De-Investifying China

Tyler Durden's picture

The overnight news that China's economic growth forecast was cut is notable in that it brings to mind the complexities (and realities) of the shift from an investment-led economy to consumption-led sustainability. As Bloomberg BRIEF's Economics note pointed out this morning, China is ranked fourth highest out of 170 countries for its reliance on investment (investment-to-GDP of 49%). The fix requires increasing incomes, internationalization of the yuan, and liberalization of interest rates. The latter is perhaps most troublesome (though all are hard to centrally plan together) as the mis-allocation of capital to large cash-rich SOEs relative to the broader (and potentially more growth-tastic) individual borrower or SME leaves what George Magnus of UBS calls a 'sequencing' problem for the powers that be. His concern is that China gets the downside risks of an investment decline before the upside potential from restructuring the economy towards household spending occurs. Critically, the investment-centric economy is not one of industrial capex or export-oriented expansion but inward-facing construction and infrastructure meaning a slowing of investment-led strength is implicitly ending the property boom.

UBS, George Magnus: China – from investment to consumption

Question: How quickly can China move from a fixed asset investment model to more domestic consumption, given some of the restrictions or limitations they have currently?

George: I wish I knew the answer to that. Even if we assume that there are no political problems in doing this, in terms of what it means for state-owned enterprises and “changing the rules of the game”, as it were, in favour of SMEs and family-run enterprises, I think it takes time, and I think the danger is you get the downside risks of an investment decline before you get the upside potential from the restructuring of the economy towards household consumption and production of goods and services for the household sector.

That to me would be the risk in the strategy. Obviously, you don’t want to achieve a so-called rebalancing simply by having investment go down a plug hole, because although you can rebalance the economy very easily that way the consequences are pretty dire. And even in a managed process there are still risks in terms of the sequencing, and I think it is quite difficult to do quickly.

Jonathan: I have a quick follow-on comment on the China investment themes that George just raised. When we talk about China as an “investment-centric” economy – and this is something that I pound on the table and repeat in any and all forums – it can be very misleading; if you look at the sharp trend rise in China’s investment/GDP ratio over the last ten years, this increase has come predominantly from (i) property construction and (ii) related infrastructure, which would of course include the roads, subways, sewage and everything else that accompanies the housing and property build.

I.e., we’re not really talking about an ever-increasing share of the economy that has gone to, say, traditional SOE industrial capex or export-oriented investment. That is not really what the numbers are telling us over the last ten years in China. And as a result, when we think of “de-investifying” the economy and reducing the investment share, what we are really talking about at the end of the day is turning around the property boom.

And this goes directly to George’s point about the pace of investment decline, whether it comes down slowly or collapses. In China it’s very simple: you want to keep both eyes on the state of property markets. If the property market can stabilize and go sideways for a while and consumption continues to grow, then suddenly you have a more orderly adjustment on your hands. But if property markets are going to collapse or fall sharply over a sustained period of time, then you obviously have much lower hope for an orderly adjustment in this economy.

So the first point I would make for investors and clients listening on the call is “watch property in China”.


Chart: Bloomberg BRIEF

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LawsofPhysics's picture

America would be happy to invest if they buy our teasuries (goes well beyond China), same as it ever was.

true brain's picture

the shift from an investment-led economy to consumption-led sustainability.


Look at the fallacy of their policy shift: there is no such thing as consumption-led sustainability; this assumes infinite  growth paradigm that is obviously unsustainable. Going from current China situation to US situation is not like going to heaven. When your economy is 70% consumption, it can lead to all sorts of problems, i.e. political and moral corruption, debts, and most importantly giving rise to subsequent generations of entertainment induced comatose sheeple. Is this something China really want? China has imported some elements of American lifestyle like cars, tv, but the results have not been good. It seems they are stuck between the Great Wall and the LIberty Bell.

Dr. Engali's picture

Loan us some money ,charge us some interest so we can invest it in your country.

LawsofPhysics's picture

precisely, makes no fucking sense that it has lasted as long as it has.

GeneMarchbanks's picture

It makes perfect sense if you're a corporation like Apple. The fact that your 'government' is nothing but a place to buy, as well as protect, interests and gain influence is the real issue. Corporations are transnational and have no allegiance to anyone.

LawsofPhysics's picture

So you are betting that things will continue as they have been and governments and people will remain complacent.  probably a safe bet, then again...

battle axe's picture

Property values go sideways as consumption increases so that would lead to a soft landing? The problem with that is given the run up in Real Estate prices in China which have been massive, I do not see any Real Estate prices going sideways, I see a cliff coming, a la the old USA et all.

marketblip's picture

lots happening in China so great post Tyler, but let's not forget that this week is Greek week, PSI not looking too bad, at 85%+ takeup?


Schmuck Raker's picture

"85%+ takeup?" Fantastic!

Just out of curiosity, what's your source for that?

If it's not to much to ask.

Zeff's picture

Ha! Relying on Property markets for economic stability, to those wrongly saying that financial memory lasts for 20 years, its actually 2012 - 2008 = 4 years.

Shizzmoney's picture

If you are a fan of economic justice, or even a bit of schadenfruede, root hard for inflation in China.

The only way that the outsourcing stuff will ever change is to make American Corporations who contract vendors there, AND Chinese Corporate Communists who use their central planning to control the currency to keep labor costs down.

Fuck them both.

At least the Chinese workers (after working 14 hour shifts) are adapting well (until of course, the well runs out and all they are left with is to revolt) so far.  They save far more than we do, and they actually build their retirement on precious metals instead of silly financial products.

In irony, roosters DO come home to roost.  Hell or high water, consquences for exploitative actions DO exist. 

DosZap's picture


All fine n dandy, except we are letting CHINESE GOVT OWNED construction companies rebuild our infrastructure.

They are currently slapping a 7.2 billion dollar bridge up here, and have another 400 million dollar Highway rebuild job.

Excuse for Americans not getting the work???

LACK of Welders..........................was the excuse for the Bridge( A LIE FROM THE PIT OF HELL).

There are hundreds of thousands of qualified welders doing NOTHING here in the US.

Bottom line is low dollar got the bid.Tell me, HOW in the Hades do private American contractors underbid Chinese govt owned companies w / chinese slave labor wage workers?.

And WHY would we allow that uneven of a playing field IF ANYONE in this Govt was the least bit inclined to JUMP start OUR economy???

Answer, we all know.............................they do not want it started.


JennaChick's picture

Read from Armada Markets recent weekly forecast that would make sense to short crude oil call options with closed eyes now as the shit is going to hit the fan shortly.

Conrad Murray's picture

I just checked out the Armada Markets website. It is full of malware, computer viruses, and trojans. Avoid Armada Markets malware site. Your bank account information will thank you.

asteroids's picture

In China, you WILL get food riots.

Offtheradar's picture

Rioting Chinese people will become the lubricant between tank tracks and concrete streets

Jason T's picture

So China is investing for their future while America lets its infrastructure rot.  I.E. Refineries closing down Vs investing in their upkeep.

ultraticum's picture

"Taiwan Province of China"?  WTF?

Oh . . . . now I see:

"Source IMF & Bloomberg"

dumpster's picture

property my left foot

watch the yuan to be used as a reserve currency backed by gold ..



LawsofPhysics's picture

Based on the yuan in circulation, China is going to need exponentially more gold or the value of the yuan will have to fall exponentially.  Epic fail.

Do you have a short term memory problem;


chump666's picture

There is too much Yuan in the system, thus the Chinese selling the Yuan and speculating, mostly stocks and property.  Their mad goverment have encourged neg real interest rates, so you have a HUGE spec bubble with inflation chewing up value.  China is probably crashing now (some parts).  Their gov slashes growth...that is a bear sign.

China is going to pop. 

xglider's picture

Taiwan, province of China? 

Looks like some PRC moles inside IMF / Bloomberg. 

Hugo Chavez's picture

The united states agrees there is just one china.
No moles anywhere, imf/bloimberg stating the obvious

walküre's picture

Finally. China is getting some unwanted attention.

As incompetent as you'd expect from any central planning committee, the People's Repbulic of China LEADERS (Oh Dear) are ENCOURAGING their people to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND and CONSUME, CONSUME, CONSUME !!!

At the same time they are CONCERNED about rising personal DEBT LEVELS.

CONFUCIOUS SAY... I'm confused


chump666's picture

China is the doomsday trade.  

laomei's picture

property markets in china are more or less controlled by government policy.  this isnt america, this isnt the west, get over it, your little charts are not applicable.

cnhedge's picture

i agree the gap is not going to be filled very soon.