Current Governor of the People's Bank of China, Pan Gongsheng. Credit: Imaginechina via AP Images The Chinese economy is underperforming relative to its growth potential. Not only are investment and consumption demand weaker than hoped, but the country is facing the challenge of two Ds: deflation and debt. While consumer-price inflation is close to negative territory, producer-price inflation has already been negative for a year. At the same time, the private and public sectors have accumulated massive debts, owing to higher spending during the pandemic and the broader response to the easy-money conditions of previous years. The two Ds are a toxic combination. By increasing the real (inflation-adjusted) value of existing debt, deflation makes it harder for firms to secure additional financing, thereby raising the prospect of bankruptcies – a trend that is already discernible in China. Moreover, once the combination of debt and deflation becomes entrenched, it can generate a vicious cycle whereby lower demand leads to lower investment, lower output, lower income, and thus even Subscribe or login to read the rest. Subscribers get full access to: Exclusive longform investigative journalism, Q&As, news and analysis, and data on Chinese business elites and corporations. We publish China scoops you won't find anywhere else. A weekly curated reading list on China from David Barboza, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Shanghai correspondent for The New York Times. A daily roundup of China finance, business and economics headlines. We offer discounts for groups, institutions and students. Go to our Subscriptions page for details.