Debt is a ticking-time bomb for the Chinese economy. In the past three years central government stopped local governments from financing through investment vehicles and set a cap for the issuance of bonds. But new forms of debt continue to be formed. Local officials appear not to care about borrowing more, as long as the money can be used in projects that may translate to political achievements. And with those achievements, officials will be promoted to a higher level–as will the debt burden. A more worrisome thought will be: can those additional government debts and investments support China’s long-term growth?
Optimism for Chinese firms over the next six months still holds, but the corporate financing environment is getting difficult and the corporate inventory is increasing, according to the CKGSB Business Conditions Index, which registered 61.5 in February, a slight increase on January’s mark of 59.8. For CKGSBʼs sample of successful businesses operating in China, corporate sales index fell slightly from 82.7 to 80.5, while profits rose from 67.0 to 72.2, both are well above the confidence threshold of 50. Yet the other two sub-indices—corporate financing and in inventory—are below 50.
Over the past year, the housing price in many Chinese cities has doubled. The property industry, which contributed to the economy’s growth, is now ‘hijacking’ China’s economic growth model. Instead of investing in real businesses, individuals and companies are betting on increasing property prices. In this interview, Professor Xu Chenggang talks about the government’s role in real estate regulation, the major challenges of pushing reforms in China and how state-owned enterprises and local governments should roll out these reforms.
China’s economic growth over the past few decades has impressed the world. But the world’s second largest economy now faces a difficult transformation: from relying on exports and investments to developing domestic demand. That’s not easy. Government-led stimulus is only a temporary solution and only looked reasonable in the first few years after the recent global financial crisis. In fact, the main problem facing the Chinese economy has been the weak demand in domestic market which manifested clearly in 2006, and became more obvious when growth slowed down.
China’s home loan market reached $539 billion in the first nine months of 2016, more than double the same period in 2015. Based on figures from Ehomeday, Shanghai’s second-hand home price index rose by 27.82% year-on-year on October 2016. In Q4 2016, the skyrocketing home prices slowed across the country due to tighter government restrictions, but nevertheless, 2016 witnessed an astonishing 19% overall increase in home prices. In this edition of China Data, we bring you the latest numbers from China related to state-owned enterprises reform, China’s export slowdown, outbound tourism, Dalian Wanda’s new studio complex and more.
In China, while state-owned enterprises dominate the monopoly industries like petroleum and telecom, the country’s private economy is still the major source for growth in production, employment and exports. Private companies are very sensitive to market changes: When profit margins shrink, they will jump out quickly. Expectations are low while the Chinese economy is under the ‘New Normal’, but the government is still concerned about private investment stagnation. The top economic agency has created a work team to look into the problem and made 60 proposals to solve the slow-down issue. But will top-down methods work?
Over the past two decades, China’s urban population growth has been higher than in the rest Asia or the world as a whole. Young people are migrating to cities, leaving the elderly and children back home on the farm. So as manufacturing and urban life took off, catapulting China to world-power status, rural China and farming lagged behind. Roughly 86% of farms in China were only 1.6 acres, a tiny fraction of the size of the average 441-acre US industrialized farm and most of the work on these small farms is done by hand by an increasingly elderly population of farmers who now average over 50 years old. But that is starting to change.
China is exporting its high-speed rail to the world. In Turkey, China helped link the capital, Ankara, with the largest city, Istanbul. In Indonesia, construction on the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway line will begin this year. In 2016, the government also announced that it will build a high-speed railway to connect Singapore with the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Domestically speaking, China has secured the leading position. Its network, already more than 20,000 km and still growing, is longer than the rest of the world’s high-speed rail tracks combined. Now China is targeting the overseas market for economic and political reasons.
The Chinese economy faces some serious problems, including a slowing GDP growth, environmental degradation and financial disequilibrium. According to Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration, there are some specific solutions, such as making sure that opportunities for children are the same regardless of where in China and to whom they are born, making sure that the success of enterprises depends on the quality of what they sell and taxes are collected in a fair way and, finally, making sure that those who lead enterprises and communities do so for the benefit of their stakeholders.
Over the past 25 years, China has become the world’s preeminent manufacturer, churning out everything from running shoes to Apple products. Powering that ascent was heavy foreign direct investment combined with a seemingly inexhaustible pool of cheap labor. But now, as the Chinese economy slows, wages rise and the workforce atrophies, the decades-long manufacturing boom may be ending. To help deliver China from industrial decline, the Chinese leadership is betting on automation. However for Beijing to become the world’s robotic leader, there is an even more complex issue behind updating robotic technology: how to handle the displacement of large numbers of Chinese workers?