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By the Numbers, China’s Economy Is Worse Than It Looks

来源:纽约时报    2019-01-21 06:45

        BEIJING — China’s economy is slowing, and the slowdown is likely worse than Beijing says.        北京——中国经济正在放缓,而放缓的情况可能比北京所描述的更糟糕。
        Official numbers released on Monday show an economy that is posting new, but manageable, lows. For the last three months of 2018, growth came in at 6.4 percent compared with a year earlier. That’s the slowest pace since a decade ago, when China was grappling with the global financial crisis.        周一公布的官方数据显示,中国经济正在报出新的——但仍在可控范围内的——低点。2018年最后三个月,经济同比增长6.4%。这是自十年前中国努力应对全球金融危机以来的最低增速。
        For the full year, according to official data, the Chinese economy grew 6.6 percent. That’s the weakest pace of growth since 1990, when China’s economic miracle stumbled in the aftermath of the crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square the year before.        根据官方数字,去年全年中国经济增长了6.6%。这是自1990年以来的最弱增势,这一年,中国经济的神话在前一年天安门广场镇压事件的影响下出现震荡。
        As slowdowns go, the numbers indicate a mild one befitting a big, maturing economy like China’s. While the figures match historic lows, they show only a small drop from previous periods.        在经济放缓的同时,这些数据表明,相较于中国这样的大型成熟经济体,这只是温和的放缓。虽然这些数字已达到历史低点,但较先前水平而言只是略有下降。
        Monthly data released on Monday also suggested better-than-expected consumer spending and industrial production in December, raising the possibility that growth is stabilizing.        周一公布的月度数据同样表明,12月的消费支出和工业生产表现好于预期,这增加了增长稳定的可能性。
        More detailed data tell a less positive story.        而更详细的数据讲述的,却是个不同的故事。
        From investment to consumer spending to factory activity, the Chinese economy slowed markedly in the second half of the year. The figures also indicate that the trade war with the United States is taking more of a bite.        从投资到消费支出再到工厂活动,中国经济在去年下半年明显放缓。这些数据也表明,与美国的贸易战给中国带来了更多的影响。
        Moreover, the December uptick comes in large part from Beijing’s efforts to get growth going again. While China’s leaders have quite a few ways to juice growth if their current efforts aren’t enough, their options often come with tricky trade-offs that could add to the country’s debt problems or add to other imbalances plaguing the economy.        此外,12月份的上涨在很大程度上取决于北京为实现经济增长所做的努力。如果目前的努力不够,中国领导人还有很多方法可以促进经济增长,他们的选择通常需要进行艰难的取舍,可能会增加国家的债务问题,或增加其他困扰经济的不平衡问题。
        By the Numbers        从数据上看
        Beijing took steps to rekindle growth at the end of last year, and it showed. Retail sales and industrial output ticked up in December from November, suggesting consumers and businesses alike were feeling a little better as the year came to an end.        北京去年底采取措施以重振增长,这在数据上有所体现。12月份零售和工业产出比11月份有所上涨,表明消费者和企业在一年结尾之时感觉稍好了一些。
        But those monthly figures could not fully make up for a lackluster performance in the second half of the year. Retail sales slowed markedly during those last six months, weighted by a steep tumble in activity at China’s car dealerships and broad weakness in smartphone sales. Investment in fixed assets like new factories and office buildings was anemic.        但这些月度数据无法完全弥补去年后半年的黯淡表现。根据中国汽车经销商活动骤降和智能手机销售普遍疲软的情况衡量,在这六个月内,零售明显放缓。新工厂和办公楼这类固定资产的投资都很乏力。
        “China’s economy has slowed significantly in recent months,” said Louis Kuijs, a China specialist at Oxford Economics, a large consulting firm.        “中国经济近几个月来已经明显下降,”大型咨询公司牛津经济研究院(Oxford Economics)的中国问题专家高路易(Louis Kuijs)说。
        More broadly, many economists have estimated that China’s slowdown is worse than the government’s figures show, citing more detailed data. Some economists estimate growth is just a fraction of the headline figure, though most economists who crunch the figures say the number is only a percentage point or two lower.        在更广泛的范围里,许多经济学家估计,根据更详细的数据,中国经济放缓的情况比政府数据显示得更糟。 一些经济学家估计增长只是官方数字的一小部分,尽管大多数经济学家认为真实数字只比官方数字低一或两个百分点。
        The question now is whether an improvement in December will carry over to the start of 2019. The Chinese government is trying to nudge growth along without adding to the country’s vast pool of debt accumulated over the past decade. While China still has many ways to rekindle growth, many of those options have difficult trade-offs.        眼下的问题是,12月份的改善能否持续到2019年初。中国政府正试图在不增加过去十年累积的巨额债务的情况下,推进经济增长。虽然中国仍然有很多重振经济的方式,但其中很多选项都需要进行艰难的取舍。
        Trade Trouble        贸易麻烦
        China’s economic problems began before Mr. Trump began imposing tariffs on Chinese-made goods. That said, the trade war is not helping.        中国的经济问题始于特朗普开始给中国产品施加关税之前。也就是说,贸易战不是症结所在。
        Activity has also slowed lately at many export-oriented factories. Many rushed to ship goods to the United States before a feared increase in tariffs on Jan. 1 that did not end up happening, filling warehouses with surplus goods. Many Chinese factories have eliminated overtime and looked for other ways to trim employment costs.        近来,许多出口型工厂的活动也有所放缓。很多工厂因担心1月1日关税增加,匆匆将货物运往美国,结果关税增加并未发生,这使得仓库里堆满了剩余货品。许多中国工厂取消了加班,并寻求其它方式削减雇佣成本。
        Economists at J.P. Morgan, the investment bank, on Monday slightly reduced their growth expectations for the first three months of the year, citing weaker-than-expected December trade figures.        投资银行摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)的经济学家周一略微调低了今年前三个月的增长预期,理由是12月的贸易数据低于预期。
        “Manufacturing has sunk from buoy to anchor over the past two quarters,” the China Beige Book, an economic consulting firm, concluded in an analysis last month.        “过去两个季度以来,制造这艘船已从漂浮变成了抛锚停泊,”经济咨询公司中国褐皮书(China Beige Book)在上月的分析中说。
        Driving the Slowdown        导致经济放缓
        Some economists note that the biggest factor driving the weakness in retail sales in China, which by some estimates has accounted for half or more of the entire slowdown, is a sharp fall in auto sales.        一些经济学家指出,致使中国零售疲软的最大因素是汽车销售的急剧下跌,一些人士估计这一部分占整体放缓的一半或以上。
        Auto sales have been falling since summer, with sales in December down a precipitous 19 percent from a year earlier. But China had a modest tax break for car buyers in 2016 that became smaller in 2017 and then disappeared entirely last year. Those tax policies may have pulled ahead some demand to 2016 and 2017, leaving the market poised for a drop last year.        汽车销售自夏季以来一直在跌,12月份同比猛跌19%。但中国在2016年向购车人提供的适度减税,在2017年有所减少,去年则全部消失。这些税收政策可能曾在2016至2017年拉动了一些需求,导致市场在去年呈现下跌趋势。
        “It is because we had a high number in 2017 that the 2018 market has so much pressure,” Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Cars Association, said in a phone interview.        “因为17年的市场基数高,18年市场有很大压力,”中国乘用车市场信息联席会秘书长崔东树在电话采访中说。
        Sliding sales at car dealerships prompted a wave of production cuts at assembly plants across China. That in turn cut into demand for auto parts, steel, glass and other materials.        汽车经销商的销量下滑在中国各地引发了一波装配厂减产。这反过来又削减了汽车零部件、钢铁、玻璃和其他材料的需求。
        But help may be on the way. Lian Weiliang, the vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a news conference last week that China would draft policies to “stabilize” consumption of cars and household appliances.        但援军可能就快到了。国家发展和改革委员会(National Development and Reform Commission)副主任连维良上周在记者会上表示,中国将起草政策以“稳定”汽车和家用电器消费。
        How Long Will It Last?        放缓将持续多久?
        The Chinese government has allowed big-ticket projects, like new subway lines in many cities to move forward, and it has pumped more money into the financial system. China’s leaders have also pledged to cut taxes to shore up sagging business sentiment.        中国政府已允许更多城市推进如建造新地铁这样的大额项目,并为金融系统注入了更多资金。中国领导人还承诺减税以支撑下滑的商业信心。
        The efforts “will boost the economy in the second half of this year,” said Shen Jianguang, the chief economist at, a big Chinese online retailer.        这些努力“将在今年下半年推动经济发展,”中国大型在线零售商京东首席经济学家沈建光说。
        One big option that China still has: help the housing market.        中国仍有一个重要选择:帮助房地产市场。
        Building and outfitting homes and other buildings represents as much as a quarter of the country’s economic activity by some estimates. China could take measures like loosening limits on mortgage lending and easing the ability of property developers to buy land and deal with their debt. But that approach comes with dangers. The sector is already overbuilt and plagued with speculation, something the Chinese authorities have long tried to contain.        一些估计称,建造和装修房屋和其他建筑物占该国经济活动的四分之一。中国可以采取措施,例如放宽对抵押贷款的限制,以及释放房地产开发商购买土地和处理债务的能力。但这种方法是伴随着危险的。该行业已经过度建设并被投机行为所困扰,这是中国当局长期以来试图遏制的。
        “Property easing will be used as a last resort, not a priority,” said Tao Wang, a China economist at the Swiss bank UBS.        “放松房地产行业将被当做最后手段,而非优先选项,”瑞士银行瑞银(UBS)的中国经济学家汪涛说。

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