China Exclusive: No rush to rebalance China's economy: economist
                 English.news.cn | 2014-01-03 18:09:17 | Editor: Fu Peng

Xinhua File Photo

BEIJING, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- The whole world says China needs to rebalance its economy, and the Chinese government agrees. But one economist now says: "Wait a minute."

And he is not a nobody. Yukon Huang is a prominent economist and the World Bank's former country director for China.

For the last few decades, China's economy has gone from strength to strength.

From experiencing double-digit growth, to riding out the Global Financial Crisis,it has survived to become the world's second biggest economy.

But despite its status as an economic powerhouse, China's economy is often labelled as unbalanced, in terms of its disproportionate shares between investment and consumption.

Rather than redress the imbalance, Huang said China is on the right track.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Huang said "rapid growth is essentially an unbalanced process."

"Unbalance is not the problem," Huang said. "The problem is to make sure that you invest in the right things."

In China, consumer spending in the first three quarters of 2013 made up 45.9 percent of the country's economic growth, while investment accounted for 55.8 percent, according to the country's National Bureau of Statistics.

A senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Huang said while China's consumption is only about 35 percent of its domestic gross product, consumption shouldn't just be considered as a share of GDP.

"China's consumption, in real terms, adjusted for inflation, has been increasing for several decades," Huang said.

Co-editor of "Reshaping Economic Geography in East Asia" and "East Asia Visions", Huang has studied development of the world's economic juggernauts.

He said when the U.S. was industrializing over a century ago, it had "the most unbalanced growth process that we've ever seen".

When Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore were growing into high-income nations, sometimes at 9 or10 percent a year, he said their growth processes were unbalanced.

"So why should we think unbalanced growth is bad, when the growth processes of the successful countries have all been unbalanced," he said.

He warned prompting balance prematurely may actually incur stagnation.

"By the time they got to high income, their economies then became more balanced," he said.

If China grows at 7 percent a year, he predicted by 2020, the economy will begin to rebalance.

"But by then it will be a high-income country," he said.

For Huang, growth is determined by two factors, investment and productivity - rather than consumption.

"If you invest properly, you build the capacity to produce; if you have technology and innovation, then your productivity increases," he said.

But Huang warned if China is to sustain annual growth of 7 percent for the rest of this decade, it will need to re-direct its investment flow and address local government debt, racked up from massive public infrastructure projects and unpaid bank loans.

In order to promote productivity, he said China must boost investment in the private sector, which is usually more efficient than the public sector.

He also said China's continued urbanization program must be made more efficient by curbing wasteful spending on infrastructure.

Related:

China's economy projected to grow steadily, dynamically: economists

NEW YORK, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- China would maintain steady and dynamic economic growth in 2014 on the back of its ongoing reforms, economists said at a forum here Monday.

The forum was co-organized by the New York-based National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and China Center for Economic Research (CCER) with Peking University (PKU). Full story

China Focus: China's growth softens slightly at year-end

BEIJING, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- China's latest economic figures, especially the purchasing managers' index (PMI) in both factory activity and the services sector, indicated sagging momentum in December, with the country's growth softening slightly last quarter, economists said.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is scheduled, later this month, to release China's macroeconomic data for the fourth quarter and the entire year of 2013, such as gross domestic product (GDP) growth, industrial production, retail sales and fixed-asset investment. Full story

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