This is the fourth and last in a series of blogs that looks at the risk of a hard landing in the Chinese economy. One problem when assessing this risk is the lack of historical precedents. Very few countries underwent debt build-ups of Chinese proportions, and those that did were usually very small, open economies. The one exception is 1990 Japan which displays some striking similarities with today’s China.
Chinese GDP statistics are notoriously unreliable at signalling turning points, so I decided to test the temperature on the ground with a macro tour in Beijing. A couple of days of meetings with policymakers, academics and investors left me comforted and alarmed in equal measure.
Just like cars, it costs more to maintain an older person than a younger one. Government borrowing could rise by 3% of GDP over the next 20 years as a result of ageing. To offset this, the UK government has squeezed the rest of the public sector in an attempt to balance the books. This seems politically unsustainable. Is the government about to reverse course by ending public sector pay caps?
Recently on CNBC, I discussed technological disruption in the auto industry from car sharing, autonomy and electric vehicles. I argued that batteries were likely to be similar to microchips – falling 20% in price every year – and could therefore disrupt the internal combustion engine.