Le mauvais rêve de la Chine

LONDRES – Depuis son premier discours en tant que président de la Chine l’année dernière, Xi Jinping épouse ce que l’on appelle le « rêve chinois » de rajeunissement national et de progrès personnel. Mais l’impératif de réagir face au montant sans précédent de la dette que la Chine a accumulée ces dernières années met la résolution de Xi à dure épreuve – et son gouvernement s’inquiète.

L’incertitude quand à l’aptitude – ou à la volonté – du gouvernement chinois de maîtriser la dette se devine dans son engagement contradictoire à mettre en place les grandes réformes structurelles tout en maintenant un taux de croissance annuelle du PIB de 7,5%. Dans la mesure où la Chine doit une grande part de sa croissance récente à des investissements financés par la dette – souvent dans des projets liés à l’infrastructure et à l’habitat supposés soutenir le rêve chinois – tout effort pour contrôler la croissance du crédit risque de se traduire par un atterrissage difficile. Cette perspective suffit à convaincre les autorités de retarder les réformes critiques.

Bien sûr, le rapport dette/PIB de la Chine, qui atteint 250% ce mois-ci, reste substantiellement plus faible que celui de la plupart des économies développées. Le problème est que le stock de crédit privé devrait normalement être adossé à un PIB par habitant d’environ 25 000 dollars – soit quatre fois le niveau actuel du pays.

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