China’s local government debts have grown to an alarming high level. Liu Kun, China’s Minister of Finance expressed that local governments are responsible for resolving the issue and the central government will not help. During an interview with the China Central Television (CCTV), Liu said that “(we will) adhere to the principle of no bailout by the central government, and it should be ‘whose child it is who holds (the debt).” (In other words, he who created the debt owes the debt.)
Liu stressed the importance of regulating the local government’s financing platform companies. It has been a common practice for local governments to establish these companies to raise money to finance their spending. These companies usually use land (taken from the government) as collateral to get loans from banks, and later pay back the loans after the local governments sell the land. Now with the collapse of the real estate industry, local governments have a hard time selling land, and thus these companies are unable to pay back the bank loans.
Cheng Xiaonong, a Chinese economist living in the U.S. pointed out that all 31 provinces and municipalities in China had fiscal deficits in 2022. Now the central government is not willing to fill the hole. The result will be that banks will lose the money their customers deposited. In addition local governments must cut spending including salary reductions and layoffs.
According to Bloomberg, in the next five years, nearly 15 trillion yuan (US$2.2 trillion) of China’s local governments’ bonds will mature.
Last December, China’s Ministry of Finance issued 750 billion yuan (US$110 billion) in special national bonds for “economic reform, responding to major emergency events, and other expense items.”
Source: Radio Free Asia, January 9, 2023