Overcapacity troubles China economy, reform needed

Updated: 2013-04-15 15:31


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BEIJING - Although economic figures for March indicated a more stable economy in China, overcapacity continues to trouble the country's industries.

China's purchasing managers' index for the manufacturing sector rose to 50.9 percent in March, representing positive growth, according to data released by the Federation of Logistics and Purchasing on Monday.

However, the sub-index for finished product inventories went over 50 after declining for eight consecutive months, indicating a worsening situation of excess production capacity.

A PMI reading of 50 or greater indicates expansion, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction.

Authorities said China has to cope with overcapacity in traditional manufacturing and emerging industries in the coming years. Otherwise, bankruptcy, debt and unemployment may cause a financial crisis.

"Overcapacity has exposed structural weaknesses in the process of China's industrialization," said Li Yan, director of industrial policy research with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or MIIT.

Easing the problem in the short-term by prohibiting excess production and overlapping investment will only ease the symptoms, but not cure the disease.

"Administrative regulations cultivate excess capacity," said Feng Fei, head of industrial economic research at the Development Research Center of the State Council.

He said that governments at all levels should recognize administrative influence on resources and production and the blind pursuit of economic growth, which largely determines how local officials are promoted.

Immoderate excess

China's latest large-scale governance of overcapacity happened after the world financial crisis in 2008, which was followed by a slack economic recovery and a new round of investment plans.

According to MIIT data, output totaling 720 million tons resulted in a loss of 28.92 billion yuan ($4.67 billion) for the country's iron and steel industry in 2012.

This was not a special case. In 2012, 93 percent of electrolytic aluminum enterprises suffered losses, considering the gap of 7 million metric tons between the industry's real output and capacity, MIIT said.

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