Free exchange: Red ink rising

Posted: March 4, 2016 in economy
Tags: , ,

UK Only Article: 
standard article

Issue: 

Battle lines

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Free exchange

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China cannot escape the economic reckoning that a debt binge brings

HOW worrying are China’s debts? They are certainly enormous. At the end of 2015 the country’s total debt reached about 240% of GDP. Private debt, at 200% of GDP, is only slightly lower than it was in Japan at the onset of its lost decades, in 1991, and well above the level in America on the eve of the financial crisis of 2007-08 (see chart). Sooner or later China will have to reduce this pile of debt. History suggests that the process of deleveraging will be painful, and not just for the Chinese.
Explosive growth in Chinese debt is a relatively recent phenomenon. Most of it has accumulated since 2008, when the government began pumping credit through the economy to keep it growing as the rest of the world slumped. Chinese companies are responsible for most of the borrowing. The biggest debtors are large state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which responded eagerly to the government’s nudge to spend.

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