If we accept the argument that China must, and will, rebalance its economy by reducing its reliance on investment, what happens if it proves politically impossible to cut investment rates sharply? Gross domestic product growth rates would remain very high, but debt levels would also grow unsustainably. At some point, China will reach its debt capacity limits and no longer be able to fund investment.
Hong Kong is dead. Economic roadkill on China’s way to world domination. Starting this weekend, a free-trade zone opening in Shanghai will supplant the former British colony as the gateway to the world’s most dynamic economy.
In the late 1980s, University of Chicago professor Robert Aliber proposed, partly in jest, what he called the Andy Warhol theory of economic growth: “In the future every country will grow rapidly for 15 years.” He had in mind the plethora of so-called miracle economies that seemed to take off one after the other in the postwar era. In every case, decades of high growth, almost always driven by very high levels of investment, eventually faltered.
We need to keep the impact of financial repression in mind in understanding the Chinese growth model. It is a fundamental cause of China’s rapid expansion and its extraordinary imbalances. State-owned enterprises, like other large-scale investors, have benefited from artificially low interest rates, and it is quite easy to prove that over the past decade they have been value destroyers on a very significant scale.
China may increase investments as possible stimulus plans if the economy slows “sharply,” Michael Pettis, chief strategist at Guosen Securities Co., said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today.