So Much for US Economic Eclipse at the Hands of China

From China comes a discouraging new language. Leaders described their faltering economy as showing a “wavy pattern” with “bumps during progress.” Put politely, the message is that the country won't provide the lift for the global economy that was widely anticipated six months ago. It may even be a drag, a role to which Beijing and the world are unaccustomed. We should get used to it.

Who will the world rely on? The much-maligned US has often been derided over the past decade as being in its sunset years relative to its economic challenges. A retreat in inflation is likely to mean that an anticipated interest-rate hike by the Federal Reserve on Wednesday will be the last for a while. When it comes to China, the debate is about how much growth will slow, whether the country will suffer from deflation, and how much action is needed to turn things around — or, at least, prevent further deterioration.

The odds of an American recession in the next 12 months are fading, according to a survey by the National Association for Business Economics. A resilient labor market and buoyant consumer confidence underpin that view. Beyond US shores, the situation is more nuanced: Surveys of purchasing managers in Europe painted a bleak picture. Conditions are improving in some key Asian economies, albeit from a low base. Singapore unexpectedly dodged a recession in the second quarter. Revisions may yet show the city-state’s gross domestic product slipped after a first-quarter contraction. Growth in South Korea is improving modestly after GDP shrank late last year.

China stands out for the discord between expectations and performance. At the start of the year, it was a reasonable bet that the dismantling of Covid Zero would unleash a robust recovery at home that would, in turn, lift everyone — and certainly Asia. Beijing's growth target of about 5% was criticized as too low. Now, after months of disappointing data, China looks like it will be lucky to hit that goal. Hopes for a massive stimulus keep coming, only to be dashed. Barclays Plc and Bank of America Corp. are among firms to recently shave their forecasts for expansion.

The top decision-making body does seem to have become more concerned about the waning recovery, based on a statement after a meeting on Monday. Officials are, nevertheless, still expected to hold off from any large-scale stimulus. They’re mindful of debt risks and the dangers of juicing the economy too much. But the approach is conservative to a fault.