Thursday, August 19, 2010

How long can China's "economic miracle" last?

It's hard to avoid -- everywhere you look there's another story about China's tremendous economic growth. They're now the second biggest economy in the world, and seem unstoppable. But as Gwynne Dyer points out in the Georgia Straight, we've heard this story before:

Back in 1988, the last year of Japan’s 30-year boom, the land in the garden of the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo was allegedly worth more than the entire state of California, but that was just another way of saying “unsustainable property bubble”. The bubble duly burst, bringing down the entire Japanese economy with it—and it has stayed down for the past 22 years, achieving at best two-percent annual growth and usually much less.

The property bubble in China is reaching similar dimensions, with prices rising annually by 50 percent or more in dozens of cities. When property bubbles finally burst—and they always do—they tend to do a great deal of damage. (Nobody say subprime.)

As Dyer points out, China has a lot of parallels with Japan, though it would be premature to predict that they'll collapse as badly as Japan has. Still, the status quo can't go on forever.

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