Willem Buiter was one of my favourite bloggers. But then he left his LSE Chair to become Chief Economist at Citigroup, and disappeared behind a wall of corporate discretion. But excerpts from his Citigrou analysis reports seem to leak to the FT — as in this summary.
The reason we [i.e. Citigroup] are quite confident that a boom, bubble and bust sequence will take place in China is simple: whenever credit conditions like those seen since late 2008 in China have presented themselves in countries where the fundamentals are strong (as they are in China today), where structural change, including financial innovation, is occurring at a frenetic pace (as it is in China today), and where the monetary, regulatory and fiscal authorities are untried and untested (as they are in China today), a boom, bubble and bust sequence has occurred. This time is unlikely to be different unless the authorities in China act differently from the authorities in China and elsewhere in the past.
Given that experienced monetary policymakers and financial regulators in the West have failed to spot and prevent asset bubbles, the Chinese are, he argues, unlikely to be any different:
A bubble is a manifestation of out-of-control or over-the-top economic success; you find bubbles in countries with strong fundamentals. In no major country are the fundamentals stronger, the structural change more dazzling or the policy authorities less experienced at managing a market economy than in China. We recognize that experience and familiarity with the modus operandi of a financial market economy are no guarantor of good policy. Even highly experienced monetary policymakers and financial regulators, heading institutions with a track record of decades, like the current and previous Federal Reserve Chairmen, failed to identify and prevent excessive credit growth and asset bubbles, and may indeed have contributed through their regulatory and monetary policy actions (or inaction) to the financial boom, bubble and bust that severely damaged the financial system of the US. Even so, the fact that those in charge of monetary, financial and credit management in China are operating in terra incognita increases the risk of policy errors.
So? Expect a Chinese bust in a couple of years. Wonder what that means for the rest of us?