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Chinese debt pile poses risks to the global economy, warn top bankers

Concerns about China, which have already sparked global market turmoil this year, have not gone away and its debt pile still poses risks to the world economy, senior bankers said on Thursday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Russia.

China's total debt reached a record 237 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2016, up from 148 percent at the end of 2007, according to calculations by the Financial Times.


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"It (Chinese debt) could have a very serious knock-on effect, not just to Asian economies, but European ones. That could definitely trigger a potential negative trend," Pavel Teplukhin, chief country officer of Deutsche Bank Russia ,said at a panel discussion hosted by CNBC at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Russia.

Fellow panelist, Deputy Russian Finance Minister Maksim Oreshkin added that accumulating debt was good for European economies in cyclical slowdown, but bad for the major emerging market economies of China and Russia.

Debt was at the root of the global financial crisis of 2007-08 and has since risen globally in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), the Bank for International Settlements warned in March. Global debt topped $135 trillion at the end of 2015, up from below $110 trillion at the close of 2007, the organization said.

"In the advanced economies at the heart of the crisis, some private-sector deleveraging has taken place, although public-sector debt has grown steadily. But the most worrying development has been the steep rise in private-sector debt elsewhere, especially in several emerging market economies, including the largest – the main engines of global growth post-crisis," the bank said in a statement.

Oreshkin and panellist Oleg Viyugin, the chairman of MDM Bank's board of directors, concurred that China's debt pile was the one that post most risk to the world – although Andrei Klepach, chief economist at Vnesheconombank named the U.S.

Oreshkin struck a positive note on global debt.

"Defaults and crises are a normal part of life … yes, there will be more crises going forward … and we will address them," he said.