Local Chinese Governments, Buried in Debt, Ask Citizens for Loans

(p. B1) RUZHOU, China — When the call came for local doctors and nurses to step up for their troubled community, the emergency wasn’t medical. It was financial.

Ruzhou, a city of one million people in central China, urgently needed a new hospital, their bosses said. To pay for it, the administrators were asking health care workers for loans. If employees didn’t have the money, they were pointed to banks where they could borrow it and then turn it over to the hospital.

China’s doctors and nurses are paid a small fraction of what medical professionals make in the United States. On message boards online and in the local media, many complained that they felt pressured to pony up thousands of dollars they could not afford to give.

“It’s like adding insult to injury,” a message posted to an online government forum said. Others, speaking to state and local media, asked why money from lowly employees was needed to build big-ticket government projects.

Ruzhou is a city with a borrowing problem — and an emblem of the trillions of dollars in debt threatening the Chinese economy.

Local governments borrowed for years to create jobs and keep factories humming. Now China’s economy is slowing to its weakest pace in nearly three decades, but Beijing has kept the lending spigots tight to quell its debt problems.

For the full story, see:

Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li. “China’s Complex Debt Problem.” The New York Times (Monday, November 11, 2019): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 10, 2019, and has the title “How Bad Is China’s Debt? A City Hospital Is Asking Nurses for Loans.”)

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