China’s economy is slowing down. What gives?

“China’s economy is out of balance and has been for some time. Investments dominate the country’s economy, far more than consumption — that is, what households are spending. It didn’t matter so much when investment juiced China’s GDP in good times, and indeed, kept China’s economy afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But that investment playbook has been losing its potency. A chunk of investments are unproductive — for example, a shiny new airport is great, but if it sits empty and no one travels through it, that’s not a great return on investment. But whether the airport is busy or a ghost town, it required bonds and loans to build. That produced growth, but it also increased China’s debt, so much so that right now, it’s triple — yep, around 300 percent — the amount of China’s economic output. “That doesn’t really matter until the debt has to be settled. More stimulus simply increases debt and delays the reckoning,” Morgan said.

What that reckoning might look like is hard to answer because the Chinese government and its leader, President Xi Jinping, are not exactly known for transparency. As Morgan sees it, China is dealing with a “slow fizzle.” But how Xi and his government manage that fizzle is far from an easy question for anyone to answer.”

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