A reader of the blog sent me the following interesting comment and question:
Amid all the news of the slowing global economy, I’m not sure anyone was too surprised that the World Bank’s latest China economic projections estimate the country’s economic growth, despite remaining relatively strong, will continue to slow in 2009.
|We cannot be too optimistic on China’s exports, even though we think the country’s competitiveness is still strong. Image credit: scobleizer at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.|
An important part of the answer lies in the fact that the export performance differs markedly between sectors. Exports of light manufacturing products, such as textiles and toys, are by now lower than a year ago in real terms (see right hand figure below), while real exports of (higher value added) machinery and equipment are still growing by over 30 percent year-on-year. Exports of light manufactures have been hit by cost increases as well as weak overall foreign demand—which matters a lot because China now produces the bulk of global production in certain sectors, such as toys. On the other hand, China’s exports of machinery and equipment still occupy modest market shares globally, and China’s strong underlying competitiveness means that its exporters can continue to gain market share even in more challenging global circumstances.
|Image credit: simonpocock at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.|
I have been in China for the past few weeks supporting the country team to appraise a package of support to China for recovery efforts following the May 12, 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. One colleague participated in the recent Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery Consultative Group meetings in Copenhagen, Denmark and is now in Jakarta, Indonesia working with field staff, the country’s government, and partners on mainstreaming risk reduction into development programs. Another colleague of mine just returned from the Philippines and Vietnam, where she was stranded by flooding in Hanoi. In fact, she had to wade through knee-deep water when leaving a meeting at the Ministry of Finance. Of course, this represents just part of the team, since we work with a broader network of staff based in country offices who manage country-level programs and projects.
China needs a new growth model because after the global downturn comes to an end, exports will never again play the same role as they have in the past two decades. I would argue that the four basic principles that account for the Chinese miracle since 1978 remain valid, each of which needs some tweaking in the new environment.
|The World Economic Forum, billed as the largest-ever brainstorming on the global agenda, drew about 700 people to Dubai in early November. Image credit: worldeconomicforum at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.|
It is striking how well the global trade system is working, even as the global financial system spirals into crisis. This is not to say that global trade is immune from the crisis, far from it. Trade finance has contracted sharply and the World Bank projects that total global trade in 2009 will decline for the first time since 1982. But what is striking is that global trade has a well-defined set of rules and an institution (the World Trade Organization) to oversee them. Global finance, on the other hand, does not have a well-defined set of rules and regulations. Until now, the system of global trade continued to work well.