In this interview with the Institute For New Economic Thinking, Jim Chanos discusses all things China, Evergrande, and China’s doomed leverage prosperity model. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Chanos: What distinguishes China and what makes it so unique from my perspective, putting on the financial historian’s hat, is that the speed at which they developed was unprecedented, and the amount of risk they have taken to do that is unprecedented. Their banking system is now the largest in the world. The amount of real estate construction is just completely insane, and until, perhaps, this past 12 months, we haven’t seen a real, serious effort to say, “Maybe we should rethink this fantasy where everybody is going to have six apartments. Maybe we need to do other things in our economy to balance it out.”
How are they going to deal with the transition? Because they’re going to have to do it at some point. I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how they try to get out of it. Do they switch spending to defense spending? Do we get an arms race? Can they keep a closed currency? There are a whole lot of big questions.
They’ve got to make some tough decisions on how the economic model is going to work going forward. In the late ‘80s, everybody thought Japan was going to surpass the U.S., but they had the same problems – a banking system that was bloated, real estate prices too high, too dependent on exports, and they’ve had 30 years of muddling through. The idea that China is going to be growing 6 or 7% while the rest of the world is growing 2% just has to be revisited. It’s not gonna happen. That realization is going to be the bucket of cold water that’s going to force them to rethink next steps.
The population has been used to this leveraged prosperity, and everybody has borrowed money to buy real estate. What are the next steps? It’s otherworldly what they have done with real estate. Whatever happens, it’s going to be severe somehow. Whether it’s politically or financially — whatever it is, it’ll be severe.
You can read the entire interview here:
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