If “China Inc” were a person it would probably be Xiao Yaqing, the former president of Chinalco who is also an alternate member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.
Xiao twice mustered the resources of the Chinese state to buy into Rio Tinto and disrupt BHP Billiton’s empire-building ambitions. For his efforts he was rewarded with a plum job as deputy secretary-general to the State Council.
But China Inc is less coherent, less sinister and far less effective than often imagined. Here is the background story of how Xiao kicked a home goal by persuading his superiors to accumulate “strategic” metals reserves.
In November, after commodities prices had collapsed, Xiao requested and received an urgent meeting with the Premier, Wen Jiabao, sources close to Chinalco say. Xiao told Wen that the whole aluminium industry was in crisis. Chinalco and every other big aluminum company was losing money, and hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost if the state did not step in and soak up excess production.