Opinion

The Great Debate

China must avoid a Japanese-style bubble

WeiGucrop.jpg – Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own –

Everyone agrees that China’s economy must be rebalanced, but few have bothered to delve into the costs. Japan’s experience has shown that even well-meant changes could sow the seeds for a bubble.

China cannot stay with its current economic model forever. But as the economy has become extremely unbalanced, to some extent even more so than Japan’s in the 1980s, rocking the boat too much risks tipping it over. Instead of rushing into changes, it would be better to make reforms gradually.

Most observers believe an extremely loose monetary policy was the root cause of Japan’s bubble. But Tomo Kinoshita, an economist at Nomura, reckons that efforts to liberalise the economy, such as sharply revaluing the yen, developing a deeper bond market and deregulating interest rates were among the fundamental reasons behind the bubble.

The challenges facing China’s economy are similar to those seen in Japan in the 1980s. Foreigners are calling for a currency revaluation because the undervalued yuan gives China’s exports an extra boost. Capital markets need to play a bigger role because investment has been directed mostly by state-owned banks.

Mickey’s Magic needed for Disneyland Shanghai

WeiGucrop.jpg– Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own —

China has finally given a green light for Disneyland to build a theme park in Shanghai. Negotiations that started when Bill Clinton was in the White House have concluded just before President Barack Obama is due to visit. The approval looks like a coup for Walt Disney Co, but it will take all of Mickey’s magic to prevent the park from becoming another government-financed loss maker.

Disney’s last theme park in the region was anything but a hit. Hong Kong Disneyland was created in 2005 in an effort to boost employment in the epidemic-stricken region, but attendance numbers have fallen short of target. This hits the Hong Kong government harder than Disney, because the former not only took an initial 57 percent equity stake in the venture, but also spent $1.75 billion building related infrastructure like a metro line and ferry piers.

Imagine when China runs a trade deficit

WeiGucrop.jpg– Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own —

If current trends continue, China might swing to a trade deficit in the not-too-distant future. Given that China has enjoyed more than a decade of strong exports, this may sound a bit far-fetched. But even if it happens, this would not necessarily be something for the world to worry about.

Some economists have recently sounded alarm bells about the possibility of a Chinese trade deficit. They argue that if the Chinese current account surplus shrinks, it would leave Beijing with less spare cash to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. Then who would fund the U.S. budget deficit — and, by implication, U.S. consumers?

China’s start-up market can win against the odds

wei-gu.jpg– Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own —

It is hard to be very optimistic about China’s proposed stock market for start-up companies. After all, similar attempts in other countries have a decidedly mixed track record. Why would China, where small private companies face an uphill battle against state-owned firms, be any exception?

Nevertheless, there are reasons to believe that the start-up market, set to debut in October, offers better potential than previous efforts in Singapore, Germany and Hong Kong.

Global rebalancing to weaken dollar, quietly

– Neal Kimberley is an FX market analyst for Reuters. The opinions expressed are his own –forex

Twenty-four years ago, major nations called for depreciation of the dollar to rebalance the global economy. Now, as another effort at rebalancing looms, the dollar will again bear the brunt — though officials will try to ensure its fall is less dramatic this time.

That’s the implication of President Barack Obama’s announcement this week that he will push world leaders for a new global “framework” in which the United States would cut its huge trade and budget deficits.

Global imbalances: out with a bang?

jamessaft1.jpg(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

The simplest way to end the imbalances in the world’s economy is also sadly perhaps the most likely: for the Chinese to stop buying U.S. debt.

This is not going to happen anytime soon, for one thing deleveraging in the U.S. will for a time make U.S. Treasuries look good value, but a buyer’s strike is a heck of a lot more likely than the orchestrated rebalancing the U.S. will push at this week’s G-20 meeting of leading nations.

The U.S. plans to advance a plan at the Pittsburgh summit to fundamentally change the balance of the global economy, which over the past 15 years or so has been characterized by over-borrowing and consumption in the West provided and financed by savers and workers in Asia.

For Chinese exporters, grass is greener abroad

WeiGucrop.jpg- Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own. -

The U.S.-China tire dispute threatens to spill into other sectors and squeeze Chinese exporters’ already razor-thin margins further. It might seem mind-boggling to many that Chinese manufacturers are still hanging on to weak overseas markets even though the domestic economy looks much healthier and surely offers more potential.

But there are structural reasons why the grass is greener outside China. The risk of not getting paid, or getting paid late, is significantly lower when dealing with foreign buyers. The cost of international shipping has dropped so much that it can be cheaper to send goods over the Pacific Ocean than across the country.

In addition, selling to large buyers such as Wal-Mart creates volumes large enough to compensate for weak margins. Moreover, Chinese exporters get all sorts of export rebates and local government incentives which help to lower their costs.

China’s coming magnificent bubble

jamessaft1.jpg–James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own–

If and when China makes its currency convertible and opens its financial system the stage will be set for a bubble that should make the dotcom and housing booms look tame.

China has recently signaled its key aspirations: for a greater international role for the renminbi and for Shanghai to become a great financial capital. Neither is imminent, but both imply, if not require, a series of steps that, taken in combination with China’s legitimately great potential for growth, could lead to a bubble of magnificent and dangerous proportions.

Five overlooked global risks

Rafael Ramirez is James Martin Senior Research Fellow in Futures at Oxford University's Institute for Science, Innovation and Society. His latest book is "Business Planning for Turbulent Times: New Methods for Applying Scenarios" edited with John W. Selsky and Kees van der Heijden. — Rafael Ramírez is the James Martin Senior Research Fellow in Futures at Oxford University and author of “Business Planning for Turbulent Times: New Methods for Applying Scenarios” edited with John W. Selsky and Kees van der Heijden. Ramírez attended a session at the World Economic Forum’s gathering in Dalian, China, on managing global risks.

Reuters asked Ramírez to elaborate on five overlooked risks the world is confronting as it works its way through the current recession. His response is below. The views expressed are his own.

Risk one: Confusing risk with uncertainty

The first — and perhaps most important risk — is confusing categories of ignorance. This most centrally is about confusing risk with uncertainty. It entails pretending that probability (with data sets of past events with distributions of occurrence which are relevant for the future) is relevant for both “known unknowns” one cannot model with probability as well as unknown unknowns in one’s plausible futures where no data set is available, such as those of unique events.

Sit back and enjoy the Kabuki trade show

jamessaft1.jpg–James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Financial markets have plenty to be worried about but their latest concern — a trade war between the United States and China — should not be on the list.

Aligned self interest and a knowledge on both sides of the causes of the Great Depression should limit matters to a kind of trade war Kabuki, a highly stylized piece of theatre in which the United States shakes its fist and China responds in kind but no blows land.

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