How China’s Property Crisis Blew Up Bets That Couldn’t Lose

In a stunning turn of events, China’s property crisis has exposed the flaws in investment bets that were once believed to be foolproof. Citic Trust, one of China’s largest investment firms, assured investors that their new fund, which would focus on real estate development, was a safe and lucrative bet. However, three years later, investors have only recovered a small portion of their initial investment, as three of the fund’s projects have faced financing issues and poor sales. This unraveling is a reflection of the broader problems plaguing China’s struggling property sector, which has led to destabilized local governments, a drained financial system, and a deepening economic downturn. As more companies default on loans, the Chinese government has finally signaled its willingness to step in and resolve the growing real estate risks.


Introduction to China’s property crisis

China’s property sector is currently facing a significant crisis. What initially started as a housing slump has now escalated into a full-blown crisis, affecting various aspects of the economy. The property sector was once the biggest sector of the Chinese economy, driven by nonstop building and fueled by the symbiotic relationship between the government, financial institutions, and companies.

Overview of Citic Trust and its investment pitch

Citic Trust, one of China’s largest investment firms, aimed to raise $1.7 billion in 2020 to fund property development. Its pitch to investors was that there is no safer Chinese investment than real estate. The trust, a part of the state-owned financial conglomerate Citic, emphasized the stability and value investment potential of the housing market. The funds raised were intended to be used for projects from Sunac China Holdings, a major developer.

Current problems facing China’s property sector

The Citic fund’s unraveling provides insights into the broader issues facing China’s property sector. Three years since the investment, investors have only recouped a small fraction of their initial investment, with three of the fund’s construction projects either on hold or significantly delayed due to financing problems or poor sales. Sunac, the major developer involved, has defaulted and is trying to restructure its debt. These challenges reveal the deepening crisis within China’s property sector.

The Unraveling of the Citic Fund

Construction projects on hold or significantly delayed

Three of the projects funded by Citic Trust are currently facing challenges. Construction has been put on hold or significantly delayed for these projects. Financing problems and poor sales have contributed to the difficulties faced by the projects, impacting the timeline and progress.

Sunac’s default and debt restructuring

Sunac, the major developer partnered with Citic Trust, has defaulted on its debt and is in the process of restructuring. This event has had a significant impact on the projects funded by Citic Trust, as it further complicated the financial situation and dampened investor returns.

Impact on investors’ returns

Investors who put their money into the Citic fund have only received a small fraction of their original investment back. The delays, defaults, and debt restructuring have severely impacted their expected returns, highlighting the risks associated with investments in China’s property sector.

How Chinas Property Crisis Blew Up Bets That Couldnt Lose

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The Broader Problems Facing China’s Property Sector

Destabilization of local government budgets

China’s local governments heavily relied on revenue from the real estate sector, making the current crisis a significant challenge. The destabilization of local government budgets due to the ongoing problems in the property sector has created additional economic and financial difficulties.

Drain on China’s capital markets

The crisis within the property sector has also drained China’s capital markets. The interconnectedness between the government, financial institutions, and companies that once fueled growth in the property sector has now become a burden on the economy. The drain on the capital markets further exacerbates the challenges faced by the property sector.

Government’s response to real estate risks

China’s central government has acknowledged the risks in the real estate sector and has pledged to actively and prudently address these risks. The government aims to support firms in meeting their financing needs while resolving real estate risks. Although the government has not yet provided lifelines to troubled developers, its willingness to intervene suggests a potential shift in approach.

Recent Developments in the Investment Sector

State-backed developer’s debt restructuring

China South City Holdings, a state-backed developer, recently warned that it does not have sufficient funds to pay interest on its overseas debt. To avoid a potential default, investors agreed to restructure the debt. This development highlights the continued challenges faced by major players in the investment sector.

Real estate investor’s redemption payment delays

Hywin Wealth Management, a significant real estate investor, announced that it had to delay some redemption payments due to economic downturn. This delay further contributes to the concerns surrounding investments in the real estate sector and adds to the overall instability in the market.

Severe insolvency of a financial giant

In November, Zhongzhi Enterprise Group, a financial giant managing $140 billion in assets, revealed that it was severely insolvent. The group’s wealth management arm started missing payments to investors in July, leading to a substantial financial shortfall. This case demonstrates the extent of the financial challenges within China’s investment sector.

How Chinas Property Crisis Blew Up Bets That Couldnt Lose

Investors’ Confidence in Real Estate

Trust firms in China’s shadow banking system

Trust firms, such as Citic Trust, play a significant role in China’s shadow banking system. They offer investment products to companies and wealthy individuals, managing trillions of dollars in assets. Trust firms have been crucial in providing loans and investing in sectors deemed too risky for traditional banks, including the real estate sector.

Promises of lucrative returns

Investors were drawn to the real estate sector due to promises of lucrative returns. Investment products sold by trust firms often included projections of attractive profits. The market boom and soaring real estate prices further fueled confidence in the potential profitability of real estate investments.

Market boom and potential risks

The real estate market experienced a significant boom, with prices soaring. However, this boom has also exposed the potential risks associated with real estate investments. The current crisis within the property sector has shattered investors’ confidence and highlighted the volatility and uncertainties of the market.

Challenges Faced by the Citic Fund

Construction delays and poor sales due to Covid-19

The Citic fund faced challenges right from the start due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Construction delays and poor sales caused by pandemic-related restrictions have significantly affected the progress of the projects funded by Citic Trust.

Cash problems caused by new regulations

At the time the fund was started, Beijing implemented new regulations aimed at curbing excessive borrowing by developers. These regulations created cash flow problems for many developers, including Sunac, further complicating the financial situation for the projects funded by Citic Trust.

Suspension of construction and sluggish sales

As a result of various challenges, Citic Trust was forced to suspend construction on one project and faced sluggish sales on another. These difficulties have hindered progress and financial returns, contributing to the overall unraveling of the Citic fund.

How Chinas Property Crisis Blew Up Bets That Couldnt Lose

Status of the Citic Investment

Partial payouts to investors

Investors in the Citic fund have only received partial payouts, recouping a fraction of their original investment. The delays and challenges faced by the projects resulted in diminished financial returns for investors.

Explanation for missed payment and hope for government policies

Citic Trust has provided some explanations for the missed payment and expressed hope that the government’s recent policies to address real estate risks will have a positive impact. However, the immediate tangible effects on the market remain unclear.

Current state of the market

The Chinese property market continues to face significant challenges. The impact of the property crisis extends beyond individual projects and developers. The broader market conditions and regulatory environment play a crucial role in influencing the overall state of the market.


In conclusion, the unraveling of the Citic fund sheds light on the deepening crisis within China’s property sector. The challenges faced by the Citic fund, including construction delays, defaults, and poor sales, highlight the risks associated with investments in the real estate market. The issues in the property sector have broader implications, including destabilizing local government budgets and draining China’s capital markets. Furthermore, recent developments in the investment sector, such as debt restructuring and payment delays, emphasize the overall instability and uncertainty within the market. Despite the government’s recognition of these risks and its commitment to addressing them, the path to recovery remains unclear. Investors and the property sector as a whole must navigate these challenges and adapt to the evolving market conditions.

About the Authors

Claire Fu is a journalist covering news in mainland China for The New York Times based in Seoul. Her coverage focuses on various aspects of China’s economy, society, and politics.

Daisuke Wakabayashi is an Asia business correspondent for The New York Times based in Seoul. He covers economic, corporate, and geopolitical stories from the region.

Source and Copyright Information

This article draws information and content from the following source: “How China’s Property Crisis Blew Up Bets That Couldn’t Lose” by Claire Fu and Daisuke Wakabayashi, published in The New York Times. The article includes content and images from The New York Times and is subject to the publication’s copyright policies. For further information and inquiries, please refer to The New York Times’ contact and copyright details provided within the article.

Pramod Kumar Yadav is from Janakpur Dham, Nepal. He was born on December 23, 1994, and has one elder brother and two elder sisters. He completed his education at various schools and colleges in Nepal and completed a degree in Computer Science Engineering from MITS in Andhra Pradesh, India. Pramod has worked as the owner of RC Educational Foundation Pvt Ltd, a teacher, and an Educational Consultant, and is currently working as an Engineer and Digital Marketer.

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