Shanghai skyline at night

Los dobles desafíos de China

LONDRES El comunicado sobre política monetaria de este mes del Banco Popular de China (PBOC) contenía una declaración sorprendente: "Si la coyuntura endógena es inadecuada y los retornos de la inversión son bajos, el crecimiento debe depender, en gran medida, de la deuda". Esas palabras resaltan los dobles desafíos -reales y financieros- que hoy enfrenta la economía china.

En el ámbito de lo real, China necesita alcanzar una transición que la aparte del crecimiento insostenible liderado por la inversión. Inclusive antes de la crisis de 2008, la tasa de inversión de China del 41% del PIB era extraordinariamente alta. Pero en 2010-2011, había trepado al 47%, en tanto las autoridades generaron un boom inmobiliario y de construcción de infraestructura destinado a contrarrestar la amenaza a las exportaciones y al empleo planteada por el desapalancamiento de los países avanzados.

El plan funcionó. El empleo en las industrias de la construcción aumentó de 28 millones en 2007 a 45 millones en 2013. Pero luego, inevitablemente, sobrevino un importante derroche de inversión: edificios de departamentos enormes en ciudades de segundo y tercer nivel que nunca se ocuparán, y sectores de la industria pesada, como el acero y el cemento, que padecen una sobrecapacidad crónica. De 2007 a 2013, cuando cayeron los retornos promedio sobre la inversión, la relación incremental entre capital y producción -las unidades de inversión que se necesitan para alcanzar cada unidad adicional de PIB- se duplicó, llegando a seis.

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