The dreary forecast comes from Eric Fishwick, chief economist at CLSA, an Asia-focused private equity firm. His reports in particular contends that the Chinese cannot possibly meet its growth projections for next year.
One does not cross the officialdom in China casually. That suggests that either 1) CLSA is quite confident they won’t be making any investments in China for a while, and can afford to annoy the powers that be by building credibility with their non-Chinese audience; 2) it is an open secret how bad things are likely to get so that the CLSA call is no revelation if you are plugged in; and/or 3) CSLA is a sufficiently small player that they can risk making a gutsy call (they aren’t high profile enough to merit lasting anger).
From the Time Online in “Respected analyst Eric Fishwick says that China may be heading for a severe economic slowdown“:
China must be radically reassessed by investors and could be lurching towards a more dramatic economic slowdown than Beijing authorities will admit,…
Even with aggressive government measures, growth in 2009 could plunge to 5.5 per cent, [Eric Fishwick] said.
The super-bearish forecast depends on certain weak signals that may emerge in the fourth quarter of 2008, but comes amid reports from the Chinese electricity sector that suggest the country’s mighty manufacturing engine-room is already sputtering badly.
More than 70 per cent of the electricity generated in China is consumed by industry and according to reports, monthly national power output in October fell for the first time in a decade.
Traders in Singapore said it could be a slump that would have a huge negative impact on global commodity demand: ferrous and nonferrous metal-processing industries are among the heaviest consumers of electricity in China and it is their slowdown that is reflected in the drop in power usage….
IMr Fishwick dismissed the idea that the authorities in Beijing would be able to manipulate the economy as effectively as other analysts believe…..
In the report, Mr Fishwick acknowledges that the 5.5 per cent growth forecast theory will be resisted: the market has come to believe that Beijing will simply “not allow” growth to slow below 7 per cent.
But he argues that while Beijing has greater influence over China’s economy than most other Asian governments have over theirs, the breakneck expansion of the private sector – now two thirds of the economy – means that large parts of China’s growth machinery are beyond Beijing’s direct control and subject to the same rules and laws as other market economies. “Investors need to analyse China as ‘Just Another Capitalist Country’ and question whether government policy will actually work,” he said.
“China is revealed as extremely cyclical with the volatile expenditure components much larger compared with the stable ones. Our 5.5 per cent GDP forecast has already factored in a broad and aggressive government stimulus.”
Capitalist economies, he added, are hard to control and respond slowly and unpredictably to government policies.
Although China does have more mechanisms to influence economic activity than elsewhere in Asia, because GDP composition is biased towards exports and investment, external conditions will hold sway.
Also limiting Beijing’s influence on economic growth is the relatively low contribution to GDP of consumer spending and government investment – 37 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively.
In that light, said the CLSA report, both measures to boost spending and any proposed fiscal policy gambits will be of limited overall effect.
Even when China ramped up spending in 1998 in response to the Asian Crisis, it did not manage to maintain growth levels above 8 per cent..