Last year, China’s largest real estate company, Evergrande, with a debt of nearly $300 bn, defaulted on its bond repayments. Real estate is now sinking the whole country. The sector contributes more than 25% to the Chinese GDP. Over the years, China has created a structurally imbalanced economy with large exposure to real estate. As much as 78% of household wealth is in the form of real estate holdings. Families pool in resources to buy homes, and thus house ownership has a huge significance for the Chinese people. Since last week, homeowners have been refusing to pay mortgage EMIs in 91 cities involving more than 300 projects, as developers have failed to deliver homes. China may be heading for an encore of the 2008 subprime crisis.
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The total banking exposure to real estate stands at a whopping $9.2 trillion. Default by homebuyers and developers will spin up major banking stress in China, which is likely to have a global impact. For a couple of months now, rural banks in Henan have frozen the deposits of the public as they are unable to pay. Local politicians are protecting the defaulting banks amid charges of diversion of funds. Shockingly, the Bank of China has declared these deposits as ‘investment products’ and they can’t be withdrawn.
China is behaving like a classic socialist economy, where no one owns anything and everything belongs to the state. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed tanks on the streets to keep away people whose deposits have been frozen by the defaulting banks. The military and the police are protecting the defaulting banks and developers against citizens, who are now at risk of losing their life savings.
There’s a two-decade-old cottage industry based on “China is going to collapse at any moment now and this time we mean it.”
But the CCP isn’t as wise or as strong as it pretends to be, either.