A South China Morning Post article of 26 July 2015 argues that it could take a decade for the mainland to get on top of the debt crushing its competitiveness, and that slower economic growth only makes it harder. It seems that the prediction of China 's imminent collapse is not far from reality after all. Click here
While the data presented in the SCMP article seem irrefutable, it is worth examining the argument in greater depth.
First, a look at McKinsey Global Institute's Debt-to-GDP Ratio -Country Ranking in 2Q 2014 may help to put the matter in a little perspective.
Rapidly expanding debt, especially margin-lending, coupled with insider share manipulation, recently triggered the largest bloodbath in China's stock market history. However, it must be said that debt expansion has become a global malaise, according to the attached February 2015 McKinsey Report. Needless to say, America's debt mountain is legendary.
A vast work-in-progress as a rapidly developing nation, China tries to open up its still relatively close financial sector to fast too soon without a robust prudential system in place. Click here
It will be noted that the majority of China's debt is government debt (including local government ) or government-backed (state-owned enterprises). Private debt remains relatively small by international comparison. Those public debt entities are open to backing by Beijing's massive foreign currency reserve.
As for shadow banking, a Brookings Institution research paper estimated the size at RMB 25 trillion, or 43% of GDP, in 2013. This compares to an estimate by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) that global shadow banking assets were equivalent to 120% of GDP. On the same basis, the US was at 150%. Thus, China’s shadow banking sector is relatively small compared with advanced economies. Using figures from the PBOC’s measure of Total Social Finance (TSF), shadow banking accounted for about 18% of net flows of TSF in 2014. However measured, it is clear that, despite its rapid growth, shadow banking remains substantially less important than formal banking as a source of credit in China. Click here
As for competitiveness, we are not seeing other countries usurping China's role anytime soon as the center of the global supply and value chain and the world's largest recipient of overseas directive investment.
Yes, the old-styled Chinese manufacturing of cheap, low-value added products, is coming to an end. Right now, China is already leading the world in capacity of installed robotics. Click here
To hone new competitiveness, China has recently announced a new national manufacturing strategy - Made in China 2015. It would probably take China decades - at least by 2025 - to complete the process of economic transformation.