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馬英九依賴中國經濟過深,但美國時代周刊:中國即將發生經濟危機

週四 2012年03月01日, 4:27 下午【點此取得本文短網址】

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譯者:見風ZZ原文作者:Michael Schuman
發布:2012-03-01 00:21:35

The view in most of the world is that China is indestructible. Shrugging off the crises multiplying elsewhere, China seems to surge from strength to strength, its spectacular growth marching on no matter what headwinds may come. It appears inevitable that China will overtake a US mired in debt and division to become the world’s indispensable economy. Those businessmen and policymakers looking to the future believe China’s “state capitalism” may be a superior form of economic organization in dealing with the challenges of the modern global economy.

在世界上大多數人的眼中,中國是堅不可摧的。在其他國家都深陷日益嚴重危機之時,中國似乎絲毫不受干擾,甚至有愈戰愈勇之勢。看來是任何事物也無法阻擋其迅猛前進的腳步了。中國無疑會取代深陷債務和分裂泥潭的美國,成為世界上不可或缺的經濟體。一些商人和決策者深信,中國的“國家資本主義”模式將是未來應對現代全球經濟挑戰的一大法寶。

My answer to all of this is: think again.

對此我的答案是:請君三思。

I don’t doubt for a second that China will be a major economic superpower with an increasingly influential role in the global economy. In many respects, it already is a superpower. But that doesn’t mean the economy is free from problems, a good number of them created by the very statist system lauded by pundits in the US and Europe. And in my opinion, if China doesn’t change course, and in a big way, the country will experience an economic crisis.

隨著中國對世界經濟影響日益增強,我毫不質疑其日後能發展成為一大經濟強國。在諸多領域,中國已頗顯強國風範。但這並不意味著中國的經濟就是完美無缺的,而且這些問題的來源不是別處,正是那個頗受部分歐美經濟學家稱讚的國家主義體制。我認為,如果中國不改變這條發展路線,等待它的將是一場毀滅性的經濟危機。

I’ve been thinking about China’s economic future, and the likelihood it will face some sort of terrible collapse, for some time, but I have until now been reluctant to come out with my views so strongly. The reason is that it is very difficult to tell what’s really going on in the Chinese economy. Data is sparse or unreliable. And China is in certain ways unique in economic terms — has history ever witnessed a giant of such massive proportions ascend so quickly in the global economy? Valid precedents are hard to find. Then there is the issue of timing. It is easy to say China will have a crisis; it is almost impossible to say when that might happen. Next month? Next year? Next decade? The fact is China could continue as it is for some time to come. So, in other words, when you make the type of prediction I just have, you have a good chance of getting it just plain wrong.

對於中國經濟之未來及其崩潰的可能性,我已經思考了很久,直到成文之時,我仍在猶豫是否該如此強烈地表達我的想法。原因在於,很難講中國到底發生了什麼。數據少之又少,而且還不甚可靠。加之中國經濟又是如此之獨特——歷史可曾目睹過, 如此巨大的經濟體在全球經濟範圍內如此迅速地崛​​起嗎?很難找到有效的先例。再談談時間問題,要證明中國未來會發生一場大的危機,這很簡單,但要預測這場危機會在何時降臨,幾乎不可能。下個月?明年?十年以後?事實上中國將會在今後的一段時間內繼續保持穩定。所以,換句話說,當你想要提出一個類似我剛剛闡述的觀點時,你要注意你很有可能會把它完全弄錯。

But the more time I spend in China, the more convinced I am that its current economic system is unsustainable. Yes, economists who specialize in China can give you all sorts of reasons why the country is supposedly different, and thus the regular rules of economics don’t necessarily apply. But one simple thing I always say about economics is that you can’t escape math. If the numbers don’t add up, it doesn’t matter much how big your economy might be or how fast it is growing or how heavy a role the state might play. And China has lots of numbers that just don’t add up.

在中國呆的時間越久,我就越確信其目前的經濟體制是不可持續的。很多研究中國的經濟學家會給出種種理由,論述這個國家是如何之獨特,因此很多一般性的經濟學規律對它並不適用。但是歸根結底,經濟學問題永遠逃不出數學規律。而數字上的問題無關於這個國家的經濟規模多大,發展速度多快以及國家地位如何強大。對於中國,它的數字出了問題。

A big part of the bad math is created by China’s state capitalism. China has adopted a form of the Asian development model, invented by Japan and followed, to varying degrees, by many rapid-growth countries around East Asia. The model, very generally speaking, functions like this: 1) capitalize on low wages to spark growth through exports and industrialize quickly with hefty amounts of investment, 2) guide the whole process with the hand of the state, 3) employ industrial policies and state-directed finance to progress into more and more advanced sectors. This system generates fantastic levels of economic growth for a while, but then eventually, it crashes. Japan had its meltdown beginning in 1990 (and it hasn’t escaped two decades later); South Korea, the country that copied Japan’s model most closely, experienced its crisis in 1997-98.

這些數字上問題多數可歸罪於所謂的“國家資本主義”。中國採用的是一種亞洲的傳統發展模式,這種模式源自日本,但東亞很多發展迅猛的國家都不同程度上採用了這種模式。通常來講,它是這樣運行的:1)通過低工資加速資本積累,再以高投資推動工業化和高出口,獲得經濟快速增長,2)國家的手操控整個經濟過程,3)產業政策和政府注資雙管齊下,加速發展高精尖產業。這種模式會在短時間內獲得巨大的經濟進步,但終有一天它會崩潰。日本經濟在1990年初徹底垮台(至今20年還沒恢復);韓國作為日本模式最忠實的複制者,也在1997-98年間遭受了經濟危機。

What happens? The model is based on what Alice Amsden, in her study of the Korean economy, called “getting prices wrong.” To spur on the high levels of investment necessary to generate rapid growth, the model depends on state-directed subsidization to make investing in certain industries or sectors more attractive and less risky than it otherwise would be. Cheap credit is made available for industry, or the state outright orders money to be invested in certain preferred projects. The exchange rate is controlled to encourage exporters. All sorts of subsidie​​s, for energy, exports and so on, are dished out. Banks are not commercially oriented but act to a great degree as tools of government-development policy. All of these methods funnel money, private and public, into industrialization, creating the astronomical growth rates we see again and again in Asia.

究竟發生了什麼?事實上,這種模式的發展是以犧牲價格為代價的。艾麗絲·阿姆斯丹(Alice·Amsden)在其對韓國經濟的研究中將之定義為“價格錯位”。為促進高投資,保證高增長,這種模式依賴於於國家對於特定行業或部門直接投資或提供補助,從而增加其吸引力並減少其投資風險。國家向工業提供低息貸款,或者直接對某項目注資。控制匯率以鼓勵出口,能源、出口等國家扶植項目獲得種種補助。銀行並非商業導向,在更大程度上是作為政府發展部門調控政策的工具。以上這些行為都會聚斂公共和私人的資本,並將其註入到工業化中,創造出一次又一次的亞洲經濟奇蹟。

The problem here is that prices can’t stay wrong indefinitely. There is a good reason why classical economists are always so focused on allowing markets to find the correct price level. In that way, markets send the proper signals to potential investors on where money should or should not go. If those price indicators are skewed, so is the direction of resources. The Asian model, by playing around with prices, eventually creates tremendous distortions, in which money is wasted and excess capacity is generated. Subsidized companies don’ t have to generate returns in the same way as unsubsidized firms, and that leads them to make bad investment decisions to build factories and buildings that are unnecessary and unprofitable. As a result, loans go bad and banking sectors buckle. That’s exactly what happened in both Japan and Korea. Though their crises were tipped off in very different ways — the bursting of an asset bubble in Japan, an external shock in Korea — the reason both countries collapsed was the same: weak banks, indebted companies, silly investments.

問題是價格不能無限期地錯誤下去。古典經濟學家們一直致力於通過市場找到正確的價格水平。只有這樣,市場才能向潛在投資者發出正確的信號,指引其資金的流向。一旦價格指標被扭曲,那麼正確投資方向將也不復存在。操縱價格的亞洲模式必然會導致資源浪費和產能過剩。有補貼的公司不必像沒有補貼的公司那樣精打細算,這會導致他們做出錯誤的投資決定,比如建造不必要或是不實用的工廠和建築物。最終,貸款變成壞賬,銀行破產倒閉。這正是在日本和韓國所發生的事情。儘管這兩國的危機最終以不同的方式暴露出來——日本的資產泡沫破裂,韓國受到了外部衝擊——但兩國經濟崩潰的原因是相同的:孱弱的銀行、負債累累的企業以及不明智的投資。

China is indulging in all of the same excesses as Japan and Korea, and then some. The level of investment in China, at nearly 50% of GDP, is lofty even by Asian standards. The usual argument made in defense of such astronomical investment in fixed assets is that China is a large developing country that needs all of the buildings and roads it is constructing. Qu Hongbin, the very smart chief China economist at HSBC, made that very argument in a recent study:

中國也正沉湎與日本和韓國的這種發展模式中,而且是有過之而無不及。中國投資佔國內生產總值(GDP)的比例接近50%,即便是以亞洲標準來衡量,這也太高了。對於這種高額的固定資產投資,其支持者通常解釋為,作為一個龐大的發展中國家,中國亟需其所正在建設的樓宇和公路。屈宏斌,這位精明的匯豐中國首席經濟學家,在其最近的一份研究中做出了這樣的推論:

There is a popular view in the market that China has overinvested and therefore can no longer rely on investment to sustain its growth. We disagree. China’s investment-to-GDP ratio is indeed very high (46%) … [But] China is only half way through the process of urbanisation and industrialisation. It still needs to invest more to cope with the rising demand for rail, hospitals and industrial plants. The recent infrastructure boom has boosted the country’s transport capacity, but China’s railway network is still shorter than that of the US in 1880 … In economic terms, we estimate that China’s capital stock per worker is only about 8% of that of the US and 15% of that of Korea. In other words, China’s capital accumulation is still far from reaching the stage of having diminishing returns; we believe the country needs to invest more, rather than less.

最近市場上流行的觀點認為中國已經過度投資,因此無法再依賴投資來維持其經濟增長。我們對此持否定態度。中國的投資佔GDP比重的確很高(46%)…但中國仍處在城市化和工業化的進程當中,依然需要加大對鐵路、醫院和工業廠房的投資以滿足其日益增長的需求。雖然近期基礎設施建設提高了其交通運輸能力,但中國的鐵路網絡仍不及美國1880年的水平…從經濟角度看,我們估計中國人均資本存量僅為美國的8%和韓國的15%。換句話說,中國的資本積累遠未達到收益遞減階段;因此,中國需要更多的投資。

I completely agree. Yet the issue is not whether China needs more investment. The issue is whether China is getting the types of investment it requires. The fact that investment levels can be so high and yet the economy is so deficient in certain key aspects makes me think the answer is no. We can see that in the continued problem of excess capacity in China, in which companies go hog wild building too many factories in certain industries, often with borrowing from state banks. That has happened in steel and solar panels , for example. The country is investing hundreds of billions in high-speed railways even though ticket prices are beyond the reach of most Chinese, while many major Chinese cities don’t have subways.

我完全同意這種說法。但問題不在於中國是否需要更多的投資,而在於中國是否獲得了正確的投資。事實是在如此高的投資水平下,中國在一些關鍵領域的經濟發展仍然問題重重,因此我的答案是沒有。在中國愈演愈烈的產能過剩之路上,其投資問題可以略見一斑。在某些領域,如鋼鐵和太陽能電池板,這些企業揮霍著通常是從銀行借來的錢,瘋狂地建設了過多的工廠。此外,中國斥資建設了大量的高速鐵路,而其高票價卻讓大多數國人無法負擔得起。與此相比,中國的很多主要城市仍沒有地鐵。

A good part of this misdirected investment seems to be headed into the property sector. Real estate development has become the key driving force of Chinese economic growth. In theory, China’s very rapid urbanization makes such construction a necessity — but that depends on what is being built. In Wenzhou, a rea​​l estate agent recently offered free BMWs to anyone who bought a high-end apartment — a clear sign of overbuilding — while there is an obvious shortage of housing affordable for most Chinese. On either side of my Beijing apartment building are three big malls that hardly ever seem to see real shoppers. Rents for top-quality office space in Beijing are now pricier than in New York City — despite the fact that China’s capital is one big construction zone. Many of the buildings going up are of a quality unsuitable for major corporations.

大量錯誤投資的另一個去向就是房地產行業。房地產開發已成為中國經濟增長的主要驅動力。理論上來說,房地產開發是中國快速的城市化進程的必經之路,但這也要看中國開發的是什麼類型的房地產。在溫州,一位房地產經紀人近日打出了買豪華公寓送寶馬的宣傳口號,在普通商品房依然緊缺的情況下,這顯然是過度開發。在我北京的公寓的兩邊,有三個大型商場,而每日進出的顧客卻寥寥無幾。於此同時,作為中國的首都,同時也是中國的重點建設區域,高端辦公樓依然供不應求,租金甚至超過了紐約。而很多在建的辦公樓在質量上並不能滿足大公司的需要。

Even worse, much of the investment in China is being financed with debt. The level of debt in the Chinese economy has been rising with frightening speed. Rating agency Fitch estimates bank credit in 2011 was equivalent to 185% of the country’s GDP — an increase of 56 percentage points in a mere three years. Though that surge has not yet had a significant negative impact on China’s banks, many analysts fret that banks will eventually experience a rise in nonperforming loans. In an indication of what is to come, the Financial Times reported recently that the government has ordered banks to roll over the $1.7 trillion of loans owed by local governments. If true, this tells us two key things: 1) these governments invested money raised from banks in projects that are not generating the returns necessary to pay them back and 2) the quality of loans on the banks’ books are more questionable than official statistics suggest. On top of that, the fact that local governments amassed so much debt in the first place shows a complete lack of rule of law in China’s financial sector. Technically, local governments aren’t permitted to borrow money at all. Meanwhile, as government entities run up loans they can’t pay, many small companies, especially private ones, are unable to raise sufficient funds and remain starved of capital.

更糟的是,中國的大部分投資都依賴於負債。中國經濟的債務水平一直都在以驚人的速度上升。評級機構惠譽估計中國2011年的銀行信貸額相當於整個國家GDP的185%,在3年的時間裡增加了56%。儘管這種狀況尚未對中國造成重大的負面影響,但很多分析者擔心銀行最終會面臨不良貸款增加的問題。《金融時報》報導近日表示,中國政府已下令,要求銀行將地方政府所欠的1.7萬億美元的貸款延期,這似乎已經預示著山雨欲來。如果情況屬實,我們將能掌握兩個關鍵問題:1)政府部門投入到項目中的錢打了水漂,他們沒能掙到足夠的錢還債,2)銀行賬面上的貸款並沒有官方數據所說的那麼可信。此外,政府能夠聚斂如此巨額的銀行貸款也說明了中國的金融部門法治的嚴重缺失。從技術上講,地方政府應該是禁止從銀行貸款的。同時,由於地方政府機構積欠了他們無力償還的貸款,很多小企業,尤其是私人企業,將無法從銀行籌集足夠的資金,瀕臨在破產的邊緣。

So we can see the pieces of a crisis falling into place: excessive, misguided investment, including a giant property boom, propelled on by debt and the decisions of government bureaucrats. Sound familiar? A crisis, of course, is not inevitable — if China’s leadership takes action and reorients the direction of the economy. The positive thing is that at least some top policymakers understand the need to change. In policy pronouncement after policy pronouncement, the government pledges to reform. The problem is that China’s government is not taking its own advice. The economy needs to rebalance away from investment and exports to a more consumption-driven growth model with a primary focus on quality of growth, not high rates at any cost. That’s not happening, or not happening quickly enough. Yes, the Chinese consumer is gaining in global importance, but savings in China remains too high and consumption as a percentage of GDP still way too low. Steps that the government could take to spur on the needed rebalancing — reducing lofty taxes on many imported goods, for example — are nowhere to be found. More importantly, the government is doing nothing to set prices right. The currency remains firmly controlled, interest rates unreformed. So investors within China are still acting based on the wrong price signals.

以上種種跡象表明,一次危機已漸成雛形:過多的錯誤投資,包括由貸款和政府官員推動的龐大的房地產熱潮。聽起來熟悉嗎?危機,當然是不可避免的——如果中國領導人不採取行動,重新定位經濟方向的話。好消息是,至少已經有一些高層決策者意識到中國需要做出改變。在一個又一個政策指示中,政府承諾改革。問題是,中國政府甚至不能採納自己的意見。中國經濟需要重新調整,削減投資和出口份額,向消費主導的增長模式轉變,更加註重質的提高而不是不惜任何代價的追求量的增長。這樣才能阻止危機或至少延緩危機到來的時間。是的,中國消費者在全球比重不斷上升,但中國的儲蓄仍然過高,消費佔國內生產總值比例仍然過低。為了調整經濟模式,政府本應採取一系列措施——例如,降低進口商品的高額進口稅,事實上他們並沒有這麼做。更嚴重的是,政府在製定正確價格方面無所作為。貨幣仍被牢牢控制著,利率改革也毫無進展。因此,中國境內的投資者依然在錯誤的價格信號指引下從事金融活動。

Why won’t China’s policymakers pursue more fundamental reform? They are afraid that growth might slip. Sure, the latest five-year plan targets 7% annual GDP growth, but it seems to me that every time growth drops under double digits, the leadership goes into panic mode and revs up the economy again. GDP surged 8.9% in the fourth quarter of 2011, but that’s not fast enough for China’s leaders. They’ve already started loosening credit again — slathering yet more debt onto the economy.

為什麼中國的政策制定者們不願進行深層次的改革?他麼害怕增長速度回降下來。的確,最新的五年計劃對於年GDP增​​長的目標是7%。但在我看來,每次GDP漲幅跌至兩位數以下時,中國的領導層就會坐立不安,然後再次催動經濟加快轉速。2011年第四季度,GDP漲幅飆至8.9%,但對於中國的領導人來說,這還遠遠不夠。他們已經著手再次放寬信用額度,給本已負債累累的經濟雪上加霜。

When I bring up these issues with China watchers, I’m usually scolded — Beijing’s policy mandarins have it all figured out, I’m informed. It is true that China’s policymakers have done a superior job managing the rapidly changing economy in recent years. But as any stock investor knows all too well, past performance does not ensure future performance. Back in the 1970s and ’80s, analysts in the West considered Japan’s bureaucrats near supermen as well. Now the stodgy Japanese bureaucracy is considered one of the main impediments to an economic revival. Chinese bureaucrats today suffer from the same problem that led Japanese bureaucrats astray — they believe the economy can be managed by fiat. The tools of classical economics — getting prices right — are secondary. Why guide an economy with abstract measures like interest rates when you can just tell the banks what to do?

當我向中國觀察家們闡述這一系列觀點時,通常會遭致批評——我被告知,北京的執政者們早已解決了這些問題。的確,在近年來如此瞬息萬變的經濟浪潮之中,中國的決策者們表現得相當出色。但是,任何股票投資者都非常清楚,過去的業績並不能保證未來的業績。早在20世紀70年代和80年代,西方分析家也認為日本的官員們近乎於超人。但現在因循守舊的日本官僚主義已被視為其經濟復甦的主要障礙之一。今天,中國的官僚主義正面臨著導致日本官僚誤入歧途的同樣的問題——他們相信經濟可以由人來操縱。而古典經濟學的工具——矯正價格——則是次要的。既然銀行為你是從,還何必要用那些抽象的措施,比如說利率來引導經濟呢?

That attitude is what killed Japan’s economic miracle, and now I see China slipping toward the same fate. Japan could not escape the forces of basic mathematics. China can’t either, no matter how brilliant its policymakers might be. When would a meltdown happen ? It is interesting to play with a bit of history. Both Japan and Korea suffered their crises roughly 35 years after the Asian development model was switched on — the early 1950s to ’89 in Japan, and 1962 to ’97 in Korea. That puts a China crisis at around 2014-15 or so. I’m not predicting a firm date here. What I am saying is that China is running out of time to fix the problems of its economy.

也正是這種態度毀掉了日本的經濟奇蹟,而且現在我看到中國正走向同樣的命運。日本無法逃脫基本數學的規律。因此無論其決策者是何等之偉大,中國也不可能違背數學規律。如果非要給這場危機預測一個時間的話?我們不妨借鑒一下歷史。日本和韓國都是在啟動亞洲發展模式的35個年頭後遭遇的危機——日本從20世紀50年代開始到1989年,韓國是從1962年開始到1997年。這樣算來,中國的危機大約在2014-2015年左右。我無意於預測某個準確的日期。我想說的是,危機迫在眉睫,解決經濟弊病,中國須快馬加鞭了。

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