Monday, January 11, 2010

Superlatives - China keeps rising

Recent statistics reveal China's sustained growth, which is breaking new records, even in the face of last year's worldwide economic slowdown:
  • Figures released Monday show China "surged past the United States to become the world’s largest automobile market." (in units sold, not in dollars)
  • China "surpassed Germany as the biggest exporter of manufactured goods, according to year-end trade data."
  • The World Bank estimates that China will soon overtake Japan to become the No. 2 economy in the world. It was only the world’s fifth-largest economy four years ago.
According to the New York Times:
"the shift of economic gravity to China has occurred partly because growth here remained robust even as the world’s developed economies suffered the steepest drop in trade and economic output in decades.
But that did not happen by chance: China’s decisive government intervention in the economy, combined with the defiant optimism of its companies and consumers, has propelled an economy that until recently had seemed tethered to the health of its major export markets, including the United States."
Indeed, Chinese media are in a celebratory mood:
The country’s economic miracle, the newspaper People’s Daily boasted last week, exists because its leaders -- unlike those in other, unnamed nations -- can make quick decisions and ensure underlings carry them out. The Great Recession, the newspaper said, has laid bare cracks in plodding Western-style capitalism.
(Hm ... I wonder if that's also an underhanded swipe at Western-style democracy ...)

However, as the article warns:
Sustaining a global-size economy is nowhere near as simple as building one, some Chinese and Western economists say. As the Chinese navigate toward a bigger role in the world financial system, they are already running into diplomatic and political headwinds.

At home, ordinary citizens and economists alike worry that the government’s decision to flood the economy with cash has created speculative bubbles -- in housing, in lending -- that could burst with disastrous effect. But curbing speculation requires moves, such as raising interest rates, that could crimp the sprees of investment and industrial expansion that are the main contributors to growth.
There are also worries about the way the Chinese government has chosen to stimulate the economy. Projects given funding last year appeared to be primarily SOEs, while many private companies/small- and medium- enterprises were left high and dry. Some commentators (also in TIME, Asia Times, Financial Times) are concerned this will reverse the trend of private sector expansion and return China to government-driven growth (though not necessarily government micromanagement). Also see a Carter Center report on the impacts of stimulus spending on SOEs.

URL: (, 1/11/2010)

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