WASHINGTON – The International Monetary Fund predicted on Wednesday that China will continue to drive global economic development with an estimated GDP growth rate of 9.6 percent this year.
China, however, still faces a number of risks, such as high inflation, a precarious property bubble and a decline in credit quality from an excessive amount of bank loans, according to the IMF.
The organization’s executive board made these conclusions after a team of its staff members visited China between May 23 and June 9 to collect economic and financial information and hold discussions with Chinese officials, who included Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, Minister of Finance Xie Xuren and People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan.
During the IMF visit, staff members looked into a number of indicators, including China’s macroeconomic outlook, the potential for a property price bubble burst and factors endangering the banking system, said Nigel Chalk, senior adviser of the fund’s Asia and Pacific department who led the IMF’s visit to China. He spoke via phone conference before the fund released an 83-page staff report on China and a 15-page spillover report on the effect of China’s growth on other countries.
According to the IMF, China has increased its impact on the global economy and holds “an important stake for the world in its stability”.
Though the IMF scrutinized China’s efforts to reform its financial sectors, Chalk said his team noted in the staff report that China has made progress in changing its GDP-based growth model while expanding its social safety net and introducing policies for affordable housing.
Inflation will start to “move to (a) downward trend” toward the end of the year, Chalk said.
He Jianxiong, IMF executive director for China, and Zhang Zhengxin, senior adviser to the executive director, said China’s key challenges are to “balance the need for containing inflation, sustaining strong growth, and accelerating the transformation of the growth model” in a statement about the Chinese government.
“The task is complicated by the difficult external environment, which acutely constrains macroeconomic policy options and rebalancing efforts,” according to their statement.
He and Zhang voiced their disagreement with IMF staff assessment that China’s yuan is undervalued.
“We do believe that China’s currency needs to be stronger,” Chalk said, adding that a stronger yuan is a precondition to further its economic reforms, grow its service industry, increase household income and liberalize China’s financial system.
The two Chinese argued that the IMF report is based on “the assumption of unchanged policies and constant exchange rate” and “ignores the trend exchange rate movement and the far-reaching legally-binding rebalancing measures that will be implemented in the medium term”.
Chalk said that the team recognized that reform of the yuan exchange rate is an integration of a “package of reforms” in making China’s financial sector more market-oriented and more integrated into the global financial system.
Currency appreciation is important in China’s effort to rebalance its economy but China needs to undergo a more “comprehensive transformation” to increase household income, reduce household and corporate savings, boost domestic consumption and reduce its reliance on exports, Chalk said.
But he also noted that China’s financial reform is a “risky undertaking” and “needs to be managed carefully”. That process will take three to five years before the country moves from its current system toward one that is much more market-based, he added.