GIVEN its vast reserves and seemingly healthy economy, a default by China’s government or one of its tentacles should be one of the lesser concerns for international markets. This perception was jolted on August 28th by reports that the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) might endorse a move by large state-controlled enterprises under its umbrella to break derivatives contracts that were purchased last year from international banks to protect them from rising commodity prices.
Details, inevitably, are fuzzy. There is no official comment; terrified international bankers are silent. But reports in the local press and some elaboration by participants suggest that efforts by the country’s large shippers, airlines and power companies to cope with high oil prices by taking out futures contracts produced steep losses as the market reversed and prices fell.