China’s Local Government Debt: The Grand Bargain
The bargain worked, and growth continued. The drawback, however, was that China’s economic growth has been accompanied by the accumulation of local government debt with little transparency and central control. When the global financial crisis slowed growth, and local deficits and debts spiked, Beijing began to shut down backdoor financing and opened front-door options that were transparent and under the control of national authorities—but with limited success. In the wake of COVID-19, the question is whether the pendulum will swing back toward more tolerance of local debt for the sake of economic growth.