30年经济最大调整在即

上一篇 / 下一篇  2008-09-02 09:12:26


  出口疲软、企业和地方政府出现偿债危机以及生产成本上升,是中国目前的三大挑战

  无疑,中国举办了一届成功的也是最费钱的奥运会。没有哪个国家曾花这么多钱办奥运。不过,中国作为东道主荣登金牌榜首,菲尔普斯和博尔特在这次奥运会上创造了种种“奇迹”,这笔钱花得还算值。

  中国之所以能办得起这场“豪华”奥运会,是因为过去30年里,它的经济取得了成功。当然,是邓小平的改革开放政策将中国引向成功。奥运会上,应该给改革开放政策发一块最耀眼的金牌。

  奥运盛会已经结束,我们必须重返真实世界。这可能有点让人扫兴。中国的经济正面临空前挑战,不过,大多数与奥运会无关。

  首先,欧洲、日本美国经济30年来同时收缩。这对中国出口造成巨大压力。其次,因“热钱”流入而产生的中国资产泡沫(部分原因是对奥运行情过于乐观)已经破灭。许多公司和地方政府在泡沫中扩张过度。由于资产价格下跌,他们正面临一场偿债能力危机。最后,也是更根本的,生产成本上升正在考验中国低成本扩张战略

  应对挑战时,有正确的做法和错误的做法。错误的做法是,采用以控制价格为目标的行政措施,来解决资产价格下跌和CPI上涨问题。这些政策可能短期内会减轻疼痛,但是,随后会引发一场全面的经济危机。

  正确的做法是,将短期稳定需求政策和深入改革、提高效率结合在一起。中国应该从以下几方面着手:(1)增加地方政府的财政收入份额,以解决他们的偿债能力危机;(2)加快基础设施建设,来缓冲经济增长减速;(3)改革金融业,提高经济效率。

  过去,中国总是在出现危机时深度调整。例如,为应对亚洲金融危机,中国进行了国有企业改革、公共住房私有化、加入WTO和修建全国范围的高速公路网。这些政策为此后十年的繁荣奠定了基础。

  出口之困

  目前,中国最大的挑战是出口需求疲软。中国出口总额约占GDP的40%。按附加值算,出口也占到GDP的四分之一。自2003年以来,以美元计价,出口每年以逾20%的幅度增长。排除价格上涨因素,出口部门可能每年直接为中国GDP增长贡献4个百分点。很明显,如果出口增长减速甚至出现下滑,整体经济增长将显著放缓。

  作为需求问题之一,自2004年以来,大宗商品价格开始上涨,中国的出口便遭遇成本上升难题。人民币升值和工资上涨使问题更加严峻。劳动密集型商品的出口企业利润本来就薄,成本压力将它们中很大一部分推向亏损边缘。因为固定资产成本的存在和企业主寄望情况会改善,利润下降初期,企业都会坚持原来的生产计划。这就是在过去三年里,中国出口保持强劲的原因。但是,当企业看到成本上升是一个长期问题,它们会缩减产量。

  全球贸易是周期性的。可以将目前出口低迷理解为另一次周期的开始,中国可以等待低迷时期结束,出口重新走强。这种战略最终会成功。但是,等待的时间可能很长。不过,中国可以实施改革,来加快贸易复苏。

  需求方面,市场格局发生改变。上涨的大宗商品价格,特别是石油价格,将全球收入重新分配,从经合组织和东亚国家向非洲、拉丁美洲、中东和俄罗斯倾斜。单油价上涨就重新分配了占全球GDP3%的收入(与中国出口总额持平)。这些钱转移到了石油出口国。未来几年,强劲的需求应该来自资源出口型国家。中国的出口企业应该在这些市场投资

  成本上升是一个更棘手的问题。大多数中国出口企业是原始设备生产商(OEM),依赖价格竞争取得订单。它们无法接触最终使用者,也不拥有技术。它们是跨国公司的附属工厂,并很难独立谋生。这些中国出口企业和它们的客户——跨国公司谈判能力非常差。当成本上升,跨国公司迫使它们消化了这部分成本。这样下去,会毁掉中国出口企业。这些企业的困境在股价中反映出来。

  过去两年,香港上市的出口企业股价已跌了50%-80%(即使这些股票以前也没大涨过)。金融市场基本上表明,这些企业的经营模式不再有效。

  中国出口企业必须脱离跨国公司的控制,开辟独立生存之路。在需求方面,随着市场从经合组织国家向资源富裕国家转移,出口企业需要开辟自己的销售渠道。一些企业,例如华为和中国交通建设集团,已经开始这么做了。这些努力需要巨大的投资。雇佣外国员工(在大多数市场很可能是必需的)可能很昂贵。不过,当产品卖不出去,成本再低也无济于事。现在的市场上,最便宜的产品未必会赢得竞争。

  在供给方面,中国出口企业也必须升级它们的技术、改善设计和提高品牌知名度。不幸的是,中国出口企业很少具备这些实力。增加这些方面实力需要很长时间。有一个捷径,就是从国外买进技术和品牌。

  金融危机为这个战略提供了很好的机会。欧洲、日本和北美大多数中小企业都具备这样的品质,而且现在非常便宜。但是,因为中国出口企业目前困难重重,即便国外的中小企业价格很低,它们也负担不起。但我们也看到,中国外汇储备已经增加到2万亿美元。这些钱应该获得好的回报。可以将这些外汇储备借给出口企业,让它们去买国外优质的中小企业。当这些出口企业盈利改善,它们的股价应该会回到此前的高位,从而也可以回馈它们的资金赞助人——管理外汇的机构。

  债务之难

  很明显,中国企业存在偿还债务问题。“三角债”,特别是以应收账款形式存在的债务,在不断堆积。问题的源头可能是地方政府缺少资金。地方政府财政收入非常依赖土地销售收入和房地产行业税收收入。这鼓励它们想尽办法推高房价,这也是这场泡沫的一个主要原因。

  更深层的原因是,过去十年地方政府财政收入比重下降,刺激它们去寻找新的收入来源,并最后落在了房地产市场。过去一段时间里,由于价格较低,大量土地销售并没有给这些政府带来预期的现金流。目前,房地产市场泡沫已经被刺破。开发商不能像以前那样容易地卖出房子,而且也不能保证支付去年购买土地的应付账款。房地产销售放缓也减少了地方政府的税收。现金紧缺的政府无法付清他们签订的合同,合同的债权人也就无法向他们的供货商支付货款。

  解决问题最快的办法就是增加地方政府的收入份额。中国的税收已经达到历史最高水平。预算收入可能达到6万亿人民币(前七个月已经是3.67万亿元人民币),占GDP的21%,是20世纪90年代最低水平的两倍。预算外收入会在此基础上增加30%-40%。国有企业的利润可能达到GDP的6%。总体而言,政府的金库收藏了GDP三分之一的财富,或者是国民生产净值(GDP减去资本贬值)的40%。在过去十年,中国经济明显地转向政府这边,而地方政府的收入份额相对偏小。

  降低政府在经济中的重要程度,可能解决中国目前面临的经济问题。在此之前,部门间财政收入重新分配可能会提高地方政府偿债能力。中央政府现在有实力这么做。它可以向地方政府转移财政盈余,这对解决三角债问题有很大帮助。实际上,中央政府还可以发行债券并通过政府间转移支付来解决地方政府偿债问题。

  财政再分配应该与增加基础设施投资同步进行。中国经济增长减速越来越明显。考虑到出口企业和房地产开发商的资产流动性问题(这两个行业支撑了中国一半经济增长),中国经济可能会下滑非常快。一些财政激励措施可以看做是软着陆的保障。幸运的是,中国政府有足够的实力制定这样的计划。其中,核心是城市基础设施建设和铁路网修建。

  增效之径

  中国经济将要面临1998年以来最大的调整。疲软的需求虽有财政刺激加以缓解,也可能要很久才能复原。在供给方面,成本上升需要用市场手段来解决。大多数调整应该依赖价格机制。许多企业将会破产。但是,更多有效率的企业会替代他们。最终,经济会变得更有效率。

  当一些企业濒于破产,地方政府的一个反应就是如何拯救它们。不幸的是,这种态度是错误的。许多企业因为忽视主营业务、转向房地产和其他金融交易来获利,现在出现了问题。由于成本上升让制造业盈利变得更加困难,许多企业转向房地产和股票市场,因为这样挣钱很快。随着泡沫破灭,它们出现资不抵债。很难估计这个问题的严重程度有多深。但是,当我去全国各个地方,与当地企业交谈,我发现这个问题很普遍。受资产持续贬值影响,未来12个月,银行间的不良贷款会大幅增加。问题十分严重。

  解决方法是什么呢?问题是昨天造成的,我们现在改变不了问题存在的事实。然而,政府也不能拯救所有破产企业。否则,我们就倒退回计划经济和贫穷时代。

  相反的,地方政府应该看住那些陷入困境的企业主,防止他们携带资产潜逃。这一幕在十年前发生过。相信许多人这次也会这么做。他们出逃会让中国损失很大。在逃跑前,他们会从破产公司向境外私人银行转移大笔现金,这将让中国银行出现更大的窟窿。所以,地方政府花钱营救他们是很愚蠢的举动。这些钱很可能被偷走。为保护中国金融安全,最有用的政策应该是防止负债累累的企业主离开中国。

  中国正面临成本上升或者竞争力下降的挑战。经济增长复苏,需要提高效率。当然,提高效率应该在公司层面上,由价格机制引导。

  但是,政策低效率也是一个重要问题。特别是,中国金融系统是中国经济的沉重负担。提高金融行业的效率,对经济增长来讲,有显著的刺激作用。中国应该以提高存款利率作为开端,将存贷差降低到正常的两个百分点。当然,中央银行也应该降低存款准备金率,来使银行系统正常化。同时,“热钱”流出给降低存款准备金率提供了好环境。

  中国股票市场是一个败笔。上海A股指数在两年里从1000点跃升到6000点,然后又在一年内掉到2400点。中国应该彻底改进它的市场,防止未来出现目前的危机。重中之重,政府应该放松在市场中的微观干预。当法律出台后,市场就应该自我运行。这是促进市场健康发展的惟一途径。

  即将到来的挑战有些令人望而生畏。但是,中国仍然有很多牌可以出。强大的财政和贸易顺差,是“硬着陆”的缓冲垫。仍有很多机会可以改善贸易条件。还有很多领域,例如金融体系,有提高效率的空间。只要政府采取合理政策,经济在两年内就会重焕活力。■


With the Olympics over, it's time for China to face some unprecedented challenges including lower foreign demand, rising costs at home, and liquidity.

By Andy Xie, board member of Rosetta Stone Advisors Limited


With the Olympics over, it is time for China to face some unprecedented challenges including lower foreign demand, rising costs at home, and liquidity.

No other country has spent even close to the money China has on the Olympics. But with the largest domestic gold haul in the nation’s history, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, all that money seems worth it.  That China could spend that kind of money on the Games is due to its economic successes in the past three decades. Of course, Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Reform. and Opening Up’ policy led the country down the path of success. That policy should have received the shiniest gold medal at the games.

The Olympic Party is over. We must come back to real world again, which can be unpleasant. China’s economy is facing unprecedented challenges, though most have nothing to do with the Olympics. First, for the first time in three decades, the economies of Europe, Japan, and the U.S. may be contracting simultaneously. It is putting severe downward pressure on China’s exports. Second, China’s own assets bubbles, fueled by hot money (partly due to optimism related to the Olympics), have burst. Many businesses and local governments have over-expanded on bubble-related revenues or borrowings. They are facing a liquidity crunch as asset prices decline. Third and more fundamentally, rising production costs are casting doubts on China’s low-cost expansion strategy.

There are right ways and wrong ways to cope with the challenges. The wrong ways are to deal with symptoms of falling asset prices and the rising CPI with price-targeting administrative measures. Such policies may ease the pain in the short term but could lead to a general economic crisis later. The right way is to combine short-term demand stabilization policies with efficiency-improving reforms. China could and should (1) increase the share of fiscal revenue allotted to local governments to ease their liquidity problem, (2) accelerate infrastructure projects to cushion the economic deceleration, and (3) reform. the financial sector to improve economic efficiency.

China’s per capita income is only one third of the world’s average and one tenth of the OECD level. Improving efficiency – the foundation for economic catch – up must remain China’s overwhelming priority. Demand stimulus should be used primarily for preventing systemic crisis, not for sustaining growth over medium term. Even when demand stimulus is necessary, it should be used in areas where future productivity could be enhanced. The highway building program ten years ago, for example, provided the infrastructure for the growth afterwards. 

Urban infrastructure and railroads should be the focus of any demand stimulus this time. Railroad is the most energy-efficient mode of transportation. Energy prices will likely remain high for years to come. China’s preferred mode of transportation should shift from highway to railroad. Subway should receive similar priority. High-energy cost makes mega-city more desirable. Concentrated, population-sharing infrastructure decreases resource needs and costs for environmental protection. Subway should be the backbone for urban transportation. Automobile should be avoided as much as possible. It is not environment friendly or affordable as a main mode of urban transportation.

In the past, China always deepened reforms during crunch time. For example, to deal with the Asian Financial Crisis, China reformed the state-owned enterprises, privatized public housing, joined the WTO, and built a nationwide highway system. These policies laid the foundation for the boom in the following decade. The choice was easy then as the economic pie was too small for a defensive strategy. With a US$ 4 trillion economy now, when offense can bring acute pain, defense becomes appealing. I hope that China will resist the temptation of taking painkillers only and again launch a wave of reforms to lay the foundation for another decade of fast growth.

On top of the challenge list is the demand weakness for China’s exports. China’s exports are about 40 percent of its GDP in gross value and probably one fourth of GDP in terms of value added.  Since 2003, the exports have been growing above 20 percent per annum in dollar terms. Discounting for price increase, the export sector has probably contributed four percentage points directly to China’s GDP growth rate per annum in this boom.  Obviously, if exports stagnate or even decline, the economy would slow significantly.

In addition to the demand problem, the export sector has experienced a cost problem since commodity prices began to surge in 2004. RMB appreciation and wage increases add to the problem. The labor-intensive exporters have a thin profit margin to begin with. The pressure pushed a substantial portion of the export businesses into the red. Production lags behind profitability. With fixed costs and hope for improvement, businesses tend to stick with production plans during the initial stage of profit decline. This is why China’s exports have remained strong for the past three years. However, as these businesses begin to view the cost problem as long term, they will scale back production.

The demand and cost problems are working together to pressure China’s exports over the next twelve months. Over the past three decades, China’s exports have never suffered a serious downturn. In 1998, other Asian economies devalued and cut export prices, which depressed China’s exports, though the global economy was in reasonable shape. China now also suffers a competitiveness problem due to rising costs. The demand problem is even more serious. It is possible that China’s exports could experience significant decline over the next 12 months.

Global trade is cyclical. One could interpret the current downturn as another cycle. China can just wait it out. This strategy will eventually work, but the wait could be long. China could implement reforms to accelerate the trade recovery. On the demand side, the market is shifting. Rising commodity prices, especially oil prices, have reallocated global income from OECD and East Asia to Africa, Latin America, Middle East, and Russia. Oil inflation alone has reallocated three percent of the global GDP, equivalent to China’s total export value, to oil exporters. Strong demand in the next few years should come from resource exporting economies. China’s exporters should invest in developing markets there.

Rising cost is a more intractable problem. Most of China’s exporters are OEM contractors that rely on price competition for business. They have no access to end users nor possess technologies. They are factories attached to multinationals and would have difficulties living an independent life. Their bargaining power versus their multinational buyers is minimal. When costs rise, multinationals ask them to bear it.  This dynamic has devastated China’s exporters. The extent of their suffering is reflected in their stock prices. Among Hong Kong-listed exporters, stock prices have declined by 50 to 80 percent in the past two years, even though they didn’t enjoy big increase before. They are worth a small fraction of their sales revenues. Financial markets essentially say that their business model has stopped working.

China’s exporters must leave their multinational corporate masters and strike out on their own on both demand and supply side. On the demand side, as growth markets shift out of the OECD block to resource-rich economies, they must develop sales channels on their own. Some companies like Huawei Technologies and China Communications Construction have already done so. Such efforts require heavy upfront spending. Hiring foreign staff, probably necessary in most markets, could be expensive. However, being low cost is useless when one can’t sell. In today’s world, the cheapest products may not win.

On the supply, China’s exporters must upgrade their technologies, design and branding capabilities.  Unfortunately, few Chinese exporters have such qualities. Developing them would be a time consuming process. A shortcut would be to buy technologies and brands abroad. The financial crisis may offer a perfect opportunity for such a strategy. Most small-medium sized companies in Europe, Japan or North America that possess such qualities are quite cheap now. However, because China’s exporters are on such hard time, they even can’t afford them at the low prices. On the other hand, China’s foreign exchange reserves are bulging at US$ 2 trillion. It makes sense for the government to support China’s exporters to acquire such assets. The money should earn good returns.  When the buyers are revived, their share prices should go back to their previous peaks and would be in a position to reward their financial sponsors.

There is obviously a liquidity problem in China’s economy. Triangular debts, especially in the form. of receivables, are piling up. Lack of money at local government level may be the root cause. Local governments are quite dependent on land sales and taxes in the property sector to fund their expenditure. That dependence motivates them to spice up the property market, which is a major reason for the bubble. At a deeper level, the declining share of fiscal revenue for local governments in the past ten years has motivated local governments to search for new revenue sources, which eventually ended in the property market. The massive land sales last year at record prices may not bring the promised cash for local governments. The property bubble has burst. Developers cannot sell properties like before and can’t keep their promises of paying for last year’s land purchases.  Slowing property sales also decrease their taxes. The cash-short local governments cannot pay their contractors that in turn can’t pay their suppliers.

The quickest solution to this liquidity problem is to increase the revenue share for local governments. China’s tax revenue is at a record level. Budgetary revenue may top 6 trillion yuan (it’s already at 3.67 trillion yuan in the first seven months), or 21 percent of the GDP, twice as high as the lowest level in the 1990s. The off-budgetary revenue is another 30 to 40 percent of that. The profits of state-owned enterprises could top six percent of GDP. Overall, the government coffer could absorb one third of the GDP or 40 percent of net national product, which is GDP minus capital depreciation. China’s economy has clearly shifted to the government side in the past ten years. Reversing that trend may be the solution to many economic problems that the country faces today.

Before reversing the government share in the economy, redistributing it within could solve the liquidity problem. The central government clearly has money to spare. Allocating any surplus at the central government level to local governments could go a long way towards easing the receivable problem in the economy. Indeed, the central government could issue bonds to go into deficit to solve this liquidity problem.

The fiscal redistribution should coincide with boosting infrastructure spending. The economy seems to be decelerating fast. Considering the liquidity problems among exporters and property developers – the two sectors that have directly accounted for half of China’s growth – the economy could slide too quickly for comfort. Some fiscal stimulus can serve as insurance for a soft landing. Luckily, China is strong enough for such a package. The core elements of such a package should be urban infrastructure and rail network.

What’s coming is clearly the biggest adjustment for the Chinese economy since 1998. The demand weakness must take time to heal and could be cushioned by fiscal stimulus.  The supply side problem-rising cost requires a pro-market approach. Price mechanism should be relied on most for the adjustment. Many businesses will go bankrupt, but many more efficient ones will rise to replace them. The economy will become more efficient as a result.

As some businesses face bankruptcies, the first reaction from local governments is how to save them. This attitude, unfortunately, is wrong. Many businesses have got into trouble for neglecting their main business and getting into property or financial dealing. As cost rise made manufacturing difficult, many businesses went into property or stock market for quick money. As the bubbles burst, they are caught with debts surpassing asset value. It is impossible to estimate the extent of the problem, but as I travel across the country talking to businesses, the problem seems ubiquitous to me. I believe that non-performing loans would rise sharply among banks over the next twelve months due to the ongoing asset deflation. The problem is quite severe. But, what is the solution? The problem was made yesterday. We can’t change today because we can’t change yesterday. Businesses go bankrupt because they made stupid mistakes in the past. The government cannot bail out all the bankrupt companies. Otherwise, we go back to planned economy and poverty.

Instead, local governments should watch the businessmen that are in trouble to prevent them from fleeing with their assets. Many did ten years ago. Many will do so again this time. Their escape can cost China dearly. Before they flee, they will wire as much money as they can from their bankrupt companies to their offshore personal bank accounts, which would lead to bigger holes for Chinese banks. It would be more foolish for local governments to give them money in bailout attempts. The money will likely be stolen. To safeguard China’s financial security, the most useful policy could be to prevent businessmen highly indebts from leaving the country.

China is facing a cost or competitiveness challenge. It requires efficiency improvement to revive growth. Of course, efficiency improvement should take place mostly at company level, guided by the price mechanism, but policy inefficiencies could make a big difference too. China’s financial system, in particular, is a heavy burden on the economy.

You might find my assertion strange. Chinese banks are among the largest banks in the world in terms of bank capitalization and profits. Chinese brokers made big profits last year, although they are down this year in a slumping market. If profitability is the best guidance for efficiency, China’s financial system should be the most efficient. The problem is that China’s financial institutions have made profits from licensed monopolies and government-regulated interest rates. As credit is rationed and, hence, is in short supply and government mandates interest rates, Chinese banks can make fat profits from their credit quotas. Their profits don’t reflect their efficiency. Rather, their profits are a tax on the economy.

China’s securities industry is more ridiculous. Stock market is the most capitalist market.  Securities firms that service stock market should be the most capitalist too.  In China, securities firms are mostly state-owned.  It is impossible to find an example of a successful state-owned securities company in the world.  It is surprising that China doesn’t see the problem in its approach.

The inefficiency of China’s financial system is a huge cost for the economy. My guesstimate is that the burden could be five percent of the GDP, i.e., China’s financial sector has negative value added of five percent on the economy. Addressing the inefficiency in the sector could be a significant stimulus for the economy. China should start by raising deposit rates to narrow the lending spreads to a normal two percentage points. Of course, the central bank should likewise lower the deposit reserve ratio in order to normalize the banking system. The outflow of hot money provides a good environment for cutting the ratio.

China’s stock market is a big failure. The Shanghai A-shares index surged from 1,000 to 6,000 in two years and then dropped to 2,400 in one year. You can’t blame people for thinking that China’s is a Mickey Mouse market. China should completely revamp its market to prevent future crisis like this one. The most important change should be to disentangle the government from micro interventions in the market. When laws are laid down, the market should function on its own. It is the only way to have a healthy market.

The coming challenges are daunting, but China still has many cards to play. Strong fiscal position and trade surplus are cushions against a hard landing. There are still plenty of opportunities for improving trade. There are obvious areas like finance for improving efficiency. As long as the government adopts reasonable policies, the economy could roar back in two years.

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manylong的个人空间 引用 删除 manylong   /   2008-09-02 22:17:19
狗日的,谢国忠!还在乱开药方,你个奴才张起个嘴巴,就知道说你们老板想要的。只知道出一些矛盾的政策,然后就像我国开放银行等金融业,让你们老板的资金就大举入侵中国,成为向你一样的奴隶。你妈还是中国人吗?
我看最主要的还是要把你们这些败类赶出中国,或是让你们闭嘴,等我们安静地做一些制度方面的规划,从国家的根本利益出发,从自己的需求出发和世界发展的趋势出发,这样我们国家的经济不好都不行,不向你们老板靠压榨世界人民的血汗和剥削来取乐。我们中国人鄙视你们,终究要把你们干净杀绝!就等我们的《中华人民共和国国家利益法》出来,你就shut up了。
 

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谢国忠

谢国忠

《财经》特约经济学家、玫瑰石顾问公司董事。

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