China bubble ready to not burst

China bubble ready to not burst

This past week, Vitaliy Katsenelson wrote a great Foreign Policy web feature on the big old asset-price bubble developing in the Chinese economy, called "The China Bubble’s Coming — But Not the One You Think."

Recent news seems to bear the theory out.

The Financial Times reports:

Chinese regulators on Monday ordered banks to ensure unprecedented volumes of new loans are channelled into the real economy and not diverted into equity or real estate markets where officials say fresh asset bubbles are forming.

The new policy requires banks to monitor how their loans are spent and comes amid warnings that banks ignored basic lending standards in the first half of this year as they rushed to extend [around $1 trillion] in new loans, more than twice the amount lent in the same period a year earlier.

I feel a bit strange saying this.

But, over the past year, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I’ve really come to admire the Chinese central bank. 

This fall, it recognized the need for massive stimulus — and did it. Then it realized it was pushing too much money into the economy, creating bubbles and distorting the lending market — and so it stopped. The central bank will raise reserve requirements for lenders. And presto, they’ll stop lending so much. The bubble will ease, rather than popping.  

Of course, I’m wary of my own oversimplification here. The Chinese economy has some very trying issues ahead of it, particularly as related to its currency, its U.S. reserves, and the quality of its economic growth. Plus, the impact of the lending spree (and its halting) obviously won’t be clear for some time. 

But, for the moment, this move just seems really prudent. Another way of thinking of it? Being a command economy has its advantages when there’s need for a whole lot of emergency economic commands.