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Connecting the Dots in China

The new dual thrust of Chinese policy – redistribution plus re-regulation – will subdue the entrepreneurial activity that has been so important in powering China’s dynamic private sector. Without animal spirits, the case for indigenous innovation is in tatters.

NEW HAVEN – All eyes are fixed on the dark side of China. We have been here before. Starting with the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s and continuing through the dot-com recession of the early 2000s and the global financial crisis of 2008-09, China was invariably portrayed as the next to fall. Yet time and again, the Chinese economy defied gloomy predictions with a resilience that took most observers by surprise.

Count me among the few who were not surprised that past alarms turned out to be false. But count me in when it comes to sensing that this time feels different.

Contrary to most, however, I do not think Evergrande Group is the problem, or even the catalytic tipping point. Yes, China’s second-largest property developer is in potentially fatal trouble. And yes, its debt overhang of some $300 billion poses broader risks to the Chinese financial system, with potential knock-on effects in global markets. But the magnitude of those ripple effects is likely to be far less than those who loudly proclaim that Evergrande is China’s Lehman Brothers, suggesting that another “Minsky Moment” may well be at hand.

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