We have heard a lot about China becoming the world’s largest this and that. In 2009, when the world was in recession, China leapfrogged the U.S. to become the world’s largest auto market. In 2010, China overtook Germany as the world’s largest exporter. This year, China is likely to surpass Japan to become the world’s largest luxury goods market.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise when The Economist predicts that China will become the world’s largest importer by 2014. Yet, many skeptics still doubt China’s potential to be a stronghold of the world economy.
Last month, I was on BBC World News to discuss the eurozone debt crisis and whether Chinese consumers can make a difference in the world economy. My discussion partner Johathon Holslag from the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies argued that Chinese consumption is still far below its production, and people should not be over optimistic about China rescuing the world economy. See the discussion video below:
Yes, official statistics show that consumption is only 34 percent of China’s GDP (compared to 70 percent in the U.S.). While the West’s economy is imbalanced with over-spending, the Chinese economy is imbalanced with under-consumption. However, this dynamic is changing. When I travel in China, I can clearly see the consumption boom in China’s large and small cities. Retail has been growing like a wildfire in recent years.
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