The Great China Bubble and the crash of 2012: Fraudulent statistics unravel

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One of my big calls for the past 18 months has been that when China slows it will not be a slow slowdown but a rapid, dramatic and painful mess. My timing has not been perfect. The bubble (and it is a bubble of sorts) has expanded for longer than I expected but it seems as if the avian flu infested chickens are coming home to roost.

© Image copyright poeloq

My fundamental premises for expecting a China crash were thus:

1. Statistics pumped out at a National level were fraudulent and overegged the pudding in terms of growth. This in term caused investors to factor in unrealistic expectations when making investment decisions regarding Chinese assets and companies.

2. Fraud seems endemic. The number of dodgy Chinese listings in the US and UK is just horrific. As a rule of thumb I would not own any Chinese share listed here. My guess is that as the tide goes out a lot of domestically listed/HK listed Chinese companies will be seen to be wearing no trunks as well.

3. The Chinese have increased their own money supply by 50% since 2008 and have quadrupled it during the past decade. That – and artificially low base rates given the background inflation – has driven the most enormous speculative bubble in property. This is not a story just of large office blocks or blocks of smart flats which are bought/sold/traded over and over again with no-one ever actually living there. There are whole Cities that have been built to meet this speculative demand and no-one actually lives there.

4. Capital has thus been grossly misallocated as a result of this lax monetary policy creating a cocktail with vast dollops of greed. But capital has also been misallocated as it always is when a Government intervenes in market forces as the former communists who run China have done.

And so we come to what is now prompting the crash. Again there are two threads.

1. Firstly it is now clear to all but the greediest/most stupid of Chinese that their property market is a bubble. I am not sure what will be the event that causes it to crack but when it does the effects will be spectacular. What is the true value of a luxury apartment in a block where no-one lives in a City where no-one lives and so where the rental yield will (after costs) be perennially less than 0%? Correct – less than a row of noodles. As folks lose a) their life savings and b) discover the nasty side of leverage on numerous property deals there will be real problems, not least for the Chinese banks.

2. Perhaps sensing the bad times to come domestically but also with key export markets drying up in Europe and the US) all sorts of sectors are seeing a slow-down in demand. Again it is hard to quantify exactly what is happening here since all Chinese statistics are lies. But according to Platt’s demand for oil grew by just 0.5% year on year in May. That is hardly what one expects of an economy meant to be growing at 8% per annum. Meanwhile the China Coal Industry admits that coal stockpiles are at record highs – there simply is not the demand. That is not exactly what expects in an economy meant to be growing at 8% a year (although electricity demand growth has now fallen to c5% per annum and is still falling). The China Shipbuilding Industry said orders in January/February of this year were down by 40% (my guess is that March May will be worse) and that 16 key companies it monitors were running at a loss while 37 others (the field) are seeing profits down. A spokesman predicts yard closures and says “a hurricane is approaching.”

Need more?  The export value of textile and garments in the January-April period stood at $71 billion, just 1.07% higher than a year ago, according to data released by the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC). The growth rate witnessed a sharp decline from the 27.05% rise registered in the first fourth months in 2011. The causes: higher labour costs at home reducing competitiveness and the global slowdown. Data out the other day showed that South Korean exports to China just fell off a cliff in May. Do I really need to go on?

So my guess is that over the next year or so you will see a couple of things. Firstly Chinese economic growth will not be a lot greater than that of many Northern European countries. For an overleveraged society where borrowers and investors have been banking on near double digit growth ad infinitum that will be pretty catastrophic. As the leverage unwinds/the frauds unravel and the speculators fry this will be anything but a soft landing.

Secondly the Chinese authorities will respond by increasing the money supply dramatically – at an even faster rate than in the past. Folks will not wish to hold cash. They will have learned their lesson on property and so they will go back to what they really love. I would expect private demand for gold to increase rapidly in the Peoples Republic.

But this is not a story about gold. It is about China. In the long run China will continue to grow and will be the world’s largest economy. In the short run the bubble is about to burst. It goes without saying that if I owned any China based Unit Trusts or shares I’d junk the lot now. Thankfully I do not.

And so this is my first blog here on ADVFN. Hitherto my inter-reaction with this website has been in being abused by some of your BB posters for my share tips over on No doubt that will continue as the tips will keep coming and so – I guess – will be the abuse. My 12 year track record as a share tipster is actually bloody good but folks always forget the winners and bang on about the losers. So be it.  If anyone wishes to comment on what I say in these blogs they can do so. I shall respond. If it is a constructive point my response will be constructive. If it is mindless abuse that you fancy, you will receive a considered but factual put down. I call a git a git.


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  1. robert mcfadden says:

    Tom did you know that Ian pardoe of Henderson and Morley passed away earlier this year has Andrew Knight resurfaced anywhere to your knowledge.Love to know your view on Angel Mining please.

  2. Tom Winnifrith says:


    I did not know about Mr Pardoe. Oddly after a few things I wrote about him the scumbag dark Knight has not included me on his Christmas card list. And its mutual.

    Angel Mining – aha we follow that on so you will have to go there. Hope to catch up with N Hall later in summer to record a video interview on t1ps.

    Best wishes


  3. Bob says:

    Great write up! Thanks.

  4. supasapi says:

    Hi Tom

    – how do we short Chinese property
    – when will there be a newsletter about the small companies growth fund……. not been one since Feb, used to be one per month

  5. Rodney Atkinson says:

    Having spent many decades warning British politicians of the corporatist menace (the most political manifestation of which is the European Union) I have always thought that Chinese communists could never run a capitalist society and so the resulting corporatist mess would continually go from boom to bust.

    I agree with every word you have written. Not only Chinese stats cannot be trusted. Even their definitions of “market” “shares” or “companies” must be in doubt given the dominant role of the Communist Party and the State.

    Of course the corporatists in New York and London launch Chinese companies onto unsuspecting “investors” (ie collective funds) not caring what the long term propsects are – they take their vast fees up front.

    Rodney Atkinson Author, Europe’s Full Circle etc

  6. Tom Winnifrith says:

    Bob – many thanks. Positive feedback is always appreciated.

    Supasapi – Not sure how to short Chinese property. I would have thought finding a company supplying cement etc entirely to China would be a good start. Must be some PRC property plays listed in HK you can short.

    Rodney. You are I am afraid correct in your assessment of the worst of the political elite and also the capitalist elite. Thanks for the positive feedback.

  7. Lindsay Pennell says:

    The China property bubble has been a topic of debate for quite some time for those of us dabbling in the Hong Kong stock exchange, but while I agree with your views on the reliability of financial data coming from China, I’m not sure I agree with your foreboding of doom. The PRC government is trying to limit travel out of the country a little, and instead looking for ways to promote domestic demand to compensate for the lack of US and EU demand (and also to protect against the pressure of a rising Yuan).
    Personally I have more faith in the ability of the PRC to ride the bubble and change the emphasis of its economic growth to seek substance in other sectors. I think there’s mileage in China investments yet, but I am sticking to HKSE listings and companies primarily trading domestically rather than internationally. Also the big Hong Kong “hongs” – Cheung Kong Holdings, Swire Pacific, Jardines – that are well diversified internationally.

  8. larissa reed says:

    I think the article was good.
    Wrt tipping: there are gold stocks that you like that have poor management and you continue to support them. Cannot understand that…….does the investment case not change when targets are repeatedly not met?

  9. Tom Winnifrith says:


    The PRC has much going for it. A cultural work ethic and population are – on a Niall Ferguson analysis – key. I do not view it as a bubble in the classic sense – one that implodes completely. But within the PRC there are bubbles which must implode. Thus as they do there will be major upsets along the LT growth path. I think one such upset is on the way, whatever tinkerings the regime enginners.

    As to your HK bluechips – I suspect you will not go wrong there.

    Best wishes & thanks for your feedback.

    Tom W.

  10. Tom Winnifrith says:


    Thank you for the kind words on the first article here. I shall try to maintain a similar standard.

    Your point on gold stocks is a valid one. Yes the investment case changes after a failure to meet target in that a) it may alter the DCF of the underlying assets and b) the market will rate the assets at a bigger discount to fair value becuase of the upset. In time b) can be closed if the company starts to deliver.

    My 2 greatest failinsg as a tipster are a) selling winners too early and b) perhaps being too charitable to managements that have repeatedly failed. On the latter sometimes a management is seen as a failure becuase of external forces without its control. That can be rectified. But perhaps going forward i shall be less charitable.

    You make a fair point.

    Thanks for the feedback, best wishes

    Tom W

  11. Marquerite Caulkins says:

    Hmm i hope you dont get offended with this question, but how much does a site like yours earn?

  12. Tom Winnifrith says:


    Not offended but not sure which site you refer to? ( where i work), or how much do I earn for my blogging here on ADVFN?

    Not sure I will give an answer but just clarifying the question.

    Best wishes

    Tom Winnifrith

  13. Brady Kolic says:

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your article seem to be running off the screen in Opera. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you get the problem resolved soon. Cheers

  14. Tom Winnifrith says:

    Upload – thank you. Happy to be of service.
    Brady – also thank you but while I know a bit about writing I am a zero on website design. I shall make sure less clueless folk have a look though.

    Tom Winnifrith

  15. stock market says:

    Wow, awesome blog structure! How long have you been blogging for? you make running a blog glance easy. The overall look of your web site is magnificent, as well as the content material!

  16. Tom Winnifrith says:

    Stock market – if you are referring to this blog here the answer is a couple of weeks. If it is then 3 weeks.

    But I have a confession. …I write the material but am IT/web clueless. I must rely on others to make websites look good. I just do not have a scooby at that level.

    Thank you for the feedback

    Tom Winnifrith

  17. The Best Web Search says:

    Hi, Neat post. There is an issue together with your site in internet explorer, could test this? IE nonetheless is the marketplace chief and a huge part of other folks will miss your great writing due to this problem.

  18. stiff neck says:

    Thanks , I’ve recently been searching for information about this subject for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve found out so far. However, what in regards to the conclusion? Are you positive in regards to the source?|What i don’t understood is in fact how you are no longer really much more neatly-liked than you may be right now. You are so intelligent.

  19. Tom Winnifrith says:

    Arlen -follow me on twitter (@tomwinnifrith) and you will get an alert whenever i publish anywhere.

    Tinisha – many thanks, your comments are much appreciated.

    Stiff Neck – thanks for praise. Intelligent, not so sure. The least academic member of my family. And right now I guess I have a few vociferous critics who seem determined to overlook my long term track record. These things go in cycles.

    The Best Web Search – thanks for your comments. I have passed them on to the big boss (Clem) who a) understands this tech stuff (unlike me) and b) has the pwoer to deal with it & will.

  20. Paulene Paule says:

    I’ll preorder one based on the Chumby experience alone.

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