China Economy – The Great Transformation

According to THEMOTORCYCLERS, China represents probably one of the most successful cases of economic reforms of the 21st century carried out by adopting an unprecedented model of development based on a paradoxical mix of controlled capitalism, rigid political direction, granting of economic freedoms and opening to the establishment of foreign companies. This process took place in two distinct phases: in the first, the greater inflow of investments from abroad was favored, in order to develop a surplus of capital for exports; in the second phase, the inflow of foreign capital, interacting successfully with the internal market, allowed the transfer of know-how, managerial skills and technologies that led to the birth and affirmation of large transnational companies. The economic growth of China, its rapid industrialization and its integration into the world economy have produced three enormous consequences on a planetary scale. The first was an increase in competition for the grabbing of the world’s resources. Today China is among the main consumers of the most important raw materials, absorbing 40% of the world’s steel, 25% of aluminum, 38% of copper, 30% of zinc and 18% of nickel. The price of these materials is now conditioned by Beijing. The second consequence was the reconfiguration of the global market: China became the first exporter of goods in the world (it overtook Germany in 2009) and its exports, which reached almost 1600 billion dollars in 2010 (they were 250 only ten years earlier), represent almost 10% of world exports. Because of that, China has regularly accumulated a commercial surplus with the United States and Europe and has often been in deficit in its trade with the rest of Asia, Africa and Latin America, areas from which it purchases raw materials, energy, agricultural commodities and semi-finished products. From this point of view, one of the consequences of the entry of China into world trade was the transfer of resources from the North to the South of the world. Furthermore, China’s continued expansion into new markets has largely depended on its ability to ‘build’ new competitive advantages as a result of the implementation of long-term industrial policies and not as a simple effect of historical and geographical factors. In fact, China has not only reached positions of absolute importance in the sectors in which it was already specialized, such as textiles, clothing and leather (in which it has reached market shares of around 30% of world exports) or in that of computers and electronic equipment (where the market share of China varies from 20% to 30% depending on the sector), but it also ranks first in sectors in which a few years before it was little or no specialized (eg wood and wood products, means of transport, chemicals, machines and mechanical devices). The achievement of new competitive advantages, especially in the higher technology sectors, was the result of two joint efforts, united by the objective of transforming the China from the ‘factory of the world’ into a scientific and technological superpower. On the one hand, the increase in public funding for university scientific research laboratories (C. has far surpassed Japan and every single country of the European Union in terms of investment volumes in research and development), and on the other a policy aimed at incentivising foreign multinational companies (in particular those operating in the sectors of biotechnology, nanotechnology, genomics) to also invest in research centers, where there is an abundance of new graduates with significantly lower salaries than Western ones. These policies were also accompanied by incentive measures aimed at encouraging the return of Chinese researchers and managers trained abroad (the so-called sea turtles). The third consequence, finally, concerns the fact that China is becoming one of the main world export areas of capital. China’s current account surplus, which in 2007 reached the record value of 11% of GDP, combined with the continuous inflow of foreign direct investments has allowed the accumulation of huge foreign exchange reserves. In this way, China has become the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves on the planet: these have in fact increased from 292 million dollars in 2002 to almost 3200 million in 2011. Furthermore, direct investments made by state-owned companies and sovereign wealth funds that have acquired equity interests in foreign companies or taken over entire companies, as in the case of the Shanghai Telecom brand of RCA televisions, or the IBM personal computer division of the computer company Lenovo, or the bank US Morgan & Stanley, hit by the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007 and taken over by the China investment corporation (CIC) sovereign fund, a direct emanation of the Central Bank of Beijing. As a financial counterpart to their protracted trade deficits, the United States allowed China to accumulate more than $ 1300 billion in US Treasuries in mid-2011.

China Economy - The Great Transformation