China was the biggest source of goods imported to the U.S. in 2015, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
If the U.S. trade deficit — $367 billion in 2015 — with China is cut by a third, Cui estimates the Asian giant's GDP growth could be hurt by 1 to 2 percent.
In the last decade, China's annual GDP growth fell from double digits to a 25-year low of 6.9 percent in 2015. Many China watchers say slower expansion is inevitable as China shifts from a debt-fueled manufacturing-driven economy to one driven by domestic consumption.
But concerns about negative spillover from a sharp slowdown in China's economy have roiled global markets. China is scheduled to report fourth-quarter 2016 GDP on Friday.
Meanwhile, China's debt problems appear to be getting worse. Cui's analysis found that the country's debt-to-GDP ratio should increase in the near future, potentially at a faster rate. And in the mainland Class A share market, Cui estimates that leverage jumped from 15 percent of market capitalization in the middle of 2015 to 22 percent in the third quarter of last year.
"If we look at top down the major drivers of bad debt, increasing overcapacity, leverage, all the major drivers seem to be far more than the last round," Cui said.
In July 2015, the Shanghai composite dropped more than 40 percent from a seven-year high as traders, who had borrowed heavily to buy stocks, rushed to sell to meet those loan obligations.
That time, the Chinese government had to step in as a buyer to support the market, but the extreme volatility was followed by a sharp depreciation in the Chinese yuan versus the dollar, sending U.S. stocks down more than 10 percent that summer.