BREAKING: China Still Not Collapsing

Matt Yglesias thinks it’s time to give China a break:

I’ve lost track of how many years we’re into the story of “debt-burdened China and its unsustainable investment-fueled growth are about to crash and burn” but this morning came the news of a rebound in economic growth despite a fall in exports after a couple of down quarters. Naturally the news article is nonetheless filled with gloom and doom about bad debts and overinvestment and blah blah blah.

And to be clear, I think that two things are true. One is that as China gets richer and richer its growth rate is going to be on a downward trajectory. The other is that if you predict a Chinese financial crisis every month for enough straight months, eventually the Chinese financial crisis will occur.

True dat. Unfortunately, this is probably evidence not that China won’t crash, but that bubbles can almost always be sustained longer than people think. In the U.S. serious people started to bang the drum about the housing bubble as early as 2002, and by 2005 everyone was tired of it. But the very next year, the market peaked and started its epic collapse.

Nonetheless, I agree with Yglesias. That’s not to say China will never suffer from a recession. It will, just like every other country. But its real problems are less bubblific in nature than they are structural and long-term: aging demographics, rising wages, global competition, and the automation of the workplace. Getting to a per capita GDP of $10,000 has been an amazing achievement, but getting to $20,000 is going to be a lot harder.