Thursday, May 31, 2012

A rebuttal to China crashing soon

Minxei Pei writes an interesting article in The Diplomat titled "China's Economy: Seizure or Cancer".

In it he outlines a number of the obvious features that have been discussed on this blog about China's overall economy.  He dissects the current situation and asks whether there will be an immediate heart attack that hobbles the beast or a systemic cancer that eventually kills it.

He refers to a "heart attack" scenario where a cascade of events, precipitated by a slowdown and excess debt, cripples China.  In his perspective China's communists will force the banks to defer losses and provide a backstop to prevent further contagion.  He states:
But China is different. Because the banking system is effectively owned and controlled by the state, a banking crisis won’t materialize unless the state itself is insolvent and Chinese depositors have completely lost confidence in the state’s sovereign guarantee of its banks. This unique character of the China’s state-owned financial system is the cause of the country’s inability to allocate capital efficiently. However, in the short term, this structural flaw may turn out to be an asset in averting a seizure of the financial system.
As in the global meltdown of 2008 and earlier banking system upsets in China, this approach has worked.

On a second level, if the economy doesn't crash immediately over the course of the next several months, the author perceives a potential "cancer" in the nature of the communist-capitalist hybrid.
Despite the threat of a seizure in the near term, the greater danger to the Chinese economy is its structural inefficiency, which is deeply imbedded in a state-led development model...

The investments made by the Chinese state may have given the Communist Party a lot of prestige (think of the country’s modern infrastructure and ambitious high-tech plans), but delivers preciously few real benefits to its people. Chinese state-owned enterprises have thrived because of their access to practically free capital, but their efficiency remains abysmal compared with domestic private firms or their Western rivals.
No country can keep pouring unlimited amounts of capital into unproductive infrastructure projects. China doesn't have the ability to keep blowing this current bubble and then dismissing colossal financial losses when the bills come due.  With Europe sinking into recession, America limping along, and much of the emerging market turning negative, there is little reason to believe they can pull the same rabbit out of the hat again.

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