China not sheepish about reforms in the Year of the Sheep









China not sheepish about


in the Year of the Sheep



By Wang Yaguang



Pain was part of 2014 for the Chinese economy, with growth likely to post at the lowest rate in over a decade. But this will not force China to backtrack on its reform promises, as pain paves the way for future gains.

For this year’s first trip outside the capital, Premier Li Keqiang went to Shenzhen, a metropolis that has become a symbol of reform and opening up in China.

During his visit there last week, Li said China will count on reforms to strike a balance between steady growth and necessary adjustment in economic structure, as well as to maintain medium-to-high-speed growth.

Li’s trip and statement convey a very clear message: China will not sacrifice reform efforts just to prop up growth.

After more than three decades on steroids, the world’s second-largest economy has transitioned from miraculous growth to a “new normal” of slower, yet more sustainable growth.

The new normal underscores a general consensus that a manageable slowdown is not a big danger, but a lack of reforms could be fatal for long-term development.

The roadmap for reforms seems evident.

China rolled out a raft of reform measures last year, including abolishing registered capital requirements for new firms, a landmark opening of the capital account via the Shanghai-Hong Kong stock connect scheme, and abandoning price controls on several commodities and services.

In a tone-setting economic conference in December, Chinese leaders stressed nine areas for focused reform efforts for 2015: the capital market, market access for private banks, administrative approval process, investment, pricing, monopolies, franchising, government purchasing and outbound investment.

The core of China’s reform package is to give the market a decisive role in allocating economic resources in order to increase efficiency and social fairness.

It’s true that recent data confirm the picture of an ongoing slowdown, which, to a large extent, has been self-inflicted as China strives to ease its real estate bubble and industrial overcapacity, the main drags on growth.

Although a rapid recovery is unlikely, 2015 will not be another year of pain for the Chinese economy. Growth may drop further, but it will not be a big concern as the country has an arsenal of policy options at its disposal to counter the slowdown, including lowering interest rates and the reserve requirement ratio for banks.

As President Xi Jinping put it in his New Year’s speech, “there is no turning back” for China’s reform drive.

Despite the progress China has made, a lack of more aggressive reforms in certain sectors is distressing, such as reforms in its state-owned enterprises. These reforms, if better implemented, will unleash new growth in 2015.









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