China und die Falle des Thucydides

John Authers hat von der FT zu Bloomberg gewechselt, was – zumindest vorerst – den erfreulichen Effekt hat, dass man seinen Newsletter umsonst bekommt. Ich kann jedem nur empfehlen, ihn zu abonnieren. Heute fasst er gut die Lage zwischen den USA und China zusammen und wirft einen Blick auf die Lage in China selbst. Fazit: Es wird rumpeln, hat weniger mit Handel zu tun und China ist gerade fragil. Ich zitiere und lasse die vielen Links drin, damit die Leser von bto tiefer einsteigen können, wo gewünscht:

  • Zwei Fragen sind entscheidend: “‚The first is whether China’s economy can continue to grow at anything like it has the last two decades without falling into what is generally known as the “middle-income trap.‘ (…). The second is whether China and the U.S., as an incumbent hegemonic power confronted by a fast-growing new rival, are destined for war.” – bto: Er zitiert gleich eine Menge Quellen dazu, was erklärt, weshalb das Thema plötzlich in allen Medien relevant ist.
  • “(…) there a number of economists and investors who point to the teachings of ancient Greek historian Thucydides, and wonder whether the two economic giants can avoid ‚Thucydides’s trap.‘ Thucydides chronicled the 30-year Peloponnesian War, which pitted Sparta against the rising power of Athens. ‚It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable,‘ Thucydides wrote.‘ – bto: Und es gab noch viele weitere Beispiele in der Geschichte, denken wir an Großbritannien und Deutschland.
  • “(…) with the rise of China, Thucydides’s trap is garnering more attention. It is the subject of a large research project at Harvard. Graham Allison, who heads the project, published the provocatively titled ‚Destined For War — Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?‘ earlier this year. You can read a condensed version of his argument in The Atlantic here. For a beautiful and concise summary of the issues, written shortly before Trump’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, try ‚Lessons from Thucydides‘ by Cumberland Advisors Chief Investment Officer David Kotok, which can be downloaded free here. And for a version of Thucydides that might have made an impression on Trump, try ‚Crouching Tiger‘ published in 2016 by his trade adviser Peter Navarro. It’s available for download here. The subtitle is ‚What China’s Militarism Means for the World‘ and Navarro scoped out a grave analysis of an aggressive China and a high risk of war before he had become a member of the Trump team.” – bto: Da denke ich doch, dass für jeden Interessierten etwas dabei ist.
  • According to the Harvard research, there have been 16 incidents in the last 500 years in which a rising power has challenged an existing hegemon — and 12 ended in war.” – bto: Vermutlich war in den vier Fällen klar, dass es eben keine ernsthafte Infragestellung des Hegemonen war. 75 Prozent Kriegsgefahr ist hoch. Nun könnte man sagen, dass die Tatsache, dass China und die USA Einzelkinder in den Krieg schicken würden, einen solchen nach der Logik von Gunnar Heinsohn eben unwahrscheinlicher macht. Andererseits arbeiten die Militärs nicht ohne Grund an Roboterwaffen.
  • “There are three pillars to the trap: fear, interests and honor. The existing power tends to grow frightened and anxious to hold on to the economic trappings of its power. Most important is the notion of honor, both for the nation itself (which might, for example, feel that it needs to make itself great again), and for leaders who cannot for domestic political purposes be seen to lose. The younger power grows ever more keen to assert itself, and finds its interests conflicting ever more with those of the hegemon. The similarities are evident, and the ‚trap‘ will be hard to escape.” – bto: Zumindest rückt es den Handelskonflikt in ein anderes Licht.
  • America’s grievance with China centers more on theft of intellectual property, while contending with China’s attempt to build access to resources in Africa and Latin America. Also, there are issues such as China’s creation of its own version of the World Bank, and the Belt and Road initiative by which Xi hopes to revive the old Silk Road. Then there are the flash points over foreign access to Chinese markets and protections foreigners will receive, as well as China’s control of its currency. All of these issues overlap to some extent with the tariffs that will be at the center of the discussion in Buenos Aires, but the tariffs are largely being used as a tool to force a much wider discussion.” – bto: Es geht eben das ganz Triviale: die Vorherrschaft in der Welt. Die USA haben so gesehen schon viel zu lange zugeschaut.
  • “Thucydides’s trap can be avoided. The U.S. and Soviet Union never came to a direct military confrontation with each other. But for the next few years, it looks hard to avoid an economic version of the Cold War, with economic ties loosening and both powers suffering as a result, while regular minor conflagrations risk creating an all-out shooting war.” – bto: Kollateralschaden: EU und Euro werden es echt schwer haben.

Sodann stellt Authers die entscheidende Frage: China’s economic viability.

  • “Previous nations that have grown as explosively as China have run into significant economic crisis, at the very least, before achieving fully developed status. Observers have been confidently predicting a crisis in China, or at least a ‚hard landing,‘ for more than a decade. It continues not to happen.” – bto: Allerdings haben sich erhebliche Ungleichgewichte aufgebaut, auf die ich immer wieder hinwies.
  • “The trade spat with the U.S. only adds salt to serious wounds in China’s economic growth engine. China is slowing down for reasons that have little or nothing to do with tariffs. (…) There was an era when China could grow with breathtaking pace as it took rural peasant laborers, moved them to cities, and built an infrastructure to match. (…) Now Xi’s greatest aim is to maintain power for the Communist Party, which involves heading off a crisis.” – bto: deren Ursache aber hausgemacht ist.
  • “Chinese credit has exploded since the financial crisis, but it’s growing less effective at sparking growth, as this chart makes painfully clear:”

Quelle: Bloomberg

  • “After its most recent alarming slowdown, which drove the last major global sell-off in stocks in late 2015 and early 2016, China eventually started stimulating with credit again. But its effect has been tiny. Before the crisis, China didn’t need such heavy doses of credit to maintain its rapid growth.” – bto: Es ist wie im Westen. Siehe der Beitrag, in dem ich kürzlich John Hussman zitierte. Der Schuldenturm verbraucht immer mehr des frischen Geldes, um den Einsturz zu vermeiden.
  • “Smaller indebted companies are now havinga tougher time raising funds through the credit market. As this chart from Chris Watling of London’s Longview Economics demonstrates, yields on Chinese junk bonds have risen dramatically in the last year — more than in the rest of Asia: (…).” – bto: Wir wissen, wie fatal das auf Schuldner wirkt. Es ist ein tödlicher Margin Call.

Quelle: Bloomberg

In short, China is trying to deflate a credit bubble without causing a crash while transitioning to even stronger Communist leadership. Even without pressure from Trump and the U.S., this would be a tall order. Prices for metals — of which China has long been the consumer of last resort — should give a final indication of the problems. They last sold off and hit bottom at the worst of China’s last growth scare in early 2016. They’re down almost 20 percent this year:”

Quelle: Bloomberg

“Whether by luck or judgment, this looks like a good time to confront China. But the risks of pushing that confrontation too far, when China is so important to global growth, are considerable.” – bto: Es dürfte vor allem bei uns zu Problemen führen.