EconoMonitor » Beijing’s New Leaders Are Right to Hold Back

Michael Pettis argues that China cannot stimulate its economy out of trouble:

There are still bulls out there who insist that China is out of the woods and making a strong recovery, for example former Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Stephen Grenville, who argues in his article strangely titled China doomsayers run out of arguments:

“The missing element from the low growth narrative is that unemployment would rise, provoking a stimulatory policy response. China would extend the transition and put up with low-return investment recall that when unemployment was the issue, Keynes was prepared to put people to work digging holes and filling them in rather than have unemployment rise sharply. To be convincing, the low-growth scenario needs to explain why this policy response will not be effective.”

It seems to me that the reason why simply “provoking a stimulatory policy response” won’t help China has been explained many times, even recently by former China bulls. Of course more stimulus will indeed cause GDP growth to pick up, as Grenville notes, but it will do so by exacerbating the gap between the growth in debt and the growth in debt-servicing capacity. Because too much debt and a huge amount of overvalued assets is precisely the problem facing China, it is hard to believe that spending more borrowed money on increasing already excessive capacity can possibly be a useful resolution of slower Chinese growth.

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