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Beijing looking at Greek eurozone exit

By Lan Lan, Chen Jia and Oswald Chen (China Daily)

08:32, June 05, 2012

The government is drafting plans to address the potential consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone as leading Chinese economists warned that such a scenario could plunge the global economy into a new recession.

"The government is working on plans for the worst-case scenario of Greece leaving the eurozone later this year," Wang Haifeng, director of international economics at the Institute for International Economic Research, under the National Development and Reform Commission, told China Daily.

"A plan is being drafted to cushion the possible effect on the exchange rate, capital flow, as well as its influence on trade," said another senior economist, who requested anonymity.

The ministries of finance and commerce are involved in working on the plan, sources said.

Greeks go to the polls on June 17 amid growing concern about the country's possible exit from the eurozone.

"How this entire issue develops will have a direct effect on China and its economy," said an official of the Ministry of Commerce, who also declined to be identified.

But the Chinese economy is strong enough to handle any such emergency in the eurozone, Zhang Yansheng, secretary-general of the academic committee of the NDRC, said.

"Even if the worst-case scenario happens and Greece leaves the single currency bloc, the economy will be controllable.

"It would be unwise to overact," he said, adding a massive stimulus package, similar to the one in 2008, was not necessary.

The lessons China drew from the previous financial crisis, following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, was to prioritize shifting the economic structure, he said.

After that crisis, the western regions of China saw greater investment and achieved faster growth than the central and eastern regions, he said.

Wang Jun, a senior economist with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a government think tank, said there is no need for China to worry about the consequences of Greece exiting, as the exposure is narrow.

Impact on trade and finance

Greece only accounts for a small slice of bilateral trade between China and Europe, but the risks lie in a possible chain reaction, said Song Hong, director of the Department of International Trade at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Europe would obviously be effected but it could also drag down the US and Japanese economies, two other large trading partners of China.

Willem Buiter, an economist at Citigroup, agreed that a chain reaction, or contagion, could hit the global economy.

European GDP growth may shrink this year into negativity and any Greek exit would dampen growth prospects for a long time, he said.

In this scenario, the Chinese economy would be hit, said Liu Shiguo, a researcher at the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Definitely, China's finance market will also encounter a short-term shock."

A Greek exit could spur sovereign defaults, credit crunches and depreciation of the euro, leading to an unhealthy yuan appreciation and affect China's trade.

"In addition, euro assets, which are estimated to account for more than 20 percent of China's massive foreign exchange reserves, could shrink," Liu said.

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