China's latest batch of ugly data offers a stark message to President Xi Jinping: Whatever he's doing to prop up growth isn't working. Even worse than the 5.5 percent drop in exports last month was the 13.8 percent plunge in imports, indicating that domestic demand is weaker than the external sector.
The good news is Xi is changing tack. Rather than just tossing more stimulus at the economy and stocks, he's redoubling efforts to reform the inefficient and opaque state-owned enterprises at the root of so many of China's vulnerabilities. In other words, Xi is finally working to strengthen China's foundations rather than papering over the cracks. The bad news is that Xi could just as easily be making things worse.