Features

China goes for growth

China hopes to move from an economy driven by investment to one based on consumption and service. But there are plenty of doubts as to whether it can pull it off.

929_MW_P04_Markets_Bottom
The Chinese car market has cratered

Chinese consumers and businesses are losing confidence. The Chinese manufacturing sector contracted for the first timein 19 months in December. The car market suffered its steepest year-on-year drop in almost seven years in November, marking the first contraction since January 2017. Official figures show GDP growth of 6.3% in the fourth quarter, but Berenberg Bank reckons the true growth rate has fallen to 3%. The domestic stockmarket has reflected the weakening economic backdrop: it slumped by 22% in 2018.

The authorities look increasingly rattled. In a bid to reduce the risk of a sharp slowdown, the central bank has cut the reserve ratio for banks for the fifth time in a year, freeing up $116bn for new lending. Beijing has also approved new rail projects worth more than $125bn.

China has "not fired its heavier artillery", such as a rate cut, says Christopher Beddor on Breakingviews. "But there is little chance of a credit binge of the sort seenin 2009, when credit growthleapt from 16% to 33%," says Tom Holland in the South China Morning Post, as Beijing's longer-term aim is to reduce its huge debt pile. China's efforts to bolster growth will cheer emerging and global markets. But its struggle has revived doubts as to whether it can pull off the transition from an economy driven by investment to one based on consumption and services, as is the case in industrialised economies.

The increasingly authoritarian leadership under Xi Jinping could compound disillusionment caused by a slower economy. Diana Choyleva, head of consultancy Enodo Economics, told The Observer that in 20 years of covering China, "this is the most worried I've ever been about the party's ability to keep the show on the road".

Recommended

How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
China adds shine to base metals
Industrial metals

China adds shine to base metals

Metals prices have rallied hard after China's government unveiling plans for new infrastructure building, including railways, power lines and electric…
28 Aug 2020
Equity investors ignore US-China split at their peril
Stockmarkets

Equity investors ignore US-China split at their peril

Washington and Beijing’s troubled relationship has taken a turn for the worse recently, but markets have become strangely blasé about the situation.
21 Aug 2020
Guru watch: buy gold ahead of China's big currency move
Gold

Guru watch: buy gold ahead of China's big currency move

China has steadily been building “a renminbi-based international payments system", says Charles Gave, founding partner and chairman of Gavekal.
27 Jul 2020

Most Popular

Here’s why you really should own at least some bitcoin
Bitcoin

Here’s why you really should own at least some bitcoin

While bitcoin is having a quiet year – at least in relative terms – its potential to become the default cash system for the internet is undiminished, …
16 Sep 2020
Will a second wave of Covid lead to another stockmarket crash?
Stockmarkets

Will a second wave of Covid lead to another stockmarket crash?

Can we expect to see another lockdown like in March, and what will that mean for your money? John Stepek explains.
18 Sep 2020
Central banks want politicians to take charge – but what will they do?
US Economy

Central banks want politicians to take charge – but what will they do?

The US Federal Reserve has come to the end of the road in terms of what it can do to accelerate any recovery, says John Stepek. It's over to the polit…
17 Sep 2020