China is the greatest economic growth zone in history.
Already the world's third-largest economy behind the United States and Japan, China now accounts for 7.5% of the world's total economic activity. It's on track to pass Japan no later than 2010, and may pass the United States by 2020. The country's economy has increased by a cumulative 371.3% in the last 40 years, an annual average of 9.3%.
Beijing's massive $586 billion stimulus program and more than $1 trillion in new lending have helped China overcome a drop in exports and strengthen its domestic market while the rest of the world has struggled. And going forward that strategy will continue to pay off.
So, would you rather trust your portfolio to the whims of Geithner, Bernanke and the big firms on Wall Street? Or, do you want to invest in a country with a forward-looking growth strategy that is projected to grow by more than 10% in the next 12 months?
It's your call. But, here's why I'm putting my money in China.
No. 1 – Consumerism is Taking Root: According to China's National Bureau of Statistics, the country's retail spending advanced 16.2% in October and should easily hit the 15% to 19% target for all of 2009. Assuming the numbers play out as expected, when 2009 comes to a close, the aggregate increase in consumer spending in China will be larger than the retail spending growth in the United States, European Union and Japan combined . All the right catalysts are already in place. Government stimulus programs – including rebates on "white goods" and tax cuts for low-emission vehicles – helped China's car sales increase by 43.6% in October. China is now the world's largest car market, having displaced the United States earlier this year. Sales of home appliances are also up sharply, rising more than 35%. Even real estate is on the mend, particularly in China's western provinces.
At the other end of the spectrum, government spending and industrial power production are up nearly 20% in just the last quarter alone. According to Carbon Monitoring for Action, China's power consumption has nearly doubled over the last decade. Given the correlation between raw power consumption and economic growth, the frenetic proliferation of power plants is clear evidence that China is growing – not slowing. Beijing wants to make sure it avoids the extended energy shortages that can only choke off economic growth.
No. 2 – China is Ready to Serve: China's service sector is now growing twice as fast as its construction and infrastructure segments. As the graphic below shows, more than 30% of China's workers are employed in service-sector (tertiary) jobs.
And that's only going to grow: Beijing has shrewdly directed huge portions of its stimulus package into the country's service sector. That's an important point. It's part of Beijing's push to stoke domestic demand, an initiative that will reduce its dependence on exports to a weakened West and transform China into a stronger, standalone economy.
China created 7.57 million new jobs in the first eight months of 2009. That's 84% of the government's national target for 2009 according to Huang Zhendong, chairman of the Committee for Internal and Judicial Affairs under the National People's Congress (NPC).
Compare that to the U.S. economy, which is dealing with a "jobless recovery," as well as a current unemployment rate of 10.2% that's expected to get worse before it gets better.
No. 3 – There's More to China Than Exports: One of the biggest myths about China is that it lives and dies by exports. In fact, PIMCO's Gross said his bubble fears have been fueled by a concern that China is gearing itself up for an export market in which there won't be many buyers.
Truth be told, net exports account for only about 20% of China's gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Infrastructure and capital investment account for the rest. In other words, this is hardly a nation that will wither and die on the vine if the West stops buying.
This economic myth doesn't withstand even minimal scrutiny. First and foremost, China's markets are basically closed. So when Western pundits try to argue that a decline in exports will sink China's economy, the numbers just don't compute.
If anything, we are dangerously close to a situation in which the West's purchases become irrelevant to China's continued growth. The United States and other Western powers may need China, but as China's consumer strength grows, it's increasingly likely that the Red Dragon and its consumers won't need us.
The issue that causes Beijing officials to lay awake at night is how much the country imports to fuel GDP growth. According to BNP Paribas SA (OTC ADR: BNPQY), China imports nearly 90 cents worth of goods for every $1 in exports. That means that – at most – there's 10 cents worth of "flux" in China's economy.
Therefore, the real question investors need to answer is how much China is bringing into the country, not what it's sending out.
No. 4 – China Has an Exit Strategy: Unlike its U.S counterpart, China included a tangible "exit strategy" with its global-financial-crisis stimulus initiatives, and is utilizing private spending to address any interim shortfalls.
On the other hand, the United States is trapped in an economic minefield of Washington's own making. China has gotten down to brass tacks and is already taking steps to exit the stimulus programs now in effect. For instance, Beijing has raised capital requirements for banks, raised lending standards and generally put the kibosh on easy money. That's not to say there aren't problems, but on an overall basis China is already well ahead of the curve. Beijing is even taking steps to slow things down – tapping the economy brakes, so to speak – and can boast of GDP growth of 9% or more even after the cheap money has been gently pushed to the sidelines.
Spending patterns have undergone a needed shift, too. In the old days, public spending and that of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) significantly outweighed private investment. But now, the two have flipped and private investment is higher than both state and public spending.
It's a significant shift. The strength and direction of private spending may be the best measure of an economy's durability because it expresses investor "trust" in a country's financial system. There's clearly a lot of this "trust" already in China – and it's growing.
No. 5 – China's Capital Reserves Give it Almost Unlimited Flexibility: $2.3 trillion. It almost needs no explanation. China saved $2.3 trillion for a rainy day. Now it can spend the money as its leaders see fit. Unlike its U.S. counterpart, which may be borrowing its way into oblivion, China's government doesn't need to borrow against its future just to survive the present. It can finance its plans, snap up valuable assets from sellers desperate to raise capital, and make investments that will maintain its enviable growth rate well into the future. There's a huge difference.
The bottom line is this: Beijing's stimulus and massive government influence has actually refined value, accelerated private investment and sped up the flow of money.
Westerners have been predicting China's demise for 40 years. And for 40 years, China not only refused to roll over or go away, it has actually grown at an average annual rate of 9.28% as reflected by its GDP.
With its heavy debt load and self-made problems, the United States will be fortunate to maintain a fraction of that growth rate.
To be fair, Western pundits continue to allege that China's numbers are "cooked" – as if to insinuate that its statistics are less trustworthy than ours. They're probably right. But if the implication is that ours are somehow perfect, that's not only ridiculous, it's entirely naïve – as has been amply demonstrated by the likes of Enron, Worldcom and Bernie Madoff. We should all take a second look at some of the figures coming out of Washington these days.
As for the contention that China's economic and stock-market growth rates are unsustainable, I can certainly envision a near term pullback. That's normal for any financial market, including our own.
But here's the thing: When it comes to China, we're investing for the long haul.
The One Chinese Investment To Make Now
Beijing will spend more than $400 billion on infrastructure by the end of 2010, and lots of that will go to building rail lines, including a $17.6 billion passenger rail line across the deserts of northwest China, a $22 billion web of freight rail lines in the Shanxi province and a $24 billion high-speed passenger rail line from Beijing to Guangzhou.
It takes lots of steel to build railways and you can't produce steel without iron ore. In order to ride along, take a look at multinational Vale SA (NYSE ADR: VALE), the largest iron ore producer in the world.
The Brazilian company is a key supplier to China's exuberant infrastructure growth, and a true play on the global commodities market. With a historical Price/Earnings (P/E) ratio of about 15, Vale will benefit hugely from further run-ups in the price of iron ore and no one uses more of it than China.
Want one more investment opportunity in China? China is now the largest car market in the world. As the electric car revolution spreads across China and around the world, the "new oil" is on track to replace as much as 148 billion barrels of oil – worth $10.4 trillion. "The gas engine made petroleum the world's largest commodity. The electric car could do the same for the third element," says Forbes. Early investors could turn every $10,000 into as much as $294,000 starting in just weeks. Find out more in this report.
About the Author
Keith Fitz-Gerald has been the Chief Investment Strategist for the Money Morning team since 2007. He's a seasoned market analyst with decades of experience, and a highly accurate track record. Keith regularly travels the world in search of investment opportunities others don't yet see or understand. In addition to heading The Money Map Report, Keith runs High Velocity Profits, which aims to get in, target gains, and get out clean, and he's also the founding editor of Straight Line Profits, a service devoted to revealing the "dark side" of Wall Street... In his weekly Total Wealth, Keith has broken down his 30-plus years of success into three parts: Trends, Risk Assessment, and Tactics – meaning the exact techniques for making money. Sign up is free at totalwealthresearch.com.