The PRC is demonstrating the relationship between integrity and a centrally managed economy.
When China let Dongbei Special Steel Group default on a bond payment this spring, it was supposed to mark a new determination to allow long-coddled state industries to suffer the consequences of their bad decisions.
Three months later, the result has been…nothing. The ailing steel mill has missed five more payments on its $6 billion in debt, but has yet to formally file for the equivalent of bankruptcy protection, close unproductive units, or start a restructuring of its operations.
Nothing has happened here because the PRC has chosen to let short-term concerns about employment and what the government’s ruling Communist Party of China defines as “growth” to take precedence over concerns about integrity, contractual commitments, and actually paying creditors what’s owed them. Which destroys anything that might flow from the short-term into long-term growth and prosperity. This is all so that Xi Jinping and his CPC cronies can look good for the near term.
These business decisions not to pay, coupled with the government’s decisions not to allow market consequences and to not apply government sanctions for such unilateral contract abrogations, give a clear indication of the level of integrity extant in this particular centrally managed economy.
The reputation that results from such systemic lack of integrity, too, can only make it harder for any funding source to lend any more money, and it can only drive up the cost of such loans and borrowings as may still occur. Such costs must rise in order to account for the high likelihood of continued consequence-free reneging defaulting on debt agreements. After all, “default” in this kind of environment is a misnomer. Refusal to pay is less a default than it is a playing of the lender for a sucker.