China Is So Fucked!
The Middle Kingdom is a Ponzi scheme, a Potemkin Village, and a paper tiger. It is going from economic darling to junk-rated, totalitarian basket case in a hurry. It can’t even stomach Winnie the Pooh.
The wheel is starting to turn for Red China, which is now seeing a rat pack of short-sellers betting against that country’s currency and wagering against its Ponzi scheme industries and assets. The RMB is sinking hard (down -6% in a month). The Shanghai Composite (down -19% this year) along with the Shenzhen Comp, the CSI 300 and even China’s sticky-fingered tech firms (Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, etc.) are all buckling in the wake of President Trump’s near liquidation of ZTE and Uncle Sam’s no-nonsense trade policies. China was just dethroned by Japan this week, which is now the world’s second biggest stock market behind America’s. And even Google — straightjacketed by China’s crusty internet censors — is giving incumbent Baidu a run for its money as it re-launches its search and cloud business there.
S&P is considering cutting the country’s credit rating from crap to crapier, mostly because of concerns about its shifty dollar peg, excess credit creation, zombie SOEs and proliferating NPLS. China’s debt-to-GDP ratio is now north of 295% and its banks, brokerages and asset managers are in a thick funk. Default rates are accelerating and inflation is starting to pick up; foreign firms’ supply chains are re-orienting themselves outside of the Middle Kingdom to avoid operational risks and a nationalistic backlash currently being whipped up by the propagandists over at the Ministry of Culture/Ministry of Information. Even Apple and Starbucks are bracing for potential reprisals there amidst the ongoing economic and geopolitical big stink courtesy of President Trump and the USTR. Droves of wealthy chinese are offshoring and/or trying to stash their savings anywhere but in China’s brittle banks and ‘entrusted bond’ vehicles.
Two decades of American-led globalization, easy money and surplus saving has kept the credit spigots open there. That, combined with stealing $300 billion per year in IP from Silicon Valley, is how the Chinese economy has avoided a reckoning for so long. Indeed, savvy punters are betting that a resurgent dollar, rising bond yields and Trump’s punitive trade policies will sap China’s predatory economic model. The PRC’s Potemkin property and infrastructure projects, moreover, are atrophying fast or being demolished in spectacular Keynesian fashion (below) while its hubristic ‘Made China 2025’ strategy — an industrial policy based on extortion and theft — has been squelched. Nice!
Macroeconomics aside, we’re especially miffed by China’s handling of Ai Weiwei’s atelier over the weekend. Last Saturday the artist’s Beijing studio was methodically destroyed by China’s procrustean villains. The avant-garde pioneer shared a series of videos on social media capturing his majestic workspace being brazenly bulldozed by government goons and contractors — a tragic spectacle indeed. Several friends and colleagues were seen scattered around the detritus-ridden compound as commie-operated wrecking balls and dozers laid waste to the edifice (and heaps of art inside!). One of Weiwei’s captions reads, “Today they started to demolish my studio in Beijing with no precaution, which I have had as my main studio since 2006.”
The artist also shared a body of photographic work he made at the now razed ‘Zuo You’ studio. The series, titled ‘Straight 2008-2012‘, shows 150 tons of straightened rebar steel that he recovered from the 2008 Sichuan earthquake (a lightning rod topic in China). He also showed many of his colleagues tirelessly sifting through the rubble trying to salvage any works/materials that didn’t get wrecked.
Anyway, China is fucked for its ropy economy, its lack of creative courage, its theft of Western technology (it couldn’t evolve without it), its repressive appendages and the evils engendered by statism. It is tempting to see China as a morality tale for emerging markets and Third World countries. Just as the macro-prudential policies of the early 2000s — high savings, moderate inflation, steady growth, liquid sovereign balance sheets — resulted in rising real wages and enviable total factor productivity (TFP), the last decade has seen a tsunami of state-led kleptomania, political purges and fervid power-lust that is now giving rise to a violent correction in the People’s Republic. An angsty phase transition is happening IRT, nudged on by America’s thorny POTUS and a multilateral effort to check China’s revisionist and geostrategic aspirations. Yet the wonder is not that China is skirting the edge of a crisis, but that it has managed to avoid one for so long.
China thinks it can outlast America in a trade and currency war, but it is obviously on the back foot. Its equities are in bear-market territory, and its leadership doesn’t know how to take on Trump & Co. without incurring geopolitical and economic losses. The RMB chalked up its worst-ever month against the dollar in August and is on track to lose more purchasing power. Economic indicators for China are systematically sliding. And the apparatchiks can’t even handle one rabble-rousing artist who isn’t even in China that often. The governing elite has even banned Christopher Robin, the new Winnie the Pooh movie, because Xi Jinping detests any and all Xi-Winnie the Pooh memes that have become a symbol of dissent in China.
At VIVISXN, we see the tussle as just heating up: the tit-for-tat trade dynamics will inevitably militate against China’s vulnerable domestic economy; the exchange rate will come under serious pressure (we’re betting on a 7.2 handle soon); and the excess credit sloshing through the system will be a drag on future growth and resources. For China, there is a looming financial storm and a big as fuck drawdown (downward GDP revisions, for instance, and capital market turmoil) coming in the future. You heard it here first. Expect to lose about -20% across stocks, bonds, realestate and shadow banking instruments and get used to the idea of a limited military showdown somewhere in the South China Sea (the American and Japanese navies will come out on top, of course). As one pundit put it, “America [and the west] have been embroiled in a trade conflict with China for decades. It’s just that America hasn’t been fighting. Now it is. That’s a good thing.”
VIVISXN MEDIA – Art + Fashion + Tech + China + Pop Culture + 深度学习 + AI + Machine Learning + 音乐时尚 + 艺术 + 高科技 + 流行文化 + 大众文化 + 前卫艺术 + 艾未未 Ai Weiwei + RMB + Trade Policy