Dr. Qing Ba from Hong Kong Exchanges and Professor Frank M. Song from the University of Hong Kong discuss the role of offshore debt issuance in the improvement of Chinese issuers’ creditability and transparency. China has the third largest bond market in the world. However, the absence of an accurate local rating and pricing system deepen the risks in domestic debt sectors. Our recent research finds that after Chinese corporates issue bonds in the offshore market, thus binding themselves to stricter market discipline and information disclosure requirements, the rating and disclosed information from offshore issuance may be of a greater reference value in the assessment of Chinese corporates’ credibility. This in turn leads to a signaling effect on their subsequent domestic debt financing. In addition to providing cheap funding, offshore debt issuance could bring about improvements in the creditability and transparency of Chinese issuers. This is of critical importance in pricing China’s credit risk and enhancing the soundness of China’s bond market.
When comparing the credit ratings of domestic and global agencies on Chinese corporations, because of the differences in ratings scales, it is best to focus on the domestic and global agency orderings of relative credit risk. Testing for differences in the determinants of ratings, we find that asset size is weighed more heavily as a positive factor by domestic agencies, while profitability and state-ownership are weighed more positively by global rating agencies, which also weigh leverage more heavily as a negative factor. In spite of these differences, both domestic and global ratings appear to be priced into the market values of rated bonds.
China is on a path to capital account liberalization. If the renminbi is to become an international reserve currency (e.g. Prasad, 2016), as it has started to and one day will be, China must have an open capital account. But once the capital account is open, the economy will be exposed to gyrations of the global financial cycle (Rey, 2014). This column argues that international credit supply shocks have powerful effects on real and financial variables of the receiving countries, but not all economies are affected similarly, and those that have lower loan-to-value ratios (LTVs) and limits on foreign currency borrowing (FXLs) are less vulnerable. As China lowers controls on capital flows (e.g., Benigno et al., 2016) it should consider tightening domestic macro-prudential policy regulations (e.g., Cesa-Bianchi and Rebucci (2017) to avoid excessive volatility.
Since 2010–2011, China’s economy has slowed considerably, raising concerns that the country could fall into the so-called “middle-income trap” (MIT). Obviously, an MIT in China would have serious negative consequences not only for the Chinese population but also for the world economy as a whole. We examine whether China is or will be in an MIT by focusing on the empirical MIT definitions and the MIT triggering factors identified in the literature. We show that dependent on the choice of MIT definition, different MIT statements can be derived. Our triggering factor analysis reveals that while China performs quite well regarding its export structure, it must improve human capital accumulation and total factor productivity to avoid falling into an MIT.