China Economy
Episode 16
Featuring Anne Stevenson-Yang
Demetri Kofinas speaks with Anne Stevenson-Yang about the Chinese economy. Total debt in China has surpassed 300% of GDP. In the first 7 years since the financial crisis, bank liabilities in the Chinese financial system grew by nearly $15tn. How long can the country go without a recession? What will the fallout be when it finally does?

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, host Demetri Kofinas speaks with Anne Stevenson-Yang. Anne is the co-founder of J Capital Research, which conducts ground-up, primary research for institutional money managers on stocks, the Chinese economy, and the Chinese financial system. She is also the author of the recent book China Alone: China's Emergence and Potential Return to Isolation, in which she sets out her views on the Chinese economy and political system, arguing that China historically repeats a cycle of expansion and retreat.

In today’s conversation, we take a trip around the world to the land of China. Our conversation concerns itself with the contemporary changes in Chinese society that came after the death of Chairman Mao. What was life like in China before Nixon and Kissinger made their famous visit in 1971? Why did modernization and reform in China begin after 1978? Who was responsible for the opening in China? What was the role of Deng Xiaoping, and why is he remembered as "the architect” of a new brand of thinking that combined socialist ideology with pragmatic aspects of market economics - a system the Chinese call "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics?”

What changes did the Chinese experience between 1979 and 1989, during the implementation of the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping? How did these reforms culminate into the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989? What was the Chinese government’s reaction to the uprisings? The Chinese response differed significantly from the Soviet reaction to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the same year. The Chinese government decided to follow a different path after the massacres in Tiananmen Square, by turbocharging economic development. Explicit targets were set for GDP growth. There was selective liberalization of the Chinese economy, particularly in Chinese real estate. China placed a huge emphasis on building its manufacturing industries and on acquiring hard currency through exports. The Chinese financial system remained highly centralized and China's currency, the renminbi, carefully controlled. All this was used towards re-investment with an almost single-minded commitment to hitting the government's GDP targets.

Some have called the rise of China in the late 20th century a miracle. It is more appropriate to call it "the Chinese miracle." The size of the Chinese economy has increased more than 25-fold in the last 25 years. Thirty years ago, the Chinese economy measured in at less than 5% of US GDP in exchange terms (perhaps as low as 2%). By 1992, the Chinese economy was only 6% of US GDP. By 2000 China weighed in at roughly 12-15% of US GDP. Today, China boasts a Gross Domestic Product that is roughly 60% that of United States. Loan Growth in the Chinese financial system has averaged 16 percent in the last 20 years. Loan growth in China reached an all-time high of 35% percent of GDP in June of 2009, amidst the greatest economic contraction since the Great Depression. Total debt in China recently surpassed 300% of GDP. This makes the finances of Western nations like the United States, France, and the United Kingdom seem frugal by comparison. In the first 7 years since the financial crisis, bank liabilities in the Chinese financial system grew by nearly $15 trillion dollars. This is the near equivalent of the consolidated size of all US commercial banks. China has used more cement in 3 years of massive overbuilding than the U.S. employed in all of the 20th Century. Hundreds of thousands of meters of unsold residential real estate sit empty around the country. There is a massive amount of industrial overcapacity in China. Chinese ghost cities have become almost as cliche as the fake Paris', Venice, and Dubai's created within mainland China. The Chinese economy is in terrible need of a recession. But the Chinese government cannot afford the recession that it desperately needs. Nevertheless, it cannot avoid the crisis that has been building in the Chinese financial system. How will the citizens of China, its trading partners, emerging markets and developed economies react when the reckoning finally arrives. How much longer can the Chinese government continue to postpone the inevitable?

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation at @hiddenforcespod

Anne Stevenson-Yang co-founded J Capital Research in late 2007 and is J Capital's Research Director. Her coverage areas include solar, internet, medical devices, property, some consumer and direct-sales names, and China's macro-economy. Anne was formerly co-founder of a group of Online Media Businesses called Blue Bamboo Ventures and also founded and operated a CRM software company, Clarity Data Systems, and a publishing company whose flagship magazine is City Weekend. Over 25 years in China, Anne has also worked as an industry analyst and trade advocate, heading the US Information Technology Office and, 1993 through 1997, the China operations of the US-China Business Council. Anne authored the 2013 monograph China Alone: China's Emergence and Potential Return to Isolation for the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The book set argued that China historically repeats a cycle of expansion and retreat.



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