Chinese investors have been buying official assurances for a year that the renminbi would be a fortress, but now they’re not so sure and are exporting money again: May saw net capital outflows and a decline in the foreign-exchange reserves. The currency is the most visible sign of slippage in the image that China tries to project of an economy so brilliantly managed that the bright sun of GDP expansion is untroubled by even temporary clouds on trade, employment or consumption.
There are many other signs: The Shanghai Composite Index of stocks has declined 7 percent in a month, dropping below the government’s red line of 3,000 for the first time since September 2016. Corporate bonds are about to set a record for the most defaults in a year. Junk bond yields are spiking. The chorus of anxiety about debt is reaching a crescendo, with daily press reports on governments that can’t pay their employees or meet pension obligations. Property prices are tumbling in some cities and frozen in others whose governments have placed a finger in the dyke by halting transactions.