Pierre-Philippe Combes, Sylvie Démurger, Li Shi09 July 2013
Economic geography typically predicts positive returns to urban scale. This column argues that China faces unprecedented challenges in the face of a new wave of urban migration. Accelerating urbanisation has been and will continue to be – if managed correctly – an opportunity for sustaining economic growth by capturing the benefits from urban agglomeration.
Hopes and false hopes in China’s interest-rate reform
Shang-Jin Wei25 June 2013
The Chinese central bank has recently dropped hints that it will quicken the pace of interest-rate reforms, moving towards a more market-determined regime. Will this reduce China’s ‘excessive’ savings and current-account surplus? This column argues that it won’t. While the interest-rate reform may carry many benefits, reducing the country’s current-account surplus is not one of them.
The Chinese central bank has recently dropped hints that it will quicken the pace of interest-rate reforms towards a market-determined regime. Both inside and outside the country, this has raised hopes of improving efficiency and reducing China’s ‘excessive’ savings and current account surplus.
Firms and credit constraints along the global value chain: Processing trade in China
Kalina Manova, Zhihong Yu 13 May 2013
What can we learn from China’s experience as a linchpin in the global value chain? This column presents new research showing that financial frictions influence the organisation of production across firm and country boundaries. If you’re credit-constrained, you might be stuck in the low value-added stage of the supply chain. Strengthening capital markets might thus be an important prerequisite for moving into higher value-added, more profitable activity. China’s experience tells us that liquidity-constrained manufacturers might therefore benefit more from import liberalisation and from the fragmentation of production across borders.
The past 20 years of globalisation have witnessed a dramatic expansion in the fragmentation of production across countries. Firms today can not only trade in final goods, but also conduct intermediate stages of manufacturing by importing foreign inputs, processing and assembling them into finished products, and re-exporting these to consumers and distributors abroad. While processing trade contributes just 10% of EU exports, at over 50% it has been a major driving force behind the rapid growth of Chinese exports (Cernat and Pajot 2012).
Finance and growth in China and India: Have firms benefited from the capital-market expansion?
Tatiana Didier, Sergio Schmukler06 May 2013
The growth of China and India’s financial sectors is hard to ignore. This column presents a new dataset on domestic and international capital raising activity and performance of the publicly listed firms in China and India. The data suggest that expanding capital markets might tend to directly benefit the largest firms – those able to reach some minimum threshold size for issuance. More widespread direct and indirect effects are more difficult to elucidate.
China and India are hard to ignore. Over the past 20 years they have risen as global economic powers, at a very fast pace. By 2012, China has become the second-largest world economy (based on nominal GDP) and India the tenth. Together, they account for about 36% of world population.
Investigating the effect of exchange-rate changes in Japan, China, east Asia, and Europe
Willem Thorbecke26 February 2013
Policymakers everywhere are concerned about currency wars. Are quantitative easing and managed exchange rates bad for the global economy? This column looks at the hard empirical evidence, arguing that, in fact, Japan is behaving rather responsibly and that other strong economies have themselves benefited from undervalued currencies. That said, it is true that politicians’ short time horizons often lead to stealthy policy and large swings in exchange rates. Economists should therefore aim to promote longer-run cosmopolitan interests rather than shorter-run nationalistic agendas where possible.
Policymakers are concerned about currency wars and competitive devaluations. Many complain that trading partners are artificially lowering their exchange rates through quantitative easing and managed exchange rates in order to gain price competitiveness for their exporters.
In 2013, China is at an important crossroads in its economic development. This column argues that we cannot continue to extrapolate from China’s recent economic record. If growth is to remain high and stable, choosing the right course will require nothing less than a significant change in China’s economic model, brought about by what might be the most important political reforms since the 1980s. Whether or not its growth performance tips it into the middle-income trap depends on engaging with and implementing widespread reforms that may be incompatible with the primacy of the Communist Party.
That the Chinese economy is slowing down as it quickly matures should come as no surprise. The global economic conditions of the two decades leading up to the financial crisis were exceptional; things are far more sober now.
Many of China’s development achievements are unrepeatable. Only once can you:
Join the WTO;
Accomplish rural-urban labour transfer;
Fulfill high secondary school enrollment;
Boost the investment share of GDP to 50%.
In spite of the current upward bounce in the economy, slower underlying growth is inevitable.
Exchange-rate volatility is a problem for trade … especially when financial development is low
Jérôme Héricourt, Sandra Poncet19 January 2013
The increasing volatility of exchange rates after the fall of the Bretton Woods agreements has been a constant source of concern for both policymakers and academics. Does exchange-rate risk dangerously increase transaction costs and reduce gains to international trade? This column uses recent research to argue that there is indeed a negative impact of exchange-rate volatility on firms’ exporting behaviour, magnified for financially vulnerable firms and dampened by financial development. Thus, emerging countries should be careful when relaxing their exchange-rate regime.
Helmut Reisen, Moritz Schularick, Edouard Turkisch
The increasing volatility of exchange rates after the fall of the Bretton Woods agreements has been a constant source of concern for both policymakers and academics. Developed countries fought hard in the 1980s to limit US dollar fluctuation (one thinks of the Plaza and Louvre’s agreements, respectively in 1985 and 1987), and some European countries took an even more radical decision by giving up their national currency for the euro in 1999.
Capital controls are back in vogue. This column argues that we should distinguish between episodic controls (gates) and long-standing controls (walls). Research shows that the apparent success of 'walls' in China and India tells us little about the consequences of capital controls imposed or removed in countries like Brazil and South Korea, as circumstances change. Walls and gates are fundamentally distinct, and policy debate needs to take into account these differences.
If trade barriers are managed by inefficient institutions, trade liberalization can lead to greater-than-expected gains. This paper examines Chinese textile and clothing exports before and after the removal of externally imposed quotas. Both the surge in export volumes and the decline in prices after the quota removal are driven by net entry, implying that the pre-liberalisation quota allocation is not based on firm productivity. Removing this misallocation accounts for a substantial share of the overall productivity gains associated with the quota removal.
Growth slowdowns redux: Avoiding the middle-income trap
Barry Eichengreen, Donghyun Park, Kwanho Shin11 January 2013
The rapid economic growth of emerging markets is the leading headline of our age. But growth is slowing. Using new research, this column asks why this might be, and how policymakers might remedy flagging economies. The answer seems to be education. Recent research suggests, for instance, that the rapid expansion of secondary and tertiary education helped Korea’s successful transition from middle- to high-income status, very much unlike Malaysia and Thailand. Whether China can avoid the middle-income trap will depend in part upon developing an education system producing graduates with skills that Chinese employers require.
The rapid economic growth of so-called emerging markets is one of the leading storylines of our age. Arguably, it is the most important economic development affecting the world’s population in the first decade of the 21st century. Rapid economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty. It has accounted for the vast majority of global growth in a period when the advanced countries have struggled economically and financially.