One River CIO "We’re Willing Participants In Our Own Demise"

With the world's focus falling on Beijing this week, where president Xi Jinping give a glowing account of China's future during the 19th Party Congress, boasting that “the banner of scientific socialism with Chinese characteristics is now flying high and proud for all to see," not all are impressed by China's vision of the world in which China sees itself as increasingly taking over from the US as the world's superpower. And it's not just stories about China's neverending behind the scenes bailouts of anything that may telegraph a hard landing for the economy (as decribed in "China's Government Is Expected To Buy 24% Of All Residential Real Estate For Sale In 2017"); it's the country's entire financial system, which Kyle Bass has been shorting for nearly two years now but which he has failed to recognize now holds the entire world hostage: if it goes, so does the global financial system, unleashing a worldwide depression the likes of which have not been seen.

Here is Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Mgmt, explaining why everyone is wrong about the $35 trillion Chinese financial system, and yet how Beijing has figured out a way to become a parasite on the global financial system, resulting in an outcome in which "we’re willing participants in our own demise."

Excerpted from One River's latest Weekend Notes:

“China’s financial system is a hermetically sealed snow globe,” he said. “They’ve built a system to resemble ours on the surface, but scratch it and you discover something altogether foreign.”


China has banks. They lend money. But pierce the patina and you find a vast subsidy machine, with no cold-blooded allocation of capital. There are no defaults to speak of; just bailouts, no reckonings.


“The appearance of a modern financial system allows western financiers to pretend one exists. We are willing dupes in this charade.”


Throughout history failing nations have turned to printing presses to arrest their decline. It has led to ruin. Always.   


But never has an emerging superpower used the printing press to turbo charge growth, dominate industries. The Chinese have reimagined the vast power of fiat. And they’re wielding it to build a 21st century nation atop the history’s greatest credit boom.


The fate of this debt is uncertain, but the extraordinary infrastructure is not.


“Ask any portfolio manager if they invest their personal wealth in Chinese debt? Not one will answer ‘Yes.’ But before long, we’ll all own Beijing’s bonds in our 401k.”


The Chinese understand the agency problem in western asset management. We invest other people’s money, not our own. So they’re muscling their way into global indexes. Where passive flows will race to hit Chinese benchmarks, without anyone making a decision at all.


We’re willing participants in our own demise.


First, they exploited the west’s corporate fixation on short term profits, granting market access in exchange for local design/production, usurping our intellectual property. Next, they’ll exploit our financial system deficiencies to fund their unprecedented credit excess.


“We continue to think of banking and finance though our own narrow lens. But the Chinese see an entirely different system. And they know that Rome was not built by bankers. It was built by force.”