Half a century ago nobody could even imagine the pace of growing that China is experiencing right now. Back then it was simply a country with a devastated by war economy that was just starting to recover from the most difficult periods in its history. Even a quarter of the century before when if was in the sunset of Mao period the future outcomes and opportunities for this country were not the best ones, they really looked unpromising. As of the beginning of this century China has the greatest pace of development among other countries of the world. Fifty years ago, no one could even closely estimate how China would grow. This fact sort of pushes back from any certain assumptions about the future China’s development. Anyways, for the past decade China has become one of the world’s leaders in production and economic growth. Since it has a great potential a great number of investors chose China to invest their money in. As the result for the past couple of years China started to experiencing overinvestment that is pretty dangerous and can easily cause a great place for investment to simply burst like a bubble. However, the country continues to show decent results in economic growth.
From the beginning of implementation of economic reforms in China the country has experienced cycles of rushes in economic activity and inflation that were chased by phases of retrenchment. In the 1980’s two cycles were finished by hard landings. It could be easily seen in 1986-90 cycle. It started with loosening the monetary and fiscal policies that resulted troubles for SOEs. In 1988 inflation was as high as 19 percent which actually caused the government to respond with reconsidering policies. They managed to take inflation into control but the administrative measures had bad consequences for allocation of resources. Another cycle of 1991-97 started with a rise in government spendings and loosing up bank’s credit policies. In 1992 China faced the investment boom which was quite similar to the one it is facing right now. The investment boom resulted GDP to grow by 14 percent. Demand forces resulted an increase of inflation. Government’s response was a “16-point” plan to cool the economy that they adopted in 1993. The key points of the plan were aimed to rise the interest rates, make the process of giving the loans to commercial banks by the central bank more strict and complicated, and also limit investment approvals. The tightening was reversed by the end of 1993. This was a base for a highest rate of inflation that occurred in China in 1994. It was as high as 24 percent. The government actually achieved the stabilization of economy in 1996, and the inflation was even less than 10 percent. While a soft landing was achieved, the rapid pace of credit growth in 1992–96 contributed to the weakness of the financial sector today. Most of the non-performing loans in the banking system date from this period.
The speed of economic movement in China greatly increased in 2003, regardless the SARS outbreak. The growth of GDP was at a mark of 10 percent for 2003 and it continued to grow with the same pace in 2004. This was mainly caused by great level of investment. CPI inflation was as high as 4.4 percent in May. Overinvestment in some sectors of the economy caused a great threat of a problem. Responding to that, Chinese government made monetary and administrative policies a bit stricter to prevent the potential overheating of the economy. Money and credit rates have decreased but they still remain about 18 percent per year as of midst 2004. Real GDP growth also owes to an increase in export. Fixed capital formation has increased by 20 percent in real terms (the fastest rate since 1993) achieving 44 percent of GDP. Due to SARS epidemic that was in the second quarter of 2003, consumption growth has decreased comparing to 2002. However, the influence of SARS was only for a short period o time and a country has fully recovered from it later in the year. Export growth was 35 percent in 2003 comparing to 22 percent in 2002. This mainly happened due to China’s acquired of big market shares in major industrialized countries. As well as exports, imports showed a great percentage of growth as the demand grew especially for raw materials. CPI inflation increased to 4.4 percent in May 2004 that resulted increases in prices for groceries. If not take to account the increase in food prices, inflation had a slight positive effect on the economy just as this rate of inflation should have. The increase of food prices was also caused by the decrease of the cultivation area and summer draught that took place a year before.
China’s integration into the world’s economy will create harsh difficulties for a great number of countries. During the last 20 years, China’s trade expanded at double the rate of world trade. Today China is one of the world’s top trading nations, and has 4% of total world trade, comparing to 1% in 1980. Nevertheless, China’s exports and trade surpluses are achieving politically sensitive levels, and more stress on export-led increase may not be sustainable. China itself is still a quite closed market, for imports of goods and even more closed for imports of services. Letting the imports to China’s markets, particularly as a member of WTO, can offer more reasonable development and simplify the international stresses arising from China’s transformation.
The importance of China in external trade, especially in the region’s production chain saved its growing trend. China’s exports and imports achieved 60 percent of GDP in 2003 and these amounts made country fourth largest exporter in the world. The increasing importance of China in the world’s production of manufactured goods and rising domestic demand caused other sectors of China’s economy to grow, and also resulted the raise in prices for a lot of goods. China’s imports that are mainly from Asia also got bigger and China’s trade deficit with the region enlarged but the trade with the U.S. and Europe balances it back. The general trade surplus was $45 billion which is about 3 percent of GDP. China’s international position continues to grow stronger. The current account surplus increased by a half percentage point in 2003 to three and a half percent of GDP. Official reserves grew by $162 billion in 2003. External debt increased to $200 billion in 2003 but it is very modest to exports and GDP. By the end of May 2004 China had a trade deficit of $9 billion as compared to $2 billion of surplus that it had for at the same time of the previous year.
The drive for investment by recent local governments that started by the end of 2002 was stimulated by extensive excess liquidity in China’s banking system. People’s Bank of China was worried about fast credit growth that was easy to see even in the beginning of 2003 but its policies were delayed by SARS epidemic. Significant increase in capital inflows made it more difficult for PBC to implement the monetary policies. However, they managed to do that, in July 2003 PBC increased the reserve requirement by one percent and also announced a planned increase of ½ percent in April 2004. By doing this they tried to reduce the credit growth to banks. To deter the increase of overinvestment in branches of economy that have already faced it, the government made stricter lending standards. To finish up PBC raised short-term relending by 0.6 and rediscount rates by 0.3 percent in March 2004.
If China continues to develop as it is doing right now then by the midst of this century it will have developed actually three transitions. First and at the same time the one of greatest importance is the transition from a planned to a market economy. Second is from agrarian to an industrialized country. Last, but certainly not least, from a centralized to a participatory government.
Only a half century ago, it was very difficult to predict great China’s development that it is facing today. Simply like nobody thought that Japan could reach the level that the country is on right now, nobody even could forecast the pace of China’s development. According to forecasts of some prominent economic scholars, by the midst of this century China’s economy will grow to about $20 trillion and would be about 4/5 of the United States economy. The income per capita in China can grow to about US$12,000 which is equal to the Korean’s before the Asian financial crisis. GDP of only Hong Kong, Macao, and Guangdong would be equal to France’s GDP. Chinese currency the renminbi will become a one of the major world’s currencies along with euro, U.S. dollar and yen. If they keep up with the pace of development, Shanghai could be world’s financial center. With the renminbi becoming fully convertible in the world, Shanghai could rise to the level of London and New York City.
New technology and knowledge will gradually develop to a high level as the country expands it integration. In couple of generations Chinese scholars and scientists could be a fresh source of brilliant ideas and innovations. China sets up a good base for its future generations, giving a good opportunity for a great number of students to go study abroad and get mostly western ideas and worldviews.
China of course has some difficulties that can result very unpleasant consequences not only for the country but for investors as well. Some possible outcomes are probable failure of the banking system, enormous level of unemployment that can be resulted by the reforms of government enterprises, considerable hardships with the level of the environment. To continue the growth rates China needs creative but at the same time practical leaders. Another great change that might effect China’s future development is changes in values of its citizens. As most of Chinese nowadays adopting the lifestyles of Europeans, Americans, and Japanese China will have a totally different society in thirty years or so. People will desire of better level of life, similar to the level of Japanese and Europeans.
A lot of hopes are put into China’s development due to the determination and pragmatism of Chinese leaders. The governing of the country has been positively changing or almost twenty years. China also has a great potential in its younger generation, it is an advantage for those young people to go study abroad and then implement all their knowledge it their home country that still has so many areas that need development. In the best position are those that are in their 20s and 30s. They will be running the country in twenty years when China will be a great industrialized power. It will not be the center of the world, as many like to forecast for China, it will simply be one of the advanced countries.
China now faces one of the most destructive problems that all the developing countries have which is corruption. It is dangerous because it slows down the country’s development and is very difficult to be deterred.
Despite all the difficulties that China faces on its crossroads of the development, it has great pragmatic leaders are capable of taking the country up to the new level. China has a great potential to construct modern economy by the 50’s of this century. It will surely become one of the most important countries in the world. It is obvious even now that China will become the largest trading country in the world. Due to its partners China has a great opportunity to become one of the financial leaders of the world. If China stays on the same track of its development and keeps up with its speed it will surely become a very modern and greatly confident country.