Chinas Wirtschaft ist immer noch heiß bis zu heiß, nix wirds bislang mit der erhofften Abkühlung -- der Drache spuckt weiter Feuer: ON TUESDAY January 25th, the Chinese authorities sheepishly confessed that the economy beat expectations last year, growing by 9.5%. It finished the year particularly strongly, growing at an annual pace of almost 13% in the last three months, according to J.P. Morgan. Anywhere else, this would be cause for celebration. But in China, the firecrackers remain unlit. Instead, analysts and investors are trying to reassure themselves that this is not bad news. Economists, who freely mix their metaphors, have spent the past year worrying that China is “overheating” and hoping that it will make a “soft landing”. Their worries reached a peak in the spring, when China’s banks were lending freely, investment was expanding blindly and prices were rising quickly. This anxiety was shared by the Chinese authorities. In April, Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, said China would take “very forceful measures” to cool the economy. The authorities imposed curbs on investment in sectors such as steel, aluminium and cement, refused to release land to developers and threatened to impose price controls if inflation remained out of hand. In October, the central bank raised interest rates (if only by a little) for the first time in nine years. By the winter, however, hopes of a soft landing were high. Inflation was ebbing, investment was cooling and output was slowing (see chart). Most economists expected Tuesday’s figures to show a further slowdown in growth. Instead, its pace has quickened. The Chinese economy has taken a puzzling detour on its gentle route back down to earth. ... China may or may not be growing too fast, but it is certainly investing too much. In the year to the first quarter of 2004, spending on fixed assets—plant, property and infrastructure—grew by 43%. Investment accounted for 42% of GDP in 2003, and perhaps a still greater share last year. No economy can sustain such a colossal rate of capital accumulation. At some point, China’s investment must run into rapidly diminishing returns. Are two cement factories twice as good as one?


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