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轉貼相關評論於下。可參看本城市《中國經濟體系正在進行()結構性改革》一文,和中國經濟之狀況》一欄

如我在《中國經濟之狀況篇》一欄的開欄文中所說:

「到了九月底和今年年底,再做個檢驗印證。或許可以看出誰有認知偏差;誰的資料不夠周全;誰的分析解讀功力鴉鴉烏。」

我就藏拙不聒噪了。

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原文由中國問題專家劉博士和經濟學家史泰爾博士共同執筆(。以下略抒讀後感想。

中國「零容忍」政策的功能性,和中國政府就該政策改弦易轍的通性當然可以評論;但在我看來,原文「開場白」的第一段明顯表現出兩位作者相當偏頗。從而,不得不讓我對她/他們以下分析/評論「就事論事」或「依理說理」的程度提高警覺。

接下來的兩段呈現的仍然是「主見」多於「事實」。

第四段則與事實不符。中國早在2020就提出「雙循環規劃」;此規劃的重點正是「基於國內消費的成長」。2023年只是再度宣示和繼續強調此政策。

第五段提出經濟發展過程中「中等收入困境」這個一般性現實,可參考。

兩位作者在第六段又回到她/他們「主見」多於「事實」的困境。的確,直到20世紀後期,中國人民的儲蓄行為很強;但「儲蓄行為」並非由基因主導,它不屬於俗稱的「民族性」。「儲蓄行為」由「社會建構」過程而來,它是一種「社會習慣」。我們可以從韋伯的「新教倫理觀」來了解;也可以從馬克思的「『社會存在』決定『意識』論」來了解。抓住過去中國老百姓的「儲蓄行為」來討論21世紀的中國社會走向,兩位作者難免缺乏「歷史感」及社會學素養之譏。此處可參看中國經濟之狀況篇》一欄中《中國經濟成長下半年度可望回升》一文。順帶一提:如果使用中國「傳宗接代」的倫理觀來理解中國目前生育率偏低這個現象,勢必落個牛頭不對馬嘴。

正文第一節《優先順位的衝突》列舉了許多中國經濟發展中相互衝突的勢力以及隨之而來在政策上的困局,可參考。它們是否到位或切中要害,則非我有有能力置喙。

正文第二節討論中國老百姓的「儲蓄行為」;請見以上相關討論。

正文第三節討論「消費衰退」;請見以上引用的中國經濟成長下半年度可望回升》一文

正文第四節《黨先於消費者》以香港為例指出執行「基於國內消費的成長」的前置條件,可參考。

以上我提出一些兩位作者「論述」有爭議之處;她/他們的「判斷」是否成立,等到年底可能會有些眉目。

最後,我對兩位作者「論述」的基本「前提」提出一個淺見。

天下沒有十全十美的人、東西、制度、或政權。雖然「存在」並不蘊含「合理」;但是,在絕大多數情況下,「存在」通常表示「存在者/物」有其「存在之道」。兩位作者「論述」基本本「前提」是:以歐、美社會在「民主制度下的市場機制」為立論模型及判斷標準。

可惜的是:如果以歐、美社會在「民主制度下的市場機制」為立論模型及判斷標準,中華人民共和國「應該」活不到20歲。事實是:中華人民共和國不但活到74歲,還活得活蹦亂跳,橫衝直闖。因此,要有根有據的討論中國現況或預測她的未來,學者們得加把勁,先搞清楚:

一個完全不照「民主制度下的市場機制」原則出牌的社會,為什麼有這麼強勁的生命力。

如果各位覺得以下正文過於冗常,本欄轉貼財經內上的不再依賴投資:中國經濟復甦注定失敗》一文為以下原文「精華版」



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任淑莉女士此文分析中國經濟當下面對的困境以及復甦之道

前者為政府過去的政策和措施導致投資者裹足不前
後者為政府改變角色從管理者與調控者轉換為買家和投資者

這味藥不過是政府撒錢」的老偏方、舊戲碼。現在是否管用還真難說。我不是財經專業人士,以下只根據看過豬走路的常識略表淺見

1) 
投資回收效益議題:「報酬遞減律」應該是經濟學最早被發現的硬道理之一。例如,10年或20年前進行基礎建設(蓋機場、修高速公路等等)除了擴大就業和帶動景氣外,還有增加諸如運輸效能的價值(貨暢其流)。但基礎建設有一定的飽和值或臨界點,超過這個飽和值的基礎建設就成了蚊子館、蚊子公路、和蚊子機場。
2) 
後續發展議題:這是上個議題的延伸。俗話說,「錢要用在刀口上」。如果政府撒了錢只能維持短期的就業和景氣,主事者必須三思。理論上,政府要規劃「公共支出」,這筆預算的對象應該以建立一個可持續發展的產業為優先;例如當年台灣政府扶植「半導體產業」。又例如南韓政府當年扶植「服裝設計產業」。
3) 
財政健康議題:「撒錢」是銅板的一面;這個銅板另一面刻著的是「透支」。帳總有結算的一天,只是遲早問題。債務危機先引爆?經濟停滯先搞垮政府?恐怕不是那個精算師或政治領袖敢打包票。

從而,任女士大作的標題不無浮誇之嫌。

索引

deleveraging 降低資產負債比



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習總書記重振中國經濟之道 -- Shuli Ren
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This Is How Xi Jinping Can Fix China's ‘Great Recession’

Beijing has been too busy with regulations. It’s time it stepped in and became a buyer of last resort. 

Shuli Ren, 06/06/23

As it turns out, reopening alone is not enough to get China’s economy back on track. Only six months after the end of Covid Zero, manufacturing is already spluttering, one in five young people are jobless, and private businesses are not investing for the future.

There is a sense that the People’s Bank of China’s easing measures are no longer working. In a cover story last weekend, Caixin, an influential local news outlet, asked where 
all the central bank’s money went. M2, a broader measure of money supply, has been growing in double digits since the Shanghai lockdown more than a year ago. But there’s been little economic growth, and no inflation.

Consumers, for one, are not taking advantage of the central bank’s lower rates on new home purchases. Rather than buying more apartments, they’re 
speeding up payments on existing mortgages. Private businesses don’t seem to be expanding their fixed-asset investments either. Instead, consumers and entrepreneurs are cutting down debt, and putting excess cash into bank deposits.

In its article, Caixin asked if China is starting to exhibit an unusual economic aberration that has plagued Japan. Drawing on economist Richard Koo’s works, including 
The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons from Japan’s Great Recession, the magazine worried that China might be suffering from what Koo called “balance sheet recession,” in that rather than maximizing profit, most companies are busy minimizing debt and repairing their balance sheets.

In a way, President Xi Jinping’s deleveraging campaign, which got under way in late 2017, has worked too well. However, this kind of risk-averse mindset is also dangerous. It renders traditional stimulus measures ineffective and takes China out of the normal rhythms of business cycles. Just look at what happened to Japan’s lost decades.

Beijing therefore needs to act now to nip China’s “Great Recessionin the bud. It’s time for top policymakers to put away the regulator hat, and learn to be an investor.

Right now, the economy’s biggest problem is that there are few buyers left, leading to deflationary expectations on asset prices. Last year, amid brutal tech crackdowns, foreigners’ equity holdings tumbled by $1.1 trillion. A recent 
rule overhaul of hedge funds and private equity, designed to curb trading irregularities, shrank the $2.9 trillion industry. Last month, only two new private funds registered with the regulatory body.  

With few buyers around, even fewer expect asset prices will rise over time. It is thus only rational that a business takes a wait-and-see attitude on capital investment or new hires, when its exit options and returns on equity are not clear

Dalian Wanda Group’s recent attempt at a corporate turnaround showcases how much China has changed in the last five years. In 2017, founder Wang Jianlin managed to save his commercial real estate empire from bankruptcy by quickly selling his hotels to Guangzhou R&F Properties Co. and his tourism and theme-park projects to Sunac China Holdings Ltd. in a deal that brought in $9.4 billion

Nowadays, divesting shopping malls — even in the wealthiest parts of China — is a tedious exercise. Wanda’s past saviors are going through debt restructuring themselves, while foreign investors are 
feeling cautious, reported Caixin. Wang is unlikely to fetch a good price.

Extreme times call for extreme measures. During the depth of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve stepped in, going all the way to purchasing corporate bonds issued by fallen angels. So why is the PBOC’s balance sheet still squeaky clean, while households and businesses are struggling? The last time the central bank 
broadened the range of collateral it accepts for its medium-term lending facility was in 2018.

Caixin’s cover story is a mere reflection of a hot topic that, in recent weeks, has been widely 
discussed among academics and investors in the mainland. Xi’s administration has been refraining from large-scale quantitative easing, but perhaps the time has finally arrived. Having scared away investors — foreign and domestic alike — the government itself has to be the buyer of last resort now.

Shuli Ren is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian markets. A former investment banker, she was a markets reporter for Barron’s. She is a CFA charterholder. 
@shuli_ren

More From Bloomberg Opinion:

Is This Property Developer China 
Evergrande 2.0?: Shuli Ren
The 
Luxury Party Isn't Taking Off in China: Andrea Felsted
China's Latest Developer Rescue Plan Is 
Rubbish, Too: Shuli Ren

Want more from Bloomberg Opinion? OPIN . Or you can subscribe to 
our daily newsletter.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Shuli Ren at 
sren38@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Andreea Papuc at 
apapuc1@bloomberg.net

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本文為本欄習近平的中國經濟計劃注定失敗》原文的「袖珍版」。請參看我對該文的評介。


China's economic recovery is 'doomed to fail' as Beijing shifts away from investment, think tank experts say

財經內》,06/30/23

China's economic recovery is practically doomed, experts from the Council of Foreign Relations said in an op-ed.

*  The Chinese government has launched a plan for consumption-led growth, meaning the nation will shift away from investment.
But that's likely to ispark intense backlash, experts warned.

China's economic recovery is doomed, as President Xi Jinping will likely abandon his plan to shift the economy away from its reliance on investment, according to think tank experts.

In a 
op-ed for Foreign Affairs published Thursday, Zongyuan Zoe Liu, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Benn Steil, the director of international economics at the New York-based think-tank, pointed to Xi's overarching plan for China's economy as the nation reopens and dials back its zero-COVID policies.

Late last year, the Chinese government announced an ambitious 12-year plan that involves expanding household consumption to drive the economy, shifting away from investment over the long term.

That plan was met with an 
outpouring of praise from some economists, as China's household spending accounts for just 38% of its GDP, well below the global average of 68%. Meanwhile, 43% of China's economy is driven by investment – about double the US's long-run average of 22%.

"Sensible though it is, consumption-led growth in Xi's China is doomed fo fail. As Xi has done so often in the past, he will back away from the policy once the inevitable backlash from powerful constituencies, including state-owned enterprises, local governments, and the national security bureaucracy, takes hold," Liu and Steil said.

Beijing already appears to be going back to its old playbook to boost growth, which will land China in more debt, they added.

Officials have stepped in to prop up key sectors of its economy, and are unlikely to depend on households to ramp up spending in those areas, Liu and Steil said.

Consumption-led growth is likely to upset key constituents as well.

"After years of claiming credit for robust, nationwide, building-bloated urban growth, the central government will not escape the ire of unpaid municipal workers, the businesses catering to them, and the netizens supporting them on social media," Liu and Steil said.

Experts have warned of trouble for China's economy as it sees a so-far disappointing economic rebound. The notion that the country would see a 
reopening boom has been a charade, one expert said. Investors, meanwhile, have pulled their cash out of China at a faster pace as they lose faith in its grand economic reopening.

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Xi’s Plan for China’s Economy Is Doomed to Fail


Consumption-Led Growth” Is Good Policy but Bad Politics

Zongyuan Zoe Liu and Benn Steil, 外交事務》,06/

 

A staple of governance under Chinese President Xi Jinping is that major policies are introduced with great fanfare only to be abruptly discarded, often without even acknowledging their prior existence. China’s breakneck shift from three years of “zero COVID” policy to zero policy on COVID, following a wave of protests in late 2022, is only the most conspicuous of these reversals, all of which can be ascribed to their role in undermining the credibility of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its leader.

Xi’s prized policy of “common prosperity” was similarly short-lived. After prematurely declaring victory over the pandemic in May 2020, Xi embraced common prosperity as the mantra behind which to rally the economy while making society fairer and more equal. The government launched high-profile antimonopoly and antitrust probes to curb the reach of Big Tech and to assert greater control over the content and distribution of the fruits of innovation. Hundreds of billions of dollars in stock market capitalization vaporized, crushing ventures that elevated meeting private wants over tracking party ideology. At the autumn 2021 CCP meetings, a historic resolution situating Xi beside Mao Zedong in the pantheon of Chinese rulers invoked “common prosperity” eight times.

Yet by the middle of 2022, with the notoriously unproductive state sector in the ascendant, more powerful than it had been in decades, but with the recovery failing, official references to common prosperity all but disappeared. A 17,000-word report on the economy presented at the National People’s Congress by Premier Li Keqiang in
March 2022 mentioned common prosperity just once. Two months later, Xi and his top economic adviser, Liu He, reversed course entirely, issuing a series of broad statements supportive of private tech initiatives, cheering the stock market. By December, zero COVID and common prosperity had both been interred in the graveyard of policy dogmas.

But a great leader needs a great policy, and in Xi’s 
China there is always a new one. In December 2022, the government announced the less flashy but more reassuring “consumption-led growth”—the centerpiece policy of an ambitious new 12-year economic plan. For the first time in modern Chinese history, the country’s planners would prioritize “expanding household consumption” over “effective investment” as a long-term strategy. In practical terms, China’s growth would now be driven mainly by household spending decisions and not by the state directing or subsidizing companies to build and produce according to diktat.

Almost universally, economists have praised consumption-led growth. Indeed, if carried out properly, this policy shift would help China avoid the dreaded
middle-income trap—a phenomenon in which declining productivity and falling investment returns in developing nations lead to stagnating living standards.

Sensible though it is, consumption-led growth in Xi’s China is
doomed to fail. As Xi has done so often in the past, he will back away from the policy once the inevitable backlash from powerful constituencies, including state-owned enterprises, local governments, and the national security bureaucracy, takes hold. The Chinese people, knowing that the leader will bury the initiative at the first signs of worry from the party, will be reluctant to embrace it. Instead, they will hunker down, saving—in a country with the highest savings rate on earth—yet more of their meager earnings for the expected hard times ahead.

CLASHING PRIORITIES

Consumption-led growth aims to fix a very real problem. China’s household spending accounts for a mere
38 percent of gross domestic product—nearly 30 percentage points below the global average. Investment accounts for a whopping 43 percent of China’s GDP, and under Xi the economy has become increasingly dependent on state spending in sectors he deems “strategic.” To fuel this investment, the government constrains the share of GDP that accrues to households and boosts the share that goes to preferred businesses and sectors. It does so through a raft of seemingly unrelated policies, such as pushing down the exchange rate to reduce net imports, making tax rates regressive, keeping social safety nets weak, curbing the rights of urban migrants, banning unions outside the party-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions, forgoing dividends at state-owned enterprises, and capping bank deposit rates.

Because Chinese lenders pay depositors far less than they would in a
competitive market, they are able to lend to state-owned and state-favored enterprises at below-market rates. These companies are then shielded from default by policies and interventions that preclude or forestall bankruptcy. In the stock market, government authorities block disfavored sectors from accessing investor capital (using published “red lights”) or warn investors away from such sectors (using “yellow lights”). They also impose arbitrary “rectification” orders on products and services—ranging from fintech to gaming—the consumption of which is deemed to clash with the “maintenance of social order.” The online retailer Alibaba was subjected to such orders, requiring it to change and report regularly on its business practices, after its CEO, Jack Ma, publicly criticized China’s regulatory regime in October 2020.

The most conspicuous result of state-directed investment has been gross overbuilding in housing and infrastructure, accompanied by relentlessly declining productivity and soaring debt levels across the economy. In the short term (which can endure for many years), a country can always increase GDP merely by digging ditches and filling them back in. But eventually, default or inflation is necessary to extinguish the debt, and the finance for ditch digging dries up.

With a new policy regime aimed at boosting private consumption levels, however, one can expect major positive developments. Speculation in real estate, which has wreaked havoc on the economy and which Xi has condemned, will abate. Wages and living standards among the broad base of Chinese citizens will rise. Spending and investment will flow to the more productive economic sectors, particularly services, which are dominated by private firms—rather than politically fostered state-owned ones. Investment returns will increase and the growth of bad debt decline. Imports will rise and the current-account surplus will move toward balance. And finally, economic and political tensions with the world’s market economies will, after years of relentless growth, begin to ease.

China has the highest savings rate on earth.

Yet consumption-led growth will clash with more immediate government economic priorities. First among these is boosting short-term GDP growth. Despite Xi’s condemnations of real estate speculation, he has never allowed GDP numbers—which are juiced by bullish property bets—to be determined by market forces. Consider the way the Chinese housing and corporate loan markets operate. Whereas in the 
United States home prices and corporate borrowing have historically risen and fallen together with the ups and downs of the business cycle, Beijing has systematically countered falls in home prices by pushing more corporate borrowing and countered falls in corporate borrowing with incentives to boost home buying—all to ensure achievement of the government’s desired GDP.

This time is no different, despite the consumption drive. As the initial signs of post-pandemic recovery have lost steam, Chinese policymakers have reverted to the old playbook of property support measures—on top of the sweeping 
16-point rescue package rolled out last November. There is therefore no reason to believe that Xi is willing, now, to leave economic growth and the fortunes of “strategic” sectors to the mercy of consumer whim. Debt levels will, instead, continue to grow, and consumer demand that does not conform to party demand—say, that directed at foreign firms or competitors of state-owned enterprises—will be snuffed out.

There are other reasons for pessimism about consumption-led growth. The political blowback accompanying any significant shift from investment to consumption will be fierce. As more production is devoted to meeting consumer demand, exporters will be hurt. Highly indebted local governments, which through the control and sale of land-use rights have become powerful economic actors in China, will have fewer resources at their disposal as the mammoth Xi-era construction projects cease. Already, many municipalities are failing to meet payrolls and are auctioning off schools and cutting pensions. After years of claiming credit for robust, nationwide, building-bloated urban growth, the central government will not escape the ire of unpaid municipal workers, the businesses catering to them, and the netizens supporting them on social media.

The central government will, meanwhile, under a genuine consumption drive, have far less control over who makes what, in what quantities, and to what end. This reality will collide head-on with new domestic technology promotion schemes and national “security” initiatives aimed at curbing the ability of foreign firms to gather and disseminate market information or to 
make a fuss about government policy on matters ranging from technology to human rights. Indeed, foreign business confidence in China has, notwithstanding the consumption initiative, fallen significantly in the past year. European business confidence in the country has reached a record low.

SPENDING SLUMP

Early signs suggest that Xi’s 
consumption drive is already failing badly. In March 2023, Chinese exports surged by 14.8 percent and imports declined by 1.4 percent, producing a massive monthly trade surplus of $88.2 billion. These data reflect weak domestic demand and a corresponding need to push goods abroad—the opposite of consumption-led growth. And the government cannot count on a new generation of consumers to rescue its plans. Youth unemployment is running at over 20 percent. It is no surprise that China’s main stock market index is down 20 percent this year. This decline has been accompanied by a steady slump in the prices of copper and iron ore, signaling continued weak demand.

Whereas spring economic numbers showed a much-anticipated post-lockdown bounce back in demand for luxury goods and domestic travel, broader metrics suggest widespread consumer pessimism. Savings, after soaring in 2022, accelerated further after the consumption drive was announced. Yuan bank deposits rose by a remarkable 41 percent in the first quarter of 2023, year-on-year, after reaching a record high $2.6 trillion in 2022. Borrowing plummeted over 50 percent in 2022, reflecting the decline in home sales. Households with excess cash prepaid mortgages instead of buying cars or other discretionary items. According to a quarterly 
survey by the People’s Bank of China, there has been an enormous rise in the urge to save rather than spend or invest. Fifty-eight percent of Chinese respondents now prefer to save, up from 45.7 percent in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

Weak domestic demand correlates directly with weakened household spending power and deteriorating balance sheets. Between 2008 and 2022, household debt as a percentage of GDP surged from 18 percent to 62 percent. Meanwhile, the slumping property market, which accounts for an enormous 30 percent of China’s GDP (double the share in the United States) is suppressing demand for industrial materials such as steel, timber, and chemicals, as well as consumer durables such as appliances, furniture, and fixtures. At the same time, local governments have seen revenue from state-owned land-use rights, a primary source of public expenditure, plummet 
27 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2023, further dampening demand.

Rapid population aging is also suppressing demand. A report published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2019 warned that China’s national social security fund would be depleted by 2035. Against the backdrop of declining public confidence in the state’s ability to support the elderly, younger Chinese have been putting money into a newly launched private pension scheme, draining more funds away from current consumption.

PARTY FIRST, CONSUMER SECOND

Despite these financial and demographic headwinds, the Chinese government continues to shower state-owned enterprises with new tax, financing, and regulatory interventions to increase production in state-strategic sectors. Such initiatives, far from aiding consumption, further disadvantage firms looking to satisfy consumer—rather than party—wants.

If China were as serious about building a consumption-led economy as it is about maintaining a one-party state, it would surely not have far to look. Hong Kong is prosperous, with a per capita GDP that ranks 11th in the world (or third according to so-called purchasing power parity). Although it has never been democratically ruled, Hong Kong had, at least until Beijing abandoned its commitment to “one country, two systems,” an independent judiciary, rule of law, and less interference in business operations and consumer sovereignty than any other polity in Asia. Its household consumption as a share of GDP, at 65 percent, is just slightly below that of the United States yet 27 percentage points higher than in mainland China.

But Xi will never allow a consumer-led economy to take hold on the mainland. That is clear from the strife he has stoked in Hong Kong through the imposition of the 2020 national security law, which enabled Beijing to prosecute protesters at will. Partly as a result, the number of American companies with regional bases in Hong Kong fell to an 18-year low in 2021, and the net outflow of residents from Hong Kong more than doubled in 2022, to 60,000. A survey by the European Chamber of Commerce found that nearly half of all European firms in the city were considering full or partial withdrawals this year. And the companies, domestic and foreign, that have been the greatest beneficiaries of consumer demand, most notably in social media, have been those most heavily targeted by the law.

A consumer-led economy requires a high degree of individual autonomy and commercial freedom to respond to citizens’ ever-changing wants—requirements that the CCP under Xi has been increasingly unwilling to accommodate. The policy of consumption-led growth may have been started with the sincerity that typically accompanies ignorance of collateral consequences. But as those consequences become clearer in Beijing, it is destined to suffer the same silent death and unmarked burial as Xi’s previous initiatives.

ZONGYUAN ZOE LIU is Fellow for International Political Economy at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of 
Sovereign Funds: How the Communist Party of China Finances Its Global Ambitions.

BENN STEIL is Director of International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of 
The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War.


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