China unlikely to see hard landing in 2012

Updated: 2011-12-22 10:24


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WASHINGTON - Although the eurozone crisis is running deeper and deeper, it is highly unlikely to see a hard landing of Chinese economy next year, said an American expert here on Wednesday.

Most analysts estimated that the Chinese economic growth rate this year would be somewhere between 9.1 percent and 9.3 percent while next year it would drop to 8.5 percent. But Yukon Huang, senior associate at Carnegie, believes that eight percent to 8.5 percent is actually a good growth rate which is "more sustainable" and a rate that China should gravitate towards over the next few years.

"China is actually above its potential in the past because of the stimulus program," he added.

As for the possibility of a collapse or a hard landing, Huang said it was highly unlikely for two reasons.

First, China has very strong balance sheets. The budget is running a significant amount of surplus with revenues so that the government has flexibility in dealing with a potential downhill slide.

Second, reserve levels are very high and Chinese banks have very low ratios of non-performing loans in property market, and the government could step in with state banks so a financial collapse might not be seen in China like elsewhere.

However, the elements of a hard landing are possible in the coming years. One of them depends on the bubble in property market. The investment in property has soared to 12 percent of GDP, which might be a sign of a bubble.

"The property bubble in China will be a property bubble with Chinese characteristics," said Huang, "It is not a sector that has been highly leveraged but there's construction, decoration, insurance and all sorts of economic activities associated with the property development."

A slowdown in the property sector would lead to a slowdown in the growth rate of China and that would drive the growth rate next year below eight percent, he said.

"If the property bubble got more pervasive in the economy and affordable housing dries up, the growth rate may be down to six percent or five percent, and this is a hard landing." said Huang.

Meanwhile, he added that the high level of property investment is comparable to the fact that the Chinese investment rate rose to 45 percent over 10 years.

And there is an increasing demand for housing in China. Even if there are 60 to 64 million vacant units in China, a potential of 200 million families are moving to the urban areas in the next 5- 10 years. What's more, 60 percent of the Chinese housing stock is sub-standard and too small, said Huang.

Another scenario that might lead to hard landing was a deterioration in the European debt situation. It could bring down China's growth rate by one percent, said Huang.

Eurozone crisis would be the major uncertainties for the world economic next year, said Uri Dadush, senior associate and director in Carnegie's International Economics Program.

Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain saw their GDP growth decline in the third quarter. Their combined government debt is 4. 6 trillion dollars, three times the entire subprime mortgage market in the US at the peak, said Dadush.

According to him, Europe needs a plausible solution that includes a combination of a bigger European financial stability fund, IMF enlargement and the ECB support for the banks and sovereigns in trouble when necessary.

If Europe collapsed, Dadush warned, the big losers would include the periphery of Europe, the UK, the US, which is Europe's biggest creditor with Europe being its largest export market. And for similar reasons, it would include China.