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China Power Play

When a manager of the (ICHKX) recently wanted to gauge China's infrastructure first hand, he hit the open road. Tim Guinness rented a car in Hong Kong, headed to the mainland and drove all the way north to Beijing. His conclusion: road tripping in China was surprisingly easy, with decent-quality highways and little bureaucracy. That finding helps explain his fund's heavy exposure to mainland energy plays. Over the long term, Guinness and fellow portfolio manager Edmund Harriss believe oil stocks should benefit as an expanding population of car owners heads to gas stations throughout China. spoke with China & Hong Kong fund lead manager Harriss about his taste for energy and commodity plays, and why he thinks the Chinese economy can avoid the hard landing some market watchers were predicting a year or two ago. The 12-year-old Guinness Atkinson fund has gained 12% year to date. Over the past decade, it's averaged a 6.35% return before taxes, compared to 7.40% for the Hang Seng Index and 9.06% for the S&P. It invests primarily in securities traded on the Hong Kong and Chinese exchanges (in the U.S., some of these shares only trade on the pink sheets). What are your thoughts on the recent equities selloff that's hit Chinese, as well as U.S. shares, since mid-May? Why do you think it's happened, and will the selling continue?

Harriss: I don't believe yet that we're going to see any particular sort of adjustment in forecast earnings. I think the risks have certainly become more apparent. If the U.S. consumer hits the skids, is that going to drag down China's export growth? China's exports are not the most important part of its economy, but they are important. So you would find that certain sectors, certainly manufacturing and exports, would suffer.

On the other hand, I find that China's domestic economy has sufficient strength and firepower and availability of investment to keep powering ahead. There's a growing consumer market and a drive toward opening up the internal provinces that improves productivity, and that will give China some support.
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