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谢国忠

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麻省理工学院经济学博士

个性介绍: 1960年出生于上海,1983年毕业于上海同济大学路桥系,1987年获麻省理工学院土木工程学硕士,1990年获麻省理工学院经济学博士。同年加入世界银行,担任经济分析员。在世行的五年时间,谢国忠所参与的项目涉及拉美、南亚及东亚地区,并负责处理该银行于印尼的工商业发展项目,以及其他亚太地区国家的电讯及电力发展项目。1995年,加入新加坡的Macquarie Bank,担任企业财务部的联席董事。1997年加入摩根士丹利,任亚太区经济学家,2006年9月辞去该职务。

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谢国忠:世界的动力  

2009-02-06 19:33:50|  分类: 言论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Driving the world世界的动力

2009-02-06 

Thefinancial crisis presents an opportunity for China to seize theleadership baton for globalisation and become its centre for goods,services and capital, while catalysing a new China boom that could lasta decade or longer. That boom could turn China into the world's largesteconomy - and a developed country - within two decades.

Chinahas been a bottom feeder in the global economy. Keeping costs low andmaking labour-intensive products have brought it safety and growth.Australia, Brazil and Russia sell natural resources to China in returnfor cheap manufactured goods. Japan and Germany sell expensive cars andtechnology to China in exchange for cheap manufactured goods. AndAmerica just hands over dollars for goods and services, and gets themback by selling derivatives like collateralised debt obligations,backed by inflated US house values, to foreigners.

The globaleconomy has run like a motorcycle, with American consumption as onewheel and China's savings as the other, with everyone else piled up ontop. The sustainability of this world depended on foreigners believingin the Wall Street debt instruments that paid for America's importswhile keeping inflation at bay. Inflation came three years ago withsurging oil prices. The tightening that accompanied it burst the USproperty bubble in 2006. It took another year for the subprime market,and still another for financial derivatives, to blow up. The resultingcrisis has destroyed Wall Street's credibility. The motorcycle economyhas fallen over.

The US now offers the world, in particularChina, a plan for recovery: you buy my treasuries, Uncle Sam gives theproceeds to American people to spend, and your exports and youreconomies may recover. The recovery plan tries to put the motorcycleeconomy back on its wheels by replacing American households with thefederal government.

Accepting this offer is not in China'sbest interests. First, the plan may bring modest growth for a few yearsbut will be followed by another, bigger crisis centred on the UStreasury market. Second, instead of taking America's offer, China canstart attracting investment as part of its trade-led development model.In short, it can start competing with the US for money rather than justrasing dollars by selling goods to the US.

China has beenattracting foreign capital for some time. But this has been mainly toimprove its production capacity, especially in the export sector. Thenew strategy calls for foreign capital to fund China's capitalformation in anticipation of earning profits from richer Chineseconsumers in the future. It would help China to shift its economy toconsumption without sacrificing growth.

China is in a goodposition to replace the US as the centre for globalisation: with littledebt, enormous savings, and its sheer size, its growth potential isvast. Current per capita income of US$3,300 could be raised toUS$10,000 within two decades through a combination of growth andcurrency appreciation. At the same time, gross domestic product couldrise from today's US$4.3 trillion to US$13 trillion in today's dollarterms. Such an increase would offer plenty to investors who bet onChina's future. This is why China can succeed in changing its growthmodel.

To engineer the transition, China must create afirst-world environment for capital flow and pursue an aggressiveurbanisation strategy to anchor domestic consumption. First, Chinashould fix a date, preferably within five years, for floating the yuan;that is, forgoing accumulating foreign exchange reserves, and makingthe capital account freely convertible.

Such a change wouldrequire the economy to modernise in many ways. As money could travelfreely, only a first-world environment for investment would attract andkeep money at home. The rule of law would need to be strengthenedenormously to make the new system viable. A corollary is that arbitraryadministrative power would have to be severely limited. Fixing a datefor currency convertibility would be similar to joining the World TradeOrganisation a decade ago: it would set in motion a new wave ofreforms.

Second, as China succeeds in attracting foreignmoney, it must have a strategy to turn it into efficient economicgrowth. Otherwise, the money would be used for blowing bubbles, whichcould bring down the country. The anchor for domestic demand must beurbanisation. To become a developed country in two decades, China mustaim to increase its urbanisation to 75 per cent by then. Moreover,urbanisation must be viable in the long run; the system needs to changeso that migrant workers become rooted in cities.

China'surbanisation strategy should focus on building 30 mega-cities of morethan 20 million residents each. These cities would have the right toissue bonds to fund their development. Because they would have the sizefor economies of scale in building infrastructure, protecting theenvironment, and creating jobs, they would have tax revenues to pay offtheir bonds. When money was plentiful, they would have easy financingand could accelerate urbanisation. When money was scarce, they wouldface high funding costs and could slow down in response. Basically,China should turn its urbanisation into a sponge for global capital.Shifting the rural population into big cities is the only way for thenation to modernise.

The global financial crisis is casting ashadow over globalisation. Developed economies may resort toprotectionism to keep jobs at home, leading to a vicious cycle ofrecession and more protectionism. China is in a position to carry thebaton for globalisation. This is a unique chance to become a developednation in a generation.

Andy Xie is an independent economist

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