China’s large structural trade surpluses are the consequence of internal economic imbalances, which means that any external pressure that results in a contraction of its trade surplus must be accommodated by shifts in these internal imbalances.
In the first half of this two-part blog post, I discussed the problems affecting four rural banks in Henan and the subsequent mortgage boycott in parts of China. In the second half, I argue that these crises need to be seen not as isolated events but rather as signs of systemic problems that reveal a great deal about China’s finances and balance sheet.
The Chinese economy has been wracked by rural bank defaults and boycotts over mortgage payments. In the first half of this two-part blog post, I will explain these events and what they reveal about the health of Chinese markets. In the second part, I will discuss some of the crisis’s systemic implications.
There is increasingly a consensus in Beijing that China’s excessive reliance on surging debt in recent years has made the country’s growth model unsustainable. Aside from the economy’s current path, there are only four other paths China can follow, each with its own requirements and constraints.
Giving up use of the U.S. dollar for global trade and reserve accumulation would be very difficult for U.S. adversaries and would require major economic adjustments, though it would be in the best long-term interests of the United States for the global use of the dollar to be more constrained.
Most economists have trouble understanding why too much debt may harm an economy, let alone how much debt counts as too much. To make matters worse, the common practice of comparing vastly different countries’ debt-to-GDP levels is not a useful tool for gauging how a particular economy is likely to manage its debt burden.
Chinese leaders know that they want to discontinue the country’s existing growth model, but they haven’t yet landed on what the sustainable alternatives are. Beijing’s new common prosperity policy will only help shift domestic demand at the margins, but a full-fledged rebalancing will require a more radical transformation.
The impact of Evergrande has caused financial distress to spread faster and more forcefully than Beijing’s financial regulators expected, putting pressure on them to move quickly to stop the contagion. But they cannot rescue Evergrande’s creditors without also undermining their fight against bad debt.
The bezzle, a word coined in the 1950s by a Canadian-American economist, is the temporary gap between the perceived value of a portfolio of assets and its long-term economic value. Economies at times systematically create bezzle, unleashing substantial economic consequences that economists have rarely understood or discussed.
A recent study on U.S.-China trade concludes that Trump’s trade policies cost the U.S. economy nearly a quarter million jobs. But its obsolete understanding of trade flows ends up pointing trade policymakers in the wrong direction.
The idea that trade imbalances are more likely to be the result of credit imbalances than of savings imbalances ignores the role of savings imbalances in creating credit imbalances. When a surplus country demands to be paid for its trade surplus with claims on American assets, the U.S. economy must adjust to create these assets—and one of the most common ways it does so is by expanding credit.