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Terrorists and Real Estate — Joint Nightmares of the Chinese Economy

As the second-largest global economic powerhouse, China historically exerted influence over the intricate tapestry of the financial landscape. However, the nation has recently been facing a critical implosion as the Chinese market tumbled down $6.3 trillion in value since reaching its zenith in February 2021. This major regression is likely not the consequence of one single factor, but rather a sudden cumulation of intricate interplay involving domestic challenges like deflation, disparate economic growth, and a discernible deficit in the labor force, interwoven with complex international perturbations. This article provides a detailed overview of the economic challenges facing China, incorporating factors such as the decline in the Chinese market, the impact of the Red Sea Crisis, and the collapse of the Evergrande Group.


The Red Sea Crisis

The crisis in the Red Sea has functioned as a trigger, magnifying the economic challenges faced by China. The Houthi rebels in Yemen, supported by Iran and deeply involved in the conflict in the Red Sea, have methodically attacked commercial vessels. US-backed Israel's recent attacks in Gaza have stirred tensions with an anti-West rebel group, positioning them unfavorably. The Houthi rebels, strategically aligning with Palestine, see potential benefits as it not only resonates globally but could also invoke support from sympathetic Middle Eastern states in their quest to control northern Yemen. This geopolitical shift extends to reported assaults on commercial ships in the Red Sea, home to the critical Suez Canal.


China, the world's largest trading nation, heavily relies on the Suez Canal. An estimated 90% of Chinese exports to the West and nearly half a billion tons of imports navigate this vital route. The Suez Canal holds a pivotal role in the Chinese economy, prompting Beijing to consider alternative routes due to the crisis. However, these alternatives prove to be longer and more taxing, compelling state-owned shipping giants COSCO and OOCL to take the arduously longer route around the southern tip of Africa.

The repercussions are evident in the maritime sector, with a reported increase of over 300% in maritime freight costs from Shanghai to Europe between November and January, according to The Shanghai Shipping Exchange. China's approach of reluctance to interfere in the conflict adds another layer to the situation, exacerbating the economic blows and further discouraging foreign investors. The ambiguity surrounding the conflict, in tandem with the economic repercussions stemming from the adjustment of trade routes, foresters a complex landscape for international commerce.


The collapse of Evergrande Group, China’s Property Giant

The Evergrande Group, China’s preeminent entity in the property sector and the world’s most indebted corporation at $300 billion, confronts a contemporary financial dilemma reminiscent of the global financial crisis in 2008. Similarly, the Red Sea’s impasse troubles international trade, compounding the difficulties for Evergrande amidst China’s deleveraging efforts.


The real estate industry takes up 25% of the Chinese economy, which itself commands a noteworthy %20 of the world’s GDP. The specter of deflation and workforce contraction, persistent afflictions within various sectors of the Chinese economy, amplifies the gravity of the situation. The abrupt collapse of the property sector could precipitate irreversible damage to China's economic landscape, potentially catalyzing a renewed worldwide crisis.


These measures compelled Evergrande to implement fire sales as a strategic maneuver in order to ensure an unbroken inflow of funds, therefore sustaining business stability. Subsequently, the company grappled with the challenge of meeting interest payments on its debts, culminating in a precipitous 99% drop in the value of Evergrande's shares over the past triennium.


In August of 2022, Evergrande filed for bankruptcy in New York, invoking Chapter 15 of the U.S. bankruptcy code, which protects foreign companies under restructurings from legal actions or attempts to encumber assets by creditors in the U.S, as a last-ditch effort to safeguard its U.S. assets whilst negotiating with said creditors. Initially aspiring to a $23 billion debt restructuring plan, Evergrande's aspirations were dashed when its founder and CEO, Hui Ka Yan, became the subject of a criminal investigation. The Hong Kong High Court, after protracted adjournments arising from the company's failure to finalize revised debt terms with creditors, ultimately decreed asset liquidation on January 29th.


China is now experiencing major fallouts from the self-inflicted implosion. Beijing newly introduced certain measures to revitalize the sector, offering government-funded loans and easing home-buying restrictions in major cities to appease both homebuyers and companies.


Nonetheless, the efficacy of these measures remains constrained. "If nothing else, the headlines of the ordered liquidation in Hong Kong, that's not going to have a great impact on homebuyer sentiment," claimed Christopher Beddor, deputy China research director at Gavekal Economics.


Homebuyers are still exhibiting a palpable reluctance to invest in pre-sold Evergrande units offered by lesser-known developers.

The situation has extended well beyond China’s real estate market. Presumably, the reason China struck down the dominating player could be interpreted as an attempt to diversify focus away from overreliance on the property sector. Although, with a quarter of the Chinese economy faltering amid its existing challenges, Beijing's actions risk further impeding economic momentum. This conviction is certainly present with foreign investors and is permeating other industries, as evidenced by a substantial decline in oil prices due to concerns about China's diminished economic capacity as a leading crude importer.


Concurrently, China faces challenges in its banking industry, necessitating the amalgamation of numerous rural banks laden with non-performing loans, diminishing profit margins, and minimal expansion. This strategic action is pursued with a keen sense of immediacy, a collaborative push to swiftly address risks before the vulnerable economy approaches a critical juncture. China is poised to navigate a potentially larger crisis by adopting renewed approaches to growth, enacting legislation, and fostering investor support. Realistically, the recovery process is anticipated to span years rather than months, as both China and the global economy work towards restoring momentum.



Works Cited Neuman, Scott. “Here’s What to Know about the Collapse of China’s Evergrande Property Developer.” NPR, 30 Jan. 2024.

‌“China Home Sales Slump Persists after Evergrande Liquidation.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 31 Jan. 2024.

‌Reuters. “Timeline: Worsening Crisis at Evergrande.” Reuters, 29 Jan. 2024.

‌News, BBC. “Evergrande: Why Should I Care If China Property Giant Collapses?” BBC News, BBC News, 20 Sept. 2021.

‌Jim, Clare, and Liangping Gao. “China Unveils New Property Support Measures amid Concerns about Evergrande Fallout.” Reuters, 31 Jan. 2024.

‌Sanicola, Laura. “Oil Settles Lower on Faltering China Economy, US Crude Stock Build.” Reuters, 31 Jan. 2024.

‌“China Merges Hundreds of Rural Banks as Financial Risks Mount.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 31 Jan. 2024.

‌Gan, Nectar. “The Red Sea Crisis Tests China’s Global Ambitions.” CNN, CNN, 29 Jan. 2024.

‌Hafezi, Parisa, and Andrew Hayley. “Exclusive: China Presses Iran to Rein in Houthi Attacks in Red Sea, Sources Say.” Reuters, 26 Jan. 2024.

‌Reuters. “State-Backed ‘National Team’ of Investors Piles in to Support China Stocks.” Reuters, 31 Jan. 2024.

‌“Can Xi Jinping Reverse China’s $6 Trillion Stock Market Crisis?” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 25 Jan. 2024.

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