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Is China''s economy headed for a crash?
SHANGHAI, Jan 9 (Agencies):
Published on 9 Jan. 2010 10:26 PM IST
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James Chanos built one of the largest fortunes on Wall Street by foreseeing the collapse of Enron and other highflying companies whose stories were too good to be true. Now Chanos, a wealthy hedge fund investor, is working to bust the myth of the biggest conglomerate of all: China Inc. As most of the world bets on China to help lift the global economy out of recession, Chanos is warning that China's hyperstimulated economy is headed for a crash, rather than the sustained boom that most economists predict. Its surging real estate sector, buoyed by a flood of speculative capital, looks like "Dubai times 1,000 — or worse", he frets. He even suspects that Beijing is cooking its books, faking, among other things, its eye-popping growth rates of more than 8%. "Bubbles are best identified by credit excesses, not valuation excesses," he said in a recent appearance on CNBC. "And there's no bigger credit excess than in China." He is planning a speech later this month at the University of Oxford to drive home his point. As America's pre-eminent short-seller — he bets big money that companies' strategies will fail — Chanos's narrative runs counter to the prevailing wisdom on China. Economists and governments expect Chinese growth momentum to continue this year, buoyed by what remains of a $586 billion government stimulus program that began last year, meant to lift exports and consumption among Chinese consumers. Still, betting against China will not be easy. Because foreigners are restricted from investing in stocks listed inside China, Chanos has said he is searching for other ways to make his bets, including focusing on construction- and infrastructure-related companies that sell cement, coal and steel. Chanos, whose hedge fund, Kynikos Associates, has $6 billion under management, is hardly the only skeptic on China. But he is certainly the most prominent and vocal. He has been spreading the view that the China miracle is blinding investors to the risk that the country is producing far too much.

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