A former senior official has expressed concern over the slow pace of China’s economic reforms, arguing the present combination of macroeconomic policies, monetary tweaks and expansionary fiscal moves will not be sufficient to revitalise the country’s growth prospects.
“The economy is the No 1 priority for the party and government, and matters have come to a point that only real reforms, not piecemeal adjustments, can secure future growth,” said Yang Weimin, a long-term aide to former economic tsar Liu He at the Office of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Leading Group.
“Reforms are all about giving the market back its decisive role in allocating resources and curbing the government’s powers,” he said in an interview with mainland media outlet Caixin.
Yang, now deputy director general of the China Centre for International Economic Exchange, a government-affiliated think tank, said some hard reforms are yet to be carried out and others are so controversial that there are not yet any implementation plans for them. He added that, to the detriment of the market, government officials have become used to issuing directives to get things done amid administrative overreach.
In the coming weekend, the chorus could get louder. More like-minded economists and former officials will gather in the southern island province of Hainan for this year’s China Reform Forum commemorating the 45th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up policy.
But Yang said the rebound was a “shallow V-shaped one”, adding the prospects for next year continue to be haunted by a debt debacle trapping developers and local governments and faltering confidence from the private sector.
“The biggest risks are to economic growth sustainability,” he said. “Because without meaningful growth via reforms, risks in finance and the property sector will precipitate.”
Reforms would ensure around 5 per cent annualised growth for the next 12 years, he argued, which would go far in making Beijing’s vision of bringing per-capita GDP to that of a moderately developed country by 2035 possible.
US think tank Rhodium Group, which has kept track of the progress made in fulfilling the 2013 document, noted in a report released in early October that a lack of major reforms could keep China’s economy in a weakened state next year. It argued structural threats to economic stability have never been greater.
“After so many setbacks, the market will pay greater attention to the underlying logic behind the Chinese economy and policies,” Beijing-based think tank Anbound wrote in a note last week. “That is, what road China will walk in the future and how it views ties with the rest of the world.”
The third plenum in 2013, it said, made clear the market should play a decisive role in resource allocation.
“Why is such a clear theory, disclosed 10 years ago, raising so many doubts? It’s a matter worth thinking about.”
The State Council, China’s cabinet headed by Premier Li Qiang, announced on Monday it would undertake an inspection tour of ministries and 16 provinces next month to identify deficiencies stifling private sector growth. The body emphasised the need for a nationwide market with equal access for all and unfettered flow of resources.
“Businesses and consumers need reassurances, reforms to convince them that as market entities they can have a say,” Yang said.