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投资理财

三大隐患威胁中国经济

Christopher Matthews 2014年04月17日

刚刚公布的第一季度数据表明,中国经济增速虽然在放缓,但并没有发展到危险的程度。比起经济放缓来,中国面临的另外三个挑战更加严峻。

    中国经济眼下还没有从钢丝绳上摔下来。

    周三公布的数据显示,中国2014年第一季度经济增速为7.4%,低于上个季度的7.7%。此后,亚洲市场纷纷上涨。虽然第一季度增速是一年半以来的最低水平,但市场对经济放缓的模式感到满意——消费品零售额的增长表明国内消费上升,固定资产投资增速则略有下降。唱衰中国的人认为中国依赖于债务支撑下的基建项目,但这些数据则表明中国在这方面的依赖程度正在下降。

    不过,这些统计数据完全没有体现出中国经济正在发生的演变有多么剧烈。每个月,仍然有几百万人从中国农村到城镇地区去寻找制造业领域的工作机会,而中国农民工的数量已经超过美国的全部劳动力。中国的首要任务是要维持出口领域的发展,从而确保为这些人提供就业机会,以防经济增速放缓导致政治局势不稳。

    虽然周三公布的数据显示,在缓慢实现经济再平衡的过程中,中国的经济增速仍足够高,但批评者们仍有充足的理由来质疑中国经济能否继续保持增长。下面就是其中三条:

    1. 经济史表明不太可能出现不间断增长。

    无论是19世纪80年代的美国,还是20世纪90年代的日本,新兴经济体在演变为发达经济体的过程中一般都会经历某种形式的金融危机。“亚洲四小龙”中的新加坡和韩国是例外,它们的经济发展过程并没有出现持久的政治或经济危机。事实上,韩国从专制到民主的过渡有时会被那些希望中国进行民主改革的人奉为民主化的典范。然而,即便这样,韩国和新加坡还是在20世纪90年代受到了亚洲金融危机的沉重打击,更何况中国的国土面积和多元化程度都远远超过新加坡和韩国。

    2. 中国的中央政府并不是无所不能。

    前银行家兼作家萨蒂亚吉特•达斯最近指出,中国是否会出现所谓的经济硬着陆很大程度上取决于中央政府与地方政府之间的角力。达斯写道,

    中国有句俗话叫山高皇帝远。它的意思是,自古以来,中国中央政府对地方的控制力都较弱,地方政府拥有自治权而且几乎谈不上忠诚,也就是说中央政府对地方事务的影响有限。

    尽管中央政府努力遏制影子银行为地方基建项目放贷(这些项目规模巨大,经济效益令人怀疑,而且是为了政绩而建),但有大量证据表明,许多这样的投资项目以及其他隐性投资仍然得到了资金支持。去年,摩根大通(JPMorgan)在一份报告中估计,2010-2012年影子银行的规模扩大了一倍,达到6万亿美元。即便最近中国一直在整顿监管范围之外的贷款,但目前可能已经出现了很多严重问题。

    3. 就算泡沫没有破灭,挥霍浪费的支出仍然可能严重拖累经济增长。

    1月下旬,中国一家投资公司因为资助的煤炭公司被迫违约而得到了政府的援助。这样做是为了不让市场担心这家基金公司破产、从而在影子银行领域引起恐慌。这起事件表明,中国政府愿意竭尽全力来防止金融危机。但是,北京方面无法纠正影子银行做出的错误决定。即便中国能够避免债务泡沫的破灭,缺乏效益的项目未来仍然会导致中国经济陷入困境。(财富中文网)

    

    The Chinese economy hasn't fallen from the tightrope yet.

    Markets in Asia rose Wednesday following the release of data showing that the growth of the Chinese economy slowed in the first quarter of 2014 to an annual rate of 7.4% from 7.7% the previous quarter. Though the first quarter saw the slowest growth for the Chinese economy in a year-and-a-half, markets were pleased with the way in which it was slowing -- with increases in retail sales signaling growth in domestic consumption and a slight decline in the rate of fixed asset investment growth, which show the Chinese turning away from what China bears see as a dependence on debt-fueled infrastructure projects.

    But these statistics don't even begin to tell the story of how radically the Chinese economy continues to evolve. Millions of people per month continue to emigrate from China's farms to urban areas in search of work in the country's manufacturing sector, while the number of migrant workers in China is greater than the size of the entire American labor force. Maintaining an export sector that can supply jobs for all these people is priority No. 1 for China, lest a lack of economic progress leads to political instability.

    And while data released Wednesday suggest that China is growing quickly enough while managing to slowly rebalance its economy, there are still plenty of reasons for critics to doubt they can continue to pull it off. Here are three:

    1. Economic history suggests a seamless ascent isn't likely.

    Be it the United States in the 1890s or Japan in the 1990s, it's common for economies to experience some sort of financial crisis as they make a transition from emergent to developed. Exceptions to this rule include Singapore and South Korea -- both of these "Asian Tigers" were able to ascend in status without lasting political or economic crises. Indeed, South Korea's transition from authoritarianism to democracy is sometimes cited as a model for those hopeful that democratic reforms will come to China. But even these economies were hit hard by the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s, and neither country is anywhere near as large or diverse as China.

    2. The Chinese central government isn't all-powerful.

    As former banker and author Satyajit Das pointed out recently, much of the case for expecting a so-called hard landing is centered around the way the central government interacts with powerful local governments in China. Writes Das,

    An ancient Chinese proverb -- shan gāo, huángdì yuǎn -- states "The mountains are high and the emperor is far away." The saying implies that Beijing's control over its regions is historically weak, with local autonomy and little loyalty, meaning that central authorities have limited influence over local affairs.

    Despite the central government's efforts to curb shadow bank lending to support big, economically questionable, politically motivated local infrastructure projects, there's plenty of evidence that these and other dodgy investments continue to be funded, threatening the stability of the system. A JPMorgan report from last year estimated that the size of the shadow banking sector doubled between 2010 and 2012 to $6 trillion. Even with recent efforts to rein in unregulated lending, much of the worst could already have been done.

    3. Even without a bubble burst, wasteful spending could be a serious drag on growth.

    In late January, a Chinese investment company was bailed out by the government after a coal company it was funding was forced to miss a debt payment. The bailout was arranged to calm fears that this particular fund company going belly up would spark panic in the rest of the shadow banking sector. The incident shows that the Chinese government is willing to go to great lengths to prevent a financial crisis, but Beijing can't do anything to reverse bad decisions made by shadow banks. Even if China can avoid a bursting of a debt bubble, its economy will still have to struggle under the weight of economically unproductive projects.

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