News / Economy

Property Sales in Small Cities Pivotal to China's Growth

A worker walks with a hammer past a residential construction site during sunset in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China, Aug. 6, 2013.
A worker walks with a hammer past a residential construction site during sunset in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China, Aug. 6, 2013.
Reuters
A property glut in some smaller cities raises questions over how far China's decade-long housing boom can last at a time when the fragile economy is more vulnerable than ever to a possible retreat in the red-hot property market.
 
A flurry of housing investment over the past several years, fueled in part by herd-like speculative buying, resulted in some developers building more housing than could be sold once the market began to slow.
 
Now, the concern is that the market could be cooling too quickly, and risk stalling one of the few engines in the economy that are still firing.
 
While new home prices in Beijing rose 14.1 percent in July from a year earlier and Shanghai prices were up 13.7 percent, smaller cities are lagging the major centers. The National Bureau of Statistics data showed average new home prices in China's top 70 cities up 7.5 percent on the year.
 
“Dozens and dozens of small cities -- still home to the majority of China's urban population -- have more housing than they need,” wrote Rosealea Yao, a principal analyst at GaveKal Dragonomics, a Beijing consultancy, in a report. “This excessive supply will put a serious drag on national construction growth for several years.”
 
'Steady and Healthy Development'
 
House prices have fallen for nearly two years in Wenzhou, a prosperous eastern city that had suffered fevered speculation before stringent controls on the property market took hold. In July prices in Wenzhou were down by an annual 2.4 percent in July.
 
While Wenzhou's falling prices remain an exception, the city's plight and its move earlier this month to relax some the toughest property market curbs are emblematic of the growing concerns about China's slackening economic growth and the risks of cracking down too hard on the housing market.
 
China's leadership, acutely aware of housing's importance to the economy, appears to have set aside concerns that a property boom was pricing millions of families out of the market.
 
That is how industry executives and analysts took a July 30 pledge to maintain “steady and healthy development of the property sector” by the Politburo, the top decision-making body.
 
“It was a clear signal that there won't be any new restrictions on home buying in order to temper price increases for a while,” said Andy Rothman, Chief China Strategist at CLSA Asia Pacific Markets.
 
But leaving the market alone may not be enough. With stock markets volatile and caps on bank deposits, property remains the only game in town for millions of Chinese savers.
 
Total property investment accounted for 14.8 percent of gross domestic product in the first half of 2013, up from 13.5 percent a year earlier. Residential property accounts for 70 percent of that total.
 
And in a market where most apartment and houses are paid for in cash, mortgage lending has been on the rise with new mortgage loans reaching a record 963 billion yuan ($157 billion) in the first half.
 
Wenzhou's two years of falling prices is the exception, but price rises in smaller cities are lagging the major centers. Average new home prices in 70 major cities rose 7.5 percent in July, the NBS data showed.
 
Most economists believe incomes will keep growing enough to sustain relatively healthy demand for at least a year, and the government does plan to encourage urbanization.
 
“We expect a stable property sector policy in the coming year and see a modest property recovery to continue,” said UBS chief China economist Tao Wang.
 
Industry executives say there is now a tide of new investment coming to top cities and provincial capitals, because demand remains strong. Over time, economists say, that could ease housing price inflation in China's biggest cities.
 
They also argue Beijing may have no choice but to scale back its ambition to spur more development in lower-tier cities.
 
That, said Dragonomics' Yao, could help China avoid what otherwise could be “a brutal construction crash.”
 
Scaling Back
 
The stakes for Beijing are high. A slowdown in exports and fixed investment means the economy is more reliant on the residential property market than it was even a year ago.
 
In the second quarter, employment in the property sector rose by 8,000, while manufacturing lost 164,000 jobs.
 
Tax income from the property sector rose 45.7 percent in the first half from a year earlier, while growth in the overall tax revenue slowed to 7.9 percent.
 
Housing, moreover, props up at least 40 other sectors, from cement to steel to furniture and home appliances. Local governments also depend heavily on revenues from land sales to developers to help service a debt pile worth trillions of yuan.
 
Still, some developers are scaling back.
 
Last month, Yu Liang, chief executive of China Vanke, the biggest listed developer by sales, said the company was pulling back from Yixing city in prosperous Zhejiang province.
 
And Yi Xiaodi, the president of Sunshine 100, a mid-sized residential developer based in Beijing, has put off plans to expand in Zhuzhou, a city with 3.9 million residents in Hunan.
 
“We changed our mind because of oversupply risk,” Yi said. “We will avoid investing in cities where industrial competitiveness is fading and the market is plagued with over-supply. That will be very dangerous.”

(Note: $1 = 6.1229 Chinese yuan)

You May Like

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8815
JPY
USD
117.85
GBP
USD
0.6581
CAD
USD
1.2420
INR
USD
61.404

Rates may not be current.