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Overhauling China

Pessimism about China has become pervasive in recent months, with fear of a “China meltdown” sending shock waves through stock markets worldwide since the beginning of the year. But with the right mix of reforms – including political reforms – China can continue its march toward high-income status.

LONDON – Pessimism about China has become pervasive in recent months, with fear of a “China meltdown” sending shock waves through stock markets worldwide since the beginning of the year. And practically everyone, it seems, is going short on the country.

There is certainly plenty of reason for concern. GDP growth has slowed sharply; corporate-debt ratios are unprecedentedly high; the currency is sliding; equity markets are exceptionally volatile; and capital is flowing out of the country at an alarming pace. The question is why this is happening, and whether China’s authorities can fix it, before it is too late.

The popular – and official – view is that China is undergoing a transition to a “new normal” of slower GDP growth, underpinned by domestic consumption, rather than exports. And, as usual, a handful of economic studies have been found to justify the concept. But this interpretation, while convenient, can provide only false comfort.

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