Remember that the process of adjustment is a political one. We all know someone has to pay for the massive adjustment countries like Spain must make. The only interesting question is about who will be forced to take the brunt of the payment – workers in the form of unemployment, the middle classes in the form of confiscated savings, small businesses in the form of taxes, large businesses in the form of taxes and nationalization, foreigners, or creditors.
Deciding who pays is a political process, and because the stakes are so high it will be a very bitter process. This means, among other things, that politics will degenerate quickly.
To summarize, my predictions are:
- BRICs and other developing countries have not decoupled in any meaningful sense, and once the current liquidity-driven investment boom subsides the developing world will be hit hard by the global crisis.
- Over the next two years Chinese household consumption will continue declining as a share of GDP.
- Chinese debt levels will continue to rise quickly over the rest of this year and next.
- Chinese growth will begin to slow sharply by 2013-14 and will hit an average of 3% well before the end of the decade.
- Any decline in GDP growth will disproportionately affect investment and so the demand for non-food commodities.
- If the PBoC resists interest rate cuts as inflation declines, China may even begin slowing in 2012.
- Much slower growth in China will not lead to social unrest if China meaningfully rebalances.
- Within three years Beijing will be seriously examining large-scale privatization as part of its adjustment policy.
- European politics will continue to deteriorate rapidly and the major political parties will either become increasingly radicalized or marginalized.
- Spain and several countries, perhaps even Italy (but probably not France) will be forced to leave the euro and restructure their debt with significant debt forgiveness.
- Germany will stubbornly (and foolishly) refuse to bear its share of the burden of the European adjustment, and the subsequent retaliation by the deficit countries will cause German growth to drop to zero or negative for many years.
- Trade protection sentiment in the US will rise inexorably and unemployment stays high for a few more years.