What’s wrong with Dagong?
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What’s wrong with Dagong?

The agency has hit the headlines with its aggressive ratings actions against western sovereign credits. But those decisions, like the man behind the agency, do not hold up against the simplest scrutiny.

Serene to the point of impassivity, Guan Jianzhong does not look like a James Bond villain, but he sure can sound like one. Dagong Global Credit Rating, the Chinese ratings agency he chairs, has spent the past two years baffling and amusing the world.

For some, the Beijing-based firm is a minor corporate hero, downgrading and upbraiding the west’s unchecked addiction to debt when few others dared or cared to. To others, Dagong is a joke in a novelty cracker: at best, a diversion designed to generate profit and headlines.

Whatever your view, it is hard not to be a little impressed by Dagong’s sheer chutzpah. In November 2010, it downgraded the US’s sovereign rating to single-A plus from double-A, then slashed it again nine months later to a lowly single-A, citing concerns about the soaring US national debt and a budget last balanced 11 years ago.

Developed, indebted economy downgrades followed one after the other, like dominos. The UK was knocked to an single-A plus rating in May 2011 with a negative outlook. France came next. Peripheral or troubled Europe struggled most, damned in Dagong’s eyes: Italy, triple-B, downgraded in March 2011; Portugal, double-B plus, November 2011; and Greece, gleefully cut to a D default rating last month.

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