China the Lobster

Old argument, new metaphor. I agree with the speaker, James Kynge, author of the book China Shakes the World.

I know it is a clunky, inelegant metaphor, but I tend to think of China as a lobster. Its pincers are well-developed and powerful but its back legs are weak and spindly. The countryss manufacturing prowess (the pincers) is – as you suggest – quite awesome. But in channeling its energies into manufacturing, China compromises its development elsewhere. Herein lies the hope for balanced trade and mutual prosperity from China’s rise. Although China may dominate in manufacturing, it will continue to need the resources, energy and services that either cannot be supplied domestically or are better supplied from overseas.

The truth is that China’s weaknesses – its environment, its creaky financial system, the burden of its population, the shortcomings of single-party rule, a widespread crisis of trust, the lack of a rule of law and others – are almost as profound as its strengths. This may mean that while China will tend to dominate in manufacturing, it may continue to struggle elsewhere, providing opportunities for western businesses.

In other words, let’s not get too hysterical over China. Yes, they are the light manufacturers of the world, but they have as much going against them as for them, and they’re going to need things from us – it’s not a one-way street.

If you’re interested in the whole China Rising narrative, you’ll want to take a look at the interview.

The Discussion: One Comment

The idea of China being a lobster reminds me of this editorial in “The Onion”, by Freddie the Lobster:

October 28, 2006 @ 10:52 pm | Comment

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