Forget China GDP, follow these 3 trends: Expert

Recent developments in China's private sector point to slower growth ahead, despite a GDP report on Friday that showed gains in line with expectations, said Leland Miller, president of China Beige Book International.

China reported GDP grew 6.7 percent in the first quarter. But Miller said China GDP is a "terrible" figure to follow because the model is poorly constructed and tracks aggregate growth, but not productive gains.

The data point masks what Miller says are three major trends driving China's economic future. At China's private firms, investment spending has plunged, layoffs are ticking up and borrowing has come to a standstill, China Beige Book International research shows.

"If you have firms that don't want to borrow, and they don't want to spend, and they increasingly don't want to hire, you're going to have a hard time goosing growth no matter what you're doing," Miller told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

These developments are bad for growth in the short term, but healthy for the Chinese economy in the long term because they combat overcapacity across industries, he said.

At the same time, state-owned firms have not pared back spending or cut jobs in a meaningful way, Miller said.

"The Chinese government has stopped their reform process and decided to ease off the gas, and slow down reform, and slow down restructuring," he said. "It means that they're taking more debt and they're putting off their problems for longer."

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