Policy makers around the world have long envied China’s ability to get big things done. A huge 4 trillion-yuan ($630 billion) stimulus plan as the global economy cratered in 2008? No problem. Marshaling banks to lend trillions more? Check. Enacting sweeping regulatory changes at a moment’s notice? You bet. Ahhh, the good old days. Now, a once-in-a-decade leadership shift is getting in the way of the stimulus-happy policies to which investors became accustomed. The nimbleness that helped China steer around the worst of the global crisis is confronting political paralysis of the kind more often seen in Japan, Europe and the U.S. The upshot is that China’s 7.6 percent growth rate may fall more in the next 12 months than anyone expects.
About William Pesek
William Pesek is based in Tokyo and writes on economics, markets and politics throughout the Asia-Pacific region. His journalism awards include the 2010 Society of American Business Editors and Writers prize for commentary. More about William Pesek
It’s not that Wen Jiabao doesn’t get the extent to which the supposedly unstoppable China has hit a wall. Just as in 2009, the premier is visiting key industrial cities such as Guangdong and Zhejiang. Wen is facing dour looks from manufacturers surrounded by mounting piles of unsold goods, a rare experience for the main engine of China’s economic rise.
Factory warehouses are cluttered with excess stock, store shelves are filled beyond capacity, and dealerships are choked with cars that used to speed from showroom to road. And yet Wen’s team in Beijing has been eerily silent about how it plans to revive things. That may be because the short answer is, it doesn’t. Obvious Ways
One problem is that China has run out of obvious ways to kick-start its $7.3 trillion economy. It was easy in 2008: Pump tens of billions of dollars into a sweeping stimulus project and 10 percent growth followed. China’s success gave markets the impression that...