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China’s Macroeconomic Imbalances: Causes and Consequences

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  • John Knight
  • Wei Wang

Abstract

In recent years China has experienced two forms of extreme macroeconomic imbalance: an expenditure imbalance in the sense of very high investment and very low consumption, giving rise to rapid capital accumulation; and an imbalance between expenditure and pro-duction, producing external imbalance, i.e. a huge surplus on the current account of the balance of payments. Both imbalances imply a low rate of time discount by both govern-ment and society: consumption in the present is forgone in favour of consumption in the future. The paper examines how these imbalances came about, and goes on to consider whether they can be sustained and how they might be redressed. There is no evidence that the rapid capital accumulation has reduced the rate of profit on capital and thus the incen-tive to invest. However, persistent external imbalance poses a threat to investment if it ge-nerates excess liquidity and asset bubbles. The current account surplus rose remarkably in the years 2004-7. This was associated with exogenous increases in competiveness and in saving, both attributable to the economic reform policies. On current policies, the surplus is likely to rise again once the world economy recovers from its recession. This poses three sorts of problems, each of which is examined in turn: difficulties for macroeconomic stabi-lization policies; risk of capital loss on the foreign exchange holdings; and the threat of re-taliation by China's trading partners. A combination of internal and external policies will be required to redress the imbalance. Keywords: China; investment; consumption; current account; exchange rate; external im-balance; macroeconomic imbalance. JEL Classification: E21; E22; E61; F32; F41; F51.
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Suggested Citation

  • John Knight & Wei Wang, 2011. "China’s Macroeconomic Imbalances: Causes and Consequences," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(9), pages 1476-1506, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:34:y:2011:i:9:p:1476-1506
    DOI: j.1467-9701.2011.01389.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Marchetti, Juan & Ruta, Michele & Teh, Robert, 2012. "Trade imbalances and multilateral trade cooperation," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2012-23, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
    2. Bonatti, Luigi & Fracasso, Andrea, 2013. "Hoarding of international reserves in China: Mercantilism, domestic consumption and US monetary policy," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 1044-1078.
    3. Warwick J. McKibbin & Andrew B. Stoeckel & YingYing Lu, 2014. "Global Fiscal Adjustment and Trade Rebalancing," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(7), pages 892-922, July.
    4. repec:bla:buecrs:v:68:y:2016:i:s1:p:146-170 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Dennis Tao Yang, 2012. "Aggregate Savings and External Imbalances in China," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(4), pages 125-146, Fall.
    6. Bonatti, Luigi & Fracasso, Andrea, 2013. "Regime switches in the Sino-American co-dependency: Growth and structural change in China," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 1-32.
    7. Willem Thorbecke, 2013. "Investigating China's Disaggregated Processed Exports: Evidence that Both the RMB and Exchange Rates in Supply Chain Countries Matter," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(10), pages 1245-1260, October.
    8. Bonatti, Luigi & Fracasso, Andrea, 2014. "Modeling the Transition Towards Renminbi's Full Convertibility: Implications for China’s Growth," MPRA Paper 54129, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Nguyen, Vu Hong Thai & Boateng, Agyenim, 2015. "Bank excess reserves in emerging economies: A critical review and research agenda," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 158-166.
    10. Andrea Fracasso, 2015. "Economic Rebalancing and Growth: the Japanese experience and China’s prospects," DEM Discussion Papers 2015/07, Department of Economics and Management.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • F51 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Conflicts; Negotiations; Sanctions

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