China’s Rebalancing Act

BEIJING – China’s 12th Five-Year Plan calls for a shift in the country’s economic model from export-led growth toward greater reliance on domestic demand, particularly household consumption. Since the Plan’s introduction, China’s current-account surplus as a share of GDP has indeed fallen. But does that mean that China’s adjustment is on track?

According to the IMF, the fall in China’s current-account surplus/GDP ratio has largely been the result of very high levels of investment, a weak global environment, and an increase in prices for commodity imports that has outpaced the rise in prices for Chinese manufactured goods. So the fall in China’s external surplus/GDP ratio does not represent economic “rebalancing”; on the contrary, the Fund predicts that the ratio will rebound in 2013 and approach its pre-crisis level thereafter.