With China Slowing, Can Asia Still Be the World’s Growth Engine?


It is widely known in business and finance circles that China has been a significant contributor to global growth. By some estimates, China contributed to as much as a third to worldwide growth from 2010 to 2013. With recent report that China’s growth disappointed in 2014 and may well continue to remain at a record low level in the coming years, investors naturally worry if China, and more broadly Asia, will continue to be the world’s growth engine.

Economists seem to be less concerned. Steven Barnett of the IMF argues that, for one, slower growth rates do not necessarily translate into smaller contributions to world growth. In USD terms, China’s share of world GDP grew from 2% in 1995 to 12% in 2013. (The numbers are 6% and 15% if you look at it in terms of purchasing power parity.) Barnett estimates that China’s contribution to global growth will actually increase even at the much lower growth rates currently forecasted.

And that’s not the only good news. Things are apparently looking up in a wide range of Asian countries. Take India: Goldman Sachs is projecting that growth there will pick up to 6.3% this year. The Asian Development Bank also expects growth in India. Even Nouriel Roubini, “Dr. Doom,” is positive about India and thinks it can overtake China in terms of growth. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Roubini said that India has been more or less insulated from global shocks so far, but reforms can bring out more growth potential in the future.

And don’t forget ASEAN. The economic union of Southeast Asian countries is expected to provide solid growth in the coming years despite fluctuations in oil prices. The story of Indonesia shares much in common with that of India. President Joko Widodo, who came into office last year, has pledged to implement a wide range of reforms as a means to stimulate economic growth. Despite the fact that Indonesia is a net exporter of oil, Widodo has seized the opportunity of the drop in oil prices to eliminate fuel subsidies and is looking to channel the funds into infrastructure investments.

Lower oil prices could dampen growth prospects in Malaysia, a net exporter of oil and another ASEAN economic power. Thailand would benefit though, as a net importer of oil. And for countries with rapid growth, ASEAN’s new member Myanmar stands out — IHS Economics Asia Pacific economist Rajiv Biswas estimates that Myanmar’s economic growth will top 7% in 2015.

Investment professionals looking to examine these developments in greater detail can refer to the Global Economic Prospects 2015 report recently released by the World Bank. They can also hear from Jim Walker, founder and chief economist of Asianomics Group Limited, at the upcoming CFA Institute Middle East Investment Conference. These countries, and the influences of their shifting appetites for oil consumption, are an important part of the global economic picture that no serious investor can afford to overlook.

Keep up with information and updates about this event by subscribing to the CFA Institute Middle East Investment Conference blog.

Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/retrorocket

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