4 5 1 4 1 2 1 . A construction worker in Chengdu, China. The country’s Finance Ministry is helping deeply indebted local governments borrow far more money this fall so they can forex terme stalled infrastructure projects.
SHANGHAI — As China’s economy slows and the trade war with the United States intensifies, Beijing’s economic bosses are swinging into action. Chinese officials are pushing banks to lend more and allowing indebted local governments to spend money on big projects again. They have moved to shore up the value of the country’s currency. China, said Hao Hong, the research director for the international operations of the Bank of Communications, a Shanghai-based financial institution. Analysts say big investors connected to the Chinese government appear to have recently stepped in to help shares that had tumbled for weeks. China is taking action as its problems mount. Beijing said it would immediately retaliate with its own tariffs and file a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
China is playing a difficult game. It must deal with its weakening economy without worsening its onerous debt problems. At the same time, it has to shore up the situation at home if it hopes to continue to retaliate against President Trump’s trade war broadsides. But the trade war complicates China’s deeper problems with its onerous debt levels. China has worked to wean its economy off its dependence on borrowing, but the resulting slowdown in growth has undercut that effort, leading Beijing to relent somewhat from the initiative. Should the trade war take a greater toll, China could direct its banks to expand lending further.
Zhigang Tao, a Hong Kong University economist. When you see the government switch to stimulus, it generally means the government cares about stability. China’s softening economy has led some within the Trump Administration to believe Beijing is vulnerable, which could lead the White House to escalate the trade war even further. Larry Kudlow, the director of President Trump’s National Economic Council, pointed out during a Cabinet meeting last week that China’s own official statistics for business investment, retail sales and industrial production have shown weakness in recent months. China’s most recent quarterly economic figures suggest growth is continuing at a steady pace. Other indicators suggest a mild softening.
Some consumers appear to be holding back. Infrastructure spending, which encompasses up to one-sixth of the Chinese economy, slowed sharply through the first seven months of this year. The city of Harbin, a provincial capital in northeastern China, ran out of money last month to pay pensioners, and had to rearrange its finances to pay them later. Corporate bond defaults have increased this year, although they are still low by international standards. The country’s banks acknowledged last month a fairly sharp uptick in nonperforming loans, although that was partly driven by tighter auditing standards.