Sceptics' spectre of hype-driven disaster

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 June, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 June, 1993, 12:00am

SCEPTICS about China's much-heralded economic miracle believe the darkening clouds over the border demonstrate that their rivals have been caught up in hype.

Among them are Marc Faber, managing director of Marc Faber Ltd, who has been warning his clients since the beginning of the year about markets in both China and Hongkong.

''I have never seen any country feature so many times on front covers - the Economist, Forbes, Fortune, Newsweek - over the past 18 months. This in itself is a very negative sign. There is too much hype.'' China's economic changes have created a class of people with a vested interest in economic collapse, according to Mr Faber.

These people, holders of substantial sums abroad in foreign currency, were likely to get what they wanted, he added.

The renminbi was likely to become ''worthless'' and civil unrest was likely to increase and spread to the cities.

''A civil war cannot be ruled out,'' he said.

Bob Broadfoot, managing director of Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, is another longtime sceptic about China's economic miracle, who says analysts have spent too long looking at the economics and not long enough at wider issues.

''Unless you're a Marc Faber, you make money out of stock prices moving up,'' he said.

''It's in everybody's interests in the stock market to state the obvious,'' he added.

Both say there are a few good deals on offer despite China's brewing economic troubles - but pinpoint selection is the key.

''We're not saying that this is the edge of the cliff,'' said Mr Broadfoot, ''But we've just passed the peak of the boom cycle. I think we're in for a real tough time in 1994.'' Mr Faber foresees a crisis when Beijing's rulings are ignored and a possible backlash if order is restored.

''Hongkong could very much be a target for the Chinese authorities looking for someone to blame for the current mess.'' Beijing was always being too optimistic trying to use export trade to kickstart the economy, and the need to keep wages low to keep exports cheap was preventing real economic growth.

''It's trying to move a big truck with a small engine,'' Mr Faber said.