Chance to roll out re­forms

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - ED­I­TO­RIAL

THE BET­TER-THAN-EX­PECTED GROWTH FIG­URES in Novem­ber may have spared Chi­nese pol­i­cy­mak­ers the trou­ble of de­lay­ing long-term re­forms in fa­vor of avoid­ing a sud­den slow­down or tam­ing a jump in prices.

But the heavy smog that en­gulfed al­most half of the coun­try over the weekend is a sober­ing re­minder that the coun­try must bend over back­ward to trans­form its cur­rent growth model that en­tails a too big en­vi­ron­men­tal price tag.

Lat­est sta­tis­tics show China’s con­sumer in­fla­tion slowed to 3 per­cent last month while strong ex­port growth en­abled the coun­try to post a trade sur­plus of $33.8 bil­lion, the big­gest in al­most five years.

By snap­ping out of a two-month ac­cel­er­a­tion in con­sumer prices, the Novem­ber con­sumer price in­dex has se­cured an in­fla­tion rate for the first 11 months of the year at 2.6 per­cent, far be­low the gov­ern­ment’s full-year tar­get of 3.5 per­cent.

Such be­nign in­fla­tion should in­di­cate there is no im­me­di­ate need to tighten mone­tary pol­icy. It thus al­lows Chi­nese pol­i­cy­mak­ers more room to ma­neu­ver when map­ping out the growth agenda for the com­ing year.

Mean­while, the coun­try’s hum­ming ex­port en­gine speaks of both the re­silience of Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers and a pos­si­ble im­prove­ment in the global econ­omy as de­mand for Chi­nese ex­ports in de­vel­oped economies is pick­ing up.

Ex­ter­nal un­cer­tain­ties have long weighed on Chi­nese pol­i­cy­mak­ers’ minds when they try to speed do­mes­tic re­forms. Now, they have a rare win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to bring about long-term re­forms at a pace they deem proper.

It will be com­mend­able if Chi­nese lead­ers take the time to care­fully and ef­fec­tively trans­late into re­al­ity all the am­bi­tious and com­pre­hen­sive re­form plans made at the Third Plenum of the 18th Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China in Novem­ber.

The rapidly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing air qual­ity has sim­ply made it a lux­ury for this coun­try to deal with the scourge of fast ur­ban­iza­tion and in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion in a busi­ness-as-usual way.

Other coun­tries’ ex­pe­ri­ences in deal­ing with haz­ardous smog may be in­spir­ing but there is no guar­an­tee of suc­cess here given the scale and sever­ity of our bat­tle against pol­luted air.

It is to be hoped that the au­thor­i­ties can do their best to in­tro­duce the needed re­forms to re­duce the en­vi­ron­men­tal cost of growth as deeply and quickly as pos­si­ble.

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