The China economic miracle of recent years has astounded global gurus. Economic policy makers and watchers inside and outside of China forecast its likely continuation. In the intertwined global economy, such sunny predictions about China also aim at boosting confidence regarding international economic growth prospects. Admittedly some Chinese indicators show display reasons for such optimism. And the Financial Times recently remarked “almost everyone agrees that there is little sign that the global economic crisis is about to have a Chinese third act to follow the US and eurozone, which starred in Acts One and Two.” (7/24/13, p6).
Unfortunately, the so-called “real”, “underlying”, and “overall” China economic scene nevertheless is relatively opaque and challenging to understand. Telling any story about the nation’s economy, whether bullish or bearish, requires caution, and audiences should listen to these viewpoints with some skepticism. Many Chinese statistical indicators arguably are difficult to assemble comprehensively as well as to interpret (whether by the Chinese government or outside experts). How accurate is official Chinese economic information? Political considerations perhaps influence the substance of some Chinese data reports.
Moreover, several other signs from or related to China suggest that China’s real GDP growth has tapered faster than many believe. Besides, it may taper a fair amount beneath generally predicted levels of over 7.5 percent. Like the United States and many other nations since the emergence of the worldwide economic disaster, China embarked upon and sustained highly accommodative monetary campaigns and huge deficit spending adventures. Might GDP expansion diminish if these policies (and related credit creation and leverage) are slowed or reversed? Even though China’s overall government debt as a percentage of GDP is less than that of the United States, much of Europe, and Japan, why should China entirely escape the debt challenges and related unpleasant consequences endured by these nations? In contrast to most conventional wisdom, China nowadays probably faces some significant systemic financial (economic) problems.
China’s embrace of debt and credit in recent years is a widespread cultural phenomenon.
If things were going wonderfully within the Chinese economic (and political) system, why would the nation’s leaders underscore territorial quarrels with other nations? Recall the recent squabbles with Japan over tiny islands (Daioyu) controlled by Japan.
What’s the bottom line? China apparently has generated a fair amount of its economic growth from easy money and massive deficit spending (credit, debt, and leverage). It consequently faces a significant challenge of maintaining its high GDP growth rates while tapering accommodative monetary and fiscal deficit policies. In addition, China confronts a modest yet apparently growing systemic problem (risk) tied into these accommodative monetary and fiscal programs and the related lending, leverage, and bad debt issues. Perhaps Chinese control over its economy (especially given that economy’s close connection with the global one) is much less than many claim. Looking forward, Chinese growth probably will taper more than most believe. In any event, one should not have blind faith in the continuation (repetition) of the recent extraordinary Chinese growth story.
FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this market essay as a PDF file.
Another Marketplace Tapering Tale- the China Story (9-9-13)