By David Taylor
There are renewed calls for China to rein in its extraordinary mountain of debt or risk what Australia has been worried about for years — a “hard landing” for China’s economy.
- Economists warn the Chinese government to step in or risk causing another global debt crisis
- China’s debt load is currently 250 per cent of its GDP and growing at 30 per cent per annum
- Australia is largely completely dependent on a healthy Chinese economy.
The Bank for International Settlements warns China’s debt load is far too heavy and, worse still, it is growing at an eye-watering pace.
National Australia Bank (NAB) is nervous about China’s ballooning debt.
NAB chief economist Alan Oster said if the Chinese Government does not step in soon the world, and indeed Australia, will face another debt crisis within years.
“I think everybody’s on the hook,” he said.
The latest official global economic data shows China is sitting on a debt time-bomb, and the list of countries and global financial institutions that have pinned their hopes on a strong Chinese economy is impressive.
Australia is largely completely dependent on a healthy Chinese economy.
British banks alone have $695 billion worth of lending and business in China, including Hong Kong, meaning about 16 per cent of all foreign assets are held by UK banks.
Mr Oster warns if China does not pull back from its debt binge, it will drag Australia and China’s major trading partners through the economic mud.
“China these days is big enough that it would basically, in just direct flow-on effects, cause the global economy to slowdown.”
China’s debt mountain is currently 250 per cent of its GDP, or in layman’s terms, it is up to its eyeballs in credit.
But something even more sinister is at play.
Research from the NAB and the Bank for International Settlements show China’s debt load is growing at 30 per cent per annum.
That only means something when you realise economists get very nervous with a 10 per cent yearly increase in debt.
“What it means is they’re borrowing up to their eyeballs, to use your terminology, and putting it into enterprises that essentially you would normally close down,” Mr Oster said.
“In other words they’re not making any profit.”
No plan B for Australian economy
Not only is China’s insatiable appetite for debt raising alarm bells, the credit itself is being fed to state-owned companies that do not make any money and in some cases are making a loss.
“What the Chinese government’s got to do is essentially face facts, close down some of these loss-making enterprises and get the credit to parts of the economy that’s doing well,” Mr Oster said.
Former International Monetary Fund chief economist Ken Rogoff warns a calamitous “hard landing” for one of the main engines of global growth cannot be ruled out, as has been done by some of the world’s top economists in recent years.
“If you want to look at a part of the world that has a debt problem, look at China,” he told the BBC.
He also cautions against the notion of resting on the growth of other emerging economies if China’s economy fails.
“There isn’t really a substitute for China,” he said.
“I think India may come along some day, it’s doing better, but it’s fallen so far behind in size it’s not going to compensate.”
Mr Rogoff said the solution is for European economies and the US to ensure they are “on their feet” before any slowdown starts to bite.
That will be an even bigger challenge for the Australian economy because there is simply no plan B if China’s economy stalls.
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26 September 2016 Last updated at 01:04 BST
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Tags: Australia, Australian economy, Bank for International Settlements, China, China's debt, China's debt load, China's economy, China's slowdown is the biggest threat to the global economy, Chinese economy, global debt crisis, hard landing for China's economy, Hong Kong, International Monetary Fund, Ken Rogoff