While most “developed world” people have heard of Hong Kong and Macau, far fewer have heard of China’s province of Guangdong, which is somewhat surprising. With over 100 million people, a GDP of nearly $1 trillion – the biggest of all Chinese provinces, this South China Sea adjacent territory is perhaps China’s most important economic dynamo. One of the key cities of Guangdong is Dongguan, which as the map below shows is a stone’s throw from Hong Kong, has a population of nearly 10 million, and has long been considered Guangdong’s boomtown and one of China’s richest cities.
One notable feature about Dongguan is that it is home to the New South China Mall, which is the world’s largest. It also happens to be mostly empty ever since it opened in 2005. Which perhaps is a good segue into this story. Because while for the most part the city of Dongguan has been a story of prosperity, a wrinkle has appeared. According to the South China Morning Post, which cites researchers at Sun Yat-sen University, this city is now on the brink of bankruptcy.
Make that a big wrinkle.
The irony, of course, is that as always happens, while everyone has been expecting the muni collapse to take place in the good old US of A, it may be about to strike with a great vengeance and furious anger none other than that credit black hole, in which nobody really knows who owes what to whom, China.
How is it possible that a city which as the SCMP describes was once a backwater farm town until the late 1980s, and then as China boomed was transformed into one of the most important hi-tech manufacturing centres in the world, and about which an IBM vice-president famously said a mere 15-minute jam on the expressway there would be enough to cause worldwide fluctuations in computer prices, could be facing bankruptcy?
The answer is an absolutely fascinating story, one which for the first time exposes what could be the most sordid underbelly of the broken Chinese shadow credit system, and which demonstrates very vividly just what the hard Chinese landing will look like. It also explains precisely what the real creditor-debtor relationships are like in a country in which the banks are the equivalent of government entities, and which do little if any retail crediting in a time when the government is set on contracting the money supply at the wholesale, if not at the bank level (recall the now daily reverse repos conducted by the PBOC).
Most importantly it reveals the monetary dynamic “on the ground” – one which is vastly different than the one in the “western world.”
The question is whether the story of Dongguan is an isolated one. Alas, just like there is never one cockroach, we are confident that many more such provinical centers are currently undergoing the same challenges, which if unresolved would lead to a tsunami of municipal, county and city level defaults, that would leave China in ashes.
Ironically, Meredith Whitney may have had the municipal default theme right. She was just envisioning the wrong continent…
continue at ZeroHedge: