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China pushes back against US complaints of industrial overcapacity

BEIJING — The Chinese finance minister jabbed back on Monday at complaints from his US counterpart that China’s glut of factories making mountains of steel, aluminum, and other products was overwhelming foreign markets and makers.

The finance minister, Lou Jiwei, suggested that foreign officials should curb their complaints about industrial production surpluses because their governments had cheered on China’s investment spree during the global financial crisis that began in 2008. That spree helped create the production gluts now worrying policymakers in Beijing and, increasingly, around the world.

“At that time, the whole world applauded and thanked China,” Lou told a news briefing near the end of a day of annual meetings in Beijing between senior Chinese and US officials. “Now they’re saying that China has a production glut that is a drag upon the world. But what did they say at the time?”

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Lou was responding to questions about the Treasury Secretary, Jacob J. Lew, who has complained that China’s huge surpluses were being sold so cheaply on international markets that they were distorting the global economy.

The result was “inefficient growth,” Scott Kennedy, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in presenting a new report about China’s latest five-year economic growth plan.

“There is a lot of genuflecting to the market,” he said. “But when you get to the reality the plan is far less ambitious.”