A vocal China bear

It seems that investors can't get enough of China. But one investor sees a downfall ahead.

By Kim Peterson Jan 8, 2010 3:03PM
China Wall © Photodisc/SuperStocJames Chanos is a contrarian investor, so it makes sense that when everyone else bets on China, he sees a disaster in the making.

Chanos, a hedge fund investor, made a fortune by predicting the collapse of Enron and other companies, according to The New York Times. And now, he thinks that China's economy is going down the tubes.

He worries that China is phony, and that it's faking the strong economic growth rates that are impressing investors worldwide.

“Bubbles are best identified by credit excesses, not valuation excesses,” he said on CNBC, the Times reports. “And there’s no bigger credit excess than in China."

Foreigners aren't allowed to invest in the Chinese stock market, so Chanos can't easily short stocks there. He told the Times that he's looking at other companies, like ones that sell cement, coal, steel and iron ore to China.

It isn't hard to find fans of China, which has reported a resurgent economy and a solid real-estate market. But the China bears are there too, harboring suspicions that the country is feeding a bubble with its stimulus spending and bank lending.

The foreign investors that have piled in to China in numerous ways are also growing that bubble, bears say.

Chanos thinks China is overproducing, and that it will be stuck with huge quantities of products that it can't sell. Now, the Times reports, Chanos has directed his staff of 26 employees to search for more information on China's future.

“His record is impressive,” a vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Services told the Times. “He’s no fly-by-night charlatan. And I’m bullish on China.”

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