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Instability in China

August 26, 2015 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

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Steve H. Hanke

The plunging Shanghai Stock Exchange and the sudden reversal in the yuan’s appreciation have caused fears to spread beyond China’s borders. Is something wrong with the world’s growth locomotive? In a word, yes.

The most reliable approach for the determination of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) and the balance of payments is the monetary approach. Indeed, the path of an economy’s nominal GDP is determined by the course of its money supply (broadly determined).

The accompanying chart of China’s money supply and private credit tells us why China’s economy is in trouble. The annual trend rate of money supply (M2) growth is 17.1%. In early 2012, M2 was growing at an annual rate of 20% — well above the trend rate. Then, M2’s annual growth rate suddenly plunged to 15% and has been drifting down ever since.

Today, the annual M2 growth rate is a bit above 10%. In consequence, nominal GDP will decline from its current level. This spells trouble for China, and the rest of the world. These prospective troubles are already baked in the cake.

Just why has the M2 annual growth rate declined? One factor behind the decline has been recent hot money capital flight. This shows up when we decompose the reserve money (state money) produced by the People’s Bank of China. The foreign exchange contribution to state money is no longer pulling the rate of state money up. It is pulling it down (see the accompanying monetary composition chart).

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How did China arrive at this point — a point of high uncertainty and potential economic instability? A look at China’s exchange-rate regimes provides a window into these troubled waters. Since China embraced Deng Xiaoping’s reforms on 22 December 1978, China has experimented with different exchange-rate regimes. Until 1994, the yuan was in an ever-depreciating phase against the U.S. dollar. Relative volatile readings for China’s GDP growth and inflation rate were encountered during this phase.

After the maxi yuan depreciation of 1994 and until 2005, exchange-rate fixity was the order of the day, with little movement in the CNY/USD rate. In consequence, the volatility of China’s GDP and inflation rate declined, and with the yuan firmly anchored to the U.S. dollar, China’s inflation rates began to shadow those in America (see the accompanying exchange-rate table). Then, China entered a gradual yuan appreciation phase (when the CNY/ USD rate declined in the 2005-14 …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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