Chart of the Day: China’s Debt Bubble Continues to Swell


Via Paul Krugman, Atif Mian and Amir Sufi give us the chart below today to chew over. It shows China’s declining trade surplus over the past decade, which authorities have effectively offset by a dramatic increase in private credit in order to boost domestic demand. The authors explain how this happened:

China got a break starting 2003….The rest of the world — and in particular the United States — was willing to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars every year to purchase Chinese goods (among other things)….The result was reduced pressure on domestic debt creation, and domestic debt went down from 125% of GDP in 2003 to almost 100% of GDP in 2008.

….The continued borrowing by western countries was not sustainable and by 2008 global demand for Chinese goods collapsed….How could China create new demand for its productive capacity? The answer once again came in the form of a rapid rise in domestic private debt. The Chinese state-owned banks with explicit prodding from the government opened their spigots. The country has seen an explosive growth in domestic private debt since 2008.

Is this sustainable? Probably not. It’s yet another reason to be concerned about the continued fragility of the global economy. We’re probably not strong enough to withstand a major shock from China.

$500,000 MATCHING GIFT

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.