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中国时间: 18:38 2016年12月08日星期四

何清涟: 中国经济:纵火与消防的循环(二)


编者按:这是何清涟为美国之音撰写的评论文章。这篇特约评论不代表美国之音的观点。转载者请注明来自美国之音或者VOA。

9月25日国际金融杂志《欧洲货币》将年度“全球最佳央行行长奖”颁给了中国央行行长周小川。比较有意思的是周小川在颁奖典礼致辞所列举的获奖原因:第一,中国央行为应对金融危机,采取了适度宽松的货币政策,扩大货币供给,有力地支持了实体经济;第二,今年以来中国及时调整了货币政策,实行稳健的货币政策,即紧缩银根。用通俗一点的语言讲解,在两三年之间,中国央行先是奉命超量发行货币吹胀经济泡沫,继之剧烈收缩银根,压缩自个吹胀的经济泡沫,就是中国央行行长获得这个奖的主要理由。

熟悉中国经济的人,一看就明白第一条讲的是自2009年开始,央行超量发行货币,作为政府投入刺激经济。发了多少呢?中央政府自2009年投入4至5万亿资金,地方政府亦大量利用融资平台举债近14.4万亿刺激经济,据说这些钱当中约有一半进了房市与股市,因此中国这两大经济泡沫得以继续胀大。

第二条讲的是今年央行咬紧牙关紧缩银根之事。今年上半年,中国人民银行6次提高了法定存款准备金率。这一紧缩,意在挤压前几年千万百计吹胀的房地产泡沫,为了达到这一目标,中国不少中小企业的流动资金枯竭,陷入破产境地,目前在福建厦门与浙江温州方兴未艾的逃债潮就是紧缩银根、资金链断裂的产物。

再也没有比这个获奖理由能更生动地说明中国政府在第四轮经济过热所承担的角色。第一条是刺激经济,即“纵火”有功;第二条是挤压泡沫,即“消防”有功,横竖有功,这个奖给的也真算绝——必须说明的是,由于种种原因,周小川这个央行行长对中国的货币政策作不得主,他主政的央行,最多是中央政治局与国务院的一个工具。我以这个奖的获奖理由来做为本文开头,只是因为它太生动地说明了中国经济这几年走势背后的荒谬。

如果说在第二、三轮经济过热当中,中国的经济是依靠内需、外贸与投资三驾马车拉动,过热发生在外贸与投资两驾马车的车体上,自2009年开始的第四轮可不是这样,这一轮经济过热几乎完全就是依靠政府天量投资。这一轮过热几乎完全承接了第三轮过热中的所有问题,并且加倍放大:如地方政府对土地财政的过度依赖、资源型产业的两大问题(带血的GDP与高度环境污染),经济的高度对外依存,内需严重不足,产业结构的严重不平衡,唯一可见的主要成就是政府财政收入激增,当然也伴之以社会反抗事件的激增,去年已增至18万起。

第四轮经济过热造成的陷阱之多之深前所未有。

高通胀陷阱。中国这段时期的通胀率之高,远超过国家统计局愿意承认的数据。而通货膨胀之主因,就是货币发行过多。根据官方数据,2009年广义货币供应量为60.6万亿元,是GDP的1.8倍,多出了27.1万亿元,2010年前三季度就超发43万亿元。总理温家宝的两次讲话——从今年两会期间要“消除房价物价上涨的货币基础”,到4月13日温相在国务院常务会议上强调“消除通货膨胀的货币因素”,正式承认发行货币过多。

公共工程的质量安全陷阱。这一时期政府投资,人称“铁公鸡”,即铁路、公路、基础设施建设。以第四轮经济过热当中投资最大、雄心最膨胀的铁路建设来说,堪称腐败丑闻不断,营运事故不断。今年327温州动车事件,暴露了中国用从各国“拿来”的技术拼装的“自主创新产品”中国高铁,存在严重的安全隐忧,不仅高铁从此不再高速,向世界输出高铁技术的美梦也一并破产。

地方债务陷阱。为了向银行大量举债,各级地方政府设立了“地方融资平台”。央行实行“宽松货币政策”的两年之间,全国各银行借给地方融资平台的钱到底有多少?据央行公布的《2010中国区域金融运行报告》,截至2010年年末,全国共有地方政府融资平台1万余家(省、市、县三级),2010年末银行系统的全部贷款余额为47.92万亿元,其中30%是地方融资平台贷款,总额约为14.4万亿元,其中三分之一是由国家开发银行贷放,其余则由国有商业银行及城市商业银行。现确定其中有2万亿到3万亿有违约风险。

宽松货币政策造成了前三个陷阱之后,货币紧缩又挖了一个目前正在发酵的民间信贷陷阱。在巨大的通胀压力与地方债务陷阱面前,央行不得不收紧银根。在央行不断缩紧银根的宏观背景下,民间借贷不论是规模还是利率都近于疯狂,连经济落后的地方也开始疯狂放贷,放贷现象大规模入侵资本市场,最后酝酿成中国式信贷危机,目前因资金链条断裂发生大面积的借贷人违约逃债现象,风险高危区包括浙江、江苏、福建、河南以及内蒙古等省区。据《温州民间借贷市场调查》显示,当前1100亿元温州民间借贷资金中,用于一般生产经营的占35%, 用于房地产项目投资或集资炒房的占20%。

陷入民间信贷陷阱的中小企业纷纷垮台。融资难导致中小企业转向民间借贷,这种“饮鸩止渴”的高利贷严重侵蚀企业利润,正在成为压垮中小企业的最后一根稻草。据9月初发布的《2011年中国工业经济运行夏季报告》显示,今年1至7月,在31万户规模以上企业中,亏损企业户数为4万户,亏损面为 12.7%。值得注意的是,企业亏损程度却在逐月加重:亏损企业亏损额增幅由1至2月的22.2%上升至1至6月的 41.6%,1至7月又进一步升至46.9%。因无法承担民间借贷利息的企业家纷纷逃亡或者自杀,成为近期中国新闻经常出现的内容。

如果要画个简单明了的图象,第四轮经济过热的因果图如下:政府发行天量货币—投资过热—紧缩银根-民间借贷猖獗-福建温州等地高利贷屡现崩盘逃债—中小企业纷纷垮台。

那么,北京能够吸取教训,不再一会“放火”一会“消防”吗?答案是:不能。中国副财长早就讲过,“中国有句古话叫做‘上山难,下山更难’,如果把刺激政策的角色比作上山的话,把退出政策的角色比作下山,我想退出比决定当 时刺激还要难一些。”北京确实不会轻言退出,前几天官方消息透露,沪浙粤深四地年内将成为自主发债试点,发债总额约251亿。如果人们不健忘,就在两三个月前,担心中国深陷地方债务泥潭的声音一度成为媒体重要话题。

如此情况,让任期内经历了两次经济过热的温家宝总理谈什么好呢?除了空言政治体制改革,真是无可再谈。



China’s Economy: a cycle of arson and firefighting (II)

Written by He Qinglian on September 29, 2011

(translated by krizcpec)

http://hqlenglish.blogspot.com/2011/10/chinas-economy-cycle-of-fire-two.html

On September 25 Euromoney named Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, as Euromoney’s Central Bank Governor of the year 2011. The interesting thing was what Zhou Xiaochuan listed as the reasons for being awarded in his speech delivered at the award presentation ceremony.

The reasons he gave were:

First, in response to financial crisis, China’s central bank has taken a moderately loose monetary policy and expanded the money supply, effectively supporting the real economy;
Second, since the beginning of this year China has adjusted timely its monetary policy and implemented a prudent monetary policy, namely monetary tightening.

To put it simply, it meant that within two to three years, China’s Central Bank first followed instructions to issue excessive money and blow the economic bubble, then drastically tightened money supply, and squeezed the bubble that it itself had blew out of proportion—that was the main reason China’s central bank governor got awarded.

Those who are familiar with China’s economy would understand at first glance that the first point referred to the excessive currency, issued by China’s central bank since 2009, that the government used as an investment to stimulate the economy.
How much was issued?
Since 2009 the central government had invested four to five trillion yuan of funds in the market; to stimulate the economy, local governments had also used extensively the financing platform to borrow nearly 14.4 trillion yuan, roughly half of which was said to have entered housing and stock markets, thus these two economic bubbles of China could continue to expand.

And the second point was about the central bank’s having to grit its teeth and tightened the money supply. In the first half of this year, the People’s Bank of China raised six times the statutory deposit reserve ratio.

This tightening measure aimed to squeeze the real property bubble which had been made to expand with every possible means in the past few years. The attempt to achieve this goal bankrupted many China’s SMEs which liquidity had dried up. The yet-to-be-fully-unfolded trend of business owners running away from debts that is happening in Xiamen, Fujian and Wenzhou, Zhejiang is a product of tightening money supply and the rupture of the capital chain.
There are no better points to illustrate the role the Chinese government has played in the fourth round of economic overheating than these two reasons of Zhou’s being awarded. The first one: the government had done its job by stimulating the economy, that is, “arson”; the second: it had succeeded in squeezing the bubble, in other words, “firefighting”. Either way, it had done something. What a prize to be received for these! I must point out though that for various reasons, Zhou Xiaochuan as the governor of the central bank has no authority over China’s monetary policy. The central bank under his leadership is at most a tool of the Politburo and the State Council.
I began this article with the reasons of Zhou’s being awarded only because it outlines so vividly the absurdity behind China’s economic trend in recent years.
If at the times when the second and third rounds of economic overheating took place, China’s economy was driven by three carriages: domestic demand, foreign trade and investment—with the latter two hit by overheating. That was not the case for the fourth round of economic overheating.
The fourth round of economic overheating, triggered almost entirely by the staggering over-investment from the government, inherited nearly all the problems of the third of overheating, and doubly magnified them: local governments over-dependence on land revenue; the two major problems with resource-based industries—blood-stained GDP and high degree of environmental pollution; and gave rise to an economy that is highly externally dependent, troubled by gross inadequate domestic demand, and developed serious imbalance in industrial structure.
The only visible major achievement was the surge in government revenue, which of course was accompanied by the proliferation of social resistant incidents, which had increased to 180000 cases last year.
The traps laid by the fourth round of economic overheating are unprecedented both in number and depth.

The trap of high inflation

China’s inflation rate during this period has been so high that it far exceeded the figure that the State Statistical Bureau was willing to admit. The main cause of inflation was excessive money printing.

According to official data, the broad money supply in 2009 was 60.6 trillion yuan, 1.8 times of the GDP, or a surplus of 27.1 trillion yuan compared to the GDP figure. And in just the first three quarters of 2010 forty-three trillion yuan was issued in excess.

The two speeches by Premier Wen Jiabao—the one delivered during the annual meetings of NPC and CPPCC this year that stated the need to “eliminate the monetary base of the rise in housing and commodity prices”, and the other during the State Council executive meeting on April 13 that stressed it is necessary “to eliminate the monetary factors that drove up inflation”—have formally acknowledged that excessive amount of currency was issued.

The trap of quality and safety of public works

In the fourth round of economic overheating, the Government invested in construction of rail, highway and infrastructure. Rail construction, the most ambitious of all projects and received the largest share of investment, has been plagued by corruption scandals and operational incidents. The Wenzhou train crash incident that happened on July 23 this year exposed serious security concerns with China’s high-speed rail, the “independently innovated product” that China put together the technologies that were grabbed from other countries.
Not only has the high-speed rail ceased to be high-speed after that, the country’s dream to export its own high-speed rail technology has also gone bust.

The trap of local debts

In order to borrow massively from banks, all levels of local governments set up their own “local financing platform”. How much then did banks across the country lend to “local financing platforms” within the two years that the central bank implemented the “loose monetary policy”?

According to the China Regional Financial Performance Report 2010 (2010中国区域金融运行报告) published by the central bank, there were altogether more than 10,000 financing platforms of local government (at provincial, city and county levels) by the end of 2010; the loans from banking system totaled 47.92 trillion yuan, of which 30% was loaned to local financing platform, that was about $ 14.4 trillion yuan. A third of this 14.4 trillion yuan was from China development bank, the remainder from state-owned commercial banks as well as city commercial banks. Now it has been confirmed that two to three trillion of these loans are at risk of default.

In addition to the three above-mentioned traps that were laid by the loose monetary policy, monetary tightening dug another—the trap of private lending, a crisis that is still unfolding.

In the face of huge inflation pressure and the trap of local debts, the central bank has no option but to tighten money supply. Under the big picture of the central bank’s continual monetary tightening, both the scale of private lending and its interest rates are both driven close to madness. Even areas that are less economically developed have begun crazy lending. Such a phenomenon invaded the capital market on a massive scale, and eventually brewed into a Chinese-style credit crisis.

At present this rupture of the capital chain triggered the phenomenon of borrowers running away from debts and default in vast areas, provinces like Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian, Henan and Inner Mongolia are among the high risk zones.

According to Wenzhou private lending market survey (温州民间借贷市场调查), of the current 110 billion yuan private lending funds in Wenzhou, 35% have been used in general manufacturing and 20% in real estate investment or speculation.

Engulfed in the trap of private lending, SMEs collapsed in succession. Financing difficulty prompted SMEs to turn to private lenders for loans, which entailed high interest charges that ate deeply into corporate profits and is becoming the last straw that would crush the SMEs.

The Summer report on China’s industrial economic operation 2011 (2011年中国工业经济运行夏季报告), published in early September, showed that from January to July this year, of the 310,000 enterprises above the scale, 40,000 or 12.7% had recorded losses. It is noteworthy that business losses have been increasingly serious by the month—

The percentage of increase in losses from loss-making companies rose from 22.2% in January to February to 41.6% in January to June. The figure rose further to 46.9% in January to July.

It has become a recurring content of recent China news report that entrepreneurs who could not afford the interest charges of private loans have fled with their entire family or committed suicide.

If a simple graph is needed to make things clear and easy to understand, the casual map of the fourth round of economic overheating would be as follows: first, the government issued staggering amount of money, which resulted in excessive investment, which in turn triggered monetary tightening, and rampant private lending ensued. And this induced repeated usury collapses and flights from debts in places like Fujian and Wenzhou and eventually SMEs went bust in succession.

Then, can Beijing learn the lesson and quit setting things ablaze in one moment and fighting the fire in another? The answer is: no.

China’s Deputy Minister of Finance has said long ago that “there is an old Chinese saying, ‘to go up hill is difficult, to come down from it is even more so’. If the role of stimulus policy is seen as going up hill, and the withdrawal policy as coming down from it. I think the decision to withdraw from the market would be harder to make than the one to stimulate it.”

Indeed, Beijijng would not quit easily. A few days back, official information revealed that Shanghai, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Shenzhen will within this year participate in a trial program to directly issue local government bonds, which in sum will be worth approximately 25.1 billion. If people are not forgetful, they should be able to recall that two or three months ago, the voice of worries that China would be deeply trapped in the quagmire of local debts was at one point the important topic of the media.

With a situation like this, what should premier Wen, who experienced economic overheating twice during his term speak of then? Apart from empty talk on political system reform, there really is nothing else left to say.
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