply, both the Chinese ivory industry and international ivory poaching were reborn. In 2013, 25,000 elephants were killed in Africa, equivalent to three per hour – worse than before the 1989 ban. Today, all ivory sold in China is supposed to have come from the 2008 stockpile or before 1989 – items over 50 grams are required to have a certificate of provenance.

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Boating Bonanza

As published in FOCUS magazine in the November issue.

China’s economic slow-down saw a negative impact on most luxury industries, but yacht sales have grown hand over fist. from 2006 to 2011, the industry swelled 732 per cent. Last year, 3,000 yachts  were sold in china; by 2020, experts expect the numbers to hit 100,000. Seizing the opportunity, Chinese producers are stealing market share from more respected American, british and italian brands.

It’s a popular misconception that yachting is the province of the super rich. In Europe, 84 per cent of yachts are worth less than 50,000 euros. As Chinese income levels rise, demand for small- and medium-sized yachts will increase.

Domestic yacht production is still in its infancy, but over 75 mainland manufacturers have captured the profitable middle- and low-end market, with prices 20 to 50 per cent less than foreign brands. with lower prices, they also offer better, localized after-sale service; unlike with foreign firms, owners can maintain and repair their yachts domestically.

The mega-yacht level has a small pool of potential buyers, which means the ability to predict customisation preferences is advantageous. domestic manufacturers have a better understanding of local tastes. In addition, buyers who can afford to dock multiple vessels in different ports for different seasons.

This is a sample. To read more, please contact me.