China’s top leadership to gauge outlook for the economy and policy amid US trade war
- The 25-member top leadership group, headed by President Xi Jinping, is expected to gather before the end of July to discuss plans for the next six months
- US President Donald Trump goaded China after its growth rate slowed to a record low of 6.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2019
Chinese economists are keeping a close eye on the upcoming Politburo meeting headed by President Xi Jinping to see what clues it will offer on how Beijing will manage an economy grappling with uncertainties caused by domestic structural obstacles and the effects of the trade war with the United States.
And the midyear meeting of the 25-member Politburo, China’s supreme ruling body, is likely to offer some answers.
“We think [a major new stimulus programme] is not very likely, because now the situation is not bad enough. The Chinese economy is clearly slowing, but stimulus is always behind the curve,” Larry Hu, chief China economist of Macquarie Capital.
Guotai Junan Securities researchers led by Hua Changchun wrote that the tone of the upcoming Politburo conference would be still about “stabilisation”.
Hua noted that another thing to watch for from the key meeting is whether the leadership will mention “deleveraging” and property market control – with a clear statement about debt reduction and house price control indicating that Beijing is worried more about financial risks than a near-term slowdown in growth.
Xi toured Inner Mongolia last week and inspected farms and forestation projects, suggesting the focus remains on his two long-term goals of protecting the environment and alleviating poverty, rather than on reacting to the economic growth fluctuations.
Premier Li Keqiang held a symposium with academics, analysts and entrepreneurs last week, taking stock of China’s current economic performance. Li said China faces bigger downward pressure and economic challenges down the road stemming from global economic weakness and rising protectionism.
Li Xunlei, chief economist of Zhongtai Securities, a securities brokerage, and one of economists who attended the symposium with Li, said that Beijing would cut the amount of reserves that banks are required to hold at the central bank to ensure ample liquidity in the banking system as well as employ a new targeted method to help the financing of small businesses. According to Li, China’s premier mentioned the credit crunch in 2013 as a lesson to avoid.
The date of the Politburo meeting this year has not been announced, but there are growing signs that China’s leaders are preparing for the policymaking gathering amid the uncertainties of the trade war, analysts said.
For the six years since Xi became president, the Chinese leadership has always picked a day during the last week of July to review the country’s economic performance in the first half of the year and to set major economic policies for the second half.
Last year’s meeting on July 31 came just weeks after the US imposed the first tariffs on Chinese imports and concluded that China must take steps to stabilise “employment, finance, trade, foreign investment, investment and expectations”. This statement sent a clear signal that Beijing would shift its priority from cutting debt and risky lending to ensuring stable economic growth.
“China and the US have agreed to resume trade talks after the Osaka summit, but the jury is still out whether there will be a deal – the Politburo meeting this July is expected to attach great importance on the downward pressure on the economy,” Liu Liu and Liang Hong, two economists at the China International Capital Corporation, wrote.
China’s growth rate of 6.3 per cent in the first half of the year was still within the target range of 6 to 6.5 per cent for the year, even as Beijing has largely held its monetary and fiscal policies steady, they noted. But China may have incentive to cut its interbank market interest rates if the US Federal Reserve makes its expected cuts at the end of July, the two economists added.