Is the elephant about to fall off the bike?

Aromatics, Business, China, Economics, Olefins, Polyolefins, Projects, Styrenics

As Paul Hodges notes in his Chemicals and the Economy blog, China’s Finance Minister quit this morning – either over his role in a sex scandal or because inflation and the stock markets are out of control.
Petrochemical demand growth has been booming in China because, as a bureaucrat put it shortly after WTO entry, “China is like an elephant riding a bicycle”.
By that comment he meant that China had to achieve growth of at least 10 per cent year (peddle hard) to avoid a heavyweight crash. High growth has been viewed as essential to maintain social stability through creating sufficient new jobs to replace those lost by WTO accession and the constant drift of migrant workers from the impoverished countryside to the towns and cities.
But perhaps now, with inflation rising alarmingly and the stock market in the midst of an enormous bubble, the government really does want to cool the economy down instead of just paying lip service to this objective – it’s current approach. Perhaps the calculation is that high inflation and the potential for a stock market collapse represent a bigger risk to social stability than a moderation of growth.
But if policies are introduced that cut growth by too much, every industry from petrochemicals to the overseas retail and auto giants that have staked so much on China will find their profits trimmed. Make sure you steer well clear of any passing bikes with elephants on board, therefore, the next time you are driving through Beijing.
All should become clearer in six weeks when the Communist Party Congress, which only takes place every five years, is held.


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