Posts Tagged ‘credit and economic crisis’

China new year, and one more vote for GDP-adjusted bonds

China new year, and one more vote for GDP-adjusted bonds

snaplineCourtesy of Michael Pettis of China Financial Markets

I just got back to Beijing three days ago and am still seriously jet-lagged, but I wanted to post a piece today anyway.  Last night I celebrated the new year at D22, where a group of very cool musicians (including the amazing Snapline, for one of their very few shows this year and perhaps one of their last ever) serenaded the passing of 2009.  What a great show.

I suppose it is traditional to dedicate the new-year piece to evaluating the “year that was”, or to make predictions for the coming year, but my only concession to this tradition will be to make the very (I think) obvious prediction that trade tensions are going to rise dramatically in 2010, and even more so in 2011 as interventions initiated in 2009 and 2010 come to fruition.  I am no expert on the subject of criminal law or the environment, and so have little to add beyond all that has already been said, but the huge amount of angry criticism China has received on the very visible subjects of the Copenhagen meeting and the execution of a British subject caught smuggling drugs will make it easier for tariffs and restrictions aimed at China to generate popular approval in Europe, North America and the developing world, especially since protectionists can easily add a “moral dimension” to their arguments.

I am not sure Chinese policymakers fully understand how vulnerable China is to trade war.  This is perhaps because the “success” of the stimulus package has convinced them that they are less vulnerable to external demand than they originally thought.  But this would be a serious misreading.  The stimulus package has postponed the effect of declining net foreign demand on Chinese unemployment, but has actually increased its vulnerability by increasing the future gap between what China produces and what it consumes.  China needs foreign demand to keep absorbing its excess capacity for several more years while it engineers the difficult transition to domestic consumption-led growth, but I don’t see either China taking the necessary steps to force the transition or foreigners looking very eager to help China through the process.

As if to confirm my pessimistic trade expectations, the US on Tuesday announced that it would impose tariffs on Chinese


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