Chinese economic crash could create big bang

Anyone who stands in the middle of Guangzhou’s high-rise district and looks up is liable to suffer dizziness.

The 600m Canton Tower, China’s tallest structure, sits across the Pearl River from several other newly-constructed giants, including the 103-storey International Finance Centre. The sensation is akin to strolling through a forest of enormous metal trees.

If the Chinese economy – represented by these vertiginous monuments – does fall to earth, one cannot help thinking that it would create a very large bang indeed; one that would be felt in every corner of the earth.

And fears have been spreading in recent months that China might be heading for precisely such a scenario. Economic indicators have been flashing red in recent months. There has been a sharp drop in residential property prices and a succession of disappointing car and retail sales figures.

But the most alarming news came at the weekend with the revelation by the customs department that China experienced a dramatic fall in exports in February.

Much of this was attributable to the Chinese New Year holiday, when factories traditionally shut down.

But concerns have also grown that China – the world’s workshop – is beginning to suffer from falling demand from Europe and America. China’s gigantic export sector is simultaneously the source of China’s strength and also its great weakness. Even the most prosperous of shops cannot remain in business if its customers decide to stop buying.

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