Video presentation: Chanos on China’s state-sponsored bubble

Thanks to Pej for finding this:

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Chanos relays a great quote from Milton Friedman: He was brought to watch the Chinese built a canal, and when he asked why they were using shovels and not bulldozers, he was told that machinery was being eschewed in order to create more jobs. Friedman replied with something like, “Oh, I thought you were building a canal. If it’s jobs you want, why don’t you give them spoons?”

Like the Chicago school that he founded, Friedman was great on most issues except for money. He couldn’t come to terms with the idea that the very existence of a central bank and legal tender laws create insurmountable moral hazard and will always lead to bubbles.

Ok, so how big is China’s commercial real estate bubble? Under construction right now, there are 25 square feet of office space for every person in China.

Family savings are being invested as down-payments for investments in highly-speculative developments. The bust will take care of a lot of the middle class’s much-touted savings.

Jim Chanos: China = Dubai X 1000

According to Bloomberg, the big bears are circling China.

Marc Faber, publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, says China is overdoing it. “It does not make sense for China to build more empty buildings and add to capacities in industries where you already have overcapacity,” Faber told Bloomberg Television on Feb. 11. “I think the Chinese economy will decelerate very substantially in 2010 and could even crash.”…

…The costs of wasteful investments in empty offices and shopping malls and in underutilized infrastructure will weigh on China, Chanos, president of New York-based Kynikos Associates Ltd., said in a speech at the London School of Economics. “We may find that that’s what pops the Chinese bubble sooner rather than later.”…

Risk for Commodities

Last month, banks lent a further 1.39 trillion yuan — almost one-fifth of the target amount for the whole of 2010. Also in January, foreign direct investment climbed 7.8 percent to $8.13 billion. Retail sales during last week’s Lunar New Year holiday rose 17.2 percent from the same period in 2009, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

While China’s resilience has helped support the world economy, raising demand for energy and raw materials, the bursting of a bubble would have the opposite effect. Government efforts to wean the economy off its extraordinary support may roil markets.

In January, the central government ordered banks to curb lending, which put China’s stock market into reverse. In a sign, in part, of how dependent the world has become on China, stocks and currencies slumped in places such as Australia and Brazil that supply commodities to the People’s Republic. On Feb. 12, the eve of the one-week Lunar New Year holiday, China for the second time in a month ordered banks to set aside more deposits as reserves. The Shanghai Composite Index has fallen 8 percent year-to-date, after gaining 80 percent in 2009.

Bidding Up Prices

“If the Chinese economy decelerates or crashes, what you have is a disastrous environment for industrial commodities,” said Faber, who oversees $300 million at Hong Kong-based Marc Faber Ltd.

The stimulus tap that Beijing turned on has flowed to projects such as its 2 trillion yuan high-speed-rail network. The 221 billion yuan Beijing-Shanghai line has surpassed the Three Gorges Dam as the single most expensive engineering project in Chinese history.

Some beneficiaries of the government efforts have plowed their loans into real estate and stocks. Property prices across 70 cities jumped 9.5 percent in January from a year earlier, according to government data.

…Chanos, a short-seller who was early to warn about Enron Corp., is one of a growing number of investors sounding the alarm. “Right now, the Chinese market is overheating,” George Soros said in a Jan. 28 interview.

Wait, I thought Soros was a Keynesian. Isn’t printing and spending the way to perpetual prosperity?

Another example Chanos has cited is the city of Ordos, where party officials have built an entire new downtown on the windswept grasslands of Inner Mongolia, 25 kilometers (15 miles) outside the existing municipality of 1.5 million people.

Ordos is really comedic. Check out this video: