Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's the Mandarin for Property Crash?

I grow bored of Portergate, and so my internet browsing has led me further afield, to examine China and the continuing economic miracle that rolls on there in apparent defiance of the global recession. Obviously, given the swamp of debt in which much of the rest of the world is mired, there is much speculation that surely the Chinese economy will soon come crashing down, with many doom laden predictions being aimed at China's sky-rocketing property market.

I was unsure of my own view on this topic, until I read this post on the Wall Street Journal China Real Time Report. True, it is scant in terms of details or figures, and the article does not even suggest that the Chinese property market might crash. However, the following two lines regarding leading developer Ren Zhiqiang have convinced me that China will soon experience a tumble in property prices:

"(Ren) once famously said anyone who couldn’t afford a house in the city should go back to the countryside"

And, after a protestor threw a shoe (I mean really, who throws a shoe?) at Ren during a speech he was giving to a real estate conference, "Ren seemed to embrace the attack. Cracking a smile after the first salvo missed its mark, he went on to insult the shoe-thrower as someone probably frustrated at being too poor to buy a house."

Now, supposedly professional economists (you know, those ones with "degrees", and who have carried out "research") will tell you that you measure the likelihood of property bubbles by looking at multiples of average income, price rises year on year, and over-active lending on the part of banks. You know, numbery sort of things.

Not me. I measure the likelihood of a bubble bursting using the patented "Aitor McDonagh Mean Hubris Quotient". And let me tell you, with Ren's comments, we are going off the scale.

Basically, measuring Ren's comments against our standard measures taken from Ireland, we have long passed the 100 MicroBerties on the smugness scale (equivalent to when Bertie Ahern professed that anyone who doubted Ireland's miracle property market was "Sitting on the sidelines, cribbing and moaning is a lost opportunity. I don't know how people who engage in that don't commit suicide")

With Ren's remarks, China's property market is clearly reaching the GigaSheehy mark, where the level of empty, air-headed hubris is equivalent to when the former head of Allied Irish Bank, Eugene Sheehy said "We'd rather die than raise equity (from the State)". You know, shortly before AIB needed €3.5 billion of taxpayer's money?

Judging by my highly scientific (and don't forget, patented) scale, China is due a bit of a property crash. So surely, the Middle Kingdom will end up as depressed and sullen as Ireland is today? Not quite - let's not forget that many countries have property bubbles, but as in most cases, China did not focus almost exclusively on property to the detriment of all else. That was an Irish speciality. China will continue to tick away, exporting huge quantities to the West, importing luxury goods, and developing their own high-end, quality brands. Some of the Chinese middle classes, and some of the super-rich (like Mr. Ren), will however become too familiar with the words "negative equity".

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