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Caution benefits economy in 2014

Updated: 2014-02-11 09:04
By Xin Zhiming (

China’s economy has been surging for nearly 30 years, but now it’s time to slow down and fix potential problems before they explode.

Warren Buffett, the investment guru, once said: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”

He was referring to financial investment, but his insight has been proved in many other spheres, such as economic growth.

The emerging-market countries have been crowned as the prime driving force of the world economy in the recent years in which the developed world lost its steam. But now several of these newcomers have encountered serious problems on the financial front.

Moreover, some leading indicators show that many of them could also suffer from a weak real economy this year.

Consider China: a rock star economy in the emerging world that has been galloping at about 10 percent year-on-year for more than 30 years.

But, these days, it does not take an economist to diagnose that the Chinese economy has taken ill.

The influential Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report on Sunday that China may still manage to meet its growth target of 7.5 percent. The academy warned, however, that the country is also set to face some serious problems of real estate turbulence, financial disorder, overcapacity and the pile-up of local government debts.

Alarm has also been recently sounded by the narrowly avoided trust default incident that exposed the risks inherent in China’s shadow banking system.

In this case, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, through which a $600 million wealth management product issued by China Credit Trust Co was sold in 2011, managed to secure a buyer to prevent it from being defaulted. Even so, some troubling aspects of the Chinese economy were brought to light.

In other words, China must tackle potential financial risks while combating a growth slowdown as a result of weak global demand and domestic economic restructuring.

These factors suggest just how bumpy the economic road will be this year for policymakers.

For them, it is important for the country to meet its growth target. Still, it should not become the top priority, as it has been in the past.

Far more important is how to defuse the potential time bomb of an economic crisis that would send the whole country into chaos.

The success or failure of addressing financial problems before they explode in public will decide the fate of the Chinese economy not only for this year, but for many years to come.