China the 'most likely' to keep growing

By Michael Forsythe and Sophie Leung (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-05-28 07:14
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Report suggests that the nation's economic surge is sustainable

BEIJING/HONGKONG - China ranks first among 22 emerging Asian economies as the country most likely to maintain steady and rapid growth over the next five years, according to the Bloomberg Economic Momentum Index for Developing Asia.

China scored 76.2 percent in a ranking of 16 areas, including economic competition, education level, urban migration, high-technology exports and inflation, that measure a country's ability to continue delivering high growth. India was second with a score of 64.1 percent followed by Vietnam at 61.9 percent.

The index suggests China and India's economic surge is durable and will probably continue to drive global growth as the United States, Europe and Japan lag behind. Gross domestic product in each of the top three Asian countries in the index expanded at least 5.4 percent each quarter on average throughout 2008 and 2009 while the US, the eurozone and Japan fell into recession.

"China has a proven track record, as they have maintained superior growth for a long time," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong. In particular, the Chinese government "demonstrated their ability to manage the global crisis".

In the past 30 years, China's economy has expanded on average by 10 percent a year as it overhauled State-owned companies and allowed more foreign investment. Among economies with annual gross domestic product above $1 trillion, India posted the second-highest growth rate after China last year, expanding by 8.2 percent in the last quarter of 2010.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecasts US economic growth of 2.6 percent this year, 2 percent for the eurozone and a 0.9 percent contraction for Japan.

However, the leading countries' economic track record hasn't been mirrored by the performance of the stock markets in the past 12 months.

Vietnam and China are among the worst-performing indices in the 22-strong Bloomberg index.

Fourth-ranked Mongolia, where a mining boom is fueling inflation and driving up the currency, has been the world's best-performing stock market in the past 12 months.

The MSE Top 20 Index has more than doubled in that time. Sri Lanka, ranked 14th out of 22 countries by the Bloomberg index, comes second with a stock-index advance of 82 percent.

The Bloomberg index may overstate China's rank relative to India and other countries, in part because its official figures understate debt levels, said Victor Shih, a professor who studies the country's financial system at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

China could face economic shocks that would affect its growth. Fitch Ratings said in March that the country faced a 60 percent chance of a banking crisis by mid-2013 in the aftermath of record lending and surging property prices.

The Bloomberg index put countries with some of the world's highest growth rates in the past several decades, behind such countries as Vietnam, which ranked third, and Bangladesh, which was fifth.

The index gives weightings of 10 percent each to four categories: the competitiveness of market structure, which rewards countries for having fewer big companies that dominate equity markets; the quality of the labor force, including education levels, the age of the work force, and the growth rate of scientific journal publications; gross national savings as a percentage of GDP; and the growth of high-technology exports.

A further 12 areas have 5 percent weightings, including growth in GDP for each person adjusted for the cost of living, growth in world share of GDP, stability of inflation rates, diversity of top trading partners, external and public debt burdens, lending costs, net foreign direct investment and deforestation.

Four "cohesiveness factors" include ethnic and religious homogeneity, income equality, rates of urbanization and poverty reduction, and variations in the jobless rate.

Bloomberg News

(China Daily 05/28/2011 page10)