Last June, I speculated that a hard landing in China might be around the bend. That was even before the US downgrade and EU debt crisis unfolded. Now it seems the events of 2007 culminating in the collapse of Lehman the following year and the global stimulus in response to the North Atlantic crisis that followed may have returned to bite the People's Republic.
Reports of China's heavy handed treatment of foreign companies, defaults on loans and a slowing property market are developing into a credible narrative. Doomsayers like Rhoubini and Chanos have spoken. They predict the hard landing is on its way. Meanwhile confidence in China still remains strong with the EU looking east for help in financing its stability fund and Australia still expecting to profit from this Asian economy's thirst for iron ore and other mineral deposits as it did during the last global downturn.
What happens next depends on the ability of China's authorities to handle the current softening of global demand for its exports. Back in 2008, it engaged in a massive fiscal stimulus program. The unwinding of that stimulus is what gives the impression to many that it was headed for a soft landing. It can very easily turn the tap back on if the situation deteriorates. Their effectiveness at reading the situation will determine whether it has a soft or hard landing.