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中国应该来场经济衰退?

已有 967 次阅读2011-8-2 12:52 | 中国领导人, 温州动车, 中国经济, 中国政府, 审计署

造成至少40人死亡的温州动车悲剧可能会促使中国接受较低的经济增长率。不过,中国真正需要的或许是一场经济衰退。
毫无疑问,经济明显放缓是中国领导人所不愿看到的。他们已将中国国内生产总值(GDP)的年均增长率目标下调至7%,但创造就业以避免社会动荡是中国政府的当务之急,这意味着中国经济的实际扩张速度其实一直都超过了官方目标。中国对全球经济增长的贡献如此巨大,以至于国际投资者看到中国经济出现疲弱迹象时会感到不寒而栗。
过去几个月,有关中国实际债务规模的争论越来越多,随之出现了对于中国经济疲弱的担忧。其中,特别令人担心的是地方政府的债务。它们不仅举债修桥、铺路,还借钱给自己建造豪华的新办公楼,而这些都是全球金融危机后中国经济刺激计划的部分内容。据中国国家审计署前不久的估测,那些地方债务总计达人民币10.7万亿元(合1.66万亿美元),约占中国2010年GDP的27%。
上述估测可能对地方债的规模打了一个大大的折扣。中国央行暗示,向地方政府融资平台提供的贷款规模接近银行总贷款的三分之一, 2010年底时约为14.4万亿元。银行业称,地方债的不良贷款比率很低。但由于几乎无人关心如何偿还这其中的很多债务,所以预计会有相当大一块债务变成坏账。
中国绝不是希腊,不太可能爆发全面的债务危机。经济学家认为,中国政府的总债务规模介于中国GDP总量的60%至90%之间。经济研究公司龙洲经讯(GaveKal-Dragonomics)说,因为地方债务的结构问题,中国只有约25%至30%的公共债务的利息由政府收入来支付。再加上中国政府的资产总额庞大且增长强劲,这意味着中国爆发全国性债务违约的可能性很低。
大多数贷款其实是一个国企欠另一个国企(国家运营的银行)的款项。一旦发生债务人违约,问题的重点不是市场会作何反应,而是将由哪个政府部门来承担损失。如果中资银行需要进行资产重组,它们预计会求助于政府,并获得相应援助。政府既可向银行资产负债表中注资来提供直接帮助,也可通过国有企业支持的股票公开发售来提供间接帮助。无论哪种方式,最终买单的都是纳税人。
不过,真正令人担忧的是,由于急切地想控制住失业率,中国会尽量掩盖银行或地方政府资产负债表上的窟窿,而不为这个烂摊子追究任何人的责任。如果因决策失误导致坏账却不必承担后果,银行最终将在依据商业条件而非政治考量进行操作方面倒退一大步。让地方官员和有后台的人得以将巨额公共资金中饱私囊的贪腐或欺诈行为就不会得到曝光。在这种情况下,眼前的问题解决了,但强调不惜一切保增长的做法依然没变。
当国家主导型增长战略中的缺陷公开时,民众的失望情绪会不断加剧并最终爆发。中国互联网用户对7.23动车追尾事故的愤怒就是佐证。铁路部门官员将这起两列动车追尾的事故归咎于信号设备的严重设计缺陷。高速铁路系统是2009年经济刺激计划的一项核心内容,不过如今人们不可避免地会质疑说,这个项目是否将支出看得比质量控制更重要,从而造成了严重后果。
分析人士已经对此次追尾事故的深远后果进行了预测。在上周出炉的一份报告中,花旗(Citigroup)写道,动车追尾事故有可能促使政府未来几年放缓GDP的增速,花更多时间来解决人为高速增长所带来的问题。
对中国可能更有好处的是一场衰退性的泡沫破裂,这会为一轮新的迅速增长扫清道路。德意志银行(Deutsche Bank)的亚洲投资策略师琼斯(Brad Jones)说,1790年至一战期间,美国的GDP每三年就有一年是下滑的,这种“净化和复兴”周期最终为美国经济的霸主地位奠定了基础。
从上世纪90年代末开始,中国通过国有企业的改革以及后来的加入世界贸易组织(World Trade Organization),清除了经济中存在已久的一些问题。不过,30多年来,中国的增长轨迹一直与断层类似,这增大了一场最终的衰退将是灾难性而非清理性的风险。
琼斯说,你要么经历一些小规模但却频繁的衰退,要么经历一次大规模的衰退。你不可能两个都不选。经济规律不是这样的。
中国领导层非常清楚的风险是,一场衰退将考验中国政治稳定的局限性。不过,一场更大规模衰退的突然爆发是他们很难承受得起的。
 
 
Why China May Need a Recession
 
The rail tragedy in Wenzhou that left at least 39 people dead may prompt China to embrace slower growth. What China might really need, however, is a recession.
No doubt a significant slowdown would be unwelcome among China's leaders. They have lowered the annual growth target for gross domestic product to 7%, but the imperative of creating jobs to avoid social unrest has meant real expansion has long outpaced official targets. China's contribution to global growth has been such that international investors shudder at signs of weakness in its economy.
Over the last few months, such concerns have risen amid growing debate over the full extent of debt in China's economy. Of particular concern has been the debt of local governments that built bridges, paved roads and erected luxurious new office buildings for themselves as part of the country's stimulus plan following the global financial crisis. The National Audit Office recently estimated those debts total 10.7 trillion yuan ($1.66 trillion), or about 27% of 2010 GDP.
That may well understate the size of the problem. Hints by China's central bank put loans to local-government financing vehicles at close to a third of total bank loans─or 14.4 trillion yuan at the end of 2010. The banks report very low nonperforming loans on this debt. But with much of it incurred with little regard for how it would be repaid, a sizable chunk is expected to turn sour.
China is hardly Greece: A full-blown debt crisis is unlikely. Economists peg total government debt at somewhere between 60% and 90% of GDP. But because of how the local debt is structured, only about 25% to 30% of China's public debt has to be serviced with public revenues, according to GaveKal-Dragonomics, a research firm. That, combined with strong growth and significant assets on the other side of the balance sheet, means the chances of default on a national scale are low.
Most loans are owed by one state-owned entity to another (a state-run bank). If the debtor defaults, the question is less how the market reacts, and more which arm of government shoulders the loss. If banks need to recapitalize, they will likely turn to the government for help, and get it─either directly through injections into the balance sheet, or through public share offerings supported by state-owned enterprises. Either way, taxpayers foot the bill.
But the real concern is that China, in its eagerness to keep joblessness at bay, papers over the hole in the balance sheet of the banks or the local governments without holding anyone accountable for the whole mess. If bad loan decisions don't come with consequences, banks will end up taking a major step backward in their effort to operate on commercial terms, not political ones. Corruption or fraud that allowed local officials and the well-connected to pocket large sums of public largess won't be exposed. In that case, the immediate problem is fixed, but the emphasis on growth at any cost remains unchanged.
Social frustrations mount and burst into the open when flaws in the state-led growth strategy become public. An outpouring of fury on Chinese websites over the Wenzhou high-speed rail crash on July 23 is a case in point. Railway officials blamed the crash of a high-speed train into the rear of a stalled train on 'serious design flaws' in the signaling equipment. The rail system was a centerpiece of the 2009 stimulus plan, but questions will now inevitably be raised as to whether the project prioritized spending over quality control, with lethal results.
Analysts already anticipate far-reaching consequences. In a report last week, Citigroup wrote that the rail tragedy might prompt the government to slow GDP growth in years to come, giving it 'more time to fix the problems created by artificial fast growth.'
What might benefit China more is a recessionary bust that clears the way for a new boom. Brad Jones, Asia investment strategist at Deutsche Bank, notes that between 1790 and World War I, U.S. GDP fell one of every three years, a 'purge and renewal' cycle that ultimately laid the groundwork for U.S. economic hegemony.
China cleared out some economic deadwood beginning in the late 1990s with the reform of its state-owned enterprises and later entry into the World Trade Organization. But in more than three decades, the country's upward trajectory has been consistent to a fault, heightening the risk that an eventual downturn will prove cataclysmic, not cathartic.
'You can either have small, frequent recessions, or you have a big bang,' says Mr. Jones. 'You don't get to choose 'neither.' Economies don't work that way.'
The risk that leaders in Zhongnanhai are all too aware of is that a recession tests the limits of China's political stability. But a bigger blowup down the line could easily surpass them.
 
Peter Stein
 
 
转“华尔街日报 中文网”
 
 

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