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China's one percent feels the squeeze

It's been a rough year for China's one percent. Just yesterday Reuters reported that demand for Chinese luxury brands -- down of late -- is unlikely to rebound after Beijing imposed a "frugal working style" on government employees in an effort to curb conspicuous consumption (read conspicuous corruption.) Now the Financial Times is reporting (behind the paywall) that the number of US dollar billionaires in China fell last year for the first time in seven years:

In its annual report on China's super-wealthy, released on Monday, Hurun [Rich List] said China had 251 people worth $1bn or more, down 20 from last year but still sharply up from 2006, when there were just 15...Nearly half of the 1,000 richest people in China saw their wealth shrink in the past year, 37 of them by more than 50 per cent. The average wealth of the top 1,000 also fell 9 per cent to $860m, at a time when growth in the Chinese economy has also decelerated, the property market has declined and the stock market has fallen sharply. Chinese GDP growth hit a three-year low of 7.6 per cent year on year in the second quarter of this year.

Reduced Chinese demand for luxury cars has also forced Toyota to scale back the production of Lexus cars for export to China. With the economic outlook so grim, there's no telling what could be next -- party officials might even be forced to think twice about buying Porsches for their kids!

AFP/Getty Images

Passport

Obama advisor: If he met with one leader, he'd have to meet with 10!

One quote in particular stands out in today's New York Times article on the contrast of President Obama appearing on The View while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with world leaders in town for the U.N. General Assembly. Obama isn't conducting bilaterals with any foreign leaders, even though he held 13 during last year's session and Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush met with foreign leaders at the U.N. General Assembly while facing reelection (George H.W. Bush, like Obama, outsourced the meetings to Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger). Here's the nugget from the Times:

Mr. Obama was scheduled to attend a reception for world leaders at the United Nations on Monday night. But a campaign adviser acknowledged privately that in this election year, campaigning trumped meetings with world leaders. "Look, if he met with one leader, he would have to meet with 10," the aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Not to nit-pick, but doesn't meeting with world leaders fall squarely within the president's job description?

Obama's aides have been more articulate in public about why the president isn't holding bilaterals, but this anonymous quote doesn't do much to discredit the charge that Obama is making an election-year calculation to avoid exposing himself politically -- and multiplying that exposure by ten.