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China leads recovery, but property bubble looms

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Asia's 2010 business outlook
  • Asia is leading the recovery of the global economy, but the property market in China is a bubble waiting to pop
  • Economist: "We have seen this in Japan in the 1980's"
  • Export-driven economies will have a short-term rebound, but longterm forecast depends on U.S. and European consumers

Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- Asia is leading the recovery of the global economy, but an overheated property market in China is a bubble waiting to pop, a leading economist said.

"The reason that I'm worried about that is not just property prices are getting high, but we're seeing industrial companies actually speculating the land, which is not healthy," said Dong Tao, chief Asia economist of Credit Suisse, in an interview with CNN.

"We have seen this in Japan in the 1980's. I certainly hope that China is not going to repeat the mistakes that Japan made 20-30 years ago," Tao added.

He sees China reining in its lending policies to help drain the massive liquidity in the Chinese market. "China is the first economy to get out of recession, so I think it's natural to see the Chinese Central bank to be probably the first central bank among major economies to tighten (its monetary policy)," Tao said.

Still, the region has emerged from the global recession much more strongly positioned for 2010 than Western economies.

"It makes sense because Asian banks haven't really been hurt in this crisis. Asian consumers have very high savings rates, so it's natural to see the Asian economies bouncing back much quicker than the US economy and European economy," he said.

He sees the export-driven economies of Taiwan, Korea and Japan rebound in the short-term, as manufacturers replenish inventories they let diminish during the downturn.

"This should mean a pretty strong export recovery over the next few months. But whether this can be sustained, that's a different question," Tao said. "Ultimately, we need to see the consumer in the US and Europe become stronger and that's probably years away."