Is China's bubble about to burst?

(5 January 2014)  The financial focus shifted to China last week as the release of weak economic data renewed worries that the world's economic engine might be entering rougher waters.  In addition to indications of slowing growth, there is growing concern about China's banking sector which is apparently knee-deep in bad loans and seemingly bottomless government stimulus. Like its Western counterparts, China responded to the 2008 financial meltdown by pumping billions into the economy in an effort to boost demand.  While there has been an impressive rebound in growth, there are more fears that the resulting recovery is just another bubble that is not sustainable and not based in real economic activity.  Real estate values are still near record levels, but many of the newly constructed condos and malls remain empty.  This is what happens when money costs almost nothing to borrow and government will always be there to cover any losses.  Maybe someone in the People's Bank of China should learn about the US Savings and Loan debacle in the 1980s.

The condition of the horoscope of China offers some hints about the current state of the economy.  When reading national charts, economic well-being usually occurs when 1) there is an absence of afflictions from slow moving malefics (Saturn, Rahu/Ketu, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) to key planets like Moon (mood), Sun (vitality) and Venus (wealth, happiness); and 2) when the 1st, 2nd and 11th houses and their lords are well aspected by benefics like Jupiter.  A quick look at the chart and we can see that there is some stressful influences at work here.  Transiting Saturn (26 Libra) is conjunct Venus in the 10th house.  Venus is a natural significator for any matters relating to national happiness so that includes wealth, assets and money.  Saturn will remained conjoined with Venus for the next several months as it approaches its retrograde station at 29 Libra in early March and then goes backward over that point later in the spring.

The Saturn influence here tends to be depressing and restricting and therefore we should look at this Venus affliction as one negative factor in the overall economic picture for China in the coming months.  In addition, Saturn casts its full-strength 10th house square aspect to Mars (21 Cancer) throughout the current period as Saturn transits late Libra.  Mars is lord of the 11th house of gains and income (Scorpio) and therefore Saturn's influence here may be another burden on economic activity.  Of course, Mars symbolizes several other things unrelated to the economy such as military activity so the Saturn affliction may also make some kind of violent or military activity more likely during the course of its transiting aspect during the first half of 2014. 

On the positive side of the ledger, transiting Jupiter (21 Gemini) aspects Venus by trine but this is now moving away as Jupiter is retrograde.  Jupiter may provide another boost for national income in the spring when it returns to forward motion and forms a closer aspect with Venus.  Even then, I suspect it will not be positive enough to offset the ongoing Saturn affliction.  We should therefore look at the transit picture as essentially negative for the Chinese economy for much of 2014.  Transiting Saturn will station at 22 Libra and therefore form a very close aspect to 11th lord Mars in June.  This may be a time when there are more tangible manifestations of economic uncertainty.

We can also speculate on the effects of the opposition aspect from Uranus (14 Pisces) to the Sun (14 Virgo).  While the Sun rules the 8th house, it is still the dispositor of Saturn which does rule the 1st (nation as a whole) and 2nd (wealth) houses.  The Sun therefore may have an indirect influence on the economy.  In addition, the Sun symbolizes government and when it is under stress, the government is more likely to be forced to react to changing circumstances.  Uranus-Sun aspects are often associated with times of major changes and disruption to the status quo.  Uranus stationed direct in this degree a few weeks ago so it is doubly powerful.  The Uranus influence may be partially related to the some of the reforms announced in November which aim to reduce the role of state industries as well as relaxing the one-child policy.  There may well be other changes afoot with this aspect in the coming weeks.  While they may not have a direct economic impact, they are likely to reflect a more unstable situation in China which may unnerve some investors. 

There is the likelihood that China will undergo another period of slowdown once transiting Saturn enters Scorpio and thereby afflicts both the 11th house of income by conjunction in 2015 as well as the 1st and 2nd lord natal Saturn (20 Leo) by square aspect in 2016.  The Uranus-Pluto square will be closely activating the natal Mercury-Neptune-Ketu in this chart and thus serving to further undermine stability.

Underneath the transits lies the current dasha set up.  China is running the Saturn-Mars dasha period.  Saturn has been very kind to China thus far, probably since Saturn is quite well placed in the natal chart.  Although tucked away in the 8th house in Leo, it receives a close aspect from Jupiter.  Saturn is also the lord of the 1st house so that grants it considerable strength.  Finally, it is disposited by a well-placed Sun which is in the 9th house of good fortune and conjunct benefic Mercury in its own sign of Virgo.  Mars looks less favourable, however, as it is debilitated in Cancer and conjunct Pluto.  This may be one reason why China has been somewhat more assertive in its foreign policy recently, such as in its dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.  Mars is significantly bolstered, however, since it is disposited by the Moon which is very strong in the 1st house near the Ascendant.  With Mars in this mixed condition, I would think the economy may not suffer unduly during the Saturn-Mars dasha. 

The Saturn-Rahu dasha begins in May 2014 and lasts until 2017.  Rahu is well-placed in the 3rd house of determination and courage.  Like all malefics, Rahu tends to do well in the 3rd house which is an upachaya or growing house.  Rahu receives the aspects from the Sun, Mercury and Neptune.  The Mercury aspect is helpful, but the ones from the Sun and Neptune may be more problematic.  It makes more sense to describe these aspects as having mixed effects.  Rahu is disposited by Jupiter which is in the 12th house of loss.  This is another factor which may diminish the positive effects of Rahu's house placement.  The bottom line here is that the dasha influences do not look particularly helpful.  In some ways, they are rather damaged, although I would never base any analysis on dasha periods alone.  Nonetheless, this dasha analysis suggests a more ambiguous picture of economic growth at best.

Last week's financial markets reacted negatively to the data out of China.  US markets slipped a bit while Indian stocks suffered larger losses as domestic data also pointed to more slowing ahead.  While I had expected some declines were likely on the unusually dense series of Mars aspects, the negativity was fairly muted.   Apparently, the world remains enamoured with the rosy economic forecasts of the Federal Reserve.

This week could see some optimism around the early week Mercury-Venus conjunction.  Both of these planets are benefic by nature and when they blend their energies, there is often a rise in stocks and other speculative assets.  That said, the conjunction takes place in fairly close proximity to an aspect from bearish Saturn.  This may mitigate the optimism or even completely reverse it.  The late week features both Venus and Sun under that Saturn aspect.  This looks more conducive to caution than with buying. In other words, there are no certain planetary signals this week, although the prominence of Saturn here may mean that prudence will prevail.