January 11, 2016

China crisis is just another boom-bust

Posted in Sunday Business Post · 80 comments ·

Has the world run out of credit boom and credit busts?


The reason I ask this question today is because China is having its own bust. The culprits are the same as usual: too much lending; too much borrowing; too much optimism and too little foresight. As Led Zeppelin might say, the song remains the same – we’ve all seen this before, we know the chorus and we know how the song ends.


The great Chinese credit boom of 2008 to 2015 was the fifth major global credit boom/bust episode of the past 25 years. It is now over, with dramatic consequences. It’s worth looking back at recent history to see how we never, ever learn.


The first major splurge was the Japanese boom/bust of the late 1980s – leading to a ten-year recession in the land of the Rising Sun. This was followed or coincident with the American “saving and loans” boom/bust disaster of the early 1990s. Did we learn? Not on your nellie. We simply changed direction.


The next great credit crisis came in Asia in 1997, but it was building from almost the day the American savings and loans banks collapsed. The Asian credit boom lasted from 1992 to 1997. Then it imploded.


This was followed by the dotcom 1998-2002 boom/bust, which wasn’t so much a credit boom as a stock market jamboree financed by other people’s money which ultimately went sour.


In 2002, we saw the beginning of the mother of all boom/busts when America, Britain, Europe and, of course, Ireland, decided that borrowing was the road to riches. This sorry cycle collapsed in 2008 – and we all know the story.


In 2008, the only country with no debt was China. However, terrified that the rest of the world wouldn’t buy its exports, the Chinese started their own credit extravaganza.


In late 2008, after the collapse of Lehmans, when the world economy went into spasm, no country was more potentially exposed than China, despite having no internal debt.


The reason for this is political. For the Communist Party to survive, it had to ensure no social tensions – the type of social tensions that come with recessions.


Beijing was determined not to make Moscow’s mistakes of the 1980s. Therefore, control of the economy was paramount. It couldn’t allow the Chinese economy to be dragged down with the Americans and Europeans.


Unlike most countries, China had money in 2008. While countries like Ireland needed other people’s money to survive, China had the cash. Having spent 20 years exporting to the world and building up massive foreign reserves, the Chinese government had money to spend. And they spent it.


After the global financial crisis, China pumped four trillion yuan ($586 billion in 2008 US dollars) into its economy to protect it from the global fallout.


The story of what happened next will be familiar to everyone in Ireland. The double-digit growth attracted foreign investment and as all this cash came in it drove up prices. Everything looked brilliant.


China has experienced the triumvirate that Ireland knows too well – (1) easy money, (2) easy lending leading to (3) easy growth.


The result tends to be too much investment, too much optimism and then too much extra borrowing. Again, think of the dynamic in boom-time Ireland.


With everything going up and everything looking rosy, all sorts of investments looked attractive and the sky was the limit. Easy money begat yet more easy money. Chinese companies borrowed from “everywhere”; and “everywhere” was prepared to lend to Chinese companies. The whole world was beguiled by the “Made in China” idea. This is now coming to a shuddering end.


But the Chinese boom of 2008-2015 has changed the world, because during this period the traditional moniker to describe the Asian giant has changed. Now it’s much more accurate to describe the relationship between China and the world not so much “Made in China” but “Sold to China”.


After ten years of hyper growth fuelled by borrowing, China is the world’s largest consumer of copper, steel, iron ore, cars, aluminum, mobile phones, nickel, rice, cigarettes, meat, Swiss watches, television, rubber, potash, energy, robots, beer, red wine, machine tools, dried milk, wheat, rare earths and coal, as well as many of the luxury goods that we associate with Europe and the US.


Because of China’s seemingly endless demand for everything, many companies – and entire countries – have tried to build their business and economic strategies around selling to China.


Over the past few years, China’s borrowing has exploded. Today there is a huge $28 trillion of debt in China. This is the problem now. China is deeply in debt. Even though the debt is largely internal, it still has to be paid.


When the economy is growing at 8 per cent per annum, debts don’t matter so much. But when the economy slows quickly, debts become not only material, but hugely and horribly significant.


Now the process of too much debt, leading to bankruptcy, leading to more panic will take hold – as it did in Ireland. Good companies with too many debts will become bad companies with too much debt overnight. The money that flowed into China will flow out and the growth rate will fall. The problem for China is that after years of 7 per cent growth, a 4 per cent growth rate will feel like a recession.


We know in Ireland what happens to human nature when things suddenly turn for the worse. The Chinese are no different. Years of ridiculous optimism are followed by a bout of irrational pessimism. We are seeing this now in the Chinese stock market, with greed rapidly giving way to fear. This torpor will spread to the real economy too, as it did in Ireland.


We’ve seen the story before. We know how it ends. Is it any wonder that financial markets are in spasm?

  1. The one unsaid is where does all the money come from?

    When are you going to examine the process of the production of money.

    When are you going to stop ignoring the fact of the elephant in the roon is the central banking ponzi scheme of money production.

    All this money is issued as debt. It is loaned into existence at interest.

    It is this huge mounting debt of money production plus the compounding interest that is destroying the world economy.

    Please address this issue.

    • McCawber

      Before or at least concurrent with going to a gold standard.
      What would you do about Spread Betting, CFDs, Shorting, Derivatives etc.
      I just don’t believe a gold standard will solve all the problems and to put it on a very personal note, what will happen to my savings in the credit union or bank and my stocks if you adopt the gold standard.
      Remember we are in this mess because the sovereigns effectively forced the CBs to print money because the sovereigns wouldn’t get their own finances in order.
      What I’m saying is the debate isn’t just about Gold, it’s about a whole load of things.
      Not least getting politicians to take responsibility for the things they are responsible for.

      • michaelcoughlan


        You asked me I think on the last article what my views are this year on the markets. My skills are rudimentary and I don’t see myself as a trader more an investor for dividends for a rainy day type.

        Be in cash. But first have paid off as much debt as possible. I have closed my bank acc and have what few bob I have left in the credit union which only lends now on a fully reserved basis.

        You could diversify by having some of the cash in bitcoin or gold mining shares. Bitcoin was banned by Russia however. GDX goldminers looks like its making a bottom meaning it should start to go up.

        Bitcoin was in a very stable trading range between 200 to 280 but is now 410 so only buy in incrementally and only after you are in profit on your previous purchase.

        Buy some land too if you can afford it. Learn some homesteading skills.



        • michaelcoughlan

          If cash starts to hyperinflate you can use it to buy groceries etc that’s why cash is important because it is liquid not necessarily to preserve wealth because it won’t.

        • McCawber

          Thanks MC.
          I have made a small shift into gold shares already with more to do.
          The credit union is interesting.


      • The gold standard is never coming back lads. Everyone on here knows this – so why it remains a matter for debate bemuses me.

        The world has moved on and is more complex, there are other options and solutions.

        • LKSteve

          The gold standard may be gone for good, but gold isn’t. Unlike money generated inside computers, it is real and there is only a finite amount of it unlike money, bitcoins etc which are conjured. Let’s face it, the global financial system is now a casino. The money men who pull the strings aren’t to be trusted. They are typical casino bosses, screwing the punters because the odds are stacked. As regards China – it is a monster and its size and voracity should be feared. The atmosphere in its cities is so filthy it’s dangerous to breathe the air, so, they are buying up clean cities here in Australia. It’s food is contaminated, so they are buying all our clean food. The problem as I see it is they are using conjured resources to do this, worthless paper. They have ruined their own environment in their quest for paper wealth, and are now using this to buy up our clean beautiful sunny country. It’s diabolical and disgusting. I am beginning to despise China.

    • Yes please do David, it’s one of the most basic but important issues in economics. It could be a real eye opener for your newspaper readers if you could break it down into simple terms for them – an ability which is your forte.

    • Mike Lucey

      “The one unsaid is where does all the money come from?”

      That crossed my mind also Tony!

      I’m is Sydney at the moment with Bondi Beach a five minute walk down the road. This place would be okay but for the mosquitoes that seem to like my ankles.

      If China hits the dirt OZ will really feel the pinch but they call it the ‘Lucky Country’ so maybe the ball might bounce well for them.

      • LKSteve

        Mike, glad you’re enjoying Sydney. It’s a nice place. The Chinese think so too. They’ve been buying it up as you may have heard.
        The weakness in the price of iron ore is already having a broad impact on the Australian economy. The high paying fly-in fly-out jobs are disappearing by the day, as more and more iron ore mines close. The question is can Australia diversify quickly enough to offset the negative repercussions of the resource sector contraction.
        Australia holds significant attraction for Chinese. Clean cities in proximity to clean oceans, clean secure food sources & a free & open economy. They are taking full advantage of all three. They are buying up Australian residential, commercial & agricultural property. They are buying farms & food processors. They are emigrating here in large numbers under ‘investor visas’ costing AU$5M a pop.
        Australia is a largely unpopulated country with a wealth of natural resources and the Chinese are very cleverly annexing the place without firing a single shot in anger. It will still be the lucky country, just with several million extra wealthy Chinese residents.

        • Mike Lucey


          It looks to me that its much the same situation in New Zealand as regards Chinese buying up property. There is some resentment as much of the housing they are buying is being left idle and forcing higher rents for young people.

          I know quite a few Chinese people back at home and have also done business with them on many occasions. Generally I find them to be reasonable and often better to deal with than a lot of other nationalities.

          One thing in particularly like about the Chinese is that they tend not to set up closed shop inside cliques and second and third generation Chinese Irish integrate well and have great attitudes with sense of humour not unlike the Irish one. I know this because our company is fortunate to have one employed.

        • michaelcoughlan


          Its even worse here in Ireland. We had an internal devaluation meaning the adjustment was borne by the workforce rather than devaluing the currency. What that means is we had the biggest every emmigration of native born people out of it for the last 3 years to countries where they can get jobs that pay properly usually Canada UK or aus. At the same time the birth rate
          Here has dropped for 5 years in a row even though the population is increasing!

          The slack is bring taken up by eastern European labour who are by and large excellent people very fit and hardworking but in many cases are being treated disgracefully.

          We as a race of course see nothing wrong putting our kids on planes out of here to countries that will allow them prosper and replacing them with all the cheap imports.

          Ireland really is the country where the sow eats its farrow.

    • Grzegorz Kolodziej

      Austrians on business cycles and fractional reserve


      Hayek on boom-bust


      Swiss referendum you won’t hear about from the Irish media…


      No time to write or discuss it myself – sorry :-( …

    • Good evening Tony, enjoy the rest of your trip to the 23rd.

      I’m back to Antigua on the 26th – looking forward to getting out of this weather and back to the sun!

      • Weather good here today, Adam.
        Waitomo has rolling mountain farms, waterfalls,caves, limestone river gorges and sand beaches within 59
        I seen hundreds of thousands of acres at sea level. A global warming two foot rise in sea levels would destroy millions of acres of farm land and turn it into a brackish marsh.
        Nobody here seems to care about it as a possible issue. No worries!!!

      • Weather good here today, Adam.
        Waitomo has rolling mountain farms, waterfalls,caves, limestone river gorges and sand beaches within 50
        I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of acres at sea level. A global warming two foot rise in sea levels would destroy millions of acres of farm land and turn it into a brackish marsh.
        Nobody here seems to care about it as a possible issue. No worries!!!

  2. mike flannelly

    Too much lending
    Too much borrowing.

    Economists and Lending professionals have a duty of care to recognise “Real Value Debt” .
    It is neither political or subjective.

    Irish Economists tell us that THEY ARE POWERLESS to identify False Value Debt.
    Experts on every other country but Powerless when it comes to Irish Banking Failures.

  3. michaelcoughlan

    “We have seen this before and we know how it ends”

    Maybe it should end here the way it does in China;


  4. corkie

    All well signaled if you were looking.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSuUM3Abe00 :Uploaded on Aug 2, 2009
    Rick Wolff: China’s growth is either a miracle or something frightening – numbers disconnected from reality

    Maybe the reason ‘we’ never learn is ‘we’ are not in control. When times are good for a while the population begin to notice and start agitating for a fair slice of the pie. Those with the power have learned that this is the time to push the system into overdrive to quell dissent and centralise the benefits.

    Somehow the economy is flooded with credit, rules are loosened, malpractice becomes the norm. The fools bankrupt themselves. bigger fools bankrupt themselves and anyone unlucky enough to do business with them. An unsustainable boom to create the tyrants dream, the inevitable Bust. This is when privatisation agendas go into overdrive as the living standards of the bottom 99% go into free-fall.

    The blame is spread far and wide. In this Chinese example the biggest fools are executed! But you know something IMHO these guys are just patsies in someone else’s much bigger game. In the bad old days they just lead us into a war and this can still happen. Bit now the rulers have a new tool of domination. We call it austerity. Debt slavery would be a better name.

  5. McCawber

    A Financial Apocalypse is nigh David.
    That is the opinion of not a few of your poster fans here.
    So what have you got to say for yourself on this issue.
    Are your colleagues scared and how scared are they.
    On a scale of 1 to 10 how close is the financial world to it’s appointment with a financial day of reckoning.

  6. McCawber

    Is bitcoin being subjected to spread betting (or any other of the nefarious financial instruments) because if it is it’s only worth as much as any other currency.
    If derivatives were denominated in bitcoins where would that leave us?
    I have only questions I’m afraid.

    Thanks for the investing hints/advice last year.
    It has been informative if not rewarding (not completely – yes that’s a double negative) which is mostly down to my own inertia but it takes quite awhile to deprogram ones self from years of ignorant bliss.

  7. mike flannelly

    “Ireland decided that borrowing was the road to riches”

    In fairness there was the concept that rent was dead money and it made sence to borrow when a 1000e mortgage was better than paying 900e rent.


    A buy to let worth ten times the annual rent would service itself with a 50% LTV 25 yr mortgage. The rent would service mortgage, taxes, service charges and repairs etc.
    Ideal pension support for self employed with nonsecure income.

    Borrowing was not the problem.
    Grossly Overvalued Debt was the problem.

    Not having a proper discussion on grossly overvalued debt is alarming.

    Step 1.
    Highlight the problem.

    Step 2.
    Identify the causes.

    After 7 years we havent the honesty to discuss step 1 or 2.

    Dishonesty is preventing us from moving on to the corrective actions and continious improvement stages for a real economy.

    I dont know what a tracker mortgage is

    what exactly is the role of an economist, a finincial ombudsman or the consumer protection council of Ireland.

  8. mike flannelly


  9. Mike Lucey

    Has anyone an opinion on Silver bullion as a hedge against a wipeout? It looks to me that Silver at just under US$14 is away under valued. From what I have read, based on mining costs, Silver used to be a twelfth the price of Gold. That would place it around US$91 currently. Something is not right!

    • michaelcoughlan

      The resident gold bug on the site tony brogan has demonstrated over and over again how the metals prices are being manipulated in the derivatives markets so the prevailing wisdom is a max 10% allocation to metal or buying g shares in a metals mining etf like gdx etc.

    • The historical value of silver was historically fixed at 14/1 by newton I think. Based on the relative rarity of the metals on earth.
      In recent history it traded in the 45/1 range so at the current 75/1 ratio silver should do twice as well as gold in the currently resuming bull market.
      The ratio narrows in a bull market and widens in a bear market.
      Put half your PM investment in silver and half in gold. Every so often adjust the ratio back to 50/50.
      As the market rises you will increase gold ounces and decrease silver.
      In a falling market the reverse.you will end up with more ounzes of each rather than doing nothing.

    • LKSteve

      @Mike, I started to accumulate 1OZ silver proof coins, although they all weigh the same, they are valued differently due to qty’s produced, beauty of the design, presentation etc. my problem with silver is the relatively low value, therefore the amount of the stuff you need to store to hold any reasonable value. I switched over to 1OZ proof gold krugerrand’s of the highest quality, PF70 NGC certified. Beautiful pieces that will stand the test of time. Whenever I have some spare cash, I buy another. Why not?

      • michaelcoughlan


        The prevailing wisdom is 10% allocation to pm. Gold and silver is in my view runaway money. If you need to move thousands of miles away you bring your stash and sell it in the new peaceful area you move to to get going again.

        The people who have survived real meltdowns said you can’t trade pm openly for goods in such circumstances because you are flagging you have pm and you will be killed for same.


  10. Sideshow Bob

    Answering the rhetorical question at the start of the article, I would say the most obvious high profile credit bubble around at the moment is in technology stocks, in particular the so called “unicorns´´ and “decacorns´´. Given the presence of so many these companies in Ireland the impact of a that bubble bursting would be most likely felt here, in terms of loss of investment and actual direct jobs losses.

  11. michaelcoughlan

    Hi David,

    In China if they don’t want you to have a normal sized family they just say “fuck you, one child and that’s it”.

    In Ireland however we fuck our young people far more subtlety both literally and metaphorically;


    I can only imagine what suds would be thinking reading the article at the link above;

    “This is great news not only can she not save or buy a house she now won’t be able to get married and have kids and sure we will just flood the fucking place with Syrians if the Poles get sick of being fucked royally. Those Chinese mother fuckers are too crass in the way they do things we here in Ireland are a lot smarter we just make it impossible through CB and fiscal policy for people to get ahead here in Eireuba. As for that useful idiot of a Taoiseach sure we will just convince him to try and persuade the people abroad to come home to increase the level of tax take and sure he is so unembarrassable the fact that the last three years in Ireland have seen the biggest emigration out of the place every won’t bother him in the slightest. Even better that Beaumont hospital have stopped taking patients just like the regional in limerick sure now that less people will be using the service we will be able to convince people we should cut funding to the hospitals”

    • michaelcoughlan

      Fucking scum in rbs want people to dump everything and buy bonds? Just as the bond markets are going to explode?

      There is no end to it.

  12. mike flannelly

    “It’s worth looking back at recent history to see how we never, ever learn.”

    Lets face it,
    If the Irish journalists, politicians and economists wanted to learn then they would ask the CORE FINANCIAL QUESTIONS about financial failures.
    They would demand answers to core questions.

    They are really not interested in learning.

    It could be an age thing. This generation of Irish 50 to 70 year olds in charge are shamelessly benefiting on the shafting of the next generations. No Long term vision of what is best for the greater public good. They have a lack of pride and self respect.

    The next generation must ask the CORE financial questions and place attachment if they dont want to end up paying for my shameful generations bonus payments and pensions.
    The next generation need to constitutionally challenge the bias pension system that benefits select citizens. All citizens must pay their own contributory pensions.
    The next generation needs to ask the consumer protection commission to enforce consumer laws with regard to blank cheque name your own bankers profit variable rate mortgages. Enforcing consumer laws is THEIR job. The consumer protection commission have no constitutional authority to IGNORE THE BANKING SECTOR.
    Michael Mc Grath must go back again and demand that they do their job.

    The tab for Financial Failures is passed onto the next generation while my generations failures are politically protected at ANY COST.

    A 2016 cost benefit analysis might prove that Fair pension systems and Fair mortgage systems would provide a Fair sustainable long term economy.

    We might need to ditch the present cover up for our failed bankers system that is not benefiting the big picture.

    • Ha, I am ahead of the baby boomers and u have always been aware that the system would bust itself. Simple logic told me that even before I studied the results of our current money system.
      Spending more than earnings always ends in bankruptcy. It is that simple.
      Same for an individual, corporation, or country.
      Living on credit leads to disaster.
      Trying to solve a debt problem by increasing the debt is insanity.
      Any economist advocating the same is illogical, insane, ignorant, or plain evil.

  13. michaelcoughlan

    “It’s worth looking back at recent history to see how we never, ever learn.”

    As I look back in history I see how it is YOU who never learns McWilliams.

    What a stupid idiotic statement. I am motivated to post because I read your facebook page where the Japanese birth rate has collapsed and 50% of japs between 17 and 50 haven’t shagged each other in 12 months.

    So after 20 odd years of qe in Japan the population have had so much wealth taken from them in the qe madness by stealth of devaluing the currency they now can’t sire families due to their surreptitious impoverishment so what’s the moral of the story?

    You are the one who NEVER LEARNS that boom bust is POLICY AND NOT FAILURE! During the bust the hedge funds haul in the assets and the people get fleeced for taxes to clean up the mess AND theses onerous taxes means human beings can’t afford to reproduce (brilliant from Sud’s perspective as less people in the world suits his agenda right down to the ground).

    When are you going to grow up? We in Ireland have had 5 years of a declining birth rate in all the same type of madness! Our population is GROWING from immigration (excellent result to weaken any nationalist agenda from Sud’s perspective).

    What do people like you need to happen before the wool is pulled from over your eyes?

    • Antaine

      Pardon my ignorance Michael but what is Suds perspective. Google didn’t help me :-)

      • michaelcoughlan


        Suds aka peter Sutherland has stated openly on the record and you can hear him yourself on YouTube that he wants to see a federal Europe and even a federal world.

        He wants to use the flood of refugees to weaken natiional politics in a very country. For propaganda purposes he equates national politics with nazism which it isn’t because the Nazis were fascist and describes national politics as evil when it is he who is evil by virtue of the fact that the policies advocated by him has the world in the turmoil it is.

        He also knows that debt is too big but rather than contenance a write down on debt which would hurt banks needs to reduce world population so that money which would be spent raising families can be transfered to people like him to keep the bond bubble from collapsing. He cloaks this population problem from his perspective in faux concern for sustainability and environmental reasons. All you have to do is call up the YouTube videos and watch them. The evil you will experience will shock you.

      • Deco

        Bought and paid for.

        That is his “perspective”.


        Everything he ever ran eventually ended up in a scandal. A track record of infamy.

        AIB, G Sucks, Big Pollution, and part of a government that doubled the public debt in four short miserable years in the 1980s.

        • michaelcoughlan

          That’s right and no one says all he is is just another fucker emperor with no clothes on. Bank of Scotland was another disaster.

        • michaelcoughlan

          He operates as a double agent and specifically like a virus his job is to get in rot everything and then transfer the good to himself and more like him by exercising the liens on assets taken for loans. He knows that the bust follows the borrowing. Irish gov, aib, bank of Scotland in fairness he does his job very very well. Remember john Lennon in workng class hero?
          ‘There’room at the top they are telling u still but to get there you must learn to smile while you kill’

    • Yes, Michael, the boom bust is deliberate policy. It is fostered by the ptb who control the expansion and contraction of the money supply.

      It is well past time David exposed the issue of the credit called money. I begin to think he is the shill for the establishment while faking otherwise.

  14. Deco

    China will experience an economic crash. But China will come back. And when it comes back it will suck even more jobs than it has been sucking to date.

    Many of China’s non-real estate investments are with respect to infrastructure that will make China more efficient.

    Meanwhile the clowns in the Dail are going to invest 3 Billion Euros of the people’s money in PR stunts to instruct the people to thnk everything is fantasitic here.

    And 3 Billion euro is the cost of the DART underground that would bring public transport in the East region to an entirely new level in this country.

    Decisions, decisions !!!!

  15. “Fossil fuel burning ‘postponing next ice age’”

    “Climate change is altering global cycles to such an extent that the next ice age has been delayed for at least 100,000 years, according to new research identifying Earth’s deep-freeze tipping point”


    100,000 years? Did you ever hear such shite lads?

    • Deco

      They don’t know what that they are talking about technically speaking.

      But it is the type of headline that can be used to justify spending more money on academic studies.

  16. Mike Lucey

    Ron and Rand’s ‘Audit the Fed’ bill has bombed. Yellan appears to have made threats about % increases if it moved ahead.

    This was expected but the result may stand to Rand’s political campaign as he can now back up with proof what he has been saying about Fed ‘fixing’.

    Will he be listened to? I doubt it and it might be better for his long term health as the last President that tried to put manners on the Fed got a bullet in the head for his troubles.

    • The only way to change things is for the population as a whole to be educated.
      That is David’s proclaimed job. Educator. . ….
      It is time to get into actions. Words are cheap.

      Rand’s audit the fed bill was closer. It got a majority vote but not 60% plus.

      If the Americans do not get the truth they will revolt for other reasons but not the right ones.

  17. Dan O’Brien is predicting a soft landing:

    “Come crash or conflict, we’re pretty well padded against the worst of it”


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