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Crisis seen from the Sinosphere (II)

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

From the post left unfinished last week. Some of the main arguments read (or heard) in China Crisis discussions:

The Time

Economies don’t grow indefinitely.  Low cycles follow high cycles and after 30 years it is about time. China cannot break the laws of economics, so the recession must necessarily come in the next X years. The country hasn’t prepared itself politically and psicologically to face this period. In the end, we are sure to have trouble.

Of course, this argument is of little value without the X, and many proponents of a time limit have failed in the past. This is the field of technical analysts and other mystical thinkers. Mythology also plays a role:  In Chinese history, cataclysms mark the end of a cycle. An earthquake preceded this crisis, and a solar eclipse is coming in July, the dynasty has lost its virtue. These arguments tend to work better with a bit of hindsight.

The Markets

The World’s economies are interdependent today. China’s economy is largely dependent on exports and FDI. The weight of these external factors in China’s growth has been much discussed, but regardless of the exact numbers, few doubt that it is a significant motor of the economy. External motors failing, China turns to internal ones: investment and consumption. Today, strong public investment, mostly in infrastructure and energy, is making up for the loss. Click to continue »

The Crisis seen from the Sinosphere

Friday, May 8th, 2009

It’s been half a year since the first announcement of the Chinese stimulus package, and the time has come to look back and ask ourselves: how is the Crisis doing to-day? Well, we don’t need to surf very far to find some hints. Judging by the attention she gets  in the media, the Crisis is still in tip top form, barely upstaged by a drove of sneezing pigs, and plotting her next move in the People’s Republic.

And in the meantime, we have read so much about her that the debate gets old, the initial guessing game we merrily joined some months ago giving way to a phase of weary expectation.

So, finally, is there going to be trouble in China or not - Will the Wall Fall? I have my own opinions about this, but I’ll keep them clear off this post. Instead, I want to  summarize some ideas appeared in the sinosphere, list the main arguments from each side, and let the reader choose which make sense.  Luckily, this is the kind of discussion where the same arguments are fluently used to support all views, so the list can be made manageable.

But first of all, let’s examine the parties. In this business of Chinese Crisis Watching there are 3 main schools of thought,  which can be roughly classified as follows:

A. The Optimistic Executives:  Old China hands with long memories, bullish consultants with short ones. Optimistic people with or without a stake in the optimism of their clients. Just to list some recent ones.

B. The Academics of Doom:  Everybody knows the highest fulfilment of a dismal scientist is to announce doom and then have doom come. On the other hand, there might be something in what they say…  some examples.

C. The Rosy Men of the Republic: This 3rd group is endemic to China. It consists of a set of highly prepared bureaucrats who resolutely believe in the Feelings of the Motherland, in Santa Claus and in the Theory of Scientific Development. You can see here some of their latest achievements.

The English-speaking sinosphere is a little world, and we rarely see the big names that populate other provinces of the internet. But we do have a great advantage: debate here is relatively free from partisan politics.  There is not much in the way of left-wing China blogs, for instance, and American republicans don’t go about throwing  green tea parties just because grandpa Wen announced a healthcare plan. 

In fact, the left and the right in China are conveniently concealed behind the red walls of Zhongnanhai. There are few leaks, and the real data which analysts use is pretty much available to anyone with an internet connection and some notions of mandarin. This is a level field where you can browse around, draw your own conclusions, and enjoy your tea leave reading with Armstrong’s great cover of  ”La vie en rosy“.

But enough if the rosy chit-chat. Here’s the points.