July 16, 2024

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Chinese borrowers default in record numbers as economic crisis deepens

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Defaults by Chinese borrowers have surged to a record high since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the depth of the country’s economic downturn and the obstacles to a full recovery.

A total of 8.54mn people, most of them between the ages of 18 and 59, are officially blacklisted by authorities after missing payments on everything from home mortgages to business loans, according to local courts.

That figure, equivalent to about 1 per cent of working-age Chinese adults, is up from 5.7mn defaulters in early 2020, as pandemic lockdowns and other restrictions hobbled economic growth and gutted household incomes.

The soaring number of defaulters will add to the difficulty of shoring up consumer confidence in China, the world’s second largest economy and a crucial source of global demand. It also throws a spotlight on the country’s lack of personal bankruptcy laws that might soften the financial and social impact of soaring debt.

Under Chinese law, blacklisted defaulters are blocked from a range of economic activities, including purchasing aeroplane tickets and making payments through mobile apps such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, representing a further drag on an economy plagued by a property sector slowdown and lagging consumer confidence. The blacklisting process is triggered after a borrower is sued by creditors, such as banks, and then misses a subsequent payment deadline.

“The runaway increase in defaulters is a product of not only cyclical but also structural problems,” said Dan Wang, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank China. “The situation may get worse before it gets better.”

The personal debt crisis follows a borrowing spree by Chinese consumers. Household debt as a percentage of gross domestic product almost doubled over the past decade to 64 per cent in September, according to the National Institution for Finance and…

2023-12-02 23:00:33

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