China Moving Further Along Path to Maturity

Questions Loom over Slower Growth, Renminbi

As China ushers in the Year of the Snake, a time for attention to detail and incremental progress, the country is poised to move further down the path to economic maturity, raising questions over its currency, a changing labor market and other crucial issues into the next decade, CME Group Chief Economist Blu Putnam said.

"China's economic activity seems to be stabilizing at a healthy pace after a sustained period of deceleration, and its new leadership seems intent on making incremental progress in several policy areas, from currency normalization to health care improvements to pollution reform," Putnam wrote in a new report.

Previous decades' annual GDP growth in excess of 10% is now "fading into the past, not to return," and China's economic expansion probably will continue to moderate, Putnam said. China has "perhaps the rest of this decade to enjoy superior economic growth before its economy transitions to performance more typical of a developed, mature industrial country with slow labor force growth," he said.

Along with an outlook for diminishing returns to new capital investments and infrastructure projects, questions loom over "normalization" of the renminbi into a freely-traded, global currency and the potential for an expansion of government debt and an end to purchases of U.S. Treasuries, Putnam said.

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