Back in 2009, China’s 8,500 listed companies were in much better shape than their global peers. No longer. The average Chinese company now has worse cash flows and more debt than other similar firms elsewhere in the world, says Standard & Poor’s, a ratings agency.
So great has China’s borrowing binge been that its companies racked up $14.2 trillion in debt at the end of 2013, blowing past the US’s $13.1 trillion to become the world’s biggest corporate borrower. This, says S&P, is worrying since a “higher risk for China’s borrowers means higher risk for the world.”