China: It's worse than you think

The analysis on China is straightforward. The runaway growth in private (non-governmental) debt in China from 2008 to the present dwarfs anything that has ever happened in global economic history. China’s private debt has grown by a massive $16.3 trillion, creating as much as $3 trillion in bad debt in the process. The result is a country littered with ghost cities and piles of commodities including iron and steel. The inevitable bust has begun.

But why will things in China continue to get worse? Because China hasn’t learned anything. China’s private debt growth has reaccelerated to a runaway pace—$805 billion during the last reported quarter alone—and China’s businesses are still overbuilding and overproducing, prodded and aided by China’s government itself. All on top of the years and years worth of overcapacity that already exists.

It’s unprecedented. With almost 50 million empty houses and with big inventories of major commodities, China’s lenders, builders, and manufacturers are still going for more. As one small example, the world, led by China, is still on track to produce as much as 40 percent more iron and steel than it needs this year.

Instead of curbing production and letting real, organic demand catch up with its oversupply—which is the unavoidable requirement to begin rectifying these problems—China is exacerbating this oversupply, ensuring that the eventual reckoning will be all the more difficult.