Survey Shows China Passes U.S. in Stuff Built – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China is the world’s No. 2 economy by most measures, but by one it has surpassed the U.S. China has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s wealthiest nation in terms of built assets in 2014, and is likely to double that of the U.S. by 2025, according to the Arcadis Global Built Asset Wealth Index.

The study compares 32 countries in terms of their buildings and infrastructure – homes, schools, roads, airports, power plants, malls, rail tracks  and other structures. In fact, China’s stock of built assets will exceed the next four economies combined in the next 10 years, according to the index.

The firm calculates the data at purchasing-power-parity rates, which adjusts the figures to account for differing costs in each country. That measure tends to boost the size of figures from developing countries. China has the largest stock of built assets at $47.6 trillion in 2014 and the U.S. came in second at $36.8 trillion, according to the study released Monday. In the last report, the U.S. was ahead at $39.7 trillion in 2012 compared to China’s $35.4 trillion. China’s rapid asset building came alongside soft investment in the U.S. to replace old machinery, equipment and buildings, the report said.

The index is billed as an alternative economic indicator to measure a country’s performance. the index quantifies the value of a country’s infrastructure as well as its public and private property.

Policymakers have been trying to direct the Chinese economy to rely more on consumer spending rather than investment. Still,  the pace of economic rebalancing has been slow, leading to softer growth despite some positive signs in China’s consumer sector.

The transition “is encountering difficulties, as the government has repeatedly used fiscal stimulus to try to meet its growth targets,” said the report. “The proportion of the economy accounted for by investment is falling only very slowly.  This keeps China’s built asset stock growing rapidly.”

China’s economy grew at 6.9% in the third quarter this year, falling below 7% for the first time since 2009. In the past two years, Beijing has been struggling to turn to more sustainable drivers of growth amid mounting concerns about manufacturing overcapacity and an oversupplied property market.

“There is also likely to be significant underutilization of assets in China given growth is so rapid and much asset creation is pre-emptive, also known as ‘build it and they will come,’” said the biennial report. Since 2000, China has invested $33 trillion in built assets, with its investment in infrastructure at 9% of GDP, dwarfing the U.S.’s current 2%said the report. In per capita terms, however, populous China appears far from being overbuilt.

China’s built asset wealth per person stood at $34,100, which ranks it No. 24 worldwide, unchanged from its previous ranking in 2012, according to the index. The latest figure is slightly less than a third of the U.S. per capita figure of $114,100. The countries at the top of this ranking are disproportionately made up of smaller nations by population or area, hence the density of built asset stock is much greater per resident, the report said.

Source: Survey Shows China Passes U.S. in Stuff Built – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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