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Scholars’ View on China’s “Domestic Circulation” Strategy

Recently, at the semi-annual meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Politburo, General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed a new economic strategy in response to the deteriorating relationship with the U.S. and the slowdown of the global economy. The “dual circulation” strategy aims to replace the prevailing one driven by exports and infrastructure investment with one led by domestic consumption, or “domestic circulation.” He Jiangbing, a Chinese financial expert told the Taiwan based Central News Agency that the truth is, “People don’t have money.” This is the basis for China to implement “domestic circulation.” It is because they cannot afford the expensive imports.

According to the calculations of the Income Distribution Research Institute of Beijing Normal University, 964 million Chinese people earn a monthly income below 2,000 yuan (US$ 292.50); 364 million earn a monthly income between 2,000 (US$ 292.50) and 5,000 yuan (US$ 731.10); and only 72 million people, or 5.13 percent of the total population, have a monthly income of more than 5,000 yuan (US$ 731.10). Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) also shows that 40 percent of the households, a population of 610 million, make about 1,000 yuan (US$ 146.20) a month on average.

He pointed to three issues related to “domestic circulation.” The first is the widening food shortage; the second is advanced technology that depends on advanced economies such as the United States, especially the annual import of over US$ 300 billion worth of chips; the third is the energy sources such as oil and natural gas that rely on imports.

Liu Kaiming, director of the Shenzhen based nongovernmental organization, the Institute of Contemporary Observation organization, believes that it is difficult for export oriented companies to switch to domestic sales. Generally speaking, “China’s total production capacity exceeds the domestic demand by about one-third.” Without external demand, “one third of those companies will go bankrupt.” China’s total exports last year were about 17 trillion yuan (US$2.5 trillion). Even a drop of 1 percent, or 170 billion yuan (US$25 billion), is enormous. The gap must be filled by the corresponding domestic market.

Liu added that China’s manufacturing industry consists of two parts: the domestic market and the foreign market including Hong Kong, the U.S. and Europe. The products made for the former domestic market are of lower quality, while those made for the latter have a higher quality and technology, and employees are paid better. If the government promotes “domestic circulation” as the main driver of the economy, because the income of Chinese people is generally low, firms will have to lower the quality and resort to price competition. “The domestic circulation cannot drive and improve the quality of products made in China.”

Liu believes the major problem for the Chinese people is “no money.” To reduce its dependence on exports, China has to increase domestic consumption.

Source: Central News Agency, September 1, 2020