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英文解釈の思考プロセス 第221回  


今回の題材は、2018年3月13日付の The New York Times 紙に掲載された YUKON HUANGMARCH 氏によるエッセイ、China’s Economy Is Not Normal.  It Doesn’t Have to Be.  “中国経済は正常と言えるものではありません。そうである必要がないのです。” です。全文の和訳はオリジナルの次にあります。

Opinion | Op-Ed Contributor

China’s Economy Is Not Normal. It Doesn’t Have to Be.




Credit Matt Chase

WASHINGTON — China’s extraordinary growth over the past few decades has spawned two major lines of analysis. One school of thought holds that China is a rising economic power poised to conquer the world. The other argues that China’s economy has become so distorted that it is bound to collapse or, at least, as a former United States Treasury secretary suggested, “regress to the mean.”

Both views are mistaken.

For one thing, China has never been a normal economy. It experienced an average of nearly 10 percent growth rates for almost four decades, a record; it is the first developing nation to become a great power. So why couldn’t it keep defying expectations?

What some take to be the Chinese economy’s weaknesses have, in fact, been strengths. Unbalanced growth isn’t evidence of a looming risk so much as a sign of successful industrialization. Surging debt levels are a marker of financial deepening rather than profligate spending. Corruption has spurred, not stalled, growth.

At least so far. The central question isn’t whether China might continue to confound norms so much as what, precisely, is required for it to do so. And that, as ever, hinges on whether the Chinese government can strike the right balance between state intervention and market forces.

Centralized authoritarian power has its benefits, including the ability for those who have it, at least in theory, to correct course rapidly. This has allowed China’s leaders to put the economy on a more sustainable growth path in recent years. The gross domestic product growth rate rebounded last year. Foreign reserves are back up as well. Wages have increased. The recent abolition of term limits for the president and vice-president’s terms gives President Xi Jinping more time and leeway to promote his vision of a more prosperous, modern and powerful China, and with the help of trusted advisers: His former corruption czar, Wang Qishan, is expected to be named vice-president and Liu He vice-premier in charge of the economy.

Skeptics about China’s future usually point to the country’s swelling debt. China’s overall debt-to-G.D.P. ratio exceeds 250 percent — but that is a fairly average level: higher than that of most emerging-market economies; lower than that of most high-income countries. More worrisome, though, is the fact that it increased by more than 100 percentage points, or nearly doubled, over the past decade.

The International Monetary Fund has cautioned that other economies that experienced such rapidly rising debt ratios — Brazil and South Korea a few decades ago, and several European countries more recently — eventually succumbed to a financial crisis. Why would China be any different?

One reason is that not all debt is created equal.

As some of the optimists note, China’s debt is public, not private, which means that the risks are largely borne by the state, which has deeper pockets. The borrowing is largely domestic, rather than external. And despite a surge in mortgages, Chinese households have a low overall debt burden compared to their counterparts elsewhere. For all its heady growth, China’s financial system also remains relatively simple, without the exotic securitization that nearly brought down the American economy a decade ago.

China’s debt ratio also seems more worrisome than it really is because its nature is often misunderstood.

China’s banks are no longer just serving state actors; now they also serve the private sector, notably after the privatization of state-owned housing in the late 1990s and early 2000s created a broad-based commercial property market. As much as two-thirdsof credit expansion between 2005 and 2013 — including via unofficial or so-called shadow banking — went into property-related assets, helping establish a market price for land. Thus, rapid credit growth largely reflects an increasing financial sophistication rather than a property bubble or wasteful investments.

Still, the official figures can appear to suggest otherwise. By my calculations, property prices in China have grown sixfold since 2004. But property transactions are not included in gross domestic product assessments — which helps explain why debt levels have surged while G.D.P. has not.

That said, high debt levels do represent some fundamental weaknesses. As I detail in my last book, the tax revenues of local governments have not kept pace with their social expenditures, prompting those authorities to borrow from banks to fund public services. China’s large debt isn’t a debt problem so much as a fiscal problem in disguise.

The growing commercial role of local governments has, in turn, multiplied opportunities for graft. But this problem, too, is often misunderstood.

Corruption is said to impede growth by inhibiting investment. Not so in China, where the state controls major resources, such as land and energy, yet generates lower returns on assets than the private sector does. Privatizing those resources was a nonstarter under communism, and so corruption has served as a makeshift alternative, by allowing more private actors to use state-owned resources after striking arrangements with officials. Because those actors’ practices are more profitable, the economy has benefited overall.

Some China observers also are concerned that China’s speedy growth cannot be sustained unless consumption replaces investment as the economy’s main driver. (The Chinese government appears to agree, or claims to at least.) They point out that while investment accounts for an unusually high share of gross domestic product, consumption accounts for an unusually low share.

But to say this is to misunderstand the nature of China’s unbalanced growth.

The main cause of that imbalance is urbanization. Over the past four decades China’s urbanization ratio has increased from less than 20 percent to nearly 60 percent. In the process, workers from labor-intensive rural activities have moved to more capital-intensive industrial jobs in cities. And so, yes, an ever-greater share of national income has gone into investment as a result. But corporate profits have also risen, leading to higher wages, which have spurred consumption. In fact, even as the consumption share of G.D.P. has fallen, personal consumption has grown multiples faster in China than in any other major economy.

Eventually, China’s economy will have to become more balanced, as the government well knows. But the Chinese Communist Party’s plan for that is to have the state play the “leading” role in the economy while the market plays the “decisive” role in allocating resources. Squaring that circle can be tricky.

How will China’s leaders reform state-owned enterprises, whose profitability keeps declining (especially relative to that of private firms), when they still see those companies as national champions?

Mass urbanization is expected to continue, still not out of people’s personal preferences but at the state’s behest, by way of residency restrictions, evictions and forced relocations. Yet China’s planners now seem intent on redirecting migrants from megacities to smaller cities, and this could curb economic growth: As the World Bank points out, labor productivity is much higher in larger cities than in smaller ones.

Then, there is the corruption issue, which will require another delicate balancing act. Corruption has benefited the Chinese economy by, in effect, allowing the transfer of state assets to more efficient private actors. But over time such gains are being outweighed by the social costs of bribes, wasteful expenditures and growing inequities. Allowing corruption to run rampant could undermine the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. Yet combating it with draconian measures could hurt growth by discouraging both officials and entrepreneurs from taking economic risks.

Hence the importance, and sensitivity, of Mr. Xi’s signature anticorruption campaign. It has been cast as an effort to discipline errant officials, but some see it as a means for Mr. Xi to purge political opponents or exert more control over society. It seems to have been popular so far: The general public perceives local officials as taking advantage of the system, and here is the central government appearing to rectify the situation. But some warn that the National Supervision Commission, a new agency designed to institutionalize anti-graft efforts, could signal overreach.

To discourage corruption effectively, the Chinese government will eventually have to leaven the rule of the party with more rule of law. In the meantime, some practical reforms would help, including creating a civil code to define acceptable commercial practices, basic property rights and the status of private companies. More sweeping — and more politically sensitive — reforms will also be needed to ensure that private actors have more access to major resources, like land and financing, without having to rely on personal connections to local officials.

The Chinese economy’s glory days may be over, but even a 6 percent growth rate over the next decade would be remarkable. At that pace, the economy would double by 2030 and likely become the world’s largest in nominal dollar terms. (It already is the world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.)

China’s remarkable success to date can be credited in part to its leaders’ willingness to set aside communism for pragmatism. Some observers worry that Mr. Xi is now reinjecting ideology into major policies, Mao-style. But he also is concentrating power and promoting action-oriented reformers like Mr. Wang and Mr. Liu — signaling his intention to address China’s social and economic needs even as he gathers the means to do so. China may not become a normal country for some time yet.

Yukon Huang is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment and the author of “Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong.”

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< 全文和訳例 >

ワシントン発 - 中国の過去数十年に及ぶ並外れた経済成長は、中国分析に関する二つの大きな潮流を生み出しました。一つの学派は、中国は、世界を征服せんとしている昇竜の勢いの経済大国であると考えています。もう一つの学派は、中国経済は非常に歪になり没落は避けられない、あるいは、アメリカ合衆国の前財務長官が示唆した様に、少なくとも “みすぼらしい状態に退化” することから免れないと主張しています。






一般的に、中国経済の将来性について懐疑的な人々は、中国の債務が膨張している点を指摘します。中国の国内総生産に対する全負債額の割合は250%を超えています― しかしそれは概して平均値に近いのです:即ち、大半の新興市場経済諸国よりも高率ではあるものの、所得水準の高い先進経済諸国よりも低くなっています。もっとも、より憂慮すべきことは、その値が過去の10年で100%以上、あるいは倍近くに膨れ上がったという事実です。

国際通貨基金(IMF)は、中国と同様に急速に負債が膨張した新興経済国家 - 1990年代のブラジルや韓国、及び近年のギリシア等のいくつかの欧州の国家 -は最終的に財政危機に陥ったと警告しています。中国がそれを免れることなど可能なのでしょうか。




中国の銀行は今や政府機関や国営企業だけではなく、民間企業とも取引をしています。その傾向は、1990年代末から2000年代初期にかけて国営の住宅を民営化した後に、営利目的の不動産市場が形成されて以降、とりわけ顕著になっています。2005年から2013年にかけての貸出し(信用貸し)が急増 - 非公式な、あるいは、いわゆるシャドウバンキング(証券会社等の銀行以外の金融機関が行う金融業務)を含む – 時期に、その3分の2は不動産関連の資産へと注ぎ込まれ、土地の市場価格形成に一役買うことになりました。従って、この信用貸しの急増は、不動産バブルや浪費的投資ではなく、金融システムが近代化したことを反映しているのです。








最終的には、中国経済はよりバランスのとれた姿になる必要がありますが、その点について政府は十分に理解しています。しかし、それに向けた中国共産党の計画は、国家の資源を割り当てることに関して市場に ”決定的” な役割を与える一方で、政府が経済における ”主導的” 地位を担うというものです。その様な不可能とも思える課題に対処するのは、途方もないことです。





汚職を効果的に防ぐには、中国政府は、最終的に党による支配から徐々に法の支配へと移行する必要があるはずです。その間、あるべき商習慣、基本的財産権、そして民間企業の地位を規定する商法典の制定を含む、いくつかの実践的な改革が有用です。より包括的な - そして慎重な政治的配慮に基いた - 改革も、民間業者が、地方行政府の役人との個人的関係に頼る必要なくして土地や金融システムの様な国家の資源をより有効に活用できることを保証する為に、必要となります。


中国のこれまでの素晴らしい経済的成功は、政府首脳が、共産主義の理念よりも現実主義を積極的に優先してきたことが理由であると言えそうです。中国ウオッチャーの一部には、習近平国家主席が毛沢東と同様に、主要な政策に共産主義の理念を再度盛り込んでいることに懸念を示しています。しかし、彼も権力を集中させ、王氏や劉氏の行動志向の改革を促進させています - 必要とする権力を一身に集めているのは、中国の社会的、経済的ニーズに応えるという彼の意図を伝えるものに他ならないのです。もうしばらくの間、中国は正常な国家にはなりそうもありません。

To be continued.