China's tough love stance on property sector crisis

Company News

by Glenn Dyer

In yet another display of stern resolve, the Chinese government is doubling down on its stance towards the beleaguered property sector, signaling a no-nonsense approach to tackling its woes head-on.

Reports from western media outlets on Monday shed light on remarks made by China's Housing Minister, Ni Hong, in which he unequivocally stated that property developers teetering on the brink of insolvency should face the music: bankruptcy.

Ni's remarks, unveiled during a weekend press conference, left little room for ambiguity: "For real estate companies that are seriously insolvent and have lost the ability to operate, those that must go bankrupt should go bankrupt, or be restructured, in accordance with the law and market principles," he asserted. "Those who commit acts that harm the interests of the masses will be resolutely investigated and punished in accordance with the law," he added, leaving no doubt about the gravity of the situation.

The significance of these comments cannot be overstated, particularly against the backdrop of China's major property developers grappling with financial turmoil. Evergrande, the behemoth with a staggering $US300 billion debt burden, has been ordered for liquidation by a Hong Kong court. Meanwhile, Country Garden, the runner-up in the property race, is treading similar waters, facing a potential liquidation order. Yet, the road to such a fate is not immediate, as evidenced by Evergrande's two-year journey to its current state.

The genesis of these woes traces back to 2020, when the government cracked down on property speculation, throttling developers' reliance on debt-fueled growth. However, while the tough stance may appear self-serving, it's imperative to note the broader ramifications. Many developers, caught in the crossfire, diverted resources into alternative ventures like electric vehicles and investments, warranting repercussions. As a consequence, unfinished properties languished, buyers defaulted on payments, and the ripple effect sent shockwaves across the sector.

The government's response, albeit measured, has been notable. While some developers have received marginal financial support, it falls short of constituting a bailout. President Xi Jinping's steadfast commitment to reducing the real estate sector's sway in the economy remains unchanged, with the sector's contribution to GDP dwindling from over 25% in 2019 to around 20% presently.

Ni's assertion that authorities will prioritize housing sales and affordable housing development resonates with global sentiments, yet it underscores a fundamental shift in China's economic landscape. It's a landscape where the long-term vision looms large, subject to the ever-shifting winds of President Xi's directives.

In essence, China's 'tough love' approach towards its troubled property sector underscores a recalibration of economic priorities, signaling a pivot towards sustainable growth models. As the nation navigates these turbulent waters, the resolve to tackle challenges head-on remains unwavering, echoing a sentiment of resilience amidst adversity.

Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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