Friday, April 1, 2011

My views on the Chinese Economy

I have been bearish on the Chinese economy for some time now. When economic policy makers focus on the rate of growth rather than the quality of growth, they are just asking for trouble. As Jim Chanos memorably put it, China is on a Treadmill to Hell, held hostage by its need for speed.

A result of that policy is tremendous overcapacity abetted by state subsidized loans. Capital appears to be allocated regardless of the ultimate profitability of the underlying projects. This can be seen in China's famous empty cities, the biggest mall in the country that is 99% empty, and its 64 million empty apartments. During the credit crisis of 2008, the government realized that the collapse in aggregate demand in the United States would severely hurt it's export-based economy, so it forced its bankers to hand out property loans to anyone and everyone. Indeed, China's stimulus as a percentage of its GDP dwarfed the US's. Fast forward two years and we are witnessing a giant property bubble and an economy that relies on fixed asset investment (construction) for 60% of its GDP.

The implications for investors are serious, especially for investors in emerging market securities. China is a major engine of growth for the global economy and the 800 pound gorilla in Asia. A fiscal crisis in that region would likely lead to a significant decline in emerging market securities. As with any bubble, the excesses are easy to spot, but the difficult part is timing the popping of the bubble. I expect things to come to a head in late 2012 as policy makers find it more and more difficult to tame inflation, and as the sovereign crisis shifts from continental Europe to UK and the US.

Caveat Emptor.

For further research:
64 million empty apartments in China - An amazing video news story from Down Under

China: The mother of all gray swans by Vitaliy-Katsenelson

Interview with noted short seller and China Bear, Jim Chanos

Chanos, Roach Discuss Outlook for China's Economy

No comments:

Post a Comment