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Troubles in China...

Global recession China

​The dust is arguably still settling on the recent annual gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, leaving many of the executives, investors and policy makers in attendance with plenty to ponder over the next few months.

Amid all of the speculation, discussions and media reports, the point has emerged as the most pressing and most pertinent - the need for leadership in a world where issues have seemingly multiplied.

Challenges such as an economic slowdown in China, a polarised US presidential race, and the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War have all presented hurdles that will need to be overcome.

Nipping it in the bud

The popular opinion in Davos was that unless world governments take stronger action, the series of what are seemingly manageable problems could snowball into a multi-faceted problem that is far harder to deal with.

According to Bloomberg, Salesforce.com's chief executive officer Marc Benioff was particularly vocal on this point, stating: “We need stronger leaders who are able to give us a stronger vision for where we are going."

Interestingly, despite the need for strong leadership being a popular opinion in the corridors of power all over the financial world, there is plenty of disagreement over a solution, particularly in the US.

The latest presidential race looks to be one of the most unpredictable for a number of years, with property magnate Donald Trump storming ahead in the Republican polls, while Bernie Sanders has managed to gain ground on establishment favourite Hillary Clinton.

A noticeable deadlock has subsequently formed in US politics, and is arguably unlikely to go away any time soon, no matter who wins the White House.

Coupled with a backdrop of the US Federal Reserve's long-anticipated shift from the near-zero interest rates that have fuelled the world economy since 2008, the US seems to be finding its feet in terms of setting itself up as an influential force in the world economy again.

Oil and China proving problematic

However, uncertainty in the US is only one contributory factor to what has been a disappointing and worrying slowdown in the world economy.

The most pressing concern for experts and analysts alike has been the fall in oil prices and the ongoing uncertainty in China.

Crude oil has managed to rally in recent weeks, but concerns remain over the oversupply within the market and reduced consumption in China.

Towards the end of January, crude oil prices were down to $30 a barrel, creating unease over the state of the world's economy.

Events in Davos were already overshadowed by the news that full-year consumption of diesel in China was down in 2015 compared to the previous year, which for many analysts is a sign that there may be cracks emerging in country's economy.

The very nature of the global economy often means that difficulties in China are replicated and felt all over the world. Indeed, there has been a sluggish growth in various markets.

Europe remains stagnant, some parts of South America have slipped into recession, and the commodity markets have suffered poor levels of growth.

Recent increases in oil prices will have eased those fears, but the threat of another Global Financial Crisis still lingers, with plunging commodity prices often associated with the deep recession that shook the global economy in 2008.

There is a growing unease that the recovery from the 2008 crash has not been built on solid foundation.

Wouter Den Haan, an economics professor at the London School of Economics, told The Guardian: “We’ve gone through this major recession and lots of these problems aren’t really fixed."

“I don’t think the financial sector has changed that much. Growth in the UK and US is nice, but it’s really not the kind of growth that we’ve seen in past recoveries.”

However, some analysts claimed there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Even before the recent upturn in oil prices, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said there was evidence to suggest the world economy would grow by 3.4 per cent this year, up from the 3.1 per cent recorded in 2015.

Despite such reassurances, there is still a growing concern about the various factors at play in the world economy, and the next few months will be crucial in helping to guess how the rest of the year will pan out.