El riesgo oculto de la deuda china

PEKÍN – Durante los últimos 200 años hubo más de 250 casos de cesación de pagos de deuda soberana y 68 de incumplimiento de deuda interna. Ninguno constituyó un incidente aislado. De hecho, esos incumplimientos –combinados con factores como grandes déficits de cuenta corriente o fiscales, monedas sobrevaluadas, elevados niveles de endeudamiento en el sector público e suficientes reservas de divisas– siempre han disparado crisis financieras, desde la crisis del peso mexicano en 1994, pasando por la crisis del rublo ruso en 1998, hasta la crisis de las hipotecas de alto riesgo estadounidenses en 2008.

Desde que comenzó la era de las reformas y la apertura en China, ese país ha experimentado problemas de gran escala en sus finanzas públicas en tres instancias. A fines de la década de 1970, el país enfrentó un debilitante déficit fiscal. En la década de 1990, su sector corporativo estaba plagado de «deudas triangulares» (cuando un fabricante que no ha recibido el pago por sus productos es incapaz de pagar a sus proveedores, quienes, a su vez, tienen problemas para pagar a los suyos). Más tarde en esa década, las instituciones financieras recibieron la carga de deudas de mala calidad generadas por empresas estatales.

Ahora China experimenta la cuarta instancia de elevado riesgo en su deuda, esta vez caracterizada por la acumulación de altos niveles de deuda corporativa y de los gobiernos locales. Por cierto, el balance nacional chino, que exhibe activos netos positivos, ha atraído mucha atención en los últimos años. Pero, para evaluar con precisión el riesgo financiero chino, los responsables de políticas y economistas deben considerar los riesgos que residen en la estructura de activos del país –y los pasivos que no están incluidos en su balance.

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