China Confronts the Global Meltdown

The second half of 2008 witnessed a significant slowdown in China’s exports, domestic investment, industrial output, and tax revenues. But, while a major global slowdown seems to be looming, China’s rapid growth will persist.

BEIJING – For three decades, China has been growing at an average annual rate of 9.8%. For most of this time, world markets were favorable, with no major global economic or financial crisis or slowdown. Yes, there were regional crises such as Southeast Asia’s financial turmoil of 1997-1998 or the collapse of Japan’s housing bubble in 1990 and America’s high-tech bubble in 2000. But none of these proved a serious obstacle to China’s long boom.

The past three months, however, have seen a significant slowdown in China’s exports, domestic investment, industrial output, and tax revenues. A major slowdown seems to be looming. Will China’s rapid growth persist?

I believe it will. Within China, the current slowdown is mostly homemade. Since 2004, China’s government has sought to cool an overheating economy by bringing the growth rate down from 12% to a more sustainable 8-9%. It even began to tax exports in order to reduce the trade surplus.

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