L’économie mondiale et les vents contraires chinois

BEIJING – L'an dernier, l'économie mondiale aurait dû entamer un retour à la normale. Les taux d'intérêt devaient commencer à augmenter aux États-Unis et au Royaume-Uni ; l’assouplissement quantitatif devait faire augmenter l'inflation au Japon; et la confiance restaurée dans les banques devait permettre une reprise financée par le crédit dans la zone euro. Douze mois plus tard, la normalité semble plus éloignée que jamais – et les difficultés économiques de la Chine en sont une cause majeure.

Pour stimuler la croissance économique et assurer sa prospérité, la Chine a cherché à suivre le chemin taillé par le Japon, la Corée du Sud et Taiwan, mais avec une différence essentielle : sa taille. Avec des populations de 127 millions, 50 millions et 23 millions, respectivement, ces économies asiatiques modèles pouvaient compter sur une croissance tirée par les exportations pour les hisser à des niveaux de revenus élevés. Or, le marché mondial n’est tout simplement pas assez grand pour assurer des revenus élevés aux 1,3 milliards de citoyens chinois.

Bien sûr, le modèle basé sur les exportations a fonctionné pendant un certain temps en Chine, où l’excédent commercial a atteint 10% du PIB en 2007 et une forte création d’emplois industriels a absorbé la main-d'œuvre rurale excédentaire. Néanmoins, le revers de la médaille de l'excédent de la Chine a été la création d'énormes déficits alimentés par le crédit dans d’autres pays, notamment aux États-Unis. Lorsque la bulle du crédit s’est effondrée en 2008, les marchés d'exportation de la Chine ont souffert.

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