Andy Xie: China’s inflation or U.S. sovereign debt could spark next crisis

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The paragraphs below are excerpts from a recent article by Andy Xie in Caixin Online.

“The global economy may be coming up for a breach of fresh air in 2011. Fiscal and monetary policies around the world have been highly stimulated for three years. The additional monetary and fiscal stimulus measures by the U.S. could generate an upside surprise to its 2011 growth rate. Most emerging economies continue to grow rapidly. By the middle of 2011, most analysts may declare that the world has finally put the financial crisis behind.

“The reality is quite different. The global economy is kept afloat by massive monetary and fiscal stimulus around the world. The main problem in the global economy – high costs and declining competitiveness in the developed world, and inflation plus asset bubbles in the developing world continue unabated. Either inflation in the developing world or unsustainable sovereign debt in the developed world will spark the next crisis.

“China has an opportunity to gain immunity against the next crisis.

“The last crisis started in the U.S. If China hadn’t reformed a decade ago, it could have started in China. An economic crisis in China would have prolonged the U.S.’s economic cycle by bringing down oil and other commodity prices, which would have improved the U.S.’s cash flow.

“The most likely candidates to trigger the next global crisis are the U.S.’s sovereign debt or China’s inflation. When one goes down first, the other can prolong its economic cycle. China may have won the last race. To win the next one, China must tackle its inflation problem, which is ultimately a political and structural issue, in 2011. If China does, the U.S. will again be the cause for the next global crisis. China will suffer from declining exports but benefit from lower oil prices.

“On the other hand, if China has a hard landing, the U.S.’s trade deficit can drop dramatically, maybe by 50 percent, due to lower import prices. It would boost the dollar’s value and bring down the U.S.’s treasury yield. The U.S. can have lower financing costs and lower expenditures. The combination allows the U.S. to enjoy a period of good growth.

“One could describe the global economy as a race between the U.S. and China, to see who goes down first.

“While conspiracy theories are very popular in China, the reality is that only a bad mistake by itself can cause a big crisis. China is so large and so popular among multinational corporations that it has numerous advantages in the today’s world. The international environment is a big plus for the country. Only a big mistake by itself can trigger a crisis.”

Source: Andy Xie, Caixin Online, December 23, 2010.

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