The outlook for China's economy in 2012

Editor's note: China Daily surveyed economists about their expectations for China in 2012. Here are the questions, with two answers each from the experts.

What are your answers to them? Please leave you comments here. For more year-end reviews, please click here.

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

1. Will China face a hard landing next year?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

China may face the risk of a hard landing if the European Union's and the United States' economies decline more than expected and the adjustment in the country's property market happens too fast. Such a likelihood, however, is small. And consumption, which is now the driver of China's economy, remains strong.

The World Bank has lowered its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for China to 9.1 percent for this year and 8.4 percent for 2012, amid growing concerns about the effect of the European debt crisis on the world's second-largest economy.

I would be more cautious about the monetary loosening, because the consumer price index (CPI) has softened for two months and our forecast of 9.1 percent growth is still above the government's GDP target this year.

I would suggest the government stop the tightening measures for a while to see what happens next.

The World Bank estimated that China's inflationary pressure will ease further next year, predicting that CPI will grow 5.3 percent this year and 4.1 percent next.

----- Ardo Hansson, lead economist for China at the World Bank

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

I don't think China will encounter a hard landing next year because the slowdown in the economic growth is a result of the government's active adjustment.

As for the three key drivers for China's economic growth - investment, consumption and export - the first two sectors are not expected to see a big slide next year.

Meanwhile, the employment figure is also encouraging. From January to October, the employment of industrial enterprises with annual sales above 20 million yuan saw a growth of 9.2 percent, indicating a still strong growth momentum.

Moreover, we should strive for a growth in high quality instead of a growth only in speed.

----- Pan Jiancheng, deputy director-general of the China Economic Monitoring Analysis Center at the National Bureau of Statistics

2. Will inflation continue to calm down next year?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

China's inflationary pressure may have continued to fall in the last two months of this year, thanks to decreasing food prices. In addition, the downward movement of global commodity prices has helped tame soaring imported inflation.

However, China may have entered into a long-run period of moderate inflation. In 2012, the nation's consumer prices may increase again because of increasing labor and energy costs. It is an inevitable stage of China's industrialization process.

Another factor that may fuel inflation next year is that some developed economies, such as the United States, are likely to continue their monetary easing policies to stimulate economic recovery, which means commodity prices are expected to go up as more liquidity is injected.

----- Sheng Laiyun, spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

Along with cooling economic growth, China's inflation is expected to decrease gradually next year. The consumer price index is forecast to be as low as 3 percent in 2012.

The main contributors to the soaring inflation in 2011 were cyclical factors, in that supplies couldn't satisfy market demands so prices were raised. The situation has changed now and it is clear that consumer prices are likely to further decline.

The easing of inflationary pressure will provide more space for policymakers to loosen monetary policy because maintaining a GDP growth rate of more than 8 percent is likely to be the top task of the government in 2012.

----- Peng Wensheng, chief economist with China International Capital Corp Ltd

3. Will the property market collapse next year?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

If the word "collapse" refers to the bankruptcy of some property developers, I believe such a correction should be allowed in regions that have seen too much price growth and speculation over the past few years.

Such a collapse is necessary and healthy for the long-term development of China's property sector and the overall economy. If the government doesn't address the excessively high property prices right now, it will become more problematic to the economy in the long run.

Meanwhile, the government's tightened measures regarding real estate should remain until prices fall to a reasonable level. An annual growth rate of 7.5 to 8.5 percent is acceptable for such an active adjustment. And the government should let the market play a bigger role in this round of adjustment.

-----Wang Haifeng, director of the International Cooperation Center affiliated with the National Development and Reform Commission

The outlook for China's economy in 2012I don't think so. The weakness in the property market has been largely driven by the government's tightening measures, including purchase restrictions, higher mortgage down payment requirements and price restrictions.

We have been surprised that sales and prices have held up so well after more than a year of policy tightening. We had expected them to decline by 10 percent in 2011.

As the government continues its current property tightening policies, we expect to see sales decline in the coming months while prices may finally start to drop.

We expect the private (commodity) housing market to weaken as the government continues the tightening policy, but we do not expect a collapse in that market.

Meanwhile, we think social housing will support overall construction in the next 12 to 15 months. The government has set an ambitious target of starting the construction of 10 million units in both 2011 and 2012.

----- Wang Tao, head of China economic research at UBS Securities Co Ltd

4. Will China suffer a trade deficit in 2012?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

The ongoing European debt crisis will hurt China's economic growth and the nation's exports. China's exports are expected to slow down to single-digit figures in 2012 from the double digits we have been seeing. We cannot exclude the possibility that China will see a trade deficit next year.

Although the European nations are striving to rescue the economy, I am still pessimistic about the prospects. The suspension of European debt will lead to decreasing demand for China's goods and drag down China's exports, probably causing a trade deficit for 2012.

We noticed orders from the European Union shrank during the 110th Canton Fair (China's largest foreign trade fair) held in October. Chinese exporters need to transfer their focus onto emerging markets rather than just betting on developed nations.

China needn't intentionally seek a trade balance. The top priority for China is to maintain its economic growth. China's stable economic growth will be a big contribution to the worldwide economy.

-----Wei Jianguo, former vice-minister of commerce

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

I don't think there is any possibility that China will see a trade deficit in 2012, or even for a few years.

Although the year-on-year growth for China's exports has been on the decline during the past few months and the trend is expected to continue, we should not be too pessimistic about the prospects for China's exports.

Demand from developed nations including the United States and European Union is still there, although the growth is not robust. And China has been diversifying its markets for exports, with shipments to countries including Brazil, Russia and South Africa rising fast during the past year.

On the other hand, China's imports are not as strong as expected as the nation's economy slows down.

I expect double-digit exports growth for China will be sustained in 2012 and the nation's surplus will narrow to around $120 billion next year.

----- Huo Jianguo, director of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce

5. Will China's currency become more internationalized?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

The internationalization of the yuan can help China adjust the US dollar-based and passive accumulation of foreign exchange reserves. It can also greatly enhance China's role in international trade and investment.

Meanwhile, the lift to the yuan's global profile will help upgrade China's exports and make it easy for China to adopt balanced measures to reduce trade surpluses and increase imports. The anticipation of the yuan's appreciation will help boost China's purchasing power of energy and raw material products and strengthen national and corporate competitiveness.

The internationalization of the yuan will also help boost domestic demand and help shift the growth model from being export-driven to consumption-driven.

----- Shen Jianguang, chief economist for China with Mizuho Securities

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

It is the international markets rather than China itself that can determine whether the yuan is a true international currency. Overseas investors want to hold the yuan but they are unwilling to pay in yuan.

Given the very limited investment channels for the Chinese currency, the only motivation for foreigners to hold the currency is the expectation of the yuan's further appreciation. But once the yuan loses the potential to appreciate, the international demand for the yuan may drop significantly.

Using administrative measures to push for a wider use of the yuan is not going to bring real benefits to China. The focus of China's currency reform should still be on the reform of the exchange rate system, the gradual opening of the capital account and the development of yuan-denominated assets.

----- Huang Yiping, chief economist for emerging Asia with Barclays Capital

6. Will the yuan appreciate further or depreciate?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

Although in recent months the trade surplus of China has declined dramatically and capital outflows have occurred, we predict in 2012 the exchange rate of the yuan against the dollar will continue to appreciate moderately.

The Chinese government may still hesitate to revalue the yuan faster and more dramatically because it worries that it may further shock the weak exports and pose a negative impact on asset prices as well as financial industries.

However, to avoid a trade war and facilitate economic restructuring, we think the authorities would prefer the yuan to appreciate 3 to 5 percent year-on-year in 2012.

And the exchange rate of the yuan against the dollar will rise to 6.25 by the end of this year, before it increases to 6 by the end of 2012. After that, the currency rate between the yuan and the dollar is likely to remain stable.

----- Wang Tao, head of China economic research at UBS Securities Co Ltd

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

The capital outflows in October demonstrated that international investors are increasingly worried about the very likely slowdown of China's economic growth over the next year.

And they are very concerned about the risks from the loans made to local governments through financial vehicles, and the gloomy capital market.

The most likely destination of these capital outflows is the United States because the dollar is stronger than the euro.

Another factor attributable to a possible depreciation of the yuan lies in the shrinking trade surplus. As the trade surplus continues to narrow in 2012, the appreciation of the yuan will decelerate against the dollar and there will even be a depreciation in the future as a trade deficit develops.

----- Zhuang Jian, senior economist at the Asian Development Bank

7. Will the Chinese stock market continue to see volatility?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

The valuations of the A-share market have fallen so low that the systemic risk in China's economy may have already been factored into current market prices.

While inflationary pressure will continue to ease, the policymakers are likely to further loosen credit tightening. China could also benefit from lower commodities prices that were pushed down by the poor prospects for the world's economy.

It seems that the most painful period for investors has passed. If the reserve requirement ratio is lowered by the central bank to 18 percent, it may help improve liquidity and trigger a bull run in the market that could last for several years.

-----Frank Gong, vice chairman of China Investment Banking at JP Morgan Chase & Co

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

The loosening of China's monetary policy may help boost market sentiment in the short term and improve liquidity in the market. But it cannot help improve corporate earnings.

The volatility in the stock market reflects the fact that investors' confidence remains fragile and the rally triggered by the monetary loosening is unlikely to last long.

A long-term bull run in the market is built on the expectation of good corporate profits and investment returns. What the global economy needs is not money but new growth points. Given investors' clear expectations of poor earnings results of listed companies in the fourth quarter, any rally in the market will likely be short-lived.

----- Ye Tan, financial commentator and professor at Fudan University

8. Will China be hit by a backlash in its energy saving and emission reducing efforts?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

The Chinese economy has shown signs of slowing down, but mainly as a result of macro-control measures. That is a good thing for energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions.

China set a lower annual economic growth rate at about 7 percent for 2011 to 2015, showing the country's resolution in transforming its economic structure. As a result, energy-guzzling and high-polluting industries will be further controlled.

As the measures that the government introduced to target inflation took effect, the cooling property market also affected the demand for steel, cement and other building materials. The momentum is expected to be sustained. It is also good for energy saving and emission reduction.

Slower growth would be better for China's longer-term sustainable growth prospects and realizing the country's targets for conserving energy and reducing emissions.

China intends to cut energy intensity - energy consumption per unit of GDP - by 16 percent from 2011 to 2015, which means the nation need to achieve an average cut of about 3.2 percent during the next five years.

However, in the first three quarters of the opening year of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), energy intensity fell just 1.6 percent. Tougher measures are expected to be adopted in 2012 to achieve the country's target in energy-saving and emission-reduction.

----- He Jiankun, director of the Institute of Low Carbon Economy, Tsinghua University

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

China is in a new arms race. We have already seen areas of the country affected by brown-outs as the infrastructure developments struggle to keep pace with increased demand.

Only vision-led and coherent energy policies that address the "energy trilemma" will gain public acceptance and investors' trust in delivering a sustainable energy future. This is particularly true in the case of energy efficiency, which is not the "low-hanging fruit" that many commentators have suggested.

China has made significant headway in delivering energy-efficiency programs. The 1,000 Enterprise Program is aimed at reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent over five years. Our findings suggest that this program has contributed to a considerable reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions in the target enterprises.

As China continues its inexorable growth, becoming the world's No 1 energy consumer, the challenge is to build on these successes and balance the need for energy security and social equity. However, environmental-impact mitigation remains the country's greatest challenge, especially in the context of increased urbanization, with up to 50 megacities projected by 2050.

Potential stresses in the energy-water nexus will need to be carefully monitored. Car ownership is also growing at a rate of 12 percent a year and our transport scenarios will show that clear policies are essential to limit the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

----- Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council

9. Will China see a sharp decrease in foreign direct investment?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012China will remain a magnet for foreign direct investment in 2012. While all major international companies are already here, most are planning to increase their investments in the country. Moreover, we are now seeing many small and medium-sized companies coming to China for the first time.

For many companies, China's intellectual property rights (IPR) is their biggest concern. However, if these companies truly have a product that is needed in China and they don't manufacture it here it because of the IPR issue, some company in China will eventually figure out how to make it and they will have new competitors anyway.

My advice is to manufacture the product in China so that these companies can meet the competition head-on and be most competitive.

One reason that some international companies feel business is getting more difficult in China is because local companies are becoming stronger and gaining market share month to month.

While many companies may not be as enthusiastic about manufacturing products in China and shipping them back to the United States or Europe because costs in China are going up and the yuan is appreciating against the dollar, they will still want to produce in China in order to gain access to the market.

-----Jack Perkowski, founder of JFP Holdings

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

A new frontier area for attracting investment in 2012 will be the service industry. The Ministry of Commerce and 33 other departments have just released the outline for the service trade development plan during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period.

The volume of service import and export will hit $600 billion over the next five years with an annual growth of more than 11 percent.

For companies with a competitive edge in the service industry, the years ahead will be a golden chance to invest in industries such as healthcare and design as service demand from the domestic market surges. The service industry accounts for only about 40 percent of China's GDP.

Inflows of investment from Europe and the United States slipped in China in 2011, mainly due to their grim economic prospects. Once their crises ease, China will be an attractive destination for direct foreign investment from Europe and the US.

More than 80 percent of foreign companies investing in China prefer to build wholly-owned companies in the country now that China has opened up so much and has enormous growth potential. They want to enjoy all the benefits.

Foreign-invested companies in China are gradually shifting their focus to China's domestic market, which has put greater pressure on China's legal environment. Improvements to the legislative system will be crucial for China to continue to attract foreign investment in the coming years.

----- Li Xiaogang, director of the Foreign Investment Research Center at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences

10. Will China's local government debt see default on a large scale in 2012?

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

Overall fiscal risks are under control because the authorities have been given a clear picture of the debt scale and are thus more sure about tackling the major risks within it. The 4 trillion yuan ($627 billion) stimulus package in late 2008 has often been criticized for causing the problem, but we should not forget that every penny goes to a worthy cause, such as reconstruction after the Wenchuan earthquake and improvements to Beijing's traffic system.

There are no signs yet of bad debts on a threatening scale. Although 20 percent of local governments at municipal level have a debt ratio of more than 100 percent, it does not necessarily mean they will default given that most of them have strong growth rates.

Even if a default is inevitable, local officials will try every means to fill the hole so as not to affect their track record. For undeveloped areas, the central government will probably come to the rescue.

----- Jia Kang, director of the Ministry of Finance's research institute for fiscal science

The outlook for China's economy in 2012

The massive influx of liquidity since the crisis has helped corporations meet obligations on previous debt. However, a loose credit policy can't remain in place forever, particularly in an environment of high inflation.

Credit risk has risen from an overextension of loans to local governments and property firms, both of which have questionable medium-term repayment capacity. Off-balance-sheet activity has also grown, adding fire to the credit boom and providing banks with new channels to window-dress financials.

If local governments were to encounter repayment issues, this could extend beyond their obligations to banks to their obligations to contractors and subcontractors of projects etc. In this regard, the entire transport and infrastructure portfolio could be affected.

----- Charlene Chu, head of China Financial Institutions, Fitch Ratings