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中国时间: 03:04 2016年12月08日星期四

何清涟: 中国经济:纵火与消防的循环(一)


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。

最近半年,我几乎不再多谈中国经济,因为中国的经济的方方面面多年来已经反复分析过,再谈已了然无趣。比较有意思的是,即使职在管理中国经济的国务院总理温家宝,近一年多以来,热衷谈的也是政治而不是经济。

温总理不谈经济谈政治的背后

从去年温相在深圳开谈“政治体制改革”,到今年6月27日在英国皇家协会发表“未来中国的走向”演讲,提出“真正的民主离不开自由。真正的自由离不开经济权利和政治权利的保障”;再到今年9月14日温相在大连出席夏季达沃斯论坛举行的企业家对话会,不谈经济谈政改,而且具体化为“五点”。尽管一次比一次的内容更具体,却没有为他赢来更多的掌声。因为人们清楚地知道,这一口头政治体制改革已经无法安抚被通胀、失业、腐败、泛滥的特权折磨得心力交瘁的中国人。

我却从中读出一个悲哀的信息:中国经济已经无可再谈,这无可再谈是因为无药可救。无论是产业结构转型还是提振内需;无论是引进外资激活内资还是寻找新的经济增长点,都已经无策可施。有人说,温相是为自己身后名声考虑,故此才大谈特谈政治体制改革。但我想这并非全部,实在是因其在副总理与总理任上长达十几年,药方一剂剂试过,知道已经无药可施。由于中国经济的引擎由政府发动,从总理朱镕基1993年开始宏观调控以来,中国经济说得好听一点,在“宏观调控“政策的引导下,经历了一轮又一轮的“过热—降温——再过热—再降温”;说得难听一点,是经历了一轮又一轮政府“纵火—消防—再纵火—再消防”的循环往复。政府刺激经济发展的方式有如纵火,一旦火成燎原之势,又赶紧调控,于是就出现中国经济界习称的“一放就乱,一管就死”。

经济病根由政府而生,就经济谈经济又有何用?多谈等于打自己嘴巴。这就是温相不谈经济谈政治的主要原因之一。

通胀为何与中国经济的增长相伴生?

先概述改革以来的四轮经济过热发生时间及其主要特点。

第一轮是1987—1988年,中国这两年的GDP增长速度分别高达11.6%和11.3%,直接导致1988—1989年的居民消费价格指数分别上涨了18.8%和18.0%,造成严重的通货膨胀。第二轮是1992—1996年, 6年间GDP增速各年均超过10%。第三轮是2002—2007年,中国GDP连续6年高速增长,其中5年增速超过10%左右。但排除了上涨极其迅速的房地产等消费品在外的居民消费价格指数看起来却维持在低位运行。第四轮经济过热(主要是投资过热与房地产过热)则是2009年之后中国政府投入四、五万亿救市所致,即典型的“投资推动型经济过热”,而且主要是政府“过度投资”,而这投资的资金不少来自于银行印钞票,通货膨胀这只老虎终于被放出笼子。

如果要追溯根源,中国今天难以收拾的通货膨胀,以及难以改善的经济结构,就是在第三轮经济过热时埋下的。说起来有几大因素:

第一,因为第三轮经济过热已经与前两轮有很大的不同。前两次经济过热是在“经济短缺”的“卖方市场”背景下发生的,通货膨胀极易表现为短期内快速的物价全面暴涨。而第三轮经济过热则是在市场供给畅旺、大部分消费品形成“买方市场”格局下出现的,表现为 “先结构性上涨、后加速全面上扬”的过程。由此可见,现在中国的通货膨胀现象具有较强的隐蔽性和结构性。

第二,第一轮经济过热只有高通胀相随,第二轮股市和房市刚冒泡沫就被朱相的宏观调控强压下去了。但第三轮经济过热,财富增长的四大板块就是土地、矿产、金融与股市,中国金融行业与超大型国企都需要上市圈钱,各级地方政府财政在这段时期形成对土地的高度依赖,结果必须是导致股市泡沫与房市泡沫联袂而至,二者互为因果、相互催化,推动物价上涨。为第四轮经济过热的通胀埋下病根。

第三,前两次经济过热的动力源主要是国内因素,而第三轮经济过热的动力源却有诸多外部因素,这些外部因素有的是因为中国经济增长模式决定,比如此时中国经济已经进入高度依赖外部资源时期,无论是石油、铁、铝还是其它矿产,只要加进了“中国因素”,就立刻改变世界市场的供求格局,价格飞涨。比如中国外贸的顺差等累积的巨额外汇储备,需要央行发行货币来“购买”,因此埋下了一个重要的通胀因素。至于中国第四轮更是完全来自于中国政府的自我膨胀。比如在世界都无法避免金融危机的冲击之际,各国都在想办法收缩调整,挤泡沫,中国却反其道行之,非但不挤泡沫调结构,还投入巨额资金救市,希图维持“中国经济一枝独秀”的虚假繁荣,甚至得了头大症,对“中国拯救世界经济”这种说法甘之如饴。

(对第四轮及中国经济现状分析请见后续文章)

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

Written by He Qinglian on September 22, 2011

(translated by krizcpec)

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

In this past six months, I have almost completely stopped discussing China’s economy. There’s nothing more to say after I have done repeated analyzes of its various aspects. However, it’s interesting that Premier Wen Jiabao, despite being responsible for managing the country’s economy, has been talking enthusiastically about politics instead of economy for more than a year now.

The reasons behind Premier Wen Jiabao talking about politics instead of economy

From his speech that raised the issue of “Political system reform” last year, to the talk “The Path to China’s Future” delivered on June 27 at the Royal Society in London, Britain stating that “Without freedom, there is no real democracy; without guarantee of economic and political rights, there is no real freedom”, and to the “five points about political reform” highlighted on September 14 when he met with CEOs at the Summer Davos Economic Forum in Dalian, Premier Wen’s talks on politics have become increasingly specific. In spite of that, Wen doesn’t win much applause.

It has become a clear awareness that the Chinese people, who have been made physically and mentally exhausted by the inflation, unemployment, corruption, and the deluge of the privileged, can no longer be pacified by calls for political system reform.

From Wen’s focus on politics, however, I decipher a sorrowful message: nothing more can be said about China’s economy. It has become irredeemable. From restructuring industries to boosting domestic demand; from attracting foreign investment to searching for new economic growth point, there is nothing that can be done about it.

Some say Wen talks so much about political system reform is out of consideration of his reputation. But I think there’s more to it than that. The actual reason is that after serving more than a decade as vice-premier and then premier, he has tested one formula after another and is aware that nothing more can be done.

The engine of China’s economy is started by the government. From the start of premier Zhu Rongji’s macroeconomic regulation and control in 1993, China’s economy could at best be said to have gone through one cycle of “overheating and cooling off” after another; at worst, it has time and again been subjected to the cycle of “arson and firefighting”.

The Chinese government stimulates economic development in ways that are like arson; and hurriedly imposes restrictions once the situation spins out of control. And so results in the phenomenon that the Chinese economic sector sum up as “things run wild whenever the regulations are loosened; and are doomed as soon as there are tough restrictions in place. (“一放就乱,一管就死”)”

With the problems of the economy originated from the government, what good does it do for the person responsible for economy to talk about economy? To talk about it more would be no different from self-contradiction. That’s one of the main reasons premier Wen talks about politics instead of economy.

Why does inflation go hand-in-hand with China’s economic growth?

Let’s first outline the occurring times and the main features of the four rounds of overheating since the Chinese economic reform.

The first round of overheating took place from 1987 to 1988. China’s GDP growth rate in these two years was as high as 11.6% and 11.3% respectively, resulting directly in an 18.8% increase in consumer price index in 1988 and 18.0% in 1989 respectively, and causing serious inflation.

The second round occurred from 1992 to 1996. In each of these years the GDP growth rate was more than 10%.

The third round spanned from 2002 to 2007. China recorded rapid GDP growth for six consecutive years, five of which had a growth rate of over 10%. But the consumer price index in those years seemed to have remained low if the extremely rapid rise of real estate and other consumer goods were excluded.

The fourth round of economic overheating—mainly in investment and real property market—was caused by the Chinese government’s attempt to bailout by pumping four to five trillion yuan into the market. A typical “investment-driven economic overheating”, it by and large could be attributed to the government’s excessive investment that was funded chiefly by the banknotes the banks had printed. The inflation tiger had finally been released from its cage.

If the root causes of inflation in today’s China that is difficult to tackle, and the economic structure that is hard to improve are traced, one would see that these could be ascribed to the third round of economic overheating.

FIRST, the third round of economic overheating has been significantly different from the previous two rounds.

The first two rounds were triggered by “Seller’s market” under the circumstances of “economic shortage”, the inflation manifested itself as a rapid overall price surge in short periods.

The third round however, was caused by a booming market supply that was translated into the situation which most of the consumer goods formed a “buyer’s market”, and the inflation demonstrated itself as a process of “initial structural rise and subsequent overall leap with accelerated speed”. From this we could see the inflation phenomenon in China had become more structural in nature and harder to spot.

SECOND, the first round of economic overheating was accompanied by high inflation only; the second round was oppressed by Zhu Rongji’s macroeconomic regulation and control as soon as the bubbles in stock and housing market began to form.

But in the third round, the four pillars of wealth growth were land, mineral resources, finance and stock market. China’s financial industry and gigantic state-owned enterprises needed to go public so as to grab money; while all levels of local governments started to become highly financially dependent on land in this period.

This combination inevitably resulted in bubbles being formed in both stock and housing market. The relation of these two bubbles was one that of a reciprocal causation; they were the catalyst for each other, and together they drove up the prices, laying down the foundations for the fourth round of economic overheating.

THIRD, while the first two rounds of economic overheating were set off mainly by domestic factors, the third round was sparked off by various external factors, some of which were determined by the economic growth model of China.

For instance, China’s economy has entered the phase of highly dependent on foreign/external resources. Be it petroleum, iron, aluminum or other minerals, once the “China factor” is added, the pattern of world market supply and demand would change immediately, and result in prices shooting way up.

And the fact that the central bank need to issue currency to “purchase” the huge foreign exchange reserves China has accumulated from foreign trade surplus and other economic activities has become a significant antecedent of future inflation.

As for the fourth round of economic overheating, it is solely the result of the Chinese government’s inflated ego. While the entire world could not avoid the shock waves from the financial crisis, and each of the countries sought ways to shrink, to adjust, and to squeeze the bubble, China did things the other way round.

It did not squeeze the bubble or carry out structural adjustment. On the contrary, it injected huge amount of funds to bailout the market, with the hope to maintain the false prosperous image of “China’s economy outshining all others”. The Chinese government became so obsessed with this image that it lost its head and indulged itself in the saying: “China has saved the world’s economy”.

(For analysis on the fourth round of economic overheating and the current status of China’s economy, please see the next article)
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