Storia dell'articolo

Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 27 aprile 2013 alle ore 15:52.


It is premature, of course, to conclude that a services-led transformation to slower growth is now at hand. The latest data hint at such a possibility, with the tertiary sector (services) expanding at an 8.3% annual rate in the first quarter of this year – the third consecutive quarter of acceleration and a half-percentage point faster than the 7.8% first-quarter gain recorded by the secondary sector (manufacturing and construction). But it will take more than a few quarters of mildly encouraging data to validate such an important shift in the Chinese economy’s underlying structure.

Not surprisingly, China skeptics are putting a different spin on the latest growth numbers. Fears of a shadow-bank-induced credit bubble now top the worry list, reinforcing longstanding concerns that China may succumb to the dreaded middle-income trap – a sustained growth slowdown that has ensnared most high-growth emerging economies at the juncture that China has now reached.

China is hardly immune to such a possibility. But it is unlikely to occur if China can carry out the services-led pro-consumption rebalancing that remains the core strategic initiative of its current (12th) Five-Year Plan. Invariably, the middle-income trap afflicts those emerging economies that cling to early-stage development models for too long. For China, the risk will be highest if it sticks with the timeworn recipe of unbalanced manufacturing- and construction-led growth, which has created such serious sustainability problems.

If China fails to rebalance, weak external demand from a crisis-battered developed world will continue to hobble its export machine, forcing it to up the ante on a credit- and investment-led growth model – in effect, doubling down on resource-intensive and environmentally damaging growth. But I remain hopeful that China’s new leadership team will move quickly to implement its new model. There are no viable alternatives.

Financial markets, as well as growth-starved developed economies, are not thrilled with the natural rhythm of slower growth that a rebalanced Chinese economy is likely to experience. Resource industries – indeed, resource-based economies like Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Russia – have become addicted to China’s old strain of unsustainable hyper-growth. Yet China knows that it is time to break that dangerous habit.

The United States is likely to have a different problem with consumer-led growth in China. After all, higher private consumption implies an end to China’s surplus saving – and thus to the seemingly open-ended recycling of that surplus into dollar-based assets such as US Treasury bills. Who will then fund America’s budget deficit – and on what terms?

Just as China must embrace slower growth as a natural consequence of its rebalancing imperative, the rest of the world will need to figure out how to cope when it does.

Stephen S. Roach, a faculty member at Yale University and former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, is the author of The Next Asia.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2013.


Dai nostri archivi