6.4 Economic and Housing Challenges Facing China

7 min readjanuary 3, 2023



AP Chinese 🇨🇳

53 resources
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Introduction to Economic and Housing Challenges Facing China

This guide will provide a comprehensive and informative look at economic growth and challenges in China, as well as housing and real estate in the country.
China has experienced rapid economic growth over the past few decades, transforming into a major global economic power. However, this growth has not been without challenges. In this guide, we will explore the factors that have contributed to China's economic growth, as well as the challenges and obstacles the country has faced along the way.
In addition to discussing China's economic growth, we will also delve into the country's housing and real estate market. China's real estate sector has played a significant role in the country's economic development and has faced a number of challenges in recent years, including a slowing market, increasing regulatory scrutiny, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s Economy

Economic Growth in China

China has experienced rapid economic growth in recent decades, with its gross domestic product (GDP) increasing at an annual rate of around 10% between 1978 and 2010. This growth has been driven by a combination of factors, including:
  • Industrialization: China has undergone a process of industrialization, with a significant portion of its economy shifting from agriculture to manufacturing and other sectors. China has become a major global manufacturer, exporting a wide range of goods to countries around the world.
  • Urbanization: China has also experienced a significant process of urbanization, with a large portion of its population moving from rural areas to urban centers. This has been driven by economic opportunities, as well as government policies aimed at promoting urbanization.
  • Economic reforms: China has made changes to economic policies and institutions to improve efficiency and effectiveness, including market-based pricing, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and opening up to foreign trade and investment
  • Increased trade: Exchange of goods and services between countries means that China can access a wider range of products and technologies, leading to economic growth
  • Foreign investment: Foreign investment brought capital, technology, and expertise to China, increasing productivity and competitiveness and contributing to economic growth.

China’s Economic Challenges

China is facing a number of economic challenges, including:
  • Slowdown in economic growth: China's economic growth has slowed in recent years, with GDP growth rates declining from double digits in the past to around 6% in recent years. This slowdown has been driven by a variety of factors, including declining exports, slowing investment, and declining productivity.
  • Aging population: China has an aging population, with a declining number of young people entering the workforce. This trend could lead to labor shortages and slow economic growth in the future.
  • Rising debt levels: China's debt levels have risen significantly in recent years, with both government and corporate debt increasing. This could pose a risk to the country's financial stability and economic growth.
  • Environmental challenges: China's rapid economic growth has led to significant environmental challenges, including air and water pollution, deforestation, and soil degradation. Addressing these issues will require significant investments and could present a challenge to the country's economic growth.
  • Trade tensions: China has been involved in trade tensions with the United States and other countries in recent years, which could lead to increased tariffs and other trade barriers that could negatively impact the country's exports and economic growth.
  • Income inequality: China's rapid economic growth has contributed to increasing income inequality, with some people benefiting more than others from the country's development. Reducing income inequality could be a challenge for the government and could have implications for social stability.

Housing and Real Estate in China

China has invested heavily in real estate and housing development, which has led to exponential economic growth and a housing bubble over the past 20 years. Some of the factors that have been cited as contributing to a potential housing bubble in China include:
  1. Rapid economic growth: China's rapid economic growth over the past few decades has led to increased demand for housing, which has driven up prices in some areas.
  2. Urbanization: China's process of urbanization has also led to increased demand for housing, as more people have moved from rural areas to urban centers.
  3. Limited supply: The supply of housing in some areas of China may not have kept pace with demand, which has contributed to rising prices.
  4. Easy credit: The availability of easy credit has also played a role in the housing market in China, as some people have been able to borrow large sums of money to buy property, which has contributed to rising prices.
  5. Speculation: There has also been speculation in the housing market in China, with some people buying property as an investment rather than as a place to live. This speculation has contributed to rising prices in some areas.
However, this overdevelopment of real estate may also have led to problems such as “ghost cities”. Ghost cities or towns in China are large urban areas that have been built up with infrastructure, high-rise buildings, and other development, but are largely uninhabited. These empty cities have been the subject of media attention and have sometimes been cited as an example of overbuilding and a potential real estate bubble in China.
There are several factors that have contributed to the development of so-called "ghost cities" in China:
  • Anticipation of future population growth: Some of the so-called "ghost cities" in China may have been built in anticipation of future population growth. In these cases, developers and local governments may have constructed housing and other infrastructure in advance of an expected increase in demand. This can occur if there are predictions of population growth in a particular area, or if there is a perceived need for additional housing or urban amenities to support a growing population. However, economic conditions that affect demand for housing, changes in government policies or other external factors that affect the attractiveness of a particular region may impact the population growth in that region.
  • Plans to relocate people from rural areas: Government-led urbanization initiatives have played a role in the development of some of the so-called "ghost cities" in China. In these cases, the goal may be to reduce poverty and promote economic development by encouraging people to move from more isolated or less developed areas to urban centers with more opportunities. These initiatives may involve the construction of housing and other urban amenities, as well as the development of infrastructure such as roads, railways, and airports. However, this approach can sometimes lead to the development of urban areas that are relatively empty or underpopulated if the relocated population does not fully occupy the housing and other amenities that have been built. This can be due to a variety of factors, such as a lack of economic opportunities in the urban areas, or a lack of social or cultural ties to the new communities. 
  • Funding issues or regulatory challenges: Some "ghost cities" in China may be experiencing delays in their development due to a variety of factors, such as funding issues or regulatory challenges. For example, a lack of sufficient funding could prevent the completion of infrastructure projects or the construction of housing and other urban amenities, leading to empty or underpopulated urban areas. Similarly, regulatory challenges or other administrative issues could delay the development of these urban areas, leading to a slower pace of growth. These types of issues can be complex and may be influenced by a variety of factors, such as changes in government policies, economic conditions, or other external factors. Additionally, there may be other challenges or obstacles that are specific to a particular urban area, such as land disputes or local resistance to development.

China Evergrande Group Crisis

China Evergrande Group is a major player in China's real estate sector and has faced financial difficulties in recent years that have been closely tied to challenges facing the sector as a whole.
One of the main challenges facing China's real estate sector is a slowing market. China's housing market has experienced a slowdown in recent years due to a combination of factors including oversupply, tighter credit conditions, and slowing economic growth. This has had a negative impact on the performance of real estate developers like Evergrande, which have faced declining sales and profitability.
In addition to a slowing market, the real estate sector in China has also faced increasing regulatory scrutiny. The Chinese government has implemented a number of measures to curb speculation and reduce risk in the sector, including stricter lending rules, higher down payment requirements, and tighter restrictions on home purchases. These measures have had a dampening effect on the sector and have made it more difficult for developers like Evergrande to access credit and secure funding.
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on China's real estate sector and has exacerbated the challenges faced by companies like Evergrande. The pandemic has disrupted supply chains, disrupted construction activity, and led to a decline in demand for real estate. This has further slowed the market and put pressure on developers' financial performance.
The financial difficulties faced by China Evergrande Group have been closely tied to the challenges facing China's real estate sector, including a slowing market, increasing regulatory scrutiny, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evergrande’s collapse means that hundreds of residential buildings are left unfinished and construction sites shut down.
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