Peak China Housing
China’s real estate has been a key engine of its sustained economic expansion. This paper argues, however, that even before the Covid-19 shock, a decades-long housing boom had given rise to severe price misalignments and regional supply-demand mismatches, making an adjustment both necessary and inevitable. We make use of newly available and updated data sources to analyze supply-demand conditions in the fast-moving Chinese economy. The imbalances are then compared to benchmarks from other economies. We conclude that the sector is quite vulnerable to a sustained aggregate growth shock, such as Covid-19 might pose. In our baseline calibration, using input-output tables and taking account of the very large footprint of housing construction and real-estate related sectors, the adjustment to a decline in housing activity can easily trim a cumulative 5-10 percent from the level of output (over a period of years).
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.