China to bail out Spain. Good or bad?

I previously wrote that “China has surpassed the United States as the lender of last resort.” Now, there is more evidence for this:

China is confident Spain will recover from its economic crisis and Beijing will buy Spanish public debt despite market fears of an Irish-style bailout, a top Chinese official said Monday.

The comments by Vice Premier Li Keqiang were made in an op-ed piece in Spain’s leading daily El Pais one day ahead of his arrival in Madrid for a three-day official visit, the start of a European tour that will also include Britain and Germany.

“Since China is a responsible investor country in the long-term on the European financial markets, and in particular in Spain, we have confidence in the Spanish financial market, which has been translated into the acquisition of its public debt, something we will continue to do in the future,” he said.

“China supports the measures adopted by Spain for its economic and financial readjustment, with the firm conviction that it will achieve a general economic recovery”, said Li, who is widely tipped to become China’s next premier.

It remains to be seen if this is good or bad. If China acts responsibly and withdraws their support if Spain fails to hold to their austerity measures, China is simply helping Spain avoid steps necessary to fix its mess and encouraging other countries to act irresponsibly too. But if China really forces Spain to cut back on its deficit spending, this could provide Spain the temporary support it needs to get its fiscal situation back on track.

My major concern is that China is still controlled by a ruling class that has its own interests in mind more than the economic well-being of the Spanish. China would hate to see the world economy decline and has every reason to prop it up. China figures that every year it can grow faster than the rest of the world, it becomes all that much more important and powerful. A collapse in the worldwide economy now would take China down with it before the country has a chance to flex its muscles. China would rather prop up the world for another ten years, by which time its power will have grown immensely.

Or I could be over-analyzing things. China could be making an investment and, if correct, a very profitable one. But with China’s secretive government, one never knows what they are really thinking.

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