The question of whether or not China's rapidly-expanding economy is headed for a hard landing is subject to intense debate by experts, and the divergence of opinions between Jim Chanos and Stephen Roach demonstrates the extent of intellectual dissonance on the topic. The unlikely duo, who will join Orville Schell in discussion on Wednesday, March 27 at Asia Society New York, previously squared off in February on Bloomberg TV for a debate the network deemed "The Great Brawl of China," complete with unfortunately-chosen font. (Video embedded above)
While Bloomberg's definition of a "brawl" may need to be fact-checked, the Chanos-Roach debate is certainly lively as it covers topics such as the level of competence in China's economic planning, the future of "ghost cities," the rise of the middle class, the relationship between capitalism and democracy, and income inequality.
In the video, Roach, Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, argues that China's economy will remain strong, while Chanos, founder, president and managing partner of Kynikos Associates, is much more doubtful of its sustainability.
"Jim's had a great call on the markets, but he's had a lousy call on the economy," argues Roach. According to him, China is "in the early stages of its development story," and as it shifts its economy away from exports and toward internal consumption, will become "the greatest consumption story the world has ever seen."
"The model is, I think, unsustainable," countered Chanos. "It's a model based on increased fixed investment, and despite what the China supporters would have you believe, consumption is still dropping as a percent of the Chinese economy." In his view, "The reason the Chinese economy accelerated, if it did, is because they just accelerated and pulled forward a lot of projects that are in the five-year plan, and increased the debt incurred to finance those projects."
If listening to the nuances of their arguments is too much work, Bloomberg has also helpfully provided a box spelling out "BEAR" framing Chanos and "BULL" for Roach. To hear a longer discussion with more details and fewer flashy cable news graphics, be sure to tune in to AsiaSociety.org/Live this Wednesday at 6:30 pm ET for a free live webcast. Online viewers are encouraged to submit questions to [email protected] before and during the program.