这是用户在 2024-6-12 7:09 为 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2024-06-11/guangdong-is-feeling-the-brunt-of-china-s-economi... 保存的双语快照页面,由 沉浸式翻译 提供双语支持。了解如何保存?

China’s Economic Powerhouse Is Feeling the Brunt of Its Slowdown

As a four-decade rise in living standards shows signs of stalling, the pain in the country’s most entrepreneurial province is acute.

A barbershop in the Datang neighborhood of Guangzhou, the capital of China’s Guangdong province.

A barbershop in the Datang neighborhood of Guangzhou, the capital of China’s Guangdong province.

Photographer: Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek
中国广东省省会广州大塘附近的一家理发店:Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek

Lydia Dong moved to Shenzhen, China’s technology capital, because she worried she was falling behind. When she arrived in 2021, at the age of 27, the city of 18 million seemed to have more economic potential than anywhere else in the world, partly because China’s strict Covid-19 controls ensured, for a time, a degree of normalcy that was still elusive in the US and Europe. Dong had been working as a journalist in nearby Hong Kong, which was then suffering an exodus of residents and businesses, and she wanted in on Shenzhen’s potential. Taking a role in business development at an autonomous-vehicle startup, she initially reveled in the energy of the metropolis, which is home to many of China’s most ambitious people.
董丽迪娅来到中国的科技之都深圳,因为她担心自己会落伍。2021 年,27 岁的她来到深圳,这座拥有 1800 万人口的城市似乎比世界上任何其他地方都更具经济潜力,部分原因是中国严格的 Covid-19 管制一度确保了一定程度的正常生活,而这种正常生活在美国和欧洲仍然难以实现。董明珠曾在邻近的香港担任记者,当时香港的居民和企业纷纷外流,她希望能看到深圳的潜力。她在一家自动驾驶汽车初创公司担任业务开发的职务,起初她陶醉于这座大都市的活力,因为这里聚集了许多中国最有抱负的人。

Now, at 30, she’s about to begin her third job in as many years, and her initial optimism has evaporated. “If you go to cafes in Shenzhen, people are talking about how to get money all the time,” Dong says between sips of an iced latte in Nanshan, a city-center district of soaring skyscrapers and glitzy malls. White-collar salaries are stagnant and homes unaffordable for many, despite recent price drops. “Even on the weekends, they talk about property, tuition fees,” she says. The financial pressure is even bleeding into her dating life. Men she knows are carefully weighing the pay and family background of potential partners, and some are even deciding that relationships are a luxury they can no longer afford. Dong’s last partner dumped her to focus on seeking a promotion. “It’s not love anymore,” she says. “It’s a game of mathematics.”
现在,30 岁的她即将开始几年内的第三份工作,而她最初的乐观情绪已经烟消云散。"如果你去深圳的咖啡馆,人们总是在谈论如何赚钱,"董明珠在南山啜饮冰拿铁的间隙说道,南山是一个摩天大楼林立、购物中心鳞次栉比的城市中心区。白领们的工资停滞不前,许多人买不起房,尽管最近房价有所下降。"即使在周末,他们也会谈论房产和学费,"她说。经济压力甚至渗透到了她的约会生活中。她认识的男人们都在仔细衡量潜在伴侣的薪水和家庭背景,有些人甚至认为恋爱是他们再也负担不起的奢侈品。董的上一个伴侣抛弃了她,专心谋求升职。"这已经不再是爱情了,"她说。"这是一场数学游戏"。

Morning commuters at the Gangxia Bei metro station in Shenzhen last month.Photographer: Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek
上个月,深圳岗厦北地铁站的晨运乘客:Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek

Dong is one of many Chinese people worrying about their futures as a nearly four-decade rise in living standards shows signs of slowing. The causes are diverse—an aging population, President Xi Jinping’s investment-chilling crackdowns on the private sector, a deepening trade war with the US and an extended property slump, to cite a few—and the precise impacts differ across regions and industries. But the overall effect for many Chinese has been to make economic life feel increasingly precarious, even while official data show that incomes are rising and prices for many consumer goods—in stark contrast to the US—are dropping.

Tech firms such as Tencent Holdings Ltd., which is headquartered in Shenzhen, have slashed tens of thousands of jobs, and youth unemployment rose above 20% in June of last year, before a new government methodology brought the figure closer to about 15%. Since 2021 the value of residential real estate, the principal asset for a huge proportion of the urban middle class, has fallen by as much as 50% in some cities, according to estimates from Bloomberg Intelligence. The stock market is down more than a third over a similar period, and 32% of office workers surveyed by recruitment platform Zhaopin reported that their salaries had fallen last year.
总部位于深圳的腾讯控股有限公司等科技公司削减了数以万计的工作岗位,去年 6 月,青年失业率曾一度升至 20% 以上,后来政府新出台的方法将这一数字降至 15% 左右。据彭博社估计,自 2021 年以来,作为城市中产阶级主要资产的住宅房地产价值在一些城市的跌幅高达 50%。同期股市下跌超过三分之一,招聘平台招才通调查显示,32%的上班族去年工资有所下降。

The disappointment is especially acute in Shenzhen and other cities in Guangdong, the southern province that’s been the powerhouse of China’s long boom. Under former leader Deng Xiaoping, it was granted carve-outs from Communist Party orthodoxy that made it a magnet for entrepreneurs. Think of an internationally relevant Chinese company, and it’s probably based there: the head offices for Huawei electronics, BYD cars and DJI drones are all in Guangdong. These and other businesses attracted millions of migrants looking to better their circumstances, whether making smartphones on a factory floor or trading technology stocks in an office tower. Today, with over 120 million residents, Guangdong has a population comparable to the Philippines or Japan.
这种失望情绪在深圳和广东其他城市尤为严重,广东是中国南部省份,是中国长期繁荣的动力源。在前领导人邓小平的领导下,广东从共产党的正统观念中脱颖而出,成为吸引企业家的地方。华为电子、比亚迪汽车和大疆无人机的总部都设在广东。无论是在工厂车间制造智能手机,还是在写字楼里买卖科技股,这些企业和其他企业吸引了数百万希望改善自身处境的移民。如今,广东拥有超过 1.2 亿居民,人口数量与菲律宾或日本不相上下。

Residential buildings in the center of Shenzhen’s technology hub.Photographer: Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek

But entrepreneurial energy alone can’t protect it, nor the rest of China, from economic headwinds. While coordinated displays of unhappiness remain relatively rare, Guangdong saw more protests than any other Chinese province in 2023, according to data compiled by Washington-based nongovernmental organization Freedom House, predominantly related to economic issues such as unpaid wages and delayed property projects. The slump in real estate prices has been particularly painful for the province, not least because China Evergrande Group, a huge development conglomerate that has now largely collapsed, is based in its largest city, Guangzhou.
但是,仅靠企业家的能量并不能保护广东和中国其他地区免受经济逆风的影响。总部设在华盛顿的非政府组织 "自由之家"(Freedom House)汇编的数据显示,虽然广东在2023年发生的抗议活动比中国其他省份都要多,但抗议活动主要与拖欠工资和房地产项目延期等经济问题有关。房地产价格的暴跌对广东来说尤为痛苦,尤其是因为中国恒大集团(一家现已基本倒闭的大型开发企业集团)就位于广东最大的城市广州。

Xi’s government has rolled out a suite of measures to revive growth, including a 300 billion yuan ($41 billion) plan to encourage local governments and state-owned firms to buy up unsold housing. It’s also piling support behind what officials call the “new three” drivers of economic expansion: EVs, solar panels and batteries. China enjoys an undisputed lead over most of its rivals in these industries, albeit one that could be cut by tariffs in the US and European Union.
习近平政府推出了一系列振兴经济增长的措施,包括一项3000亿元人民币(合410亿美元)的计划,鼓励地方政府和国有企业购买未售出的住房。政府还在支持官员们所说的 "新三大 "经济扩张动力:电动汽车、太阳能电池板和电池。在这些行业,中国无可争议地领先于大多数竞争对手,尽管可能会被美国和欧盟的关税所削减。

These policies may not be enough to resolve more fundamental questions about China’s economic model. Since the 1980s the state has offered its people what some frame as an unspoken bargain: In exchange for near-total political control, the Communist Party would deliver stability and ever-greater prosperity. No one is seriously suggesting that the current slowdown represents an existential threat to the regime—tight controls on dissent and ubiquitous surveillance make organized opposition all but impossible. But if policymakers can’t overcome the malaise, the bargain may have to change, with unpredictable results.
这些政策可能不足以解决有关中国经济模式的更多根本性问题。自 20 世纪 80 年代以来,中国向人民提供了一些人认为是不言而喻的交易:作为近乎完全政治控制的交换条件,共产党将带来稳定和更大的繁荣。没有人认真地认为当前的经济放缓会对政权的存在构成威胁--对不同政见的严密控制和无处不在的监视使得有组织的反对几乎不可能发生。但如果政策制定者无法克服这种萎靡不振的状况,谈判可能不得不改变,结果将难以预料。

A fruit vendor in Guangzhou. Prices for many consumer goods in China have been dropping.Photographer: Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek
广州的一名水果商贩。中国许多消费品的价格都在下降:Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek

China’s economic strategy has changed dramatically since 2020, when Beijing used aggressive lockdowns to suppress Covid in the initial months of the pandemic. Later that year the government introduced new debt guidelines for property firms and dramatically stepped up scrutiny of technology companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. These regulatory changes, affecting vast swaths of the private sector, came to be understood as elements of a campaign Xi called “Common Prosperity.”
自 2020 年以来,中国的经济战略发生了巨大变化,当时中国政府在疫情爆发的最初几个月采取了积极的封锁措施来打压 Covid。同年晚些时候,政府出台了针对房地产公司的新债务准则,并大幅加强了对阿里巴巴集团控股有限公司等科技公司的审查。这些影响到广大私营部门的监管变化被理解为习近平所谓的 "共同繁荣 "运动的组成部分。

A number of the campaign’s goals were political: for example, reducing inequality that had reached uncomfortable levels for a nominally socialist country. Some commentators also suggested it was intended to reduce the power of private-sector entrepreneurs such as Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma. Simultaneously, Xi had decided the time was right to rein in borrowing, particularly by local governments and real estate firms, which was expanding at an unsustainable pace. Instead, the thinking went, China would be better off shifting resources to high-tech manufacturing and encouraging consumers to spend more of their salaries. The country’s savings rate is one the highest in the world, in part because the state provides relatively little unemployment insurance and health coverage.

New policies such as the “three red lines”—measures that included limiting how much property firms could borrow from banks—were aimed at cooling the real estate sector, which at one point accounted for as much as 24% of gross domestic product. Sales of new homes by the 100 largest developers have fallen in 30 of the past 34 months, and some cities have enormous supplies of unoccupied apartments. More than three dozen developers have defaulted on their debts, with some of the most prominent, including Evergrande, Country Garden and Vanke, headquartered in Guangdong. Wary of the so-called moral hazard that could result from directly bailing out builders, the government has been hesitant to take aggressive steps to save them.
新政策,如 "三条红线"--包括限制房地产公司向银行借款额度的措施--旨在为一度占国内生产总值高达 24% 的房地产行业降温。在过去的 34 个月中,100 家最大开发商的新房销售量有 30 个月出现下滑,一些城市出现了大量无人居住的公寓。有三十多家开发商拖欠债务,其中最著名的包括总部位于广东的恒大、碧桂园和万科。由于担心直接救助开发商可能会导致所谓的道德风险,政府在采取积极措施拯救开发商方面一直犹豫不决。

Beyond the obvious consequences for employment, whether of construction workers or marketing staff, the real estate slump has had a huge impact on household finances. Over the past few decades, many Chinese viewed owning a home as an almost surefire strategy for creating wealth. In some cases, it was a prerequisite for getting married, especially for couples hoping to have enough room for in-laws to move in to help with child care.

Yiwen Xie is one of those affected by the crisis. In 2021 he took a job expanding Evergrande’s online real estate brokerage, with the highest salary he’d ever earned. The firm, which had more than $300 billion in liabilities, defaulted six months later, the first major victim of the new debt restrictions. Initially, some feared a market contagion, similar to that which followed the 2008 demise of Lehman Brothers, as Evergrande’s lenders tried to plug holes in their balance sheets. That didn’t happen, but there was a gradual cascade of consequences across the Chinese financial system and property market.
谢依雯是受危机影响的人之一。2021 年,他在恒大的在线房地产经纪公司任职,拿到了有史以来最高的薪水。这家负债超过 3000 亿美元的公司在六个月后违约,成为新债务限制措施的第一个主要受害者。起初,一些人担心会出现类似 2008 年雷曼兄弟倒闭后的市场传染,因为恒大的贷款人试图堵住资产负债表上的漏洞。这种情况并没有发生,但在中国的金融体系和房地产市场却逐渐产生了一系列后果。

The Shenzhen tower that used to be Evergrande’s headquarters.Photographer: Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek
曾是恒大总部的深圳大厦:Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek

Since then, Xie has seen his Shenzhen apartment, worth about 4.2 million yuan at the peak of the real estate boom, lose 40% of its value. “People no longer believe in the theory that housing prices will keep rising,” he says. He tried to adapt by taking a job at an interior-decorating firm, at half his Evergrande salary, figuring that if homeowners were no longer trading up, they’d be more interested in upgrading their existing space. But he didn’t enjoy the role and is now taking a break from work altogether.
从那时起,谢国忠看到他在房地产繁荣高峰期价值约 420 万元的深圳公寓贬值了 40%。"人们不再相信房价会持续上涨的理论,"他说。他试图适应这种情况,在一家室内装饰公司找了份工作,工资只有恒大的一半,他认为如果房主不再换房,他们会更有兴趣升级现有空间。但他并不喜欢这份工作,现在他已经彻底放弃了工作。

In the process, he’s noticed a welcome change. Xie, who’s 36, explains that he used to suffer from what Chinese call “35 anxiety”—the pressure to secure a big promotion or reach some other professional milestone before that age. (If you don’t, thirtysomethings fear, you might be fired and replaced by someone who’s younger and willing to work harder for less money.) But “the upheavals in the past few years mean the 35 line no longer matters,” he says. “The whole assessment system no longer makes sense, so I don’t have to worry about it.”
在这个过程中,他发现了一个可喜的变化。谢先生今年 36 岁,他解释说,他曾经患有中国人所说的 "35 岁焦虑症"--即在 35 岁之前获得大幅晋升或达到其他职业里程碑的压力。(三十多岁的人担心,如果达不到,就可能被解雇,被更年轻、更愿意努力工作但薪水更低的人取代)。但 "过去几年的动荡意味着 35 岁这条线不再重要",他说。他说,"整个评估体系不再有意义,所以我不用担心这个问题"。

President Xi has said in the past that “houses are for living in, not for speculation,” and there’s little question that, all things being equal, policymakers would be happy to have a smaller, less debt-dependent real estate sector. There are signs, however, that their efforts to deflate the national property bubble have been too successful. Despite recent measures to stabilize the market, prices still haven’t reached a bottom, and some economists predict it could take a decade for the sector to normalize.

Moreover, municipal administrations in China depend on selling land to support their finances. Falling revenue from those transactions has forced some to cut civil servants’ salaries and worker pensions. In 2020 close to 40% of the revenue of Guangdong’s local governments, excluding central-government transfers, came from land sales, according to S&P Global Ratings. By 2023 the figure was 25%.
此外,中国的市政当局依靠出售土地来维持财政。这些交易收入的减少迫使一些地方削减公务员工资和工人养老金。据标准普尔全球评级公司(S&P Global Ratings)称,2020 年,广东地方政府近 40% 的收入(不包括中央政府的转移支付)来自土地出让。到 2023 年,这一数字为 25%。

The broader effects on consumers are hard to measure but just as important. Economists have long called for China to encourage its people to spend more on goods and services, and thus reduce its dependence on real estate and infrastructure spending to keep the economy growing. But consumers who are worried about the value of their principal asset and, in many cases, anxious about their future incomes, don’t typically want to devote more of their budgets to nonessentials such as new appliances, clothing or vacations. That, in turn, has left China even more reliant on overseas demand for its exports, just as officials in Washington, Brussels and other global capitals are taking steps to restrict them.

A side street in Guangzhou.Photographer: Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek
广州的一条小街:Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek

Each spring, Guangzhou hosts an event of only-in-China scale, the Canton Fair, where more than 20,000 companies gather to show off their wares. Putting it on requires some 1.5 million square meters (16 million square feet) of exhibition space across several hangarlike structures. The site is so large that visitors get around on golf carts or battery-equipped suitcases that double as scooters. Electronic beats pump from speakers; the few spare chairs, around the edges of product displays or in hallways, are usually occupied by exhausted attendees.
每年春季,广州都会举办一场中国独一无二的盛会--广交会,2 万多家企业汇聚一堂,展示自己的产品。举办广交会需要约 150 万平方米(1600 万平方英尺)的展览面积,其中包括几个类似飞机库的建筑。由于场地太大,参观者只能乘坐高尔夫球车或装有电池、可充当滑板车的手提箱。扬声器里播放着电子节拍;在产品展示区的边缘或走廊里,几把空闲的椅子通常被筋疲力尽的与会者占据。

The event was first held in 1957, as Mao Zedong’s government sought to break a US-led trade embargo imposed during the Korean War, but its name hints at a deeper history. For much of the 18th and 19th centuries, the city then called Canton was China’s main portal for foreign trade, its harbor crowded with sailing vessels from all over the world. It remains a major industrial center: In some districts, touts for factory owners stand on street corners, shouting to passersby about the merits of a job sewing garments or assembling furniture.
该活动首次举办于 1957 年,当时毛泽东政府正试图打破朝鲜战争期间以美国为首的贸易禁运。在 18 世纪和 19 世纪的大部分时间里,这座当时被称为广州的城市是中国对外贸易的主要门户,其港口挤满了来自世界各地的帆船。它仍然是一个主要的工业中心:在一些地区,工厂主的兜售人员站在街角,向路人高声推销缝制服装或组装家具的工作。

The nation’s companies brought a vast array of products to this year’s fair, held over a series of sweltering days in late April and early May. Some were the mainstream output of China’s vast industrial base, the kind of products that stock the shelves of any Walmart or Target store: power tools, mountain bikes, laptops. Others were more esoteric, including self-cleaning cat litter boxes and artificial-intelligence-powered eye masks that supposedly help the wearer sleep.
在今年 4 月底和 5 月初的连续几天闷热天气里,中国企业带来了种类繁多的产品。其中一些是中国庞大工业基地的主流产品,也就是沃尔玛或 Target 商店货架上的那类产品:电动工具、山地自行车、笔记本电脑。其他产品则更为深奥,包括自动清洁的猫砂盆和人工智能眼罩,据说可以帮助佩戴者入睡。

The Canton Fair’s huge crowd has evolved along with China’s geopolitical position. A decade ago, about half the foreign visitors came from the (mostly) developing countries that are part of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative, an infrastructure-investment plan that’s drawn an estimated $1 trillion in capital. Now it’s about two-thirds, though American and European buyers are still well represented. But strong attendance doesn’t necessarily translate to orders big enough to help Chinese companies grow.
随着中国地缘政治地位的变化,广交会的观众人数也在不断增加。十年前,约有一半的外国游客来自中国政府 "一带一路 "倡议中的发展中国家(主要是发展中国家),这一基础设施投资计划吸引了约 1 万亿美元的资金。现在这一比例约为三分之二,尽管美国和欧洲买家仍占很大比例。但强劲的参展人数并不一定能转化为足够大的订单,从而帮助中国企业实现增长。

“I’m facing an increasing amount of uncertainty, and I’m powerless,” says Susan Xia Li, an entrepreneur who’s come to the fair to promote her company’s solar-power storage systems. They’re sold mainly in the Middle East and Africa, but attacks by Houthi militants on vessels in the Red Sea have made it impossible for her to get insurance for some shipments to Ethiopia, one of her principal markets. With warehouse costs mounting and her cash flow under pressure, Li decided to send the merchandise anyway. Other conflicts in the Middle East, meanwhile, have affected her sales to Yemen and Lebanon.
苏珊-夏-李(Susan Xia Li)说:"我正面临着越来越多的不确定性,我无能为力,"她是一位企业家,来博览会是为了推销她公司的太阳能蓄电系统。这些产品主要销往中东和非洲,但胡塞武装分子对红海船只的袭击使她无法为一些运往埃塞俄比亚的货物购买保险,而埃塞俄比亚是她的主要市场之一。随着仓库成本的增加和现金流的压力,李决定还是把货物运走。与此同时,中东地区的其他冲突也影响了她在也门和黎巴嫩的销售。

The nations where she does business are unlikely, at least, to impose tariffs on Chinese solar products, as the US has. Li worries that still might not protect her. In the event of substantial American restrictions—under a second Donald Trump administration, perhaps—her competitors among China’s renewable energy giants could shift their focus to poorer countries, squeezing her company out. Li has been setting up partnerships with some larger companies, but she says she fears that if competition grows too intense, she could be forced to sell the business she’s run for virtually her entire adult life.

She’s determined not to let that happen, but draws the line at taking on substantial personal risk, for example, by pledging her home as collateral for a loan. “I was fearless when I was younger,” she says. “I have a whole family to consider. Should I put down all I have, and all my family have, to invest in this business?”

Those following the crowds at the Canton Fair quickly find themselves in the electric-vehicle section, featuring displays from the likes of BYD, IM Motors and Sinotruk. One of the largest booths belongs to GAC Aion New Energy Automobile Co., a Guangzhou-based EV manufacturer that’s brought a half-dozen of its models. A bright-orange sports car with scissor doors seems to be the biggest hit, with visitors leaning against the hood to take selfies.
跟随广交会人流的人很快就会发现自己来到了电动汽车展区,这里有比亚迪、IM Motors 和中国重汽等公司的展品。广汽爱安新能源汽车有限公司是最大的展台之一,这家总部位于广州的电动汽车制造商带来了半打车型。一辆亮橙色的剪刀门跑车似乎最受欢迎,参观者纷纷靠在车盖上自拍。

China’s EV industry is increasingly at the heart of its economic strategy, with BYD and other companies turning their focus to exports after building huge domestic businesses. While they’re unlikely to employ as many people as real estate and construction, their pool of higher-earning workers could create a broad spillover effect through consumer spending, says Joseph Peissel, an analyst at policy research firm Trivium China.
中国的电动汽车产业正日益成为其经济战略的核心,比亚迪和其他公司在建立了庞大的国内业务后,将重点转向了出口。政策研究公司 Trivium China 的分析师约瑟夫-佩瑟尔(Joseph Peissel)说,虽然电动车行业不太可能像房地产和建筑业那样雇佣大量员工,但这些高收入工人可能会通过消费支出产生广泛的溢出效应。

It’s worrisome, then, that these are exactly the industries being targeted for tariffs by China’s largest trading partners, which accuse Beijing of unfairly using state subsidies to undercut foreign competition. In May, President Joe Biden announced a series of new levies on Chinese goods including EVs, batteries, semiconductors and minerals, adding to trade restrictions imposed under Trump. The EU, China’s second-largest export market, is considering similar measures after beginning investigations into clean technology subsidies. And complaints that China is flooding markets with other kinds of cheap products are popping up even in countries that have traditionally been friendlier to it. Brazil, Chile and Mexico have all increased duties on Chinese steel products, which manufacturers need to offload overseas because of the real estate bust.
令人担忧的是,中国最大的贸易伙伴国指责中国政府不公平地利用国家补贴来削弱外国竞争,而这些行业正是它们征收关税的目标。今年 5 月,美国总统拜登(Joe Biden)宣布对中国商品(包括电动汽车、电池、半导体和矿产品)征收一系列新的关税,这是在特朗普执政期间实施的贸易限制措施基础上的又一举措。作为中国第二大出口市场的欧盟,在开始对清洁技术补贴进行调查后,也在考虑采取类似措施。甚至在传统上对中国较为友好的国家,也出现了关于中国正在用其他种类的廉价产品充斥市场的抱怨。巴西、智利和墨西哥都提高了对中国钢铁产品的关税,由于房地产萧条,制造商需要将这些产品销往海外。

Xi and his deputies are attempting to rebut claims that Chinese products are only so inexpensive because of state support. They argue that such exports are helping to reduce global inflation and, in the case of goods like batteries, to battle climate change. China may also retaliate with tariffs of its own; state media has been hinting at investigations into pork and other products originating in the EU. Another strategy would be to move more production to international markets, as BYD has announced it will do by opening a plant in Hungary, giving other countries’ workers a stake in the success of Chinese companies.

Measures such as these won’t allay the geopolitical concerns that are affecting international trade. The Belt and Road initiative, which Xi unveiled in 2013, envisioned a chain of friendly countries extending from Brazil to Indonesia, all tied to the Chinese economy through extensive commercial relationships. But his assertive foreign policy—from pressing maximalist territorial claims in the South China Sea to his support for Russia’s Vladimir Putin—has alienated some of those same countries’ leaders. At a time when Beijing needs to build all the trade links it can, many of its longtime partners are wary.
诸如此类的措施并不能消除影响国际贸易的地缘政治担忧。习近平于2013年提出了 "一带一路 "倡议,设想建立一个从巴西到印尼的友好国家链,通过广泛的商业关系将这些国家与中国经济联系在一起。但习近平强硬的外交政策--从在南海提出最大化的领土要求到支持俄罗斯总统普京--疏远了其中一些国家的领导人。在北京需要尽其所能建立所有贸易联系的时候,许多长期合作伙伴却对此心存戒备。

Pedestrians and cyclists at a bridge crossing over a highway in Shenzhen.Photographer: Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek
深圳一座横跨高速公路的桥梁上的行人和骑自行车者:Qilai Shen for Bloomberg Businessweek

The Chinese government is targeting GDP growth of about 5% this year, a figure private-sector forecasters say is more or less attainable. Even accounting for a degree of exaggeration in official data, that would represent a success for a large economy facing such complex challenges—albeit a far cry from the double-digit annual growth China enjoyed in the 2000s.
中国政府将今年的 GDP 增长目标定为 5%左右,私营部门的预测人士认为这一数字基本可以实现。即使考虑到官方数据存在一定程度的夸大,对于一个面临如此复杂挑战的大型经济体来说,这也是一个成功的数字--尽管这与 2000 年代中国两位数的年增长率相去甚远。

The headline number, however, is only part of the picture. Consumer spending is growing much more slowly: Retail sales grew just 2.3% in April from a year earlier. The same month saw the first contraction in nearly two decades in a measure called aggregate financing, which tracks the overall amount of credit being used in the economy. That suggests companies, consumers and local governments aren’t willing to take on more debt, even though borrowing costs in China are relatively low. (A rising aggregate financing figure, by contrast, would indicate that borrowers are eager to take out loans for investment, infrastructure projects or buying homes.)
然而,标题数字只是部分情况。消费者支出的增长速度要慢得多:4 月份零售额同比仅增长 2.3%。同月,一项名为 "融资总量 "的指标出现了近二十年来的首次萎缩,该指标追踪的是经济中使用的信贷总量。这表明,尽管中国的借贷成本相对较低,但企业、消费者和地方政府并不愿意承担更多债务。(相比之下,如果融资总量上升,则表明借款人急于为投资、基础设施项目或购房贷款)。

In Shenzhen, Arron Lau provides an example of why many have grown cautious. By almost any standard, he should consider himself one of the Chinese economy’s winners. He and his wife are both in their early 30s and work in the tech sector, with a combined salary equivalent to about $100,000. Her parents are wealthy enough to take care of big-ticket expenses, and the couple live comfortably.
在深圳,刘亚伦提供了一个例子,说明为什么许多人越来越谨慎。几乎按照任何标准,他都应该认为自己是中国经济的赢家之一。他和妻子都是 30 岁出头,在科技行业工作,两人的工资加起来约为 10 万美元。妻子的父母很富有,足以承担大笔开销,夫妻俩生活舒适。

Nonetheless, “I am not optimistic at all,” Lau says over lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant near the city center. (Reservations used to be mandatory; slowing business now makes it possible to walk in.) He’s most concerned about tensions with the Western economies that were so crucial to China’s economic opening. Wary of Beijing’s military ambitions, the US has moved to cut off Chinese companies’ access to the most advanced semiconductors and chip-manufacturing equipment. That will make it harder for them to advance in fields such as AI. “The trade war affects everything,” Lau complains. “We don’t have these chips, so the path to the future is cut off.”

His more immediate concern is his own future at the consumer electronics firm where he works as a manager. Business is slow, and Lau is unsure about his next move. One option would be to find a job that’s less dependent on international sales. Another, suggested by his boss: finding a team where he can’t be blamed directly for hits to the company’s bottom line. Amid this anxiety, he and his wife are holding on to what they have, saving more than half their salaries each month.

In his public comments since the beginning of the economic slowdown, Xi has often come across as unsympathetic to the concerns of people like Lau. His oft-repeated advice, whether to new college graduates struggling to find work or civil servants trying to get by on low pay, is to embrace the moral virtues of suffering, as official propaganda says he did while laboring with farmers during the Cultural Revolution. In particular, Xi has said, people should learn to “eat bitterness,” a common shorthand for enduring hardship—for example, by embracing whatever job might be available.
自经济放缓开始以来,习近平在公开讲话中常常表现出对刘强东这样的人的担忧缺乏同情。无论是对苦于找工作的大学毕业生,还是对想靠低工资过日子的公务员,他经常重复的建议都是接受苦难的道德美德,就像官方宣传说他在文化大革命期间与农民一起劳动时所做的那样。习近平特别指出,人们应该学会 "吃苦",这是忍受苦难的常用语--例如,接受任何可能得到的工作。

This philosophy represents a huge change for younger Chinese, who’ve never known a country that wasn’t awash in consumer comforts. Members of that demographic had every reason to expect that a well-compensated career and consistently growing wealth would be waiting for them, as long as they were willing to work hard.

The apparent breakdown of that deal has already generated unexpected social consequences–most prominently, the “lying flat” movement, whose adherents argue they shouldn’t work more than is essential for basic survival. Almost by definition, such people are unlikely to make a significant impact on politics. But that might not be true if a large cohort of disappointed Chinese citizens react with anger, rather than apathy, to diminished economic prospects.
这一协议的明显破裂已经产生了意想不到的社会后果--其中最突出的是 "平躺 "运动,其追随者认为他们的工作不应超过基本生存所必需的程度。根据定义,这类人不太可能对政治产生重大影响。但是,如果一大批失望的中国公民对经济前景黯淡的反应是愤怒而非冷漠,情况可能就不是这样了。

Already, some worry that they missed their country’s best years. Growing up in the China of the 2000s and 2010s, “we aimed for the top brands, the top foreign companies. We wanted to go abroad and further our studies,” says Dong, the journalist-turned-business-development-staffer in Shenzhen. Now, “I feel really bad for my generation and the generation after us.”
有些人已经开始担心,他们错过了中国最好的时代。在 2000 和 2010 年代的中国长大,"我们的目标是顶级品牌、顶级外企。我们想出国深造,"从记者转行的深圳商业开发人员董说。现在,"我为我们这一代和我们之后的一代感到非常难过"。

Read next: Caught Between the US and China, a Powerful AI Upstart Chooses Sides