Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to be sailing into an economic storm of his own making, as one of China’s largest developers teeters on the edge of bankruptcy and manufacturers grapple with power shortages across the country.
But aside from minor course corrections, analysts and government advisers expect Xi to take advantage of what he has termed a “window of opportunity” to press ahead with difficult structural reforms.
If successful, it will be the latest in a long series of bold political gambles — from the elimination of term limits on the presidency to his pursuit of
“common prosperity” — that has made him China’s most feared leader since Mao Zedong. It has also put him on the cusp of an unprecedented third term in power at the Chinese Communist party’s 20th congress late next year.
Common prosperity is particularly risky, as Xi’s determination to rein in property prices and reduce income inequality could do more harm than good to the world’s second-largest economy.
“Xi is warming up for the congress,” said Henry Gao, a China expert and law professor at Singapore Management University. “He wants people to remember him for many things, but especially for achieving common prosperity. [His predecessors] were able to get China on the fastest speed train for economic development but didn’t do much for common prosperity.”
Next week the National Bureau of Statistics will release its estimate for third quarter economic growth and other important economic indicators. The data will provide the best indication of the impact from the crisis at Evergrande, China’s second-largest developer with more than $300bn in liabilities, and power shortages sparked by factors including a surge in coal prices and strict new environmental targets.
As a result, many forecasters are revising downwards their full-year economic projections for China’s economy. But most still estimate that economic output for the full year will comfortably exceed the government’s official growth target of 6 percent over 2020.