China’s Economy in a report Summarized for the US Congress

There is a congressional report on China’s economy. China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the U.S. (43 pages).

China’s economic rise has significant implications for the United States and hence is of major interest to Congress. On the one hand, China is a large (and potentially huge) export market for the United States. Many U.S. firms use China as the final point of assembly in their global supply chain networks. China’s large holdings of U.S. Treasury securities help the federal government finance its budget deficits. However, some analysts contend that China maintains a number of distortive economic policies (such as protectionist industrial policies and an undervalued currency) that undermine U.S. economic interests. They warn that efforts by the Chinese government to promote innovation, often through the use of subsidies and other distortive measures, could negatively affect many leading U.S. industries. This report surveys the rise of China’s economy, describes major economic challenges facing China, and discusses the implications of China’s economic rise for the United States.

Major Long-Term Challenges Facing the Chinese Economy

China’s Incomplete Transition to a Market Economy
– Industrial Policies and SOEs

According to one estimate, China’s SOEs may account for up of 50% of non-agriculture GDP. In addition, although the number of SOEs has declined sharply, they continue to dominate a number of sectors (such as petroleum and mining, telecommunications, utilities, transportation, and various industrial sectors); are shielded from competition; are the main sectors encouraged to invest overseas; and dominate the listings on China’s stock indexes.

The nature of China’s SOEs has become increasing complex. Many SOEs appear to be run like private companies. For example, and a number of SOEs have made initial public offerings in China’s stock markets and those in other countries (including the United States), although the Chinese government is usually the largest shareholder. It is not clear to what extent the Chinese government attempts to influence decisions made by the SOE’s which have become shareholding companies

– The Banking System

China’s banking system is largely controlled by the central government, which attempts to ensure that capital (credit) flows to industries deemed by the government to be essential to China’s economic development. SOEs are believed to receive preferential credit treatment by government banks, while private firms must often pay higher interest rates or obtain credit elsewhere. According to one estimate, SOEs accounted for 85% ($1.4 trillion) of all bank loans in 2009.

Chinese local government debt at the end of 2012 amounted to nearly $2 trillion (equivalent to 24% of China’s GDP)

– An Undervalued Currency

Implications of China’s “Unbalanced” Economic Growth Model
– Overdependence on Exporting and Fixed Investment

The IMF estimates that fixed investment related to tradable goods plus net exports together accounted for over 60% of China’s GDP growth from 2001 to 2008 (up from 40% from 1990 to 2000), which was significantly higher than in the G-7 countries (16%), the euro area (30%), and the rest of Asia (35%).

– Growing Pollution

– Other Challenges
— Public Unrest
— Relative Lack of Rule of Law
— Poor government regulatory environment

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