Professor of Economics, Associate Dean for Asia, Director of the Case Center, Director of China Economy and Sustainable Development Center, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB)
Corruption, Financial Markets, Macroeconomics, Managerial Incentives and Market Competition, Real Estate, Reform, Taxation, Telecommunications Privatization, Valuation in Emerging Markets
Debt is a ticking-time bomb for the Chinese economy. In the past three years central government stopped local governments from financing through investment vehicles and set a cap for the issuance of bonds. But new forms of debt continue to be formed. Local officials appear not to care about borrowing more, as long as the money can be used in projects that may translate to political achievements. And with those achievements, officials will be promoted to a higher level–as will the debt burden. A more worrisome thought will be: can those additional government debts and investments support China’s long-term growth?
Optimism for Chinese firms over the next six months still holds, but the corporate financing environment is getting difficult and the corporate inventory is increasing, according to the CKGSB Business Conditions Index, which registered 61.5 in February, a slight increase on January’s mark of 59.8. For CKGSBʼs sample of successful businesses operating in China, corporate sales index fell slightly from 82.7 to 80.5, while profits rose from 67.0 to 72.2, both are well above the confidence threshold of 50. Yet the other two sub-indices—corporate financing and in inventory—are below 50.
Slow growth in the Chinese economy will put pressure on local governments’ ability to repay their debts.