Wednesday, 07 December 2011 13:46
An editorial in the December 5, 2011, Wall Street Journal, reports that Communist China's attempt to stimulate the economy with a building spree has not only failed but made matters worse:
China is a poster child for the Austrian school of economics' theory
of the business cycle. After undertaking the biggest stimulus program
the world has ever seen in response to the global financial crisis, the
country is drowning in unproductive investments financed with credit....
Now comes the hangover. The public
works projects are winding down, unleashing a wave of unemployment and
an uptick in social unrest. The banks' nonperforming loans are rising,
and local governments are insolvent. The country is littered with
luxurious county government offices, ghost cities of empty apartment
blocks, unsafe high-speed rail lines and crumbling highways to nowhere.
One effect of negative real interest rates was a nationwide bubble in
private housing, with the average price of an urban apartment reaching
eight times the average annual income. Real estate is the most popular
investment for the wealthy, according to a central bank survey in
September. Millions of luxury apartments are vacant, even as there is a
shortage of affordable housing for the poor....
There is no easy way to avoid the bust that is coming. The silver lining
is that China's increasingly state-led growth model will be
discredited, and a debate will begin on restarting the reforms that
stalled in the mid-2000s. A financial sector that allocates credit based
on politics rather than price signals led China into this mess. Popular
pressure to dismantle crony capitalism is building, and the Communist
Party would be wise to get in front of it while it can.