China: China's economy: Whatever is going on?

Having more than doubled GDP in the past decade, sailed through the global financial crisis, brought some 160 million people into cities, created global firms such as Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei, managed a once-in-a-decade leadership transition, and covered the country in super-high speed trains, China's list of achievements is long and impressive.

Yet international markets have gone into tail spins over gyrations in China's insular stock markets and relatively marginal, market-oriented, adjustments in the RMB exchange rates.

Indeed, what is going on? No doubt there is a crisis of confidence, but it is not just a China problem.

That the recent events in China could so unsettle global markets, says much more about the parlous state of global confidence than China's economy.

China's economy is definitely quite a bit weaker this year than the Government and analysts had expected.

July's PMI of 44 (below 50 is contraction), was the weakest in years and points to manufacturing slowing more quickly than anticipated. This is despite the Government's efforts to stimulate activity through three (now five) cuts in interest rates and four cuts in the mandatory Reserve Requirement Ratio (liquidity for banks).

The stock market tumble in June was largely in response to perceptions that these measures were proving to be ineffectual. 

The market had been talked up by the Government from October last year and had more than doubled in value. Despite the big falls since then, many punters would have still been ahead if they had got in early. The last two weeks, however, have seen all the gains of the past year disappear.

In response it was initially the Government that panicked – banning short selling, forbidding institutional investors from selling, threatening and cajoling traders, and even inventing overnight a new criminal offense, "malicious short selling". 

The Government clearly did not appreciate that the market's exaggerated values, largely attributable to its talking up the market, were unsupported by fundamentals.

Similarly, RMB devaluation should not have surprised markets. It had appreciated over the past year by some 14 per cent against USD. And while China is still running big current account surpluses (essentially exports over imports), capital outflow has been increasing. So the capital account has for months been putting downward pressure on the exchange rate. 

Moreover, Beijing has been in very public discussions with the IMF over the RMB's joining the basket of currencies that make up the SDRs (Special Drawing Rights – a synthetic currency). The IMF was both urging a downward move of the RMB and a widening of the bands in which it could move against USD as part of market-oriented reforms.

The shock and awe of China's adjustment came more from international headlines and 24/7 television business show commentators than anything the Chinese Government had done. 

Over three days, the cumulative depreciation was about 4.4 per cent – a mere tweaking compared with the Yen's 16 per cent or the Euros 20 per cent depreciation against USD.

Most of China's ASEAN trading partners, and of course Australia, have all depreciated their currencies by even more.

The negative impact on global confidence resulting from both the stock market dive and modest exchange rate adjustment was attributable more to the way the Chinese Government managed these events, rather than intrinsic economic issues. 

In the case of the stock market, it was the Government's unexpectedly heavy-handed, interventionist, response that surprised everyone, including many Chinese. 

In contrast, with the RMB it was the timidity with which the Government went about its business. It is usual for Governments to act decisively when adjusting their currencies, making big bold moves, to show markets they are in control and confident. 

In this case, Beijing took three bites of the cherry and so created a sense of crisis and set off expectations that more adjustments were to come.

The unsettling aspect of this is that markets had come to expect astute, assured economic management from Beijing. The last few months have fractured that perception.

Beijing is trying to manage a slow down in growth, structural adjustment and a global economy in disarray. Evidently the economic policy team in Zongnanhai is beginning to struggle with the challenges as well. 

But China's economy remains fundamentally robust. Its growth rate this year will be in the order of 6-7 per cent, still among the highest in the world. 

Significantly, structural change is well advanced with services now accounting for just over half of the economy – the "workshop of the world" is rapidly becoming its services centre – and driving this, consumption now accounts for about 50 per cent of GDP growth.

The crisis of confidence then is not a China problem, though there is some there as well. Fundamentally it is a global problem. 

For as long as the US Federal Reserve prevaricates and sends mixed messages about quantitative tightening, relatively small events in the world's second biggest economy will be magnified well beyond their economic significance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Most awarded firm and Australian deal of the year
Australasian Legal Business Awards
Employer of Choice for Women
Equal Opportunity for Women
in the Workplace (EOWA)

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions