With China's sustained growth, the performance of the world's leading economy is closely watched worldwide. Over the past few decades, China has undergone remarkable transformation and development. Meanwhile, China's cooperative relationships with other countries are strengthening, exerting profound impacts on the global economic landscape. This collection features insights from experts in the international economic arena, discussing the current situation and prospects of the Chinese economy from various perspectives.
Chinese economy in 2024 will look a lot like 2023
Thomas J. Sargent: Chinese economy in 2024 will look a lot like 2023. That's what any of my friends who are economists will know what I'm doing. There's a really good statistical model of GDP growth. It's called a geometric random walk with growth, continuing to grow about the same rate. You'll be shocked. It's hard to beat that prediction.
Witnessing remarkable journey of China's development
Anil Sooklal:I visited China for the past three decades, many, many times. I have many friends in China, and many friends in South Africa of Chinese origin. And I tell them that when I first went to Beijing, there were more bicycles on the road than cars. But today, China is developed so dramatically, today you have the largest network of roads, of speed trains, your infrastructure, your industries. You are leader today in technology, you are second largest economy. And I've seen the cities of China develop and become major global cities that not only rivals but has better infrastructure than the best cities in North America and Europe today.
China has become a leader in the world in every sector of human endeavor. And I've been very privileged to witness the rise of China, to be part of this journey, and to see China become this major power. Now China being powerful is not only good for China, is good for the developing world. It shows us what is possible, that the template of development that China has employed to lift its people out and to become a leading nation of the world is possible for all of us.
Chinese economy bounce in consumption
Brian Coulton: So on the China's story, what we saw with the pandemic restrictions that were sort of tightened again in 2022, that really weighed heavily on consumption. It was something that was constraining what we call contact-intensive consumption. So the consumption means that you have to be close to other people. So going to the cinema, going to a restaurant, or going to a busy shopping mall, all those things were constrained heavily by the pandemic.
When those restrictions were removed, there were some initial reluctance because people were obviously with health concerns. The removal of restrictions led to a bounce in consumption on those contact-intensive services. It was exactly the same pattern that we saw in 2021 and 2022 in the Western economies when they finally removed the pandemic restrictions. That was what drove the normalization in China.
Optimistic about China's economic growth in 2024
Hoe Ee Khor: We are quite positive about China. We are relatively optimistic. If we compare our forecasts with the analyst forecasts, I think we are on the high end, because we are expecting China to grow by 5.3%, slightly higher than last year. But most of the analysts are expecting growth of below 5%. I think the average is maybe between 4.5% to about 4.8%.
We are optimistic, and the reason we are optimistic is because we still see China has not fully recovered. Last year was not a very good year for China, even though it grew by 5.2%, because of the headwind from exports and also because we see that domestic spending has not fully recovered.
This year we expect China’s economy to do better because the headwind from the real estate sector is going to be smaller. And maybe even better than this year if the real estate sector is able to recover slightly.
And the other sectors are doing well, manufacturing is doing relatively well. If you look at manufacturing, investment is quite strong. And I think I mentioned earlier that retail spending is also picking up. We see that in the indicators.
For all these reasons, we think that this year, the economy could be stronger, growth will be stronger than last year. Of course, along the way, there could be other shocks that happen, but we are optimistic that the Chinese economy will not be as weak as some of the other estimates that we are seeing.
Economic growth between China and ASEAN is reciprocally beneficial
Hoe Ee Khor: China is the biggest trading partner for ASEAN and ASEAN has become the biggest trading partner for China during the pandemic. They are each other's biggest trading partner now. And so, strong growth in China would be good for the region, and similarly, strong growth in ASEAN is good for China. But China is also the biggest trading partner for 150 countries around the world. It's a very important economy for everyone.
The main thing about China now is that because China is at the stage of development where it's beginning to outsource production, as it is moving up the value chain. So, it is beginning to outsource labor-intensive sectors like garments, and some parts of manufacturing as well. If you look at Vietnam, Cambodia, and now Malaysia, they are attracting investment from China in the manufacturing sector. So the Chinese industries are beginning to move production to Vietnam, to Cambodia, and other ASEAN countries.
Besides that, China is probably the most advanced in terms of electric vehicles, batteries, solar, wind, power, renewable energy. And because of climate change, a lot of countries are now moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. So many of them are trying to attract investment into the new EV industries, from everywhere. I mean, not just from China, but China is one of the biggest investors now in EVs.
So Indonesia, because it has natural resources in nickel, is a very attractive destination for the Chinese to set up production because they can leverage the nickel deposits there.
But also, Thailand and Malaysia because they already have an auto industry and they want to shift from fossil fuel to electric vehicles. So they are also trying to attract the Chinese electric manufacturers to move their production to those countries. And besides that, they're also trying to attract investment in solar energy, in wind power energy, and others.
So there's a lot of investment flows between China and the rest of the region. Which is very important because in the old days, China's investment in most countries used to be just in natural resources, mostly copper, iron ore, or coal. But now there's also investment in manufacturing and services. Alibaba, Tencent, now they are big players in the global stage. And they are also investing abroad because they also want to diversify the market to other parts of the world.
Innovation is crucial to sustaining growth
Campbell Harvey：As an academic, I study economic growth globally. It's part of what I do. So, I do think that there is a runway for China to have. The 5 % is great. The U.S. would love to have 5 %. Europe, they would be celebrating with 5 % growth, when they're kind of stuck at 1 % of growth. I do think that there are some head winds for China. It's always good to recognize what they are, so that you can develop like a plan. So, one head wind we've already talked about is sort of deglobalization. I do think that certain policies could be put in place to mitigate the extent of that. I think that's something that can be worked on.
There are structural factors for China. And this is not just a China factor, but other countries experience it, too. And that is the rate of population growth. China made a decision in terms of the one child policy that is going to affect the medium-term prospects. And also just fertility has gone down. China is not the only country. You can see that happens in the US also, but the US kind of replaces the decrease in fertility with immigration. And other countries kind of do the same thing. I think that also is a headwind. And again, that's something that policy makers should be thinking of.
There are other issues. Obviously, if there are geopolitical risks that impacts the willingness of people to invest in any country. So, if the country becomes riskier, that just means that the hurdle of investing in that country goes up. Something riskier, you require a higher rate of return. Again, some of this risk can be mitigated by policy makers.
The last thing that I'll mention and hopefully it's obvious. And I tell this story to all of the audiences across the world that innovation is really important. Innovation is just like the driver of growth. The U.S. has done a really good job. So why is it that they are out ahead so far on all these innovations? So, this is, again, not just advice for China, but advice for any country, that you need to have in place a policy that encourages innovation, and to let people discover stuff. And most of those discoveries will turn out to be failures, it'll go nowhere, but you're looking for the big ones. And the big ones really drive economic growth. So, I think that's really important every house or every country develops those capabilities to encourage innovation. It is the best way to grow.
It's interesting that China and the U.S. face a very similar sort of demographic problem that with an aging population and government programs that are supposed to support the aging population, the money is not obvious that is there. So this is why innovation is really important that China needs to maintain that 5 % growth rate. And the U.S. needs to substantially increase their growth rate. The US social security will run out in 2033. So we've got like 9 years. And that is a huge liability. And we need to grow. So the U.S. needs to grow. China needs to grow.
Source | SFC