Spielt es eine Rolle, ob China die Banken saniert?

Dieser Beitrag erschien erstmals im September 2016 bei bto: 

Michael Pettis ist ein gründlicher Analyst der Entwicklung von China und kam schon mehrmals auf bto zu Wort.

→ Michael Pettis explains the euro crisis (and a lot of other things, too)

→ „Chinas Schulden sind viel zu hoch“

Bad debt cannot simply be socialized

Heute wirft er einen Blick auf die Möglichkeiten Chinas, mit der Überschuldungssituation umzugehen und die Lehren treffen auch auf uns hier in Europa zu. Es ist eine hundertprozentige Bestätigung der auch hier immer wieder formulierten Optionen und der Warnung vor den Folgen des Nichthandelns:

  • There has been a flurry of reports recently about steps taken to clean up the banking system, but from an economy-wide point of view, it is not clear that any reduction in debt burden’s for the banking system actually reflect a reduction in the debt burden for the economy as a whole, and anyway new kinds of debt are growing quickly enough that even if it did, the country’s debt burden is almost certainly rising.” – bto: Er meint, dass es nicht damit getan ist, die Banken zu rekapitalisieren, solange nicht die Schuldenlast in der Wirtschaft sinkt. Dies gilt analog für uns in Europa.
  • “The fact that bad loans overwhelm the capital of the banking system should not blind us to the fact that China’s problem is excessive debt in the economy, and not a banking system that risks collapse because of insolvency. The only ‚solution‘ to excessive debt within the economy is to allocate the costs of that debt, and not to transfer it from one entity to another.” – bto: genau. Es geht um die Verteilung des Schadens!
  • “Until the losses are allocated, they will simply show up in one form or the other of government debt, and because debt itself is constraining growth the debt must be written down or paid down and its costs must be allocated, the sooner the better for China.” – bto: the sooner the better for Europe!
  • “(…) losses should not be allocated to the household sector or the SME Allocating it to the former worsens the imbalances and makes economic activity more dependent than ever on increases in investment, to which China will soon reach limits. Allocating it to the latter would undermine the only really efficient part of the economy and so disrupt any chance China has of long-term growth. The losses also cannot be allocated to the external sector because it isn’t large enough and it will not be allocated to the central government as long as the leadership believes it necessary to continue centralizing power. In the end the losses can only be allocated to local governments, but that has proven politically impossible.” – bto: Das könnte man genauso für Europa sagen.
  • “China’s problem is that to keep unemployment low the government must rely on a rising debt burden powered by surging non-productive investment (…).”
  • “Beijing must find a way of generating domestic demand without causing China’s debt burden to surge, which basically means it must rebalance the economy with much faster household income growth than it has managed in the recent past, and it must begin aggressively writing down overvalued assets and bad debt to the tune of as much as 25-50% of GDP without causing financial distress costs to soar.” – bto: Aber diese Abschreibung muss jemand bezahlen und darum dreht sich der Tanz – wie bei uns.
  • “They continue to promise that with the right combination of efficiency-enhancing reforms – and there seems to be a dispute among one group arguing for ‚demand-side‘ reforms and another for ‚supply-side‘ reforms – Chinese productivity will rise by enough to outpace the growth in debt.” – bto: wie in Europa. Wir warten/hoffen auf ein Wunder!
  • Simple arithmetic indicates that the amount by which productivity must rise to resolve debt servicing is implausibly large and requires an unprecedented amount of efficiency enhancement. I calculated that if we believe debt is equal to 240% of GDP, and is growing at 15-16% annually, and that debt-servicing capacity is growing at the same speed as GDP (6.5-7.0%), for China to reach the point at which debt-servicing costs rise in line with debt-servicing capacity Beijing’s reforms must deliver an improvement in productivity that either:
    • Causes each unit of new debt to generate more than 5-7 times as much GDP growth as it does now, or
    • Causes all of the assets backed by the total stock of debt to generate 25-35% more GDP growth than they do now.”
  • These levels of productivity enhancement do not seem very plausible (…) there does not seem to be any case in which this strategy has actually worked. No highly-indebted country has been able to grow its way out of its debt burden until after it has explicitly or implicitly paid down or written down the debt.” – bto: Nachdem es die Schulden bereinigt hat, kam das Wachstum. Nicht umgekehrt!
  • “In some cases after many years of struggling unsuccessfully to implement productivity-enhancing reforms and suffering from low growth and economic stagnation, governments finally obtained explicit write-downs of the debt when the debt was restructured with partial debt forgiveness.” – bto: Auf dem Weg befinden wir uns in Europa, nur in einer bisher ungeahnten Größenordnung.
  • “In some cases governments never restructured their debt, and so never explicitly obtained debt forgiveness, but they did monetize the debt and so obtained implicit debt forgiveness through high levels of inflation (as was the case of Germany after 1919) or through financial repression (as was the case of China’s banking crisis at the end of the 1990s), or both (as was the case of the UK after 1945), in which the cost of writing down the debt was mostly absorbed by household savers.” – bto: Mit Financial Repression ist es allerdings angesichts des Volumens an faulen Schulden diesmal nicht getan. Das habe ich schon 2010 vorgerechnet.
  • “In other cases in which governments never defaulted or restructured their debt, and so never explicitly obtained debt forgiveness, they implicitly wrote down the debt not by monetizing it but by means that involved allocating the costs to the wealthy in the form of expropriation or to workers in the former of wage suppression.” – bto: Besteuerung ist eine valide Alternative, siehe “Back to Mesopotamia”.
  • “Finally in other cases, the most obvious example being Japan after 1990 and now parts of Europe after the 2009 financial crisis, governments never explicitly or implicitly wrote down the debt, and have instead spent many unsuccessful years attempting to implement reforms that will allow them to grow their ways out of their debt burdens. They have failed so far to do so, and after so many years it is hard to see how they will succeed.” – bto: Das führt zurück zu den anderen Lösungen.
  • “Debt must be paid down or written down explicitly, or it will be implicitly amortized over time in an unplanned way and at great cost to the economy.”
  • “It is important to recognize that if debt-servicing costs are not covered by the higher productivity generate by the relevant investment, the process by which the debt will be implicitly or explicitly written down and allocated will necessarily happen anyway (…).”

bto: Es ist wenig wahrscheinlich, dass die Chinesen sich mehr der Realität stellen, als wir hier in Europa. Heißt: Verschleppung mit Eiszeit, dann ungesteuerter Prozess zur Entschuldung mit korrespondierender Vermögensvernichtung.

→ Michael Pettis: “Does It Matter If China Cleans Up Its Banks?”, 31. August 2016