China is set up for a big fall

The punderati has been especially kind to China. As the global recession takes hold, the conventional wisdom has moved from the largely debunked de-coupling of China to a story where China slows, but much less so than the west. But is that really how things will play out?

Marshall Auerback certainly thinks China faces some stiff headwinds, but he believes these are issues that can be overcome. Debt levels are extremely low and savings levels very high amongst the consuming masses there. Mark Mobius believes that the emerging markets generally are shortly due for an upswing. However, I would like to take a more pessimistic tack here.

You may recall that just yesterday I quoted from an Indian article which underlined the cratering of export demand for China. Let me add to those thoughts with the following analysis:

  1. The Chinese are highly dependent on manufacturing exports to maintain growth. Most of their growth in the last two decades has come from export demand subsidized by a cheap currency and massive numbers of relatively low wage workers.
  2. However, demand from the west is cratering because of the worst recession since the 1930s.  Because China’s export economy is geared to the west, this has had a devastating impact on export demand.
  3. As a result, the Chinese will need to switch to a focus on domestic demand. Where is this demand going to come from? Granted they have no debt. However, people don’t just start buying stuff in the middle of the greatest downturn in 75 years. Chinese people see these and must know that caution is warranted.
  4. Moreover, their residential property market has imploded as has the stock market. This too must work against the psychology of increased domestic spending as the wealth effects here are significant.
  5. And the banking system was already fragile. My general thinking would be there are huge hidden losses at Chinese banks as a result. Therefore, lending capacity has to be restricted going forward. I would not be surprised if we saw a reduction in the money multiplier in China as well.
  6. Ultimately, I would argue that the Chinese domestic consumer is not going to consume more.   In fact, they would need to consume a lot more given the GDP per capita of the average Chinese person in order to replace the lost demand from the West.  But, I believe they will consume less given the factors enumerated above.

I await more data from China. In the meantime, I remain skeptical but open to persuasion.

Sources China’s industrial output growth stalls – Sydney Morning Herald China ‘repeating US mistakes of 1930s’ –, India The Great Crash of China – Far Eastern Economic Review China’s Output Growth to Drop Further, Minister SaysBloomberg China: Industrial Output – Bloomberg China Industrial-Output Growth Is Weakest Since 1999 – Bloomberg

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One Foot Out the Door: How to Combat the Psychological Recession That’s Alienating Employees and Hurting American Business
101 Ways to Recession-Proof Your Career
Doing Business in Emerging Markets: Entry and Negotiation Strategies
China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power

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Technorati Tags: China, Emerging Markets, free trade, manufacturing, mark mobius, production, recession

Tags: China, Emerging Markets, free trade, manufacturing, mark mobius, production, recession

Originally published at Credit Writedowns and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

3 Responses to "China is set up for a big fall"

  1. Anonymous   December 24, 2008 at 6:59 am

    I am a Chinese living in an upscale neighbourhood in Shanghai. Consumption is definitely slowing here. At the bakery near my residence, daily Christmas sale on 23/12/2007 hit CNY 44k. Yesterday(23/12/2008),it was a little over CNY 20k. And business at the nearby restaurants are also down significantly.

  2. ex VRWC   December 24, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Add this to your sources, if you want – its my firsthand look at China A Dragon on Winter’s Eve

  3. Anonymous   January 2, 2009 at 2:27 am

    anybody who has been in china recently, would disagree