Chinese President Xi Jinping has centralized more power in his hands than any of his immediate predecessors. He’s certainly going to be able to pursue his goal of restoring China to its rightful place in the world economic and political order for the rest of his term–and beyond–without significant opposition. Expect an even more assertive China.
On the one hand, the results of the 19th Communist Party Congress that begins tomorrow are completely predictable. President Xi Jinping will be elected to a new five-year term and when the dust has cleared from the once-every-five-years turnover of party leaders, he will have tightened his grip on power still further. On the other hand, there’s huge uncertainty over what Xi will do with his power during the next five years.
Standard & Poor’s lowered its credit rating on China’s sovereign debt by one step to A+ yesterday. The cut is the first ratings reduction since 1999. S&P cited the risks from the growing debt levels in China’s government and corporate sector as grounds for the lower rating.
On Sunday the Chinese government announced that the headline Consumer Price Index (CPI)rose at a year over year rate of 1.8%. Economists had expected a 1.6% increase. The August rate was the fastest pace since January. Core CPI, that is without the effect of volatile prices for energy and food, rose at a 2.2% year over year rate.
Add China to the list of those markets (oil being another example) where rhetoric is more important for setting market direction than data. Yesterday the Chinese government released generally disappointing economic numbers. Industrial output, for example, rose by 6.5% in April from April 2016. Economists were expecting growth of 7%.
Thanks to the 6.5% drop in the yuan against the dollar in 2016 and the 6% decline in the yuan against a benchmark basket of currencies, China’s dollar denominated exports fell 6.1% in December.