Carson Block, the founder of Muddy Waters Research, believes that China’s banks hold more toxic assets than Western peers did ahead of the 2008 financial crash.
He is listened to by institutional investors, regulators and politicians but he rarely speaks publicly. Last week, his analysis of Standard Chartered’s exposure to China caused a tremble in its share price and its backers to leap to the bank’s defence. Carson Block has broken his silence this weekend to reveal his fears for the global economy. The secretive fund manager said the risks within China’s banking system are more severe than those in Western financial institutions before the crisis.
Mr Block, founder of Muddy Waters Research, which has gained a reputation over the past three years for its in-depth reports on financial irregularities in scores of Chinese companies, said the country’s banks hold more toxic assets than their peers in the West did ahead of the 2008 financial crash. “We believe that the domestic Chinese banking system is a mess, with an enormous amount of bad loans, or loans waiting to go bad,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.
China’s growth model is broken and can’t be so easily fixed. Since the start of capitalist reforms in the 1980s, China excelled by throwing tons of resources into a modernizing economy — mountains of cash to build factories, roads and apartment towers, and millions of poor people into making iPads, blue jeans and cars. Under China’s “state capitalism,” bureaucrats often directed the cash into massive infrastructure projects or favored industries. However, this growth engine can’t keep purring indefinitely. The pools of idle labor that filled Foxconn’s assembly lines are drying up — China’s one-child policy made sure of that, by aging the population more rapidly. The workforce has already started to shrink. Even more worrying, the state-led, investment-obsessed system spawns too much debt and too many factories, leading to wasted resources and a debased financial sector.
Everywhere you look, the signs of rot are apparent. In a mad-cap quest to dominate green energy, China’s banks pumped billions into solar-panel manufacturing, creating hundreds of factories and vaulting China into the world’s largest producer. Now the sector has become a victim of its own excess: companies are failing, symbolized by the recent bankruptcy of market leader Suntech Power. Steel companies continue to invest in new capacity even though debt is rising and losses mounting….