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China's Make or Break Moment

James Chang says the Chinese government must inject capital domestically to stimulate economic growth.
by Stephanie Valera
12 February 2009

NEW YORK, February 12, 2009 - China may be touted as the savior for
the US, but it's clear that the specter of financial downturn has
turned the Chinese government away from the export-oriented model that
historically brought unparalleled growth to their economy.

But will it be enough? A panel of business experts at the Asia
Society concluded that the Chinese economic and political model is
going to need a considerable overhaul in order to weather the global
financial crisis.

James Chang, a Partner in Pricewaterhouse Coopers'
Financial Risk Management Advisory practice in New York, argued that
the current imbalances in the global economy will work themselves out
if resources are appropriately and swiftly allocated to the sectors
that require the most attention. For China, this means that the
government must inject capital domestically to stimulate economic
growth. As Chang sees it, the Chinese government is already taking the
necessary steps by pressing companies to reduce layoffs, warning
financial firms of the risk inherent in outbound activity, spending on
vocational training, and creating new jobs.

With China's global exports down 17.5 percent in January of this
year, one of its major vulnerabilities is its industrial surplus
production, for which some demand must be created domestically.
Panelist Howard Chao, partner in charge of O'Melveny
& Myers' Asia practice, expressed guarded optimism about China's
domestic economy, noting that its regulated banking system is somewhat
insulated from the recession. He also suggested that the government’s
primary agenda should be to create a reliable social net for its
citizens by providing housing and medical aid. Chao also noted the
irony of China's being criticized for its planned economy at a moment
when it's increasingly apparent that the West may have gone too far
with deregulation.

Responding to moderator Henny Sender, international financial correspondent for the Financial Times,
the panelists expressed deep concern that political corruption may
impede China's recovery. They voiced similar concerns about the
slowdown in environmental measures, for which the panelists blamed the
GDP-based promotion system that discourages Chinese officials from
focusing on environmental issues, especially given the current state of

China's new orientation is clear, but its recovery will depend on
careful implementation of economic and social reforms. Its impending
transformation will almost certainly alter ties with the US and create
a new standing for the country in the global sphere—favorable or
not—that will only become apparent over the next few months.

Reported by Chandani Punia