NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What happened to the Chinese miracle investment theme? Investors remember a few years ago when the promise of cheap Chinese labor and low priced exports would be the back bone to 9% GDP growth as far out as could be forecasted. China was seen as becoming so financially powerful that there was fear of it taking over the financial world leaving America perpetually subjected to the threat of China selling its vast cache of U.S. Treasurys which would presumably harm our economy.
Along the way there has been the much publicized construction of ghost cities -- truly beautiful cities across the countryside where no one lives, allegations of manipulated economic data, mismanaged growth by the government and lax lending standards by Chinese banks. There was even a report in the last few days that pollution in the northern part of the country is so bad that it is reducing life expectancy by an astounding 5.5 years.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index has been a terrible performer. It peaked near 6000 in 2007 and is down 64% from the pre-financial crisis high. For some context the iShares MSCI EMU Index (EZU) is only down 43% from its 2007 peak. China has underperformed Europe.
There is at least one part of the Chinese miracle that continues to play out as more Chinese see an improved financial quality of life. Both personal income and retail sales are continuing to grow at double digit annual rates. This plays into the theme of an emerging middle class aspiring to what many Chinese consider to be an American lifestyle.Investing in China through broad based ETFs like the iShares China Large Cap (FXI)has not worked; FXI is still down 50% from 2007. To the extent that the outlook for the Chinese consumer is still positive then investments focusing on where the consumer is spending money would be a logical place to look for investment possibilities. The Guggenheim China Technology (CQQQ) captures consumer spending by allocating to tech service companies like Internet services company Ten Cent Holdings (TCEHY) which makes up 10% of the fund and search engine Baidu (BIDU - Get Report)which makes up another 9% of the fund. BIDU was up 6% in the premarket today on news that it is buying the largest app store in China for $1.9 billion.