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US default a greater risk than Evergrande meltdown

TOKYO – As distracting as the default drama looming over China Evergrande Group may be, the one percolating in Washington is by far the more existential of the two.

The contours of the pressure facing the world’s most indebted property developer are by now well known. With about US$305 billion of debt and $355 billion of assets amid slowing world growth, Evergrande stands as a microcosm of China’s biggest challenges.

Fresh waves of Covid-19 infection are colliding with efforts to get construction sites back up and running. And Evergrande has roughly 1,300 ongoing projects in second and third-tier mainland cities. The company’s travails affect 200,000 direct employees and nearly 4 million hired each year for development projects.

The real worry, though, is its knock-on effect as the major player in the most vital sector of the mainland economy.