China’s central bank has quietly raised interest rates and tightened liquidity in recent days, fuelling speculation that the government’s policy focus has shifted from stimulating growth to addressing the risk from rising corporate debt. But economists say the recent rate rises are primarily aimed at deflating financial asset bubbles – especially in the bond market, according to the Financial Times. Analysts still expect lending to increase rapidly this year, as authorities seek to ensure a strong economy in the run-up to a crucial leadership transition in November. At the same time, President Xi Jinping wants to ensure that the bond bubble does not explode spectacularly in an echo of the 2015 stock market bust. At an annual meeting in December, the Communist party’s top economic policymakers committed to a “prudent and neutral” monetary stance in 2017.
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