【英语中国】勿担心中国增长放缓 Hello 2014: don’t be afraid of slower Chinese growth

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2014-1-9 15:15

小艾摘要: November’s Third Plenum proposed significant economic reforms to rebalance China’s economy and reduce its addiction to debt, in large part by reversing many of the processes that drove growth in the ...
Hello 2014: don’t be afraid of slower Chinese growth
November’s Third Plenum proposed significant economic reforms to rebalance China’s economy and reduce its addiction to debt, in large part by reversing many of the processes that drove growth in the past three decades. Of course this potentially radical shift in China’s development model will make predicting economic performance in 2014 more difficult than ever.

And we have already seen how difficult reform is likely to be. The past four years were characterised by a stop-and-go process of decelerating growth, in which periodic attempts by the regulators to constrain credit caused the economy to slow sharply but, as policy makers backed off each time, both GDP and credit growth subsequently reignited, although at gradually declining paces. We will see this even more sharply in 2014, with a continued unstable balance between attempts to constrain credit growth and attempts to keep the economy from slowing too quickly.

If Beijing does not manage growth rates down further in an orderly manner, China increasingly risks reaching debt capacity constraints, after which growth will drop in a disorderly way. Beijing increasingly recognises the risk, and so the most likely outcome for 2014 is continued but bumpy GDP growth deceleration, until by the end of the year consensus expectations for GDP growth for the rest of the decade drop to 5-6 per cent.

What I will be watching most closely in 2014 is evidence that Beijing is reining in credit growth in spite of the political and economic costs of doing so. More specifically there are four things I will be following:

1. Pressures in the interbank market. The Chinese interbank market experienced a sharp liquidity crunch in June and a second, milder crunch in December. Because both occurred following actions taken by Beijing that temporarily slowed monetary expansion, these show just how addicted the banking system has become to rapid money growth. A recent China Beige Book survey suggests that a large and rising share of new loans is being extended simply to roll over old loans that cannot be repaid out of operating earnings. China needs credit growth, in other words, just to avoid recognising bad loans, and any attempt to constrain money growth is likely to cause a surge in financial distress. Because credit constraints are most likely to show up first in the interbank markets, the more firmly regulators try to control credit the more often we will see disruption in the interbank market.

2. Interest rate liberalisation. While everyone recognises the need to liberalise interest rates, especially to the extent that ordinary households are able to benefit, doing so is likely both to raise financial distress costs and to undermine the powerful groups with access to bank loans. This makes it an important marker of the pace and direction of China’s economic reforms.

3. De-emphasising of GDP growth targets. By fixing GDP growth targets Beijing limits its ability to target other variables, most importantly credit creation. What is more, because rebalancing requires that growth in household consumption exceed GDP growth by a substantial margin (at least 3 percentage points annually for a decade), high GDP growth targets make rebalancing much more difficult. The sooner Beijing de-emphasises GDP growth targets (in favour, say, of household income growth targets) the smoother China’s economic adjustment is likely to be.

4. GDP growth as reflecting the reform process. For now, the market is encouraged by higher-than-expected GDP growth data and disappointed when GDP growth declines. It should be responding in the opposite way. Because only much lower growth rates are consistent with effective reform and rebalancing, GDP growth rates of 7 per cent or even 6 per cent should be seen as indications that Beijing is finding it difficult to implement them. The sharper the growth deceleration, in other words, the more confident we can be that China is adjusting and is lowering financial risks. High growth rates should be seen as evidence of failure to adjust and a higher risk of a disorderly adjustment in the medium term.

During the past two years China’s domestic imbalances have finally stopped deteriorating and may have marginally improved. During this period, although credit growth continued to accelerate, GDP growth dropped from the 10-11 per cent that characterised the previous decade to its current 7-8 per cent. This suggests the extent to which GDP growth will slow even further as Beijing makes a determined effort truly to rebalance the economy.

Decelerating growth, however, should not alarm us. It should be clear that the more aggressively China resolves its debt problem and unwinds the mechanisms that drove domestic consumption and investment imbalances, the more growth will slow in the short term. A steep but orderly reduction in GDP growth is likely to be the best evidence that Beijing is forcefully implementing reforms, and that China is preparing itself over the decade to regain growth on a healthier long-term basis.

Michael Pettis is a finance professor at Peking University and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment. This post is based on his book, Avoiding the Fall: China’s Economic Restructuring (Carnegie Endowment, 2013).

去年11月召开的中共中央十八届三中全会提出了重大经济改革措施,以再平衡中国经济,降低其对债务的依赖,主要手段是逆转在过去30年里推动经济增长的过程。中国发展模式可能发生的这种大幅度转变,自然将增加预测中国2014年经济表现的难度。

我们已看到改革可能有多么艰难。过去4年里,中国经济增长呈现出走走停停的减速态势——监管机构时不时尝试抑制信贷增长,导致经济增速大幅放缓,但每次随着政策制定者退让,国内生产总值(GDP)和信贷的增长随即都会重燃,尽管节奏在逐渐放慢。2014年期间,随着抑制信贷增长和防止经济放缓过猛的两种努力继续此消彼长,我们将看到这种局面变得更加剧烈。

如果北京方面不能有序地进一步放慢增速,那么中国经济越来越可能触及债务能力上限,随后增长将无序下滑。北京方面日益意识到这种风险,所以2014年最可能出现的结局是,GDP增速将继续放缓,但放缓幅度会起伏不定,到年底时各方对2020年前中国GDP增速的共识预测会降至5%至6%。

2014年,我最关注的将是北京方面不畏政治、经济代价抑制信贷增长的迹象。更具体一些,我会关注以下四方面:

1、银行间市场的压力。今年6月和12月,中国银行间市场发生了两次流动性吃紧局面,第一次形势非常严峻,第二次相对温和。由于两次流动性吃紧都源于北京方面暂时放缓货币扩张,这显示出中国的银行体系对货币投放量快速增长的依赖有多么严重。近期发布的《中国黄皮书》(China Beige Book)调查结果显示,由于经营利润不足以偿债,有很大一部分(其份额还在增长)新贷款只是为了滚转旧债。换言之,中国需要信贷增长,只是为了避免承认不良贷款,而任何遏制货币供应增长的努力都可能引起财务困境的激增。由于信贷约束最有可能首先在银行间市场浮出水面,因此监管机构越是坚决地试图控制信贷,我们就将越频繁地看到银行间市场运转不灵。

2、利率市场化。尽管所有人都认为必须放开利率管制——尤其是要使普通家庭从中受益,但这么做可能提高解决财务困境的成本,并削弱能够获取银行贷款的强大集团的优势。这使利率市场化成为中国经济改革步伐与方向的一个重要风向标。

3、淡化GDP增长目标。北京方面设定GDP增长目标,就制约了其设定其他变量目标、尤其是信贷创造目标的能力。更重要的是,由于再平衡需要家庭消费增长大幅超过GDP增速(至少10年内每年高出3个百分点),设定较高的GDP增长目标会使再平衡更难实现。北京方面越早淡化GDP增长目标(比如说转而采用家庭收入增长目标),中国经济调整就可能越顺利。

4、反映改革进程的GDP增长。目前,市场在GDP增长数据高于预期时感到振奋,在GDP增速下滑时感到沮丧。这种反应应当倒过来才对。由于低得多的GDP增长率说明改革与再平衡在有效推进,因此7%或甚至6%的GDP增长率应被视为北京方面难以实施改革和再平衡的迹象。换言之,增速放缓幅度越大,我们就越有理由相信,中国政府正在调整,正在降低金融风险。高增长应被视为调整失败、中期内无序调整风险升高的证据。

过去2年里,中国国内失衡终于不再加剧,并且可能略有好转。在此期间,尽管信贷增长继续加速,但GDP增速从前10年的10%至20%回落至目前的7%至8%。这预示着,随着北京方面决心真正再平衡经济,GDP增速将会进一步降至何种水平。

然而,我们不应对增速放缓感到惊恐。应明确一点,中国越是激进地解决债务问题,并解除以往导致国内消费与投资失衡的种种机制,短期内经济增速就将放慢得越厉害。GDP增速陡峭但有序的下滑可能是最佳证明:北京方面正强力推进改革,中国正在为今后10年的调整做好准备,以期重获更健康的长期增长。

本文作者为北京大学(Peking University)金融学教授、卡内基国际和平基金会(Carnegie Endowment)高级研究员。本文由作者《避免坠落:中国经济结构调整》(Avoiding the Fall: China’s Economic Restructuring)(卡内基国际和平基金会,2013年9月)一书的内容选编而成。

译者/邢嵬

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