China – analytical transparency remains limited

July 10th, 2018

Economic reporting from China to foreigners has certainly improved quite a lot during the past 10-15 years. This is, of course, positive. However, these improvements seem to be mostly appreciated by foreigners who are not looking for special statistical details or more far-reaching results from social or economic research.

Certain daily Chinese newspapers have nowadays printed and even electronic versions in English, frequently with interesting (economic) news. But there are often annoying restrictions or impediments when more detailed information is needed. Trying to find more detailed access to the original authors or publishers of interesting reports usually tends to fail – contrary to what we are used to in our part of the world from our own institutions.

This described problem is indeed not in line for a country aiming at becoming the largest economy in the world and – nota bene – at being recognized as a market economy. So far, I have not even taken up Chinese economic statistics and reports in pure quality terms. However, qualitative shortcomings in these areas can only be found and improved when decent transparency already is in place. Transparency is the key to many positive developments!

Our latest China Panel Survey (https://blogg.lnu.se/china-research/files/2018/05/ChinaPanelSurvey-May-2018.pdf) from May this year still sees the quality of economic statistics at insufficient 4.1 (on a scale from 1 – 10, 10 = very good). There is no improvement in the past few years, according to our experts. And only few China analysts in OECD countries complain about this disappointing institutional development – which probably adds further to China’s lagging analytical transparency.

Perhaps, there is too much semi-knowledge about China in our part of the world – also with professional analysts at financial institutions, political organizations and corporate organizations outside China. Semi-knowledge may induce fewer complaints.

Find more about semi-knowledge in my next China blog!

 

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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Trump confuses China – argues against the market economy

May 23rd, 2018

Foreign policy and international trade policy by the United States are certainly confusing these days. Trade frictions with China get new dimensions almost daily. This is also worrying for the rest of the world.

I do not want to discuss here why China and many other countries do not want to buy more American goods. And I do not want to check further to what extent China would be theoretically able to reduce its trade surpluses with the U.S. by as much as 200 billion dollars; this has indeed been done before in a number of well-informing articles.

Instead, I want to concentrate this blog on an angle that – as far as I know – has not been illuminated at all or at least very much neglected. As many observers of China know, China has been fighting for a long time to be recognized as a market economy – an objective that has been turned down regularly by the U.S. (and by the EU). In my view, this rejection remains motivated since the Chinese economy and corporate sector still are based on a lot of government influence, permissions and decisions – despite the fact that more than half of the country’s GDP is produced by officially private firms.

But we also know that the influence of the Communist Party more recently rather has been increasing than the other way around. At the same time, smart Chinese political leaders have certainly found out that political interventions to achieve drastically reduced trade and current account surpluses with the U.S. certainly cannot be brought in line with the goal of gaining recognition as a market economy.

In other words, Trump wants China to break against the rules of a market economy and at the same time to maintain the arguments against China for not being mature as a market economy. It is like squaring the circle. We can be sure the president Xi Jinping understands the dimensions of this side of the trade problem. This is one of the reasons why he has been strongly revaluing foreign policy more recently, also by important personal appointments and his own increasing involvement in foreign policy.

However, nobody knows how the Trump administration’s conflict with China will end. In the longer run, the trade conflict between the U.S. and China is certainly not good for the global economy.

 

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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“Stable and satisfactory numbers from China – LNU’s “Temperature Indicator at 6.0“

May 3rd, 2018

Summary

In the second half of April, Linnaeus University prepared its traditional spring survey on the business climate and economic conditions in China, both with shorter and longer time perspectives. The (independent) responding China experts – around 15 of them – come from Asia, the U.S. and Europa – thanks a lot!

“LNU’s China Panel remains cautiously confident on China – despite the obvious risks”

¤  LNU’s “Temperature Indicator” for GDP growth in China remained stable at 6.0 in April compared to 6.1 in December 2017 (10 means “very hot” on the scale) – still satisfactory despite the small decrease.

¤  The panel expects Chinese GDP growth to come in at 6.5 percent in 2018 as a whole – 0.3 higher than predicted last December and at – somewhat slower – 6,2 percent in q4 2018. For 2019, our forecasters see Chinese GDP grow with 6.2 percent as well. This latter number – if achieved in reality – would certainly be acceptable inside and outside China.

¤   More than half of the forecasters (54 percent) see rather a downward bias in their own GDP prediction than an upward bias – and around one third no bias at all.

¤  There are divided views on the course of the currency RMB in 2018 but most experts expect a slight depreciation (1-5 percent) of the RMB against the  U.S. dollar in 2018.

¤   GDP growth on average until 2023 is seen at 5.6 percent.

Read the full article here, ChinaPanelSurvey May 2018

 

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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