You may be a busy person, but it is important to keep up-to-date on the most current threats to the stability of the global economy, which could plunge us all into poverty and despair. Speaking of that, is China poised for a disaster of hideous proportions?
If you are a scholar of China and/ or global financial markets, the answer is: Why are you just now hearing about this, on Gawker.com? Pathetic. For the rest of you, it’s enough to know that China’s government has been desperately propping up its economic growth rate for years now with ill-advised legal restrictions and an enormous debt boom that will—as debt booms tend to do—come due sooner or later. And it will probably be a bad scene! Here is one data point from Ruchir Sharma, a top Morgan Stanley investment strategist, bolding ours:
My research shows that during the 30 worst debt manias of the past 50 years, private debt — which in China is often held by local governments — rose over five years by at least 40 percentage points as a share of gross domestic product. In all 30 cases, the economy slowed sharply, typically by more than half, in the next five years.
China’s mania is now the largest ever in the postwar emerging world. After holding steady at around 150 percent of G.D.P. for much of the boom, China’s public and private debts surged after Mr. Wen’s about face in 2008, rising to 230 percent of G.D.P. by 2014. That 80-percentage-point increase is also more than three times the increase in the United States before its bubble collapsed in 2008.
“Such a scale of deterioration [in China’s leverage] certainly increases our concerns about China’s underlying credit problems and sustainability risk,” the Goldman analysts conclude. “The possibility that there is such a large amount of shadow lending going on in the system that is not captured in official statistics also points to [a] regulatory gap, and underscores the lack of visibility on where potential financial stress points may lie and how a possible contagion may play out.”
This means more or less “there is more financial risk than China will admit” and also “it can’t last.”
There is nothing very novel about this observation; one prominent hedge fund manager who made a bundle on the U.S. subprime collapse has been saying for quite a while that the bad phase of China’s credit crisis “could exceed 400 percent of the U.S. banking losses incurred during the subprime crisis.”
Which is a lot!
In fact, betting on a Chinese meltdown has become fairly commonplace, though some point out that betting against the will of the Chinese government to avoid mass panic could be a loser for a long while. Still, basic logic and history would seem to tell us that, sooner or later, China is in for a debt-fueled economic shit storm that could make the U.S. subprime crisis look like a mere passing cloud. The good news: it will be in China, not here. The bad news: we live in a hyperconnected world today.
Yeah—hyperconnected us getting fucked, by anything that happens anywhere, probably because of “the cloud.”
Is this threat imminent, or far, far away? If you are a person with actual expertise on this issue, please weight in below. All we can tell you for sure is: something bad will happen, somewhere, at some time. Be scared.