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中国的基建热潮已过巅峰? [英国网贴]

中国的基建项目不会半途而废。中国拥有世界上最长高速公路和高速铁路网络(香港于9月23日加入),拥有世界上最高、最长的桥梁。它一年里正在建设的飞机场有近10个,比其他任何国家都多。它拥有世界上最大效力的水电大坝,最大的风力发电场和相当于世界其他国家总功率的煤炭发电量。

Is China’s infrastructure boom past its peak?

中国的基建热潮已过巅峰?A sharp slowdown in investment this year points to a more subdued future

今年投资的急剧放缓暗示着一个更加暗淡的未来。

CHINA does not do infrastructure by half measures. It has the world’s longest networks of motorway and high-speed rail (which Hong Kong joins on September 23rd). It has the tallest bridge as well as the longest. It is building nearly ten airports a year, more than any other country. It has the most powerful hydroelectric dam, the biggest wind farm and as much coal power as the rest of the world combined.

中国的基建项目不会半途而废。中国拥有世界上最长高速公路和高速铁路网络(香港于9月23日加入),拥有世界上最高、最长的桥梁。它一年里正在建设的飞机场有近10个,比其他任何国家都多。它拥有世界上最大效力的水电大坝,最大的风力发电场和相当于世界其他国家总功率的煤炭发电量。

But the infrastructure boom has lost steam this year. After expanding at a double-digit pace for much of the past three decades, investment in it has slowed sharply. Since May spending on projects ranging from railways to power plants has fallen compared with a year earlier, the longest weak patch on record.

但是基础设施建设热潮今年已失去动力。在过去30年里,基建投资一直以两位数的速度增长,如今已大幅放缓。从5月开始,对铁路到发电厂等项目的支出较上年同期相比下降,成为有记录上持续时间最长的疲软期。

The question is whether this is a blip or a fundamental change. Some analysts argue that the decline in spending is only short-term, related to the government’s efforts to rein in debt. As the trade war with America rumbles on, they expect that China will try to boost the economy with another burst of infrastructure-building. But many others believe that even if this were to be attempted, it would not work. Their argument is not that investment should stop.China still usefully spends more in two months on such things as building roads and ports and laying cables than India manages in an entire year. Rather, they say, building at an even greater rate would risk outstripping demand. It is time to find other ways of fuelling growth.

问题在于,这是暂时现象还是根本改变。一些分析家认为,支出的下降只是短期的,与政府控制债务的努力有关。随着中美贸易战的继续,他们认为中国将试图通过新一轮的基础设施建设项目来提振经济。但是也有许多人认为,即使尝试这样做,也不会奏效。他们的论点不是投资应该停止。中国两个月内在道路、港口建设和电缆铺设方面的支出远超印度整整一年的支出。相反,他们表示,以更快的速度进行建设可能会面临供大于求的风险。是时候去找其它方法促进增长了。

The recent infrastructure-spending slump certainly relates to efforts to curb the country’s massive build-up of local-government debt. Many cities had been borrowing heavily, often using murky channels, to build flashy transport systems. A crackdown on shadow banking has left them short of funds. The central government has also targeted spendthrifts. Last year it ordered a halt to the construction of a subway in Baotou, a city in Inner Mongolia, a northern province where government debts are sky high.

最近基建支出的大幅下降必然与中国遏制地方政府债务的大规模累积的工作有关。许多城市经常使用不透明渠道大量举借外债,建设华而不实的运输系统。对影子银行的打击使得它们资金短缺。中央政府也将矛头瞄准了挥霍无度者。去年,政府叫停了包头的地铁建设,包头是中国北部内蒙古省的一座城市,该省负债极高。

But the slowdown is not just because of a short-term squeeze. Chinese officials are also becoming more conservative in their planning. In July the government decreed tough new standards for subway systems. Cities must have a population of at least 3m to qualify for one. They must also have their debts under control, and cover at least 40% of building costs from their own revenues.

但是支出放缓并不仅仅是因为短期紧缩。中国官员制定的规划也更加保守。7月,中国颁布了严格的地铁系统新标准。城市人必须口达到至少300万才有资格申请地铁建设。他们还必须控制自己的债务,用地方政府财政收入的40%支付建设成本。

In recent weeks big cities with much healthier economies than Baotou’s have scaled back their subway plans, too. One example is Chengdu, the booming capital of Sichuan province, which has produced a revised blueprint for its transport system. It features six fewer subway lines than had previously been planned.

最近几周,经济状况比包头健康的大城市也缩减了自己的地铁规划。蓬勃发展的四川省省会成都就是其中之一,该市制定了修订的后运输系统蓝图,比原定计划的地铁线路减少了六条。

Nantong, a city about 150km north of Shanghai, demonstrates both China’s prowess in infrastructure and what seems to be a new found restraint. Builders are close to completing a cable-stayed bridge that will be the longest of its type in the world. Yet at the same time Nantong has tempered its ambitions. Its urban centre is home to 2m people, spread over an area larger than London, below the required population for a subway system. It was already building its first line when the rules came into effect, and was allowed to continue with that and a second one.

南通位于上海以北约150千米处,这座城市既展示了中国在基建方面的实力,也展示中国对城市的新约束。建设者们接近完成一座索拉桥的建设,这座桥将是同类桥梁中最长的。但是与此同时,南通市也收敛自己的野心。南通市中心居住着200万人口,市区面积超过伦敦,低于地铁系统所需的人口。在新标准生效前,该市已经在建设其第一条地铁线路,并获准继续建设第二条线路。

But even without the new edict, Nantong had been having second thoughts. The city’s traffic already flows well. Zhong Qingwen says she is typical in getting from her home to her office, at a medical-testing company, in less than 20 minutes by bus. The city had been planning eight urban-rail lines. Their combined length of 330km would have surpassed that of Tokyo’s subway. Now the government is moving more slowly. The first line will not be finished until 2022, four years later than the original target. Beyond the second one, further expansion is off the table for now.

但是即使中国没有发布新标准,南通市也已经在重新考虑了。该市交通已经十分通畅。钟庆雯就是使用地面交通的一个典型,从她家到其工作的医疗检测公司坐公交不到20分钟。南通市曾规划建设8条地铁线路。8条线路总长为330千米,建成后将超过东京地铁的总长。现在,市政府的行动变得更加缓慢。第一条地铁线路将于2022年建成,比原定计划晚了四年。除了第二条线路,该市没有进一步的建设计划。

One reason why many cities had such big dreams was because they expected a white-hot economy and a rapid influx of migrants from the countryside. Rising demand had seemed more or less assured. But both economic growth and the pace of urbanization are tailing off. Spending on infrastructure still accounts for a fifth of China’s annual output, far above the level of most other countries. Liu Shijin, a member of the central bank’s monetary policy committee, said at a conference this month that the economic benefits of this were waning fast. Instead, he suggested, the government should spend more on health care and welfare.

为什么许多城市有如此远大的抱负,原因之一就是他们希望经济进入快速发展阶段,农村居民迅速移居城市。不断增长的需求是必然的。但是经济增长和城镇化速度都在放缓;ㄖС鋈哉季葜泄甓炔龅奈宸种,远高于大多数其他国家的水平。央行货币政策委员会成员刘士金在本月的一次会议上表示,基建的经济效益正在快速下降。相反,他建议,政府应该在医疗和福利上投入更多。

Mr Liu may well be right. China’s stock of government-invested fixed assets—a proxy for infrastructure—is already about the same per person as Germany’s or Britain’s, according to IMF data that use exchange rates adjusted for purchasing power. The stock is much greater than in other countries at China’s income level. It is well behind America’s, but it would have caught up within a decade had China continued spending on infrastructure at its previous feverish rate. Even the rosiest projections of China’s infrastructure needs suggest that demand will slacken. Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics, a London-based research firm, says investment growth will slow to low single digits.

刘先生的说法很可能是对的。国际货币基金组织根据购买力调整的汇率数据显示,中国投资的固定资产存量——基建的替代品——已经与德国或英国的人均存量相当。存量已经远远超过与中国收入水平相当的其他国家,远远低于美国的存量,但是中国继续以先前的狂热速度投资基础设施建设,中国将在十年内追赶上美国。即使是对中国基础设施建设最乐观的预测也显示,基建需求将会放缓。伦敦研究公司资本经济的朱利安·埃文斯·普理查德表示,投资增长将放缓至较低的个位数。

Yet the current slowdown has gone too far for the government. After a meeting on September 18th China’s cabinet called for more “efficient” investment. Having slammed on the brakes to control debt, the central government is now making it easier for fiscally responsible localities to spend on infrastructure. It has resumed approvals of some large projects. It has also encouraged banks to buy local-government bonds, including ones earmarked for infrastructure spending.

然而,对于中国来说,目前的放缓已十分严重。在9月18日的一次会议后,中国国务院呼吁进行更多的“有效”投资。在控制债务方面猛踩刹车之后,北京让负责财政的地方政府能够更容易在基建上投资。它已经恢复一些大型项目的批准,并鼓励银行购买地方政府债券,包括那些指定用于基建投资的债券。

As a result, the flow of money into subways, bridges and the like may increase slightly, says Yao Wei of Société Générale, a French bank. But Ms Yao reckons that the voices for prudence will win out, even if the trade war with America begins to take a bigger toll on the economy. Unlike in the past, China will, she predicts, play it safe on debt and let growth slide.

法国兴业银行的姚伟表示,其结果是流入地铁、桥梁等项目的资金可能会略有增加。但是姚认为,即使中美贸易战对中国经济造成巨大破坏时,谨慎行事的声音也会占上风。她预测道,与过去不同,中国将在债务上谨慎行事,放任增长放缓。

One dividend from China’s past infrastructure-building sprees has been the expertise it has gained in construction work. In Nantong a site managed by the China Railway Group, a state-owned company, is immaculate. Workers stand in front of a body-length mirror to check their safety gear.Cranes lay down a latticework of metal poles nearby to reinforce the terrain. A sign declares that it is a “100-year project”—a subway that should long serve the city. After a mad rush to build, China is also learning to live within its means.

中国过去的基建热潮带来的一个好处就是其在建筑工作中获得了专业技术。在南通,国有企业中国铁路集团管理的一处工地几近完美。工人们在站在一面一人高的镜子前检查自己的安全装备。起重机在工地附近放置了一个金属网格加固地形。一个标志上写着这是一个“百年工程”——一条为城市服务的地铁。在经历了一阵疯狂的建筑热潮之后,中国也正学会量入为出。

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