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Is China trading up?

China has been one of the success stories of the past 20 years, with rapid growth in domestic and export demand. This has created the second largest economy in the world. From 1992 to 2007 annual GDP growth averaged 10.7% and annual export growth averaged 18.9% (see chart).

However, with the credit crunch and ensuing recession, growth rates in China have fallen somewhat. Annual GDP growth has averaged 9.6% and annual export growth has averaged 7.4%. Such growth rates may not seem bad, given that many Western economies have been struggling to achieve any growth, but they have been causing concern for this booming economy.

In its May Outlook, the World Bank forecast China’s growth for the year at 8.2%, but it has since been reduced to 7.8%. A key part of China’s success story has been its export market, but it has been this market that has caused concerns for the mainland economy. In August of this year, its year-on-year export growth was at only 2.7%, but exports last month grew by more than expected, at approximately 7.4%. China has had a consistent trade surplus and according to government figures, this has widened to $27.67 billion in September from $26.66 billion in the previous month.

Recovery in this market will be crucial for the continued success of the economy, as a means of alleviating the fears of a slowdown. This higher growth of exports may be a misleading indicator, perhaps influenced by seasonal factors and thus may not be a sign of what’s to come. Indeed, many analysts have said that they are not convinced that these healthier trade figures will remain. Alistair Thornton, from IHS Global Economics said:

“It’s safe to say we are overshooting the trend here and we expect (the data) to come back in line in the months ahead.”

Citigroup economist, Ding Shaung also confirmed these sentiments:

”The trade data is a positive sign for the Chinese economy … But it remains to be seen whether import and export growth can remain at these levels.”

Part of this pessimism is due to the uncertainty surrounding the growth prospects of its biggest two trading partners – the US and the European Union. Exports to the former have remained relatively high, but exports to the European Union have suffered, falling by over 5.6%. It is likely that weaknesses in the global economy have held back China’s growth prospects in both exports and national output. The Chinese government was aiming for growth of 7.6% in 2012. Not a bad rate you may say, but when compared with growth rates for 2011 (9.3%) and 2010 (10.4%), it does represent a significant fall. The future of the Chinese economy is crucial for the recovery of the world economy, in part as it represents a big demand for imports from other countries, such as the US and Europe. The following articles consider the trade and growth prospects of the world’s second largest economy.

Chinese exports grow faster than expected in September BBC News (14/10/12)
Chinese exports grow faster than expected Financial Times, Patti Waldmeir (14/10/12)
China exports jump, but weaknesses seen ahead The Korea Herald (14/10/12)
China exports rise, hinting at a glimmer of revival New York Times, Keith Bradsher (13/10/12)
China’s trade surplus widens Wall Street Journal, William Kazer (13/10/12)
Chinese surplus widens as exports surge CNN, Paavan Mathemas (13/10/12)
China’s economic slow-down BBC Today Programme, Linda Yueh (18/10/12)

Questions

  1. What is a trade surplus?
  2. Which factors have influenced Chinese exports and imports?
  3. Why is China’s growth rate such an important variable for the UK and other Western economies?
  4. Why has export growth in China fallen recently? Can you use the same explanation for its lower growth in national output?
  5. Explain why analysts remain pessimistic about the sustainability of these improved trade figures.
  6. Using a diagram, illustrate the effect that higher Chinese growth rates will have on GDP in a country such as the UK. Could there be a multiplier effect?
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Footing the bill

Whenever a sporting event comes around, there is mad frenzy from countries across the world to enter a bid – this was entirely evident with the 2018 World Cup bids! And it’s not really surprising with the attention that the World Cup and the Olympics receive. Hundreds of thousands of spectators, billions of pounds worth of investment in infrastructure, thousands of jobs created and television deals in every country of the world.

However, why is it that every sporting event of this magnitude fails to come in on budget? The costs are always underestimated. The Athens Olympics was supposed to cost £1.5 billion, but ended up costing over 10 times as much. It is also suggested that it may have played a part in the current Greek financial crisis. The 2002 Japanese World Cup had little effect on the struggling Japanese economy. The London 2012 Olympics was estimated to cost £2.35 billion, but suggestions say it will now cost taxpayers some £20 billion, although budget cuts are inevitable. What about South Africa? Costs of $300 million were estimated for stadiums and infrastructure, with a boost to GDP of $2.9 billion. However, $300 million was not even sufficient to renovate Soccer City (where the first and final game will be held). Add on to this over $1 billion to rebuild the rest of the stadiums and then take into account rising inflation, which has caused inevitable cost over-runs.

On top of this, every country says ‘look at the benefits’ when they enter their bid. However, economists have suggested that there are actually minimal employment benefits in the long term. Obviously there is substantial investment in infrastructure leading up to the World Cup, which will benefit locals, but the overall boost to GDP is not expected to be significant. A similar thing can be seen with the London Olympics. In the study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2005, there were estimates of a direct gain to London’s GDP of £5900 million between 2005 and 2016. However, UK GDP would only rise by £1936 million. Some of the costly stadiums that were built for the Portuguese European Championships were simply knocked down after the event.

So, what can we expect from South Africa? There have been many criticisms of poor ticket sales and that this World Cup is only for the rich. Street sellers have been booted out of their normal selling ground, as they do not have the necessary permits to sell and cannot afford to buy the permits anyway. Whilst transport has been improved, there are still concerns about the distance that has to be travelled between stadiums and this has put off many potential spectators. However, the Super 14 Southern Hemisphere Rugby tournament was staged in South Africa, with the final at the end of May and the event was successful. Transport worked perfectly, spectators arrived by the thousand and it is hoped that this is a positive omen for the fast approaching World Cup!

Articles
Saved by the Ball Times Online (5/6/10)
South Africa World Cup just for the rich BBC News (10/5/10)
Footing South Africa’s World Cup bill BBC News (4/6/10)
Will South Africa reap rewards from hosting the tournament? Peace FM Online (5/6/10)
Did 2004 Olympics spark Greek financial crisis The Associated Press (4/6/10)
Cost of 2012 Olympic pool triples BBC News (8/4/08)
Watchdog attcks ‘astonishing’ £5bn rise in cost of 2012 games Times Online (22/4/08)
South Africa World Cup costs above budget Reuters (13/8/08)

Reports and papers
Olympic game impact Study PriceWaterhouseCoopers December 2005
A Cost-Benefit Analysis of an Olympic Games Queen’s Economics Department Working Paper No. 1097, Darren McHugh, Queen’s University (Canada) (August 2006)

Questions

  1. Why do costs tend to be under-estimated and benefits over-estimated?
  2. What technique could be used to determine whether a sporting event, such as the World Cup, should go ahead? Can you apply this to the London 2012 Olympics?
  3. How is the multiplier effect relevant to a sporting event, such as the World Cup or the 2012 Olympics?
  4. To what extent do you think the Athens Olympics contributed to the Greek Financial Crisis? Could the same thing happen with London?
  5. What might happen to the South African exchange rate during the South African World cup and the sterling exchange rate during the London 2012 Olympics?
  6. How has inflation affected the budget of South Africa?
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