Ariana Eunjung Cha reports that the Chinese may be about to be consuming a lot more:
Long known for high saving rates, China’s middle-class consumers are starting to spend like their American counterparts ... Increasing consumer spending is a key goal of the $586 billion economic stimulus package unveiled Sunday by China’s leaders ... James E. Quinn, global president for New York-based Tiffany, said in an interview that Chinese customers are the “fastest-growing segment” of its business. “A lot of American customers have a complete wardrobe of jewelry, passed down from previous generations. That’s not the case in China. Chinese consumers are at the early stage of acquiring a sense of style and appreciation for design in jewelry.” U.S. companies have been so successful in China because “Chinese consumers have a ‘look up to the rich’ attitude and the United States is the world’s top developed country in their eyes,” said Gao Tao, a consultant for the International Brand Association in Beijing
But before we anticipate an export led boom, check out what Brad Setser has to say:
the non-petrol goods deficit is now moving in the wrong direction. It increased from $29.3b in June to $35.6b in August. Non-petrol exports fell by $9.9b over the last two months, while non-petrol imports fell by “only” $3.7 billion. The sharp fall in exports shows up clearly in a chart showing “real” non-petrol goods exports and imports.
The Chinese fiscal stimulus is certainly good news as it may soften the bleak news on US export demand, but we will still need to increase US domestic demand even if that means living with a large current account deficit for several more years.