The beginning of 2012 is a suitable moment to assess China's economic prospects for the year and coming period. This overall perspective is clear – China will grow strongly, remaining the world's fastest growing major economy, and will continue to substantially outperform Western pessimist predictions. This is the same fundamental analysis maintained by the author over the last two decade period. Factual results during these twenty years have confirmed such projections - as opposed to the opposite perspective. As accurate or inaccurate predictions do not depend on personal characteristics, but on different fundamental analyses, therefore what leads to repeatedly correct and incorrect projections regarding China's economic growth?
The core issue is simple but difficult for the majority of non-Chinese analysts to admit, despite constant confirmation by economic facts and repeated falsification of predictions of China's serious slowdown. This core issue is that statements by Chinese analysts that China has a stronger economic structure than the US and Europe, and that this therefore produces stronger economic performance, is not a boast but actually factually correct. As this stronger character of China's economic structure is not understood by many Western analysts, they therefore systematically, and each year, underestimate China's economic growth potential.
Nevertheless, a genuine difficulty for non-Chinese analysts is that explanations of this economic strength are frequently posed only in terms of specifically 'Chinese characteristics'. It is therefore worth spelling out more generally why China has a stronger economic structure than the US and Europe, and how this relates to global economic issues that will be faced in 2012.
A model performance [By Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn]
China self-definition of its system is a 'socialist market economy'. This denotes it differs fundamentally from the economy, modeled on the former USSR, which existed prior to China's 1978 economic reforms, in that economic policy is not run by administrative but by market means. China has a large and vibrant private sector – indeed the world's most rapidly growing private sector. However China differs from the US or Europe in having a sufficiently large state sector, and a nationalised core banking system, that it can directly set the economy's overall investment level – the state sector is too small in the US or Europe to achieve this. This combination of market system and a state sector sufficiently strong to determine the overall level of investment is what gives China its greater economic strength than the US or Europe - such a structure can be understood either from a Chinese 'socialist' point of view or a Western 'Keynesian' one, and for present purposes it is unimportant which is chosen.
To illustrate this, consider a key contemporary economic problem – the current situation in the US. The Financial Times on December 15 accurately described the situation in the US economy. It noted that the share of wages in US GDP had fallen to the lowest level since records began and concluded: 'The decline in the labor share, along with a shift of labor income towards higher earners, may be an important part of why the US economic recovery is so sluggish. Workers on lower wages consume much of their income, while higher wage earners and those with capital income are more likely to save. That will not affect total demand if savers lend to those who want to consume or invest in buildings and start-ups – but investment has been slow to recover in the wake of the recession.'
In short, the US economy is growing slowly not because there is a shortage of funds for investment, on the contrary profits are at a record high, but because investment is very low – indeed the entire decline in US GDP in the current 'Great Recession' is accounted for by the investment fall. The problem is that in the US there is no mechanism which ensures that the huge funds available for investment are actually invested.
In China no such problem exists. If funds are not directly invested by companies, then the state owned banking system and state sector can invest them. Therefore no shortfall of demand occurs of the type analysed by the Financial Times in the US. During the entire international financial crisis China, unlike the US, suffered no investment decline – on the contrary investment increased. The problem of accumulation of unused funds of the US type, that is in Keynesian terms a shortage of effective demand, does not arise in China. Equally if China's economy is booming, and companies are utilizing all funds for investment, the state steps back and cuts its own investment – reducing it to cool overheating. That is why China's macroeconomic policy is stronger than that in the US - the problems of either shortage of or excessive demand, which plague the US and European economies, are smoothed in China.
This evidently does not mean China escapes all macroeconomic issues. No policy maker can judge absolutely accurately how strongly the international economy will grow, what will be all the inflationary or deflationary pressures present, exactly how China's own economy will respond to a given measure etc. Therefore there are always issues of overheating, undershooting, inflation, deflation etc. But these are qualitatively smaller fluctuations than in the US or Europe.
The period since the onset of the international financial crisis showed this strength of China's economic structure clearly. Faced with the international financial crisis in 2008, China was able to launch a massive stimulus package which meant its economy did not suffer a recession at all. The recovery of the world economy in 2010-2011 combined with the aftermath of the stimulus package to create some economic overheating and 2011 was therefore mainly spent damping inflation. In 2012, with negative trends dominating the world economy, China will loosen policy.
The overall result is evident. In the four years to the latest economic data, for the 3rd quarter of 2011, the US grew by 0.5 percent, the EU shrank by 0.3 percent, and China grew by 42.2 percent. China's economy therefore suffered some fluctuations on a strong growth path, whereas the US and Europe suffered overall economic stagnation. The stronger character of China's economic system was shown by these facts – those predicting crisis for China, on the same scale as the US or Europe, made the wrong predictions because they failed to analyze that strength.
It is this superior strength of China's economic structure that also makes it clearly possible to predict for 2012 that China's economy will continue to grow strongly, that it will remain the fastest growing major economy in the world, and that it will outperform on the upside Western pessimists predictions – as in previous years the facts of 2012 will confirm that analysis. Not until they understand the greater structural strength of China's economy will current critics be able to make persistently accurate predictions.
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A shorter and edited version of this article originally appeared on China.org.cn.