【英语财经】中国经济不会陷入衰退 China’s boom is over, but Beijing will avoid bust

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2014-5-14 06:29

小艾摘要: A recent visit to China generated several counter-intuitive conclusions.First, the post-financial crisis lens may be the wrong prism through which to view China. Second, pollution and the anti-corrupt ...
China’s boom is over, but Beijing will avoid bust
A recent visit to China generated several counter-intuitive conclusions.

First, the post-financial crisis lens may be the wrong prism through which to view China. Second, pollution and the anti-corruption campaign are greater and less quantifiable risks than a property or debt bust. Third, China’s 2009 stimulus programme is viewed internally as a big strategic mistake, one unlikely to be repeated. Last, China will not lift the west, nor can the west lift China – the world is defaulting to an economic landscape where it is every country for itself.

Starting at the top, a post-financial crisis search for China debt catalysts makes perfect sense given its recent credit expansion and consequent overbuilding. A residential property bubble does exist – in fact, declining transaction volumes and price reductions suggest it is already deflating. Yet this is a problem policy makers are well aware of and for which multiple tools exist to mitigate the threat of a crash.

A property crash would be socially explosive given that it often takes three to four individual pools of savings to meet the 30 per cent deposit requirement. There is every reason to expect the authorities to act with vigour here.

Second, pollution and the anti-corruption campaign bookend China’s economic policy flexibility. Beijing’s pollution is well known but every mile of the 800-mile bullet train trip to Shanghai provided visible evidence of a much greater concern.

Pollution encapsulates today’s China; it is a known and highly visible problem that has yet to be fixed. Of course, attacking the problem means shutting down factories and throwing people out of work, which is difficult to do in a downturn. That a solution to one problem begets another problem is symptomatic of China today. An environmental disaster causing a loss of faith in the leadership presents a significant risk.

Reform risk

The anti-corruption campaign is unprecedented in its scope and implication for the economy and society at large. Political patronage networks that extend the length and breadth of China are being rolled up, leaving great uncertainty in their wake. The campaign seems quite popular on the street but in the boardroom it elicits fear and uncertainty, neither of which is pro-growth. This campaign represents a virtually unquantifiable risk across many fronts, especially with regard to the state-owned enterprise reform process.

All these issues emanate from the vast 2009 stimulus programme. Widely and erroneously seen in the west as a sign of Chinese macroeconomic flexibility and management skill, it is viewed quite differently in China.

This period is seen (in hindsight) as the perfect time for China to have begun its reform project with a ready-made scapegoat, the US financial crisis, at hand. In contrast, any mistakes that emanate from today’s reform process will be laid at the feet of current leadership – a reality that is itself a significant brake on the speed and magnitude of reform.

The stimulus programme resulted in huge misallocations of capital that will trouble China for years as projects come on stream to a much weaker demand profile. Credit crunch risk is apparent; capital efficiency is a big challenge.

Renminbi twitchers

The 2009 programme’s legacy is such that even if President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang wanted to execute such a huge stimulus it would simply lump them in with their predecessors, and no politician wants to be seen doing what has already been done. A repeat is highly unlikely.

As if dealing with the 2009 programme fallout is not enough, China’s leaders are juggling at least five other big economic issues. These include: capital account opening, interest rate liberalisation, state-owned enterprise reform, job creation, and social issues. None of these are likely to move quickly; traders can stop watching every twitch of the renminbi rate, for example.

What does all this mean for investors?

Externally, a slowing China represents a wet blanket that will damp the world’s growth and inflation outlook for years to come. This in turn will put more pressure on the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan to act; the US Federal Reserve and China both pulling back on liquidity presents a global growth challenge.

Internally, China will not boom again but nor is it likely to bust; an unbalanced economy and under-developed financial markets limit domestic investment opportunities. Neighbours can expect a rising tide of Chinese capital while the welcome mat is put out for foreign capital. China will not be the catalyst that alters the current low volatility asset landscape. Reform and rebalancing will be conducted Chinese style: crossing the river by feeling the stones.

Jay Pelosky is principal of J2Z Advisory

近期对中国的访问使我得出了几个与直觉相反的结论。

其一,透过“后金融危机”的棱镜来看中国或许是错误的。其二,污染问题和反腐败运动相对于房地产或者债务泡沫破灭来说,是威胁更大、并且更加难以估量的风险因素。其三,中国2009年的经济刺激计划在中国国内被看成是一个重大的战略失误,不太可能重现。最后,中国不会拉西方一把,西方也不会拉中国一把——整个世界正在陷入一种各人自扫门前雪的经济图景。

让我们从第一点开始讨论。考虑到中国近期的信贷扩张和由此引发的过度建设,从“后金融危机”这个角度寻找中国债务的催化剂非常合情合理。中国确实存在住宅地产泡沫——事实上,交易量下降和房价下跌表明,这轮泡沫已经开始萎缩。不过中国的政策制定者们已经意识到了这一问题,也存在多种政策工具以化解房地产市场崩盘的威胁。

如果房地产市场崩盘将产生爆炸性的社会影响,因为通常需要汇集三至四个人的储蓄资金才能满足30%的首付要求。我们有充分的理由认为,中国政府将就这一问题采取有力行动。

第二点,污染问题和反腐败运动限制了中国的经济政策灵活性。北京的污染问题已经广为人知,但在北京至上海的800英里高铁旅程中,每一英里都为一个更加令人担忧的问题提供了看得见摸得着的证据。

污染包围了如今的中国;污染是一个广为人知而且非常醒目的问题,但目前尚未得到有效治理。当然,治理污染问题意味着要关闭工厂并导致部分民众失去工作岗位,在经济下行阶段,这种做法很难推行。中国当前的症状是,解决一个问题的办法却又引出了另一个问题。一场环境灾难可能导致民众丧失对执政领导层的信心,这构成了一个重大风险。

改革风险

当前的反腐败运动从规模以及对经济社会的影响来说,都是前所未有的。纵横中国各地的政治裙带关系网被连根拔起,在其身后留下了巨大的不确定性。反腐败运动在街头似乎很受民众欢迎,但在企业董事会里则引发了恐惧和犹疑,而这两种情绪都无益于推动经济增长。反腐败运动在多个领域都构成了一种几乎无法量化的风险,对于国有企业改革进程来说尤其如此。

所有这些问题都源自2009年的大规模经济刺激计划。该项计划在西方被普遍错误地看作是中国宏观经济灵活性以及经济管理技巧的标志,而中国国内对其的看法则大不相同。

2009年(在事后回顾时)被认为是中国启动改革计划的绝佳时机,当时中国手里已经有了一只现成的替罪羊——美国金融危机。与之形成对比的是,当前改革进程中出现的任何失误都将被记在现任领导人名下——这一事实本身就对改革的速度和广度构成了重大阻碍。

经济刺激计划导致了大规模的资本配置不当,这一问题将持续困扰中国多年,因为进入投产阶段的项目将面临远较预期疲弱的需求基本面。信贷紧缩风险是显而易见的,提高资本利用效率将是一个重大挑战。

人民币汇率关注者

2009年经济刺激计划遗留的影响是,即便习近平主席和李克强总理想要实施如此大规模的刺激计划,这种做法也仅仅会使外界将他们和前任领导人混在一起,没有哪位政治家希望让别人看到自己在做前人已经做过的事情。再次推出大规模经济刺激计划的可能性极低。

处理2009年经济刺激计划的后果似乎还不够中国领导人忙碌的,他们还在同时处理至少五个其他重大经济问题。这包括:资本账户开放、利率自由化、国有企业改革、就业创造以及社会问题。其中没有哪个领域的工作有望迅速推进;交易员们可以停止关注人民币汇率的每一次波动。

所有这些对投资者来说意味着什么?

对于外部世界,中国经济增长放缓就好像是一盆扫兴的冷水,将阻抑未来多年的全球经济增长和物价上涨前景。而这将使欧洲央行(European Central Bank)和日本央行(Bank of Japan)承受更大的压力,迫使它们采取行动;美联储(US Federal Reserve)和中国方面同时回收流动性将使全球经济增长面临挑战。

就国内来说,中国经济不会再次高速增长,但也不太可能陷入衰退;不平衡的经济结构和不成熟的金融市场限制了中国国内的投资机会。未来中国的邻国有望看到大量中国资金涌入,而它们也已对外国资本作出了欢迎的姿态。中国不会成为改变当前资产低波动性特征的催化剂。改革和经济结构再平衡将按照有中国特色的方式推进:即摸着石头过河。

注:杰?佩罗斯基(Jay Pelosky)是J2Z Advisory的创始人及首席顾问。

译者/马拉

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