So long as Beijing continues to intervene in markets to guide prices, and fails to deliver on the key structural reforms needed to create a sustainable consumer-led economy, markets both inside and outside China will continue to be nervous about the sustainability of growth, and we will see more “China scares” like the one we endured in January. A clearer sense of direction is required, as is better communication.
For three decades, China sustained fast economic growth by steadily increasing the scope of markets, even as it preserved a large role for the state. Because investors were confident in the general trend towards more markets and more space for private firms, they were happy to invest in growth. Today neither private entrepreneurs in China, nor traders on global financial markets, are confident in such a trend. By the end of 2015 growth in investment by non-state firms had slowed to only about two-thirds the rate posted by state-owned firms, ending nearly two decades of private-sector outperformance.
Doubts are amplified by the government’s failure to communicate its intentions. During the last several months of confusion on foreign exchange markets, no senior official came forth to explain the goals of the new currency policy. No other country would have executed such a fundamental shift in a key economic policy without clear and detailed statements by a top policymaker. As China prepares for its presidency of the G-20, the government owes it both to its own people and to the global community of which it is now such an important member to more clearly articulate its commitment to market-oriented reforms and sustainable growth.Much more on the Brookings Institute.
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