Det kinesiske boligmarkedet er en boble som vil være tusen ganger større enn Dubai når den sprekker, og det gjør den, advarer utenlandske og kinesiske eksperter. Prisene steg med 24 prosent i fjor, og folk gambler på at de skal fortsette å stige.
Myndighetene burde gripe inn, men våger ikke. Den er for avhengig av boligmarkedet, som holder hjulene igang.
Optimistene tror ikke på noen sprekk. De peker på at urbaniseringen fortsatt pågår. De nærmeste 25 årene skal nye 400 millioner flytte til byene, det vil holde etterspørselen etter boliger oppe.
«Dubai times one thousand – or worse», was the verdict of Jim Chanos, the short-selling hedge fund manager who was among the first to predict the demise of Enron and says that the Chinese asset bubble will pop «sooner rather than later».
George Soros has also given warning of «overheating», whilst two weeks ago Marc Faber, who runs an eponymous $300m (£196m) fund in Hong Kong went further, predicting «that the Chinese economy will decelerate very substantially in 2010 and could even crash».
Given that property and its ancillary industries account for up to 17pc of Chinese GDP and 25pc of investment in China it is clear that a crash in China’s property market would have disastrous consequences – in China and beyond.
On the face of it, the numbers do appear to be running hot. Chinese house prices spiked by 24pc in 2009 and sales of residential space rose by more than 80pc in some major cities like Beijing.
In the most extreme example of property speculation on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, prices rose by 20pc in January alone as cash-flushed investors raced to capitalise on government plans to create an international tourist resort there.
The last Hainan property bubble burst spectacularly in the 1990s, from which it took a decade to recover, a warning that some pundits say China must heed.
Professor Cao Jianhai at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank, believes the crash could come within the year and when it does, it will badly expose China’s banks who have lent huge amounts of money to businesses who have invested not in core-activities, but in taking quick property profits.
«It’s like injecting pork with water, falsely plumping up the market. A huge proportion of the current buying is speculative and totally unsustainable,» said Professor Cao who is known as one of the «three swordsmen» of the Chinese property market because of his influence as an official economist.
«When prices stop rising as they soon will, the market condition will change very quickly. Landlords will all rush to sell out to realise their cash with disastrous consequences,» he told The Daily Telegraph.
China risking property bubble with prices rising 20pc a month
Property prices in Britain may be back on a downward trajectory, but there is one market where they are still white hot – China. The Asian superpower is in the midst of such a vast property boom, with prices leaping 20pc a month in some regions, that developments are taking on fairy-tale dimensions.