China's investment-led development model is facing increasingly serious constraints, a global ratings agency warned, although GDP growth is likely to reach 8 percent in 2013.
Rapidly expanding credit, especially debt-financing by local governments, is one of the prime reasons behind the warning, Fitch Ratings said.
The agency announced on Tuesday a currency sovereign rating of AA- for China, on a negative outlook, while it kept its stable outlook of A+ for the country's foreign debt holdings. Rapidly expanding credit may risk balance sheets, it said.
"China has been avoiding the so-called hard landing. However, rebalancing
will be a long-term challenge," Andrew Colquhoun, head of the agency's Asia-Pacific Sovereigns section, said.
"Rebalancing is imperative but not optional, because the debt issue is tightening constraints on the old investment-driven growth model," he said.
The total amount of credit in China's economy is currently about 190 percent of GDP, up from 124 percent at the end of 2008, Colquhoun said. "So the debt level is increasing substantially."
This debt could come from local government financial vehicles, guarantees, support from the banks or other routes, he said.
Colquhoun predicted that China's credit may expand at a pace of 15 percent year-on-year in 2013.
He also warned that the shadow banking system may increase potential risks for the stability of the country's financial sector.
BJ-GZ HS to add 30b yuan to GDP annually
Great changes in Zhengzhou railway station
Wanda Group ventures onto the global stage
Sports car makers look to mainland market
Top Ten Economic Events in 2012
'Gold road' laid with gold bars