Cape Times

China’s tourists are also doubling up as investors


TALES of Chinese tourist largesse providing a big boost to destinatio­n economies are legend. They may also be incorrect, with China’s current account surpluses understate­d as a result.

Anna Wong, a senior economist with the US Federal Reserve, reckons the money spent overseas by Chinese tourists – about $215 billion (R2.77 trillion) last year – is not all it is cracked up to be.

In a draft paper for the Fed’s governors, Wong says a large amount of the money designated as having come from Chinese tourists globally should actually count as investment in assets. “Financial outflows concealed as travel imports are large and significan­t, growing to around 1 percent of China’s gross domestic product in 2015 and 2016, and account for a quarter of recorded net private financial outflows,” she wrote.

This would mean that China’s current account surpluses over the past few years are actually larger than reported, and possibly as big as before the financial crisis.

China’s capital controls make it difficult for wealthier Chinese to invest abroad. But the implicatio­n of Wong’s findings is that there are a plethora of ways for the country’s “tourists” to buy property and other assets overseas.

One example is that China’s travel expenditur­e as a share of gross domestic product was reported to be higher than Britain’s in 2014.

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