China’s economic growth has become a key factor not only for itself but for world markets. As the scale of China's impact is still too frequently underestimated it should be noted that, measured in current dollars and at market exchange rates, i.e. in terms of actual effective demand, in the three years following the start of the international financial crisis China contributed 33.4 per cent of global market growth – more than four times as much as the US 8.1 per cent (Table 1). While final data for 2011 is not yet available, it is already clear from the first three quarters figures that China’s market last year expanded by over $1 trillion – approximately twice as much in dollars as the US, despite US growth having resumed. Table 1 makes clear no other economy has approached China in terms of market/global aggregate demand expansion.
It is therefore a key question whether China will continue essentially the same scale of market growth in 2012. The answer is ‘yes’ - but because of the issue’s importance the reasons should be clearly outlined. Interlinked with this is the decisive role played by developing economies in recovery from the financial crisis – the interlinking being that China is by far the largest developing economy, while the developing economies have become China’s largest trade partners.
In the three years covering the period from the beginning of the international financial crisis to the latest available annual data, i.e. in 2007-2010, developing economies accounted for 78.6 per cent of world market growth and developed economies for only 21.4 per cent. Considered from another angle, simply taking different classifications, either the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China), or China plus Latin America, contributed the majority of world market/effective demand expansion – either of these groupings accounting for more than twice as much market expansion as the developed economies.
Turning to more detailed trends, the first feature determining China’s continued dominant position in world market expansion, one the consequences of which are insufficiently frequently noted, is that as China’s economy becomes larger a similar percentage yearly growth necessarily turns into an increasingly large annual absolute market increase - in inflation adjusted terms, China’s economy expanded by 2.3 trillion RMB in 2008, 2.4 trillion RMB in 2009, and 3.1 trillion RMB in 2010.
But even frequently cited constant price growth figures underestimate the expansion of China’s position in the world market. Actual sales, and therefore changes in aggregate demand, use real money which is affected by exchange rate shifts and inflation – further figures in this article are therefore at current market exchange rates and prices unless otherwise stated. In 2009, when China froze the RMB’s exchange rate due to the international financial crisis, China’s economy grew by $469 billion – compared to a US contraction of $353 billion. In 2010, when China allowed the RMB exchange rate to rise, its annual economic expansion rose to $935 billion and the figure will be over $1 trillion in 2011 – roughly twice US market expansion.
Table 1 also makes clear the second reason China’s market will continue its expansion. World growth is now dominated by developing economies and China is their most rapidly expanding trading partner.
Considering trends among developing economies, China accounting for 33.4 per cent of global market expansion. Latin America was second – constituting 17.3 per cent of world growth, with Brazil accounting for 58 per cent of this. China and Latin America together accounted for 50.7 per cent of world market growth..
Among other developing economic regions, South Asia contributed 8.0 per cent to world market growth, with India accounting for 84 per cent of this. Developing East Asian economies, excluding China, accounted for 7.0 per cent of world growth – Indonesia constituting 54 per cent of this. The Middle East and North Africa accounted for 6.1 per cent of world growth with no single dominant regional economy – the largest contributor, Egypt, constituted only 19.9 per cent of the total. Developing countries in Europe and Central Asia accounted for 4.5 per cent of world growth – of which 55 per cent was Russia. Sub-Saharan Africa grew rapidly, but due to its low starting point only contributed 2.1 per cent of world growth.
Turning to developed economies, Japan illustrates the importance of currency movements for shifts in markets measured in dollar terms. Due to the yen’s sharp exchange rate rise, Japan contributed 14.9 per cent of the dollar expansion of the world market despite Japan’s economy contracting in inflation adjusted terms. The US contributed 8.2 per cent to world market growth, despite the US not having grown in constant price terms, due to the dollar rising against other currencies,
The ‘disaster area’ for world markets was the developed European economies with a decline of $668 billion - equivalent to subtracting 9.2 cent from world growth.
It is already clear 2012 will show no fundamental change in this pattern. Developed European economies will again be the worst performing region – suffering a recession possibly magnified by a low Euro exchange rate. The US should expand, but slowly compared to previous upswings in US business cycle. Therefore if the world economy is to grow this will again have to be primarily due to developing economies.
Fortunately, the large developing economies are slowing but still growing substantially more rapidly than developed ones. China, the dominant factor in the equation, even on pessimistic estimates is likely to grow by at least 7-8 per cent in real terms this year which, after increases in the exchange rate of the RMB and inflation is take into account, means an expansion of its market of probably 12-15 per cent in dollar terms. Minimum real growth estimates for India are at least seven per cent.
It is also clear from the pattern in Table 1 why BRIC economies will again dominate world growth – in 2007-2010 they contributed 52.5 per cent of world market expansion. Not only are the BRICs individually the largest developing economies but each is the centre of a major regional economic area. While Brazil has slowed, Russia’s economy has been accelerating, and it is in any case China and India which are the dominant dynamic BRIC economies.
This overall situation clearly interrelates with China as it already carries out the majority of its trade with developing economies – 54 per cent of total trade, 49 per cent of exports and 60 per cent of imports.
The implications for China’s markets are clear. China has not only the world’s most rapidly expanding domestic market, and declining inflation gives it extra room for domestic economic loosening/stimulus in 2012, but its biggest trading partners are the most rapidly growing regions of the world economy. It is this combination of domestic and international factors which determines that China will continue to remain the world’s most rapidly expanding market/supplier of increased aggregate demand in 2012. Given the negative prospects in Europe, and slow growth in the US, it will then be the situation in the developing economies, which is increasingly related to the situation in China, which will necessarily determine the overall prospects for world growth in 2012.
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This is an expanded version of an article which originally appeared in Shanghai Daily.