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Pinning hopes on China

Written By: - Date published: 9:35 am, March 9th, 2014 - 33 comments
Categories: China, economy - Tags:

Our export-led economy is a rock-star according to those on the right. Australia kept us going, and now, despite the EU still spluttering, we can fly because China will buy all our milk powder.  Which we can keep making more of without destroying our ‘clean green’ country somehow.

But there’s a potential flaw in putting all your eggs in one China basket, as a number of BBC stories have been revealing.

First came Robert Peston looking at the level of debt and subsidies that sustains Chinese growth since the GFC and the West buying fewer Chinese goods.

Over the past few years, China has built a new skyscraper every five days, more than 30 airports, metros in 25 cities, the three longest bridges in the world, more than 6,000 miles of high speed railway lines, 26,000 miles of motorway, and both commercial and residential property developments on a mind-boggling scale.

There’s unsustainable growth which has Chinese debt at a reputed 200% of GDP, and investment at an unheard of 50% of GDP. It’s building massive ghost cities.  The Chinese Banking sector has rapidly expanded from $10 trillion to $25 trillion in a few years – the increase is the size of the entire US commercial banking sector, built up over centuries.

The wheels must surely fall off at some point, but in the meantime, China must grow as the promise from above is wealth instead of democracy and a say.  Should that wealth fail…

Next comes Linda Yeuh, looking at the massive shadow banking sector – accounting for 20% of banking in China is unofficial (non-bank) lending – often at interest rates of up to 100%.

Even local government is borrowing as central government promised growth and infrastructure, but didn’t provide the funds to local government to fulfil it.

If you think our fall-out from Finance Companies was bad, it’ll be but a grain of sand compared to what China might be loading up.

And now, we have the first time China is letting a major company default on a Chinese bond. A solar panel firm can’t pay its interest on a 1 billion yuan bond.

Where are they headed, and will they take us with them if we’re depending on them for our exports and recovery?

33 comments on “Pinning hopes on China ”

  1. Bob Square Pants 1

    Shows how much you know then.

    The govt stopped subsidizing panels. Hence the company going under. More will follow. If it shows anything, it’s that Green technology can’t stand on its own two feet.

    This is where all our panels come from, so that kinda fucks the Greens solar argument.

    This has been in the works for some time. Glad you are finally catching up.

  2. adam 2

    Gotta love China – so this is going to be economic warfare 101? Or a real fubar realisation that capitalism is really a screwed up system? Maybe we can all grin and start again, once China fall’s over and scuttles the whole damn lot.

    • Tim 2.1

      “Maybe we can all grin and start again” ……
      Not a question of maybe! Unsustainable debt built on unsustainable growth (or maybe that’s the other way round). Either way, 3 finger salute – or as that Clinton lady once put it – we want to push the ‘reset’ button (in relation to Russia).
      Btw ….. it’s becoming fashionable for some to be concerned with income inequality. For those fashionistas – they at least have a basic understanding of mathematics and haven’t yet lost sight of the realities of people living together in a (dare I say it!) collective, or a community, or a city, or a “nation” even”.
      “Them Natives are getting restless” and it’s either mutually assured destruction, or the realisation that debt was built on a firm foundation of solid bullshit anyway.
      …. wooden wanna be in THEIR shoes – DERP!
      (Or maybe they’re hoping to take it with them into a Colin Craig style ‘afterlife’. All it would take is for the STUFF website to come out with the headline “Scientists say Second Life is Real”).
      Bah ….. Baaaaaahaahhhaa, Baaahaahah!

  3. geoff 3

    Where are they headed, and will they take us with them if we’re depending on them for our exports and recovery?

    Who do you mean by ‘us’ and ‘we’re’?

  4. RedLogix 5

    As long as the CCP retains it’s totalitarian grip on China it will continue to print credit and expand at 7% pa. They are in excess of 20% of the world economy now, by around 2030 they will account for about 60 – 70 % of global GDP.

    They still have around 800m peasants. China can add a fresh 20m skilled workforce into their economy each and every year for the next 40 years.

    And as long as China is allowed to fix it’s currency at a fraction of it’s real value (and ask yourself why this is when every other trading nation must float) this effectively unlimited slave labour force will destroy every other job in the world. Already it is getting hard to buy some categories of things that are not made in China.

    They have been very clever in allowing their shadow banking system to grow so very rapidly, but at the same time no one bank is large enough to damage the entire system. A few weeks ago the shadow bank system collapsed in one large city – the local govt just bailed it out and hardly anyone outside of China noticed.

    Chinese capital is on a massive spending spree throughout the world, buying up real-estate, resources and productive capacity. They’ve learnt well from the capitalist west that it’s smart to export the dirtiest, filthiest jobs out from your homeland and under the guise of various FTA’s will export millions of workers offshore. It’s the most massive economic colonisation program in all history. Absolutely the China is suffering dire environmental blowback in the homeland at present – but this is only a temporary phase. A growing and increasingly sophisticated middle-class will not tolerate environmental degradation indefinitely.

    At the same time their military budget is now $200b and ramping up rapidly. They will overmatch the USA by 2020.

    Within 20 years China will be the dominant player in the world. That fact is indisputable anyone who imagines that they will somehow stall or collapse is deluding themselves. The open question is going to be exactly how that dominance plays out.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      It’s not that the things you’ve said are not true, RL, it’s that you’ve not mentioned the pressures of certain very tough constraints that China is now running up against.

      China has massive demographic problems, social/political unrest, economic imbalances (eg services vs manufacturing sector imbalance), graft and environmental degradation.

      For instance, the consequences of the one child policy means that China’s population over 60 is going to massively increase over the next 30 years. IMO that alone will sink the more optimistic growth projections for China.

      • RedLogix 5.1.1

        China has massive demographic problems, social/political unrest, economic imbalances (eg services vs manufacturing sector imbalance), graft and environmental degradation.

        The point is that the CCP has the capacity to solve them. These people are not afraid of thinking big and planning for the long-term because they have the certainty that they will be around for the long-haul.

        Contrast this with Washington which is now effectively a dead-locked zombie. It is no longer controversial to suggest that the Western experiment with party political democracy has failed. At the same time a one-party totalitarian regime in China is proving wildly successful, in the face of considerable odds. This is an irony very few people in the West are willing to say out loud.

        Given this track-record I’m willing to place odds on the CCP overcoming the challenges you list as well. They are real, they are massive – but China has the capacity to respond where the rest of the world does not.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1

          Yeah, there is that. You could see it around the time of the Beijing Olympics. Smog free skies needed for the Opening Ceremony? No problem, we’ll just close all local industry, furnaces and coal fired power plants down for the entire week before.

  5. Colonial Viper 6

    Ben, I agree that massive Chinese credit creation and an over-reliance on the Chinese manufacturing industry (which for instance cannot produce trains which match the quality of what NZ WAS capable of making) is a real problem for this small country of ours.

    But as far as I can see, no NZ political party has been willing to make that very simple statement – that we need to re-localise and re-onshore NZ industries, and that we cannot continue to rely on “export driven growth” as if it was still the resource rich 1960’s and 1970’s. Markets like China, the EU, the USA and even now Australia are slowing (and perhaps possibly on the verge of another crash).

    Resource and energy depletion is real. Climate change is real. The dominance of banks and large financial institutions over even sovereign states is real. New economic ideas are needed. And whom within our political landscape is proposing them?

    I want to understand why all our political parties seem content with trying to hoodwink the electorate with yet another few years of business as usual ‘pretend and extend’?

    • RedLogix 6.1

      (which for instance cannot produce trains which match the quality of what NZ WAS capable of making)

      When the Chinese want to do quality they are perfectly capable of it. Another decade and we will no longer mention these things.

      When I was a boy all Japanese cars were “Jap Crap”. No-one says that anymore.

      And whom within our political landscape is proposing them?

      No-one is allowed to. Look at the way Cunliffe who looks like a very modest threat to the status-quo is being cut down.

      • marty mars 6.1.1

        “When the Chinese want to do quality they are perfectly capable of it.”

        The space program supports this statement – if it needed support that is, which I think it didn’t, even though I offered support for it – go figure.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.2

        When I was a boy all Japanese cars were “Jap Crap”. No-one says that anymore.

        Yep, I remember that. Didn’t take long for them to be the best car makers in the world. China will go the same way.

        No-one is allowed to.

        And that is the big problem with politics in Western countries – you’re not allowed to question the orthodoxy that enriches the few at everyone else’s expense and regularly crashes the economy.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.2.1

          The inevitable conclusion is that trying to work through mainstream political parties can only be a vanishingly small fraction of what the Left does. Building mass movements, popular organisations and logistics enabling protests and peaceful resistance will be the key.

        • Populuxe1 6.1.2.2

          Um, try questioning the orthodoxy in China that enriches the top members of the CCP and leaves millions of people in dire poverty or virtual slavery.

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.3

        BTW KiwiRail engineers and consultants were over in China monitoring the build of that rolling stock. Obviously, whatever they were doing, it wasn’t enough.

        When the Chinese want to do quality they are perfectly capable of it. Another decade and we will no longer mention these things.

        In the 1960’s the Japanese became fanatical about implementing quality control initiatives e.g. Deming process control approaches.

        Today Chinese manufacturing has learnt an even more valuable lesson: western consumers and western countries are happy to hand over large sums of money for junk.

        NZ has proven that insight yet again.

      • Murray Olsen 6.1.4

        Very true, RL. I have a friend in India who gets stuff made in China. I mentioned the problem of quality to him and he told me that, when you negotiate the deal, you also negotiate the quality. If you’re willing to pay, you get top of the line stuff. My son in law, a Chinese factory owner, claims to only make the highest quality, but then I’ve never done business with him.

        Makes me wonder exactly how the asbestos train negotiations proceeded. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall.

  6. Draco T Bastard 7

    The real problem is that we keep pinning our hopes on export rather than building up our own economy. Produce everything we need here in NZ and we’re not susceptible to outside economic disasters.

  7. I have been predicting the demise of China as the result of the demise of the US for about 8 years now.

    The US Consumers until recently spend about $ 7 trillion annually. The Chinese about $1 trillion.

    The US is collapsing at a staggering but entirely predictable speed with shops closing by the thousands. Chinese billionaires and corrupt party officials are leaving the country and are buying huge amounts of real estate globally to get their loot out of China.
    In London for example entire condo buildings are build and marketed exclusively to the Chinese.

    Chinese companies are channel stuffing to keep the pretense up and they keep building entire cities where nobody lives to keep their economy going and they are printing a cob smacking $ 250 billion or so a month. It is unsustainable and ridiculous. Without the US as their biggest customer and the rest of the worlds economies tanking as the result of banker fraud and fiat currencies there is no way the <ahref=”http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/03/chinese-economy-crashing.html”>Chinese can keep this going. Nobody can!

    • RedLogix 8.1

      No. Everyone who is predicting the demise of China is applying the kind of thinking that is applicable in the West.

      China is completely different. The CCP can do whatever it wants – politically and economically.

      • travellerev 8.1.1

        They can do anything they want but they cannot break the laws of nature or practice Witchcraft/Magic.

        Contrary to the West people there do actually get arrested for corruption and convicted to death too. Apparently this worries the überrich and apparatchiks alike to the point where they actually leave en masse with their stolen loot. A billion angry people can be pushed only so far even by what you apparently think is of Godlike strength but in fact of course is merely a very small group of elitist scumbags.

  8. dave 9

    we are 400 percent of GDP in Debt. private debt is a basket case and Shonkey is making sure the government books are looted as well 1984 all over again I just have a feeling inside when labour and green get to see the books there going to be cooked to the Max by billy bob English

    • Yep, let’s start with the $112 billion in CDF and other derivatives!

    • aerobubble 9.2

      Key is a banker, Key knows inflation wipes out debt, it therefore follows that the world needs a massive round of inflation to wipe the debt back to something manageable. If anything Key hasn’t gone far enough and used debt to build infrastructure, swimming pools, etc, etc. As after the bout of global inflation its will be much more expense to build.

      Inevitably the cycle turns and we need a high spending high taxing government. How else are a generation of right wing idiots supposed to claim governments should not tax and spend unless we have a bout of it from time to time to make it a realistic proposition. And when is the best time, well NOW! in a debt binge waiting on massive inflationary reset.

  9. Ad 10

    Ben what did you make of Laim Dann’s much more positive article on the same topic today.

    Personally China looks like New Zealand’s substitute for an economic development policy. And seems to be working almost as well.

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