LONDON – One question has dominated the International Monetary Fund’s annual meeting this year in Peru: Will China’s economic downturn trigger a new financial crisis just as the world is putting the last one to bed? But the assumption underlying that question – that China is now the global economy’s weakest link – is highly suspect.
China certainly experienced a turbulent summer, owing to three factors: economic weakness, financial panic, and the policy response to these problems. While none on its own would have threatened the world economy, the danger stemmed from a self-reinforcing interaction among them: weak economic data leads to financial turmoil, which induces policy blunders that in turn fuel more financial panic, economic weakness, and policy mistakes.
Such self-reinforcing financial feedback is much more powerful in transmitting global economic contagion than ordinary commercial or trade exposures, as the world learned in 2008-2009. The question now is whether the vicious circle that began in China over the summer will continue.
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