China’s low-growth era


If the UK hadn’t been accidental’dead catWhile we’ve been attracting market attention lately, we think more people would be panicking about China. Luckily, BlackRock has us covered.

As the 20th Chinese Communist Party Conference is underway, authorities have postponed the release of third-quarter GDP data — economists believe annual growth will slow to a new low of 3.3 percent in three decades — and have clearly drawn 7.2 in the sand for the renminbi dollar exchange rate.

That could become harder to defend as China’s era of hypergrowth draws to a close, according to a blog post published by Larry Fink’s Vanity Project BlackRock’s quasi-think tank, the BlackRock Investment Institute.

The Chinese economy grew rapidly in the ten years prior to the pandemic, averaging 7.7% per year. But it now faces a series of acute challenges that, in our view, mean it is entering a phase of significantly slower growth.

. . . The heavy focus on Covid-related ups and downs in activity ignores another underlying issue that we believe will significantly challenge Chinese growth next year – and beyond.

For now, Alex Brazier and Serena Jiang — a former top Bank of England employee and a BlackRock economist, respectively — expect the Chinese economy to grow by about 3 percent this year, due to the country’s zero-covid policy and dwindling demand. to goods it produces.

After exports rose 10 percent in both 2020 and 2021 as people wasted on new TVs, washing machines and other goods largely made in China, BlackRock believes exports will shrink by 6 percent per year in 2022 and 2023. .

The implications for the renminbi are serious. Combined with higher US interest rates, this would “ultimately justify a write-down of twice as much as this year,” BlackRock said in the report. However, this could exacerbate the pain for Chinese companies that have borrowed in dollars and ensure financial stability.

However, a growth of 3 percent could be the new normal. Brazier and Jiang argue that the longer-term view is that the potential pace of economic growth in China has declined significantly, mainly due to an aging workforce. Our emphasis below.

Covid controls today reduce potential output. While they may be eased, we still think the potential growth rate of the Chinese economy has fallen below 5% and could fall further to about 3% by the turn of the century. Why? Most importantly, the working age population, which has been growing rapidly, is now shrinking. . . Fewer workers means the economy cannot produce as much without generating inflation unless productivity growth accelerates. But we believe international trade and technical restrictions, as well as stricter regulations for companies operating in China, will slow productivity growth.

Here’s a graph showing the contracting workforce.

Considering how vital China’s unbridled growth has been to the global economy — remember when Jim O’Neil told anyone who would listen that China add the equivalent of a Greece every 11 weeks? — the broader implications are . . . not good.

In the past, when countries faced a slowdown, they could still rely on Chinese consumers and businesses to buy their cars, chemicals, machinery and fuel, even as consumers tightened their belts at home. And they could be confident that China would continue to supply a plethora of cheap products, as China’s burgeoning workforce allowed it to keep production costs low.

Not like that anymore. Recession now threatens the US, UK and Europe. But this time, China is not coming to its own rescue, or anyone else’s.