China has been one of the world’s leading economic powers for almost two millennia. Until the late 1700s, it accounted for approximately one-quarter of the global GDP (Gross Domestic Product). By the time the industrial revolution was beginning in Great Britain by 1820, China was accounting for approximately one-third of the global GDP. These numbers factually reflected that China’s GDP at the time was six times as large as that of Great Britain.
Under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese government began introducing economic reforms in the year 1978 which resulted in the country becoming the fastest-growing major economy in the world. China registered an average growth rate of 10% over the next 30 years. Its sustained growth rate could be attributable to its export relationships, its large-scale manufacturing sector, and the country’s low-wage workers.
As one of the largest economies in the world, the country was successful in avoiding the global economic downturn due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in the year 2022, it posted one of its worst economic performances in decades because of the pandemic.
China’s National Debt
As of the year 2020, the national debt of the People’s Republic of China stood at an approximate amount of USD 7 trillion. This amount was equivalent to around 45% of the country’s GDP. The off-balance sheet debt of Chinese local governments, as per the Standard & Poor’s Global rating, was amounting to approximately USD 5.8 trillion while the International Monetary Fund said that the debt owned by the state-owned industrial firms was another 74% of the total country’s GDP.
According to Forbes, at the last measure, China’s debt of all kinds – public and private and in all sectors of the economy – amounted to a staggering USD 51.9 trillion, which is almost three times the size of China’s economy. Since the time Beijing first began tracking such statistics, twenty-seven years ago, this amount is the highest level of debt recorded.
The Beijing-backed National Institution for Finance and Development has stated that local authorities are set to issue a new debt amount of approximately USD 570 billion for the next year. This precarious situation of China is further highlighted by its comparison of relative debt to the United States. By mid of the year 2022, China’s national debt was 40% higher than that of the US.
What is National Debt
National debt refers to the outstanding financial obligation of a particular country and what the central government owes to its creditors. The amount of the national debt of a country represents the past annual budget deficits. It is incurred especially to maintain government services during a recession when tax revenues decrease and government expenditure increases. Government debt is also created to cover costs from major shocks like a war, a public health emergency, or even a severe economic downturn.
Reasons for China’s Increasing National Debt
In previous years, China had successfully managed to keep its national debt lower than the US. This was possible due to the policies that were introduced by the state. The national debt of China had usually been held by domestic institutional investors, in particular state-owned banks. The investment and lending practices of these banks supported government policies like issuing bonds for infrastructure investments and insurance companies.
However, in the last few years, the country has seen a consistently increasing national debt that has included government spending on development projects and slowing economic growth. The global financial crisis in the face of the covid-19 pandemic caused the state to inject more credit into government-owned enterprises. At the same time, Chinese authorities eased the way for companies to secure loans to restart the economy. This further increased the burden of debt on the country’s economy.
Impact of High National Debt on the Chinese Economy
China’s financial system is not entirely transparent. This is given rise to concerns about the amount of actual debt that is being held by local governments and state-owned enterprises. Other related concerns are also highlighted like the risks associated with high-level borrowing and the overall debt of the country. Having said that, China is hopeful of ambitious economic growth due to its heavy investment in infrastructure projects. The economy has also taken proactive steps towards a consumption-driven growth model, although, it is yet to yield results.
Despite the shadow that is cast on China due to its growing national debt, analysts remain optimistic about the country’s long-term prospects. They remain positive that although this will slow China’s ascent, it won’t derail the economy entirely.
The debt situation of China is set to grow further. There are two notable and significant issues impacting it. One is its demographic challenge with over 60% of the country’s population either retired or nearing retirement age. The second big concern is the country’s shortage of young workers which supports a growing aging population due to its decades-long one-child policy. This situation within the country is likely to continue for the foreseeable future and the country will rely heavily on debt to fulfill its social security pension obligations.
What is the current debt of China?
As of the year 2020, the national debt of the People’s Republic of China stood at an approximate amount of USD 7 trillion.
What is National Debt?
National debt refers to the outstanding financial obligation of a particular country and what the central government owes to its creditors. The amount of the national debt of a country represents the past annual budget deficits.