【英语财经】学会适应中国的经济波动 Investors must grasp China volatility

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2014-6-23 07:02

小艾摘要: Rising volatility in China is a consequence of economic modernisation and should not be feared by long-term investors.This newspaper reports daily on the increasingly tumultuous state of the Chinese e ...
Investors must grasp China volatility
Rising volatility in China is a consequence of economic modernisation and should not be feared by long-term investors.

This newspaper reports daily on the increasingly tumultuous state of the Chinese economy. One private company goes bust. Another misses a bond coupon payment.

What great news! Bring on the failures!

While it is inevitable that China will, on average, grow a bit more slowly every year for the foreseeable future – consider the base effects and a shrinking workforce, among other factors – rising volatility does not signal impending doom. Instead, it is a consequence of important, and largely positive, structural and philosophical changes under way in China today.

The most significant structural change is the growth of China’s private sector, which is now the driving force of an economy that had no entrepreneurs when I first worked there 30 years ago. That all began to change in the late-1990s, when the Communist Party eliminated 46m state-sector jobs over six years.

That is equal to sacking 30 per cent of today’s US labour force, but few outside China remember that dramatic start to the reform process or understand that those lay-offs were accompanied by the largest one-time transfer of wealth ever seen, as state-owned housing was handed over, for a nominal fee, to Chinese workers.

Today, 82 per cent of the urban workforce is private and almost all new job creation is by private companies. The latter account for about 70 per cent of investment and industrial sales, and the largest share of profits among larger industrial companies. The state still controls the financial sector and most capital-intensive companies, but China has become very entrepreneurial over a very short period of time.

As the economy becomes increasingly market-driven, greater volatility is inevitable. We know that market economies cannot avoid periodic recessions, and, in the future, this will apply to China, especially if the Party continues to open up the financial sector. This liberalisation should be welcomed by everyone who has urged the Party to expand economic and personal freedom for its citizens and its enterprises. Investors have learnt to deal with volatility in developed markets, and they need to do so in China, acknowledging it as a sign of economic development.

The important philosophical change is the Party’s recent acceptance of the concept of creative destruction. Having bet its future on the success of private enterprise, Party leaders are just now growing comfortable with the idea that capitalism must allow for failure. As with previous reforms, this change will be implemented gradually and cautiously.

We have seen the first stages of this, as local governments have apparently been instructed to refrain from bailing out a few small, distressed private companies.

The media have been staging a “death watch” in the city of Ningbo, waiting for the failure of a single residential property developer. But, here too, failure should be embraced. There are probably 90,000 developers in China, although I’d be surprised if more than 1,000 have more than one project under way. Would it be that shocking to discover that a few of these companies are poorly managed, and would fail if the Party did not prop them up?

This reflects a healthy and confident evolution of policy and should be welcomed. This is the kind of change that should, over the long run, result in a more sustainable economy and a more open society; the kind of change that should lead to many more successful, privately owned, listed companies.

Finally, a few more words about China’s residential property market, which must be viewed through the lens of the structural and philosophical change.

Note that the massive transfer of once state-owned apartments represented the initial liquidity for the ongoing sale of commercially-built flats that started only about 15 years ago. Only 10 per cent of new homebuyers are speculators, according to surveys, with 90 per cent of sales going to owner-occupiers. Chinese homebuyers have a lot of skin in the game.

About 20 per cent of sales are all-cash, and owner-occupiers must put a minimum of 30 per cent down for a mortgage. When investors can get a mortgage, they must put at least 60 per cent cash down.

Property (residential, office and commercial) has an outsized role in the economy, including accounting for about a fifth of all bank loans, but mortgage-backed securities are almost non-existent, limiting significantly the contagion risk of falling prices.

New home prices have risen by an average of 9 per cent annually over the past eight years, but nominal urban income has risen by 13 per cent a year.

Finally, remember the base. A decline of 9 per cent year on year in new home sales (by volume) during the first four months of this year sounds far less scary if we know that sales rose by 40 per cent per cent during the same period last year. Sales rose by only 2-4 per cent year on year during 2011 and 2012, and the world did not end.

The writer is an investment strategist at Matthews Asia

中国经济的波动性上升是经济现代化所产生的结果,长期投资者无需对此感到恐慌。

《金融时报》时常报道关于中国经济形势愈发动荡的消息。一会儿一家私营公司破产倒闭了。一会儿又有一家公司未能按时支付债券利息。

这些消息多棒啊!让负面报道来得更猛烈些吧!

考虑到基数效应、逐渐萎缩的劳动人口,还有其他多种因素,不可避免的是,在可以预见的未来,中国平均每年的经济增速将逐渐放缓。但波动性上升并不意味着灾难即将来临。正相反,这是中国目前正在进行的结构性调整和观念转变所产生的结果。这一转变的意义重大,其影响大体是积极的。

中国经济最重大的结构转变体现在私营部门的发展上,这一领域现已成为中国经济的重要推动力量,而30年前当我首次来到中国工作时,中国连一名企业家都没有。形势变化始于二十世纪九十年代末期,当时中国共产党花了六年时间在国有企业范围内精简了4600万个工作岗位。

这相当于是解雇了占如今美国劳动力总量30%的工人,但在中国以外,很少有人记得这一改革过程的戏剧化开端,亦或是理解伴随这轮裁员进行的有史以来最大规模的一次性财富转移——通过缴纳象征性的费用,本属国家所有的房产被转移到了中国工人手中。

如今,82%的城市劳动力在私营部门就业,几乎所有的新增就业岗位都是私营企业创造出来的。私营企业贡献了70%的投资规模和工业销售额,并在大型工业企业的利润总量中占据了最大份额。政府仍然掌控着金融领域和大多数的资本密集型企业,但仅仅经历了非常短暂的一段时间,中国就已经变得充满企业家精神。

随着中国经济变得愈发具有市场导向,波动性上升是不可避免的。我们知道,市场经济无法逃避周期性的经济衰退。在将来,这条规律也将适用于中国,特别是如果中共继续放开金融领域。任何呼吁中共扩大经济自由以及本国公民和企业个体自由的人,都应对这个自由化进程表示欢迎。投资者在发达市场中已经学会了应对波动性,他们在中国也有必要这么做,并将这看作是中国经济发展的一个标志。

中共近期接受了“创造性毁灭”的概念,这是一个重大的观念性转变。中共领导人将党的未来寄托在了私营企业的发展壮大上,他们开始逐渐接受资本主义必须允许犯错的观点。和过往的改革一样,这一变革将以稳健谨慎的方式循序渐进地推行。

我们已经看到了这一变革的初期阶段——地方政府显然得到了上级指示,克制住了没有出手救助数家规模较小、陷入困境的私营企业。

媒体在宁波市建起了“破产观察点”,等待出现一家住宅地产开发商宣告破产。但在房地产领域,我们同样也应容忍失败。中国大约有9万家房地产开发公司,但如果目前有一个以上项目正在运作当中的开发商数量超过1000家,我将感到非常惊讶。这些房地产开发公司当中有不少都管理不善,如果中共不向它们提供支持就将陷入破产——认识到这一点真的有那么让人震惊吗?

这反映出了一种健康而又自信的政策演进,各界应对此表示欢迎。正是这种变革,能在长期内推动形成更可持续的经济发展模式以及更加开放的社会环境;正是这种变革,能够催生出数量更多、经营成功的私营上市企业。

最后,我再对中国的住宅地产市场多谈几句,有必要从结构调整和观念转变的视角来审视这一领域。

应当指出的是,大规模转移曾属国家所有的住宅形成了中国住宅市场的初始流动性,商品房销售才只有15年左右的历史。调查显示,只有10%的新屋购买者是投机客,自住业主贡献了90%的房屋销量。中国的购房者在这场游戏中承担了大量风险。

约有20%的房屋销售是全部以现金支付的。自住业主必须支付至少30%的首付款才能获得抵押贷款。而投资类买家要是想获得抵押贷款的话,则必须至少支付60%的首付款。

房地产(包括住宅、写字楼和商业地产)在中国经济中扮演着极其重要的角色。房地产相关贷款在银行贷款总量中所占比重约达五分之一,但中国几乎不存在抵押贷款支持证券(MBS),因而有力地限制住了房价下跌的传染风险。

过去八年来,新房价格以平均每年9%的速度上涨,而城市居民名义收入每年的增长幅度则有13%。

最后,让我们不要忘了基数效应。今年头四个月新建住宅销售量同比下降了9%并没有那么可怕,如果我们知道这一指标去年同期增长了40%的话。2011年至2012年间,新屋销售量仅增长了2%至4%,世界末日并没有因此到来。

本文作者是马修斯亚洲(Matthews Asia)的投资策略师

译者/马拉

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