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China’s Risky Finances

BEIJING – In the coming years, China’s government will have to confront significant challenges to achieve stable, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth. But, with mounting fiscal and financial risks threatening to derail its efforts, policymakers must act quickly to design and implement prudent, forward-looking policies.

The most significant medium- and long-term threat to China’s fiscal position lies in the system of implicit guarantees that the central government has established for local-government debt. In the wake of the global financial crisis, local governments borrowed heavily from banks to support China’s massive stimulus program, amassing ¥10.7 trillion ($1.7 trillion) worth of debt by 2011.