One Alarming Indicator From China
by Tim Staermose
For a few decades now, the Communist Party in China has had an implicit social and political contract with the Chinese populous for decades, which goes something like:
“We will deliver economic growth and improvements in your material living standards. You will meekly do as you are told, refrain from dissent, work hard, save a huge percentage of your money, and ignore obvious corruption.”
While nearly everyone in China has benefited to some degree under this current “system,” the wheels are definitely starting to come off. Official GDP numbers are now slowing, real estate prices are falling, and inflation is quickening.
Now, I’ve made no secret that I’m decidedly bearish on China’s medium-term prospects. After my trip there back in June to conduct some good old-fashioned “boots on the ground” research, I wrote extensively about the massive overbuilding of apartments, office blocks, and all manner of infrastructure on an almost unimaginable scale.
Put simply, every year since 2005, more than 50% of China’s GDP has consisted of construction-related spending. The law of diminishing marginal returns says this simply cannot continue.
It represents a misallocation of the household sector’s hard-earned savings on a colossal scale, and I believe it will end badly. Not a day goes by that there aren’t riots and protests somewhere in China (including cyberspace) as the downtrodden man in the street reaches his froggy boiling point.
Increasingly in China, though, those who see the writing on the wall can see that the days of system stability are numbered. And they’re not hanging around.