China’s century? Niall Ferguson says yes.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Niall Ferguson, the bad-boy of world history, always trying (often successfully) to pull the rug out from under our conventional belief systems and shatter our sacred illusions. His great history of WWI, The Pity of War, was a wonderful if infuriating read; infuriating because he constantly speculated about “what if,” and even arrived at the conclusion that Germany was meant to have won the war and the world would have been better off if it had. (Who knows? But he certainly makes an elegant argument.) He has especially ruffled feathers for praising colonialism and empire.

At the end of his 2006 history of 20th century wars, Wars of the World, Ferguson states matter-of-factly that the age of Western ascendancy has ended, and that of Eastern ascendancy begun. I read the book in Beijing when it came out during the Bush administration and it made perfect sense – America was caught in an impossible place, bleeding money, choked by debt and snagged in two seemingly endless wars. And I was seeing with my own eyes what China was capable of. Now, nearly three years later, things look considerably worse for America, something that didn’t seem possible in early 2007.

The article by Ferguson that I’m looking at today is absolutely a must-read. I know already who it will infuriate and who it will delight. I hear all the praise and all the objections. Allow me to offer a longer-than-usual snip. (I’m tempted to simply paste the entire thing it’s so interesting.)

Back in 2004 I warned that the US had imperceptibly come to rely on east Asian capital to stabilise its unbalanced current and fiscal accounts. The decline and fall of America’s undeclared empire might therefore be due not to terrorists at the gates nor to the rogue regimes that sponsor them, but to a fiscal crisis at home.

The realisation that the yawning US current account deficit was increasingly being financed by Asian central banks, with the Chinese moving into pole position, was, for me at least, the eureka moment of the decade.

When, in late 2006, Moritz Schularick and I coined the word “Chimerica” to describe what we saw as the dangerously unsustainable relationship between parsimonious China and profligate America, we had identified one of the keys to the coming global financial crisis.

The illusion of American hyperpuissance was shattered not once but twice in the past decade. Nemesis came first in the backstreets of Sadr City and the valleys of Helmand, which revealed not only the limits of American military might but also, more importantly, the naivety of neoconservative visions of a democratic wave in the greater Middle East. And it struck a second time with the escalation of the subprime crisis of 2007 into the credit crunch of 2008 and finally the “great recession” of 2009. After the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the sham verities of the “Washington Consensus” and the “Great Moderation” were consigned forever to oblivion.

And what remained? By the end of the decade the western world could only look admiringly at the speed with which the Chinese government had responded to the breathtaking collapse in exports caused by the US credit crunch, a collapse which might have been expected to devastate Asia.

While the developed world teetered on the verge of a second Great Depression, China suffered little more than a minor growth slow-down, thanks to a highly effective government stimulus programme and massive credit expansion.

It would of course be ingenuous to assume that the next decade will not bring problems for China, too. Running a society of 1.3bn people with the kind of authoritarian planned capitalism hitherto associated with the city-state Singapore (population 4.5m) is fraught with difficulties. But the fact remains that Asia’s latest and biggest industrial revolution scarcely paused to draw breath during the 2007-09 financial crisis.

And what a revolution! Compare a tenfold growth of gross domestic product in the space of 26 years with a fourfold increase in the space of 70. The former has been China’s achievement between 1978 and 2004; the latter was Britain’s between 1830 and 1900. Or consider the fact that US GDP was more than eight times that of China’s at the beginning of this decade. Now it is barely four times larger – and if the projections from Jim O’Neill, Goldman Sachs’ chief economist, prove to be correct, China will overtake America as soon as 2027: in less than two decades.

I am not convinced it’s true that China “scarcely paused to draw breath during the 2007-09 financial crisis.” I think the crisis dealt China a severe blow from which it’s still reeling. But…. I still think Ferguson is essentially right, that the pendulum is swinging in anew direction and the balance of power is shifting faster than anyone would have believed just a decade ago.

China is going to have to deal with unbelievable problems. (And yes, so is America.) China’s key cities are in the middle of a property bubble; its environment is so fragile whole swathes of the ecology may be doomed; corruption is so rampant even the central government recognizes it can undo much of the progress of the past three decades; and there are still some 650 million living in deep poverty.

Predictions of China’s collapse appear in the news every day, as do prediction of America’s. I don’t pay these predictions much heed. Things happen far too slowly, with far too much lethargy, for either China or the US to go down in a blaze. Recessions, unrest, turmoil, misery, strife, bankruptcies, economic upheaval – we may see all those things, but I don’t believe we’re going to see either system collapse. What we will see and are seeing, as Ferguson says, is a tipping of the scale, with China gaining influence as US influence wanes. Where the scales will stop is anyone’s guess. I still can’t imagine China as an economic equal – it simply has too much poverty and lack of spending power – but I do see it creeping upwards, at times imperceptibly. It has been better than the US in making sure it gets what it needs to keep the engines roaring, even if it means coddling some of the world’s most unsavory dictators and rogue regimes. And somehow, for all its impossible headaches, it keeps on going.

Ferguson, after making the case for China’s ascendancy, ends on an ambiguous note.

What gave the west the edge over the east over the past 500 years? My answer is six “killer apps”: the capitalist enterprise, the scientific method, a legal and political system based on private property rights and individual freedom, traditional imperialism, the consumer society and what Weber probably misnamed the “Protestant” ethic of work and capital accumulation as ends in themselves.

Some of those things (numbers one and two) China has clearly replicated. Others it may be in the process of adopting with some “Confucian” modifications (imperialism, consumption and the work ethic). Only number three – the Western way of law and politics – shows little sign of emerging in the one-party state that is the People’s Republic.

But does China need dear old democracy to achieve enduring prosperity?

The next decade may well answer that question. Then again, it may take another 500 years to be certain that there really is a viable alternative to western ascendancy.

I think China has already shown it doesn’t need “dear old democracy,” no matter how apoplectic that may make some of its critics. It will lean more and more in that direction, especially as incomes rise and people realize they are not as dependent on the government as it would like them to believe. But democracy as we know it and rule of law – well, despite many encouraging stories of reform, I’m not going to recommend anyone hold their breath.

All in all, I think Fergie gets it right. Looking at China’s history and its staying power, and at its sheer industriousness and optimism, I have to discount the reports of China’s imminent demise. And America’s too. I just think America will keep drifting lower as China edges higher, with lots of painful stumbles along the way.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 118 Comments

This is a good article, at least there are some people with clear head about the future.

I want to just post two items:

A cartoon about China and the world:
http://i.imgur.com/G3gjO.jpg

The script engraved on the marble granite wall of the Monument to the People’s Heroes on Tiananmen Square, written by Chairman Mao himself. These days it’s not often to see vernacular Chinese language being used in such beautiful and skilled fashion:

“三年以来,在人民解放战争和人民革命中牺牲的人民英雄们永垂不朽!
三十年以来,在人民解放战争和人民革命中牺牲的人民英雄们永垂不朽!

由此上溯到一千八百四十年,从那时起,为了反对内外敌人,争取民族独立和人民
自由幸福,在历次斗争中牺牲的人民英雄们永垂不朽!”

“For three years, the heroes who martyred during the War of Liberation and the People’s Revolution live forever.”

“For thirty years, the heroes who martyred during the War of Liberation and the People’s Revolution live forever.”

“Going up to 1840, ever since then, the heroes who martyred in the historical struggles for resisting internal and external enemies, fighting for national independence and people’s liberty and happiness will live forever”.

On this New Year’s Eve, as a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, I want to say it loudly and proudly: 祖国万岁, Long Live the Motherland

January 1, 2010 @ 6:08 am | Comment

If Burma is an unsavory regime, does that make Saudi Arabia a “delectable” one? How about other shining pillars of democracy like South Africa, where 25-35% of the men admit to raping once in their lifetimes, or Haiti, the jewel of the Caribbean?

Can’t forget India, the land of bonded laborers, untouchables, brutal inter-religious conflict, starvation, illiteracy and boundless hundreds of millions with no real hope whatsoever.

As far as the financial crisis goes, China was reeling from its own financial crisis which was independent of America’s- the export slump created a net loss, however it is overstated. China’s exports are a better indicator of Korea and Japan’s economic health than China’s, really, given that a huge amount of these exports are indeed just finished products (from imported parts) headed for developed countries.

January 1, 2010 @ 6:59 am | Comment

*Laughs*
Just listened to an CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)Radio debate over the the occupation of Afghanistan in my car. In addition to infuriatingly *antipathy* towards the lives of Afghans, the whole thing degenerated even further into a patriotic slogan chanting competition between the “left” and the right at the end of the debate.

What a sad state of affair we all are all afflicted with.

Just wanted to raise a point here:

“But does China need dear old democracy to achieve enduring prosperity?”

This sentence seems to imply that Western countries had had “democracy” (no matter how loosely one defines it) before attaining prosperity.

That would be factually inaccurate. Western European countries took off as early as the 16th century, whereas Bourgeois democracy is a relatively new phenomenon. European Bourgeois “democracy” had its originated in the late 1830s-40s; and it did not became the dominant ideology in Western Europe until the end of WWII.

January 1, 2010 @ 7:34 am | Comment

“infuriatingly *antipathy*” Gosh I cant get it right

January 1, 2010 @ 7:36 am | Comment

“I want to just post two items:”

Ah, yes – the twin pillars of the China psychosis. The first represents the CCP’s carefully nurtured and ongoing sense of victimhood at the hands of foreigners; and the second speaks of the deeply institutionalised mindset that decades of CCP rule and education have instilled in the Chinese people.

And that’s what the world is dealing with. Ferguson isn’t wrong, but if the scales tip irrevocably in the CCP’s (because that’s who we’re talking about here) favour, then the planet will experience – by degrees – the same sort of paranoid control and brutal suppression of opponents that have been the hallmarks of their reign.

The CCP have more influence and power now than at any time in their chaotic history, and that history tells us that they are an entity without moral restraint in achieving their goals. I think Ferguson’s broad predictions are on the money, but he fails to address the ramifications of a ‘China century’. This is something people need to get wise about in a hurry.

Wei Jingsheng hints at the problems to come in this op-ed:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/30/opinion/30iht-edwei.html?_r=2

January 1, 2010 @ 10:01 am | Comment

Good comment, Stuart. But I expect no one to push back on China for its human rights policies. Those who would push back need China too badly, and they know there’s little they can do to stem the tide that’s already advancing. We haven’t seen a bold condemnation of China’s human rights policies from a leading world power in years and I expect that silence to remain the status quo. And unfortunately, the US has sacrificed any kind of moral high ground it once may have had.

That said, I wouldn’t start worrying too much about China’s style of repression spreading around the world. I hope for the opposite, i.e., for the world’s influence to soften China’s stance. We’ve seen hints of change, some fairly significant. I know, not enough, but please don’t expect to see China reshape itself into Vermont anytime soon. The transformation will be glacial, but I believe it’s happening right now.

January 1, 2010 @ 10:14 am | Comment

@Richard – A friend of mine worked on this totally bizarre and paranoid docu-flic about the rise of China (not his idea) –

http://mitchanderson.com/China.mov

Niall Ferguson was one of the interviewees, he charged 6000 USD for his appearance.

January 1, 2010 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

Pushing back on all fronts was more what I had in mind. Krugman suggests a good starting point:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/01/opinion/01krugman.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

January 1, 2010 @ 12:53 pm | Comment

Nice links, Foarp and Stuart, though I have some big issues with Krugman’s lackadaisical attitude toward the prospect of China selling off its dollars. It would not be good, it would be a catastrophe, leading to a complete meltdown in faith in the US dollar, and thus a frenzy of dollar selling, taking America on the path to being a banana republic.

To clarify: I don’t think China is yet a superpower, and it may never be. Its problems are so immense and its purchasing power per person is so small any comparisons with the US are ludicrous, at least for now. China may be rising and the US declining, but I am not saying China is surpassing the US or even necessarily coming close. So how can I still subscribe to the notion that this is “China’s century”? It’s all a matter of influence, of shifting allegiances, of economic clout. And there, China is gaining rapidly, and I can’t see America holding China back. The US may be richer, just as Norway and Switzerland are richer than America, but its influence has been declining for years and a world that once saw the US as the world’s economic engine is now focused expectantly on China.

January 1, 2010 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

Duck always gives benefit of doubt to China, always. Hehe.

First, Chinese people’s income is declining, from 1988 to now. Then, big chunk of GDP depends on FDI and exportation, third,FED dones not need China to buy T bills, you can see recent data, US savings, that means US people are buying T bill now. I believe Professor Pettis has explanined these subjects very clearly. And you can also watch Jim Chanos’ interview on CNBC about shorting China.

I still remembered in 2006 or even 2007 most people dont believe that US housing market was a bubble. Hehe. Good luck China.

January 1, 2010 @ 3:17 pm | Comment

What we see today is the typical struggle between hardliners and moderates in China, or better said inside looking and outside looking parties in their power structure. It is not only a CCP issue. It has happened since imperial times.

The current crackdowns and stiff neckedness in several issues show it.

The current raise of the inside lookers may be comming in a bad moment. By alineating their major comercial patners the insiders will make the next crisis harder, and prevent cooperation from outside to happen faster.

I agree with krugman’s article, there a shift of mood already taking place, if the tectonic plates continue shifting in the wrong way in China, it is going to make the situation harder.

January 1, 2010 @ 5:23 pm | Comment

The situation today in china looks similar to the transition from one dynasty to another.

The mandate if heaven is lost, the emperor is weaken or gone altogether and the eunuchs are running the show.

Only that the eunuchs today are only politically castrated not physically. An improvement after all.

Maybe interesting times are comming.

January 1, 2010 @ 5:33 pm | Comment

Steven, you’re right, I do try to give the benefit of the doubt to China because I know there are so many existing prejudices against it. But i try to be fair as well. I note in my post the poverty and say I can’t imagine China ever matching the US in terms of individual wealth and purchasing power. Such a parity at the moment is totally impossible, absurd. We’re talking about some of the largest concentrations of the poorest people in the world.

China, however, is not like other countries. We’ve never seen such a strange phenomenon – a country so poor and yet so fabulously rich. A country so medieval and so modern. And no matter how poor the majority of its citizens may be, there is not a single doubt that this powerhouse – the rich and powerful China, not the backwater part – can influence the course of all Asia and turn existing relationships on their head. It can isolate or favor whatever country it chooses to devastating effect. It can keep dictators in power and stall global legislation and call shots in a way that only the US was once able to do. This is why I was so careful to point out the poverty and the incredible problems – to make the point that this clout exists despite those gnawing issues, which have been present now for generations. Yet China’s influence only continues to grow, especially at a time when the world has lost a lot of faith in the US. China may end up being the oddest hybridized country the world has ever seen, half superpower, half slum, held together by whatever bonds have kept it intact all these centuries, but no matter how tenuous, contrived and impossible it may appear to us, it keeps going and defying reason. It’s done a damn good job of that already, and I do not see any slowdown whatever in the cards. And I need to repeat, this is not about personal income or the collapse in housing prices, which are side issues. It is about the power of this country to shape what happens for its people and the peoples around them, and thus in a sense shape the world, considering Asia’s growing prominence, and considering how when China needs materials, prices for those materials around the world shoot up. No other country can shake the world to its core simply by writing a purchase order.

January 2, 2010 @ 1:58 am | Comment

While it’s useful to look at trends and “what ifs” and prepare for various outcomes I don’t agree that this will necessarily be China’s century. This will most likely be a multi-polar century – the EU, the US, Japan are not in decline in real terms. What will happen to China is anyone’s guess – just as the Soviet Union’s continued existence was.

On a state-level and an individual level those of us who do not want to see a future dominated by China (and I don’t) have many choices. After spending several years living in China helping Western companies move production to China I became very uneasy. What I was doing was not right. China wasn’t playing by free trade rules and I was helping them cheat. Now I have devoted my efforts to helping American companies succeed by not moving jobs out of America and I refuse to buy products made in China. I go out of my way to let the retailers and manufacturers know why I am not buying their made-in-China products. It’s at least something I can do as an individual to help turn things around.

January 2, 2010 @ 2:11 am | Comment

At a clear risk of being annoying, I must ask one more time:

What is China? What does it mean to be Chinese?

Until these questions are given a clear answer by (whomever), “China” will not amount to that much. In my humble opinion, it is ideas more than men that shape the world…

January 2, 2010 @ 9:41 am | Comment

“China …can influence the course of all Asia and turn existing relationships on their head. It can isolate or favor whatever country it chooses to devastating effect. It can keep dictators in power and stall global legislation …”

You’re not giving the benefit of the doubt to China, Richard; you’re giving it to the CCP. And yes, they can do all the things you say and more – increasingly so. In case you’ve forgotten this is the party that rules by fear of punishment for even the slightest hint of disobedience or contradiction.

What on Earth are people expecting the consequences of a globally dominant CCP to be? Consider last week’s Nepalese kowtow (banning ‘anti-Chinese’ activities) in order to secure trade deals. That’s just the latest in a long line of examples of countries bending to the will of Beijing. Appeasement is not the answer. A carrot and stick approach is nothing new in the CCP annals, and as their power increases I can guarantee there will be more and more stick and less and less carrot.

Jay’s multi-polar century is the best hope we have. Once the scales begin to tip in the CCP’s favour (and the signs are already there) they will become increasingly aggressive in their pursuit and control over resources and regions. Anyone who thinks that a CCP century will bring increased light, tolerance, understanding, human rights, and peace to this world is sadly mistaken.

The Chinese people have the capacity to uphold these virtues, but he who stands up to speak on their behalf is immediately subdued in a manner that forces the silent compliance of the majority. Remind yourselves of Milgram’s experiments if you’re in any doubt concerning where blind obedience to the CCP might lead us.

Remember, too, that freedom of expression allows discourse on the moral implications of a government’s policies, and that public opinion can effect change. The CCP aren’t interested in free expression because they lack the maturity to tolerate dissenting opinion, preferring instead to ‘mould’ public opinion to their cause. And that is something they have achieved to devastating effect, which is why we never hear home-grown criticism of China’s oftentimes exploitative and bullying foreign policy.

January 2, 2010 @ 10:01 am | Comment

More myth-making – this time by a rockstar/history professor who speaks not a word of Chinese and has spent less than a month in China. If a man with Niall Ferguson’s qualifications were instead going on about the imminent collapse of China, he would be dismissed by the very people (e.g., HongXing) who are now so eager to embrace his triumphant narrative.

Food for thought:
No one in 1800 could have predicted what China would experience between then and 1850. (e.g., 2 Opium Wars / Treaty of Nanjing) No one in 1850 could have predicted what China would experience between then and 1900. (e.g., Taiping Rebellion / Sino-Japanese War) No one in 1900 could have predicted what China would experience between then and 1950. (e.g., Boxer Uprising / the collapse of the dynastic institution / the founding of the P.R.C.) No one in 1950 could have predicted what China would experience between then and 2000. (e.g., the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution / Opening and Reform)

In keeping with this idea, there’s no chance that anyone alive now – smart guys like Professor Ferguson included – can predict with any accuracy what China will be like fifty years from now. Indeed, Chinese history is as contingent as any other nation’s. (In October 1929, could anyone have predicted the destruction of Europe and America’s virtually unchallenged rise to power – all in just 20 years? How about the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and global communism in 1991? Or the rise and monumental influence of the internet during the last 20 years? How about 9/11 and its aftermath?) I could go all the way back to the Warring States period – breaking down Chinese history into 50 year increments as I go – and the story would be much the same: no crystal balls; no master plans; no enlightened despots (or despotic regimes) to put everything right. On the contrary, just a whole lot of uncertainty and “OMG! How’d that happen?” In short, there is nothing going on today in China that guarantees China’s future success. Nothing. In fact, there’s at least as much working against China as there is working for it. History is alive and kicking – in China and everywhere else.

I know a bit about history and historians, and I’ve never met a respectable historian who, when asked to predict the future, felt entirely comfortable doing so. The job of the professional historian is to define our relationship with the past, not to predict the future. This being the case, Niall Ferguson’s essay reads more like bad science fiction than something to take seriously. For every person who expects China (Asia) to supplant the U.S. (the West), there is another who believes that China’s golden years are happening right now and that things will get much tougher very soon.

More food for thought:

1. Only 150 million people in China earn US$10,000 or more per year, while fully 37% survive on US$2 per day (i.e., for every person who is fully participating in China’s “miracle,” there are at least 3 who are not). At 1.3 billion people, China’s population is 4.5 times that of the U.S., while China’s economy (in exchange rate terms) is just one-third the size of the U.S. The combined economies of the U.S. ($14 trillion) and E.U. ($18 trillion) account for nearly half of the global economy, while their combined population (800 million) is still 500 million less than China’s. In other words, The West’s economic might is more than 6 times China’s. Just think: In 2008, China ranked just 130th (again, in real exchange rate terms) among nations in per capita GDP. The so-called “China miracle” is a disappointment, if you ask me. Face it, the Revolution failed. Instead of creating a truly democratic and equitable society, it succeeded in little more than replacing one privileged ruling class with another.

2. China’s educational system is a sorry embarrassment. (For God’s sake, don’t look at the Chinese graduate student at MIT and then extrapolate.)

3. China’s medical system is worse. (Cruel and unusual.)

4. China’s environment is increasingly a global problem. (You can count the windmills and solar panels until the cows come home. It’s still coal, coal, coal, as far as the eye can see.)

5. China’s political system is a joke. (A motley crew of thugs and poor problem solvers.)

6. No freedom of speech. No freedom of the press. No freedom of assembly. No independent judiciary.

The current economic crisis has resulted in much handwringing and loss of confidence in the West. Likewise, it’s also resulted in much gloating and over-confidence in China. Niall Ferguson’s essay plays to the West’s fears and China’s hopes. The only thing we can be sure of, however, is that none of us knows what China will be like in 50 years time. A “Chinese century,” if it happens, might not be such a bad thing. Then again, it could be a disaster for everyone, the Chinese included. Let’s hope for the best.

January 2, 2010 @ 11:57 am | Comment

I disagree, Stuart. Countries have had to kowtow to the US for many decades but managed to retain their own values and cultures and laws. Few of them decided to launch futile pre-emptive wars or institute torture. Likewise, I don’t believe the world will take on more characteristics of the CCP by osmosis as China’s influence extends. That has never happened anywhere, despite China’s massive influence throughout Asia. You don’t see Japan and Taiwan embracing tyranny and censorship. To the contrary, I think as more Chinese become familiar with the freedoms under other systems it is China that will do more of the changing, as is happening now, with its fascination with the systems, products and cultures of other countries. A slow process, but do you really expect China to change overnight into Brighton?

January 2, 2010 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

@richard
Well, according to last year developments, it seems to be going backwards right now.

January 2, 2010 @ 1:16 pm | Comment

“I don’t believe the world will take on more characteristics of the CCP by osmosis as China’s influence extends.”

It won’t happen that way; acquiescence to CCP doctrine will occur, as we are already beginning to see, through the coercion of economic blackmail. And anyone who believes the PLA won’t be adopting a more aggressive posture in the coming years is sadly deluded.

“You don’t see Japan and Taiwan embracing tyranny and censorship.”

Of course no overseas government – much less their people – will embrace such things. As I’ve said, countries will come under increasing pressure to behave in a manner that pleases the CCP, whether it be refusing visas to political opponents, securing resources, lobbying to suppress media criticism, or threatening to withhold investment if Buddhist monks aren’t silenced.

“To the contrary, I think as more Chinese become familiar with the freedoms under other systems it is China that will do more of the changing…”

That was the rationale of engagement initiated by Nixon way back when. It isn’t working. Rather, it seems to have emboldened the CCP’s penchant for arrogance. I wouldn’t propose a return to a cold war policy, but a tougher, unified line is clearly going to be necessary. Again, I emphasise it’s the CCP and not the Chinese people that need to change, because the former have a very tight grip on the mentality of the latter.

“…but do you really expect China to change overnight?”

China has changed ‘overnight’. Unfortunately, the power they suddenly find themselves with is in the hands of a dynasty that is not morally equipped to wield it. And – if I absolutely must – this could also be said of the Romans in the days of empire, the Conquistadores in South America, European colonists just about everywhere, and, to a lesser degree, US globetrotting in the last half century.

But we are talking about the future here. And no reference to past indiscretions will justify the misery and suffering of a world at the mercy of CCP thinking. It’s no longer good enough to keep our fingers crossed that they wake up with a conscience one morning. That is simply not going to happen.

January 2, 2010 @ 1:55 pm | Comment

Stuart, I really have to disagree with the black and white, good and evil brush you’re using to paint the CCP. There is no single entity called the CCP, just as there is no single US government – it is a huge, multi-headed creature, a hydra, some of it good and some of it bad, different forces pushing against one another. Millions of people’s lives have been made better under the CCP, and there’s also been huge suffering. But blasting the government as though it’s the root of all evil will undermine your credibility. Look at where people’s lives are today compared to 40 years ago, and it’s no wonder they feel outraged to see some foreigners come in and tell them they are doing it all wrong and their government is evil.

It’s no longer good enough to keep our fingers crossed that they wake up with a conscience one morning. That is simply not going to happen.

So what do you propose? Bombs?

January 2, 2010 @ 2:54 pm | Comment

Buzz, his article is about trends. He himself says very clearly that in 500 years we may still see Western ascendancy. Reread. He is not prophesying as much as saying, Look what China has done in so little time.

Fergie writes about history in Japan, Iraq, Korea, the US, China, etc. He does not need to know the language of each to write about historic and economic trends, so trying to discount him for not speaking Chinese is a cheap shot.

He acknowledges the huge challenges and problems. But again, look at what China has achieved, where it has gone in a fraction of a second. Taking that into account, those who want to bet on China’s failure do so at their own risk.

January 2, 2010 @ 3:07 pm | Comment

“Stuart, I really have to disagree with the black and white, good and evil brush you’re using to paint the CCP.”

Good. That’s the way it should be, Richard. Except that I really don’t see things as ‘black and white’. What I see is the possibility of global suffering and suppressed freedoms if the CCP are calling the shots, which is a position I believe they covet.

“Millions of people’s lives have been made better under the CCP”

Which is laudable, but attributable to the sacrifices and efforts of the Chinese people rather than the regime they exist under.

I know you disagree with me, and I welcome that. I want to hear the arguments that will change my position on this because I desperately want to be wrong. But all my senses are telling me that’s not the case.

“So what do you propose? Bombs?”

I propose that the whole world should spend a bit less time, energy, and money in producing such items. And stop selling them to dodgy leaders in exchange for resources that guarantee Africa will remain the most impoverished continent on the planet. I also propose that they stop dishing out 11-year jail terms to people who talk sense.

“no wonder they feel outraged to see some foreigners come in and tell them … their government is evil.”

Why? If they were educated more openly and were free to express dissenting opinion it wouldn’t be perceived in that way. Foreigners give their own governments far more stick than they give China’s, but Beijing bristles at the slightest criticism and whips into a frenzy a populace (not all) hoodwinked into believing that the foreign media is ‘anti-China’ and ‘out to get them’.

This has created a groundswell of nationalism in China which is bound to spill over at some point. It’s also a missing piece of Ferguson’s ‘viable alternative to western ascendancy’. He really should have consulted me on this.

January 2, 2010 @ 5:00 pm | Comment

“Buzz, his article is about trends. He himself says very clearly that in 500 years we may still see Western ascendancy. Reread. He is not prophesying as much as saying, Look what China has done in so little time.”

You’re right. Ferguson never explicitly suggests that it’s all blue skies for China. Nevertheless, his essay (which I read a day or two before seeing your post) fits nicely within a genre known for foisting on us the idea that hundreds of years of Western supremacy will come crashing to a halt as a result of a misguided war and a nasty recession. I think not. In any case, to say that it’s a bit early to name this “China’s century” would be a gross understatement. Simply put, no intelligent person with an understanding of the fundamentally contingent nature of history could make such a prediction.

“Fergie writes about history in Japan, Iraq, Korea, the US, China, etc. He does not need to know the language of each to write about historic and economic trends, so trying to discount him for not speaking Chinese is a cheap shot.”

No cheap shots from me. I actually know “Fergie” – took an interesting course from him at Harvard and sat in a chair across from him during office hours on several occasions. He’s a nice enough guy. Even so, I remember seeing a video of Niall Ferguson and James Fallows at a forum in Aspen, Colorado in which Fallows offered up the very same criticism. In fact, that’s how I know. The danger with a guy like Ferguson is that he risks overreaching. In the parlance of Isaiah Berlin, Niall Ferguson is a fox, a big idea guy, always looking for the unifying theory of the universe. As I said before, he’s interesting, but he doesn’t know all that much about China. I doubt that he could speak for more than 5 minutes on a subject as basic as CCP land reform policies during the 1950s. In the end, my point in mentioning Ferguson’s inability to speak (or, more importantly, read) Chinese was to suggest that many who would dismiss him as a dabbler if he were to speak of China’s decline now rush to embrace him. Don’t be so sensitive.

“He acknowledges the huge challenges and problems. But again, look at what China has achieved, where it has gone in a fraction of a second. Taking that into account, those who want to bet on China’s failure do so at their own risk.”

You crack me up. If you are going to congratulate China on its remarkable progress these past 30 years, then you must be willing to thank Mao Zedong for making it all possible. Simply put, in 1979, China had nowhere to go but up. In 1980, fully two-thirds of Chinese people lived on US$1 per day or less – often much, much less. (For example, my parents-in-law, professors both, earned a combined income of just under RMB 100 in 1984.) Economic growth of the kind we’ve witnessed these past few decades would not have been possible had China not been so poor. How did it get so poor? 30 years of Mao. China’s “economic miracle” stems as much from its willingness to turn its back on Mao as it does from forward looking economic policy. (Don’t you just love the outrageous irony that stares up at you from your wallet every time you grab a crisp new 100 yuan note.) China’s economy is now roughly 82 times its size in 1979, a rate of growth that would have been impossible had China been governed properly during the 30 years prior to Opening and Reform. Are you feeling me? Congratulating China is like praising the kid who, after badly failing all of his exams, starts passing with a D minus. Fewer than 12 percent of Chinese earn more than US$10,000 per year, while fully 37 percent get by on US$2 or less. How many hundreds of millions of Chinese earn US$5 per day or less? How many Chinese families get by on $10 per day or less? I ask you: Where’s the miracle? I’m less than impressed. So many BMWs in Beijing and Shanghai, and yet China ranked just 130th in per capita GDP in 2008. This is China’s century? Holy crap. We’re all in big, big trouble.

Let me be clear. I’m not hoping for China to fail. Far from it. In fact, I’m hoping for decades more economic growth and prosperity. In the end, I’m a democrat who believes that democratization cannot take place in the absence of economic growth. A democratic China would be, I think, a great boon to humanity. Really, that’s what I think. On the other hand, an unstable China would be a disaster – and bad for me personally. Nevertheless, I’m not nearly as hopeful as you are. Recent troubles in the West, combined with perceived successes in China, have caused some to feel that the rise of China is a foregone conclusion. I could not disagree more. You say that I bet on China’s failure at my own risk. I say you bet on its success at yours.

January 2, 2010 @ 5:02 pm | Comment

Hi Richard
Yes, I agree – the article is a must read, and thank you for bringing it to my attention.
When people talk about ‘China’s century’ I think many people imagine it taking a while… it won’t; in the UK – under our beloved leader’s, Gordon Brown, short-sighted leadership – we will probably lose our AAA credit rating this year – imho, a clear sign that the UK has lost whatever tentative hold it had on being a major player. The US will continue in it’s throes of right wing v slightly less right wing and only China and the East seem to appreciate the importance of getting on with building stuff rather than the Western way of talking about building stuff.
Yes, I think it will be China’s century… deservedly so.

January 2, 2010 @ 5:29 pm | Comment

Amazing – Hong Xing has kicked-off a debate with serious contributors.

Great last comment from Buzz.

January 2, 2010 @ 5:30 pm | Comment

The world has never been better
we can eat now, mostly
and we can all watch TV now
and laugh at each other
and be afraid of each other
and buy things from each other
so the world has never been better

a small genocide now and then
and warming and melting
and fish they’re all eaten and nukes
but the world has never been better

just like my life
my life has never been better
sure I fight with insert name and
I can’t sleep at night and fear is a
strong wiry worm deep inside but

my life has never been better

sure I have dark circles round my eyes
and I know four hospitals from the inside
and people are worried about me
if they like me
which mostly they don’t

but my life has never been better

sure last night I tossed and turned
and walked many miles in the kitchen
and drank and ate for more than
you’d think I should
and called God by name and
attempted over and over a resurrection of sorts

but my life has never been better

I see nothing but the very same in the morning
and yet I feel all around me
a curious family, camping and singing and eating away
there’s mother Anxiety and papa Fear with
their dear children Hate and Contempt
there’s grandpa Illusion and grandma Defeat
uncle Betrayal and old auntie Lie
and eating away at my fibers
they draw closer and closer
and closer
and I break in a sweat and
I run many miles from them
many miles in the kitchen

so life has never been better
I say to myself
never been better
never been better

if I’d believe it perhaps my life would be better
if I would think it perhaps
if I would feel it perhaps

and I don’t know what goes after that perhaps

luck health, all other gifts of Roman, Hindu, Chinese gods,
a Penelope waiting for me, a cat playing with kittens,
musical poetry and earthly delights

You do wonder yourself, don’t you,
when was your life better and what have you done
where is that love of years ago you still might have loved if
where is that friend you could have still had if
and where’s your health, your humor and good luck

they must be waving, those pesky little gods
waving at you
from the past? the future?
or is it really now that moment
that point apogee climax
that peak before the fall
that second after which the shadows grow
and quite irrespective of how many laps
we all do in our kitchens
or of how often we tell ourselves that
our lives have never been whatever
they keep growing and this time it’s not a mere show

this Earth enveloped by darkness, it is you
it really is
it is you
though your life has never been better

January 2, 2010 @ 7:14 pm | Comment

China’s century? Not yet likely.

China’s millenium? Quite possible.

January 2, 2010 @ 9:14 pm | Comment

Buzz,

China 30 years ago was like a paralised person, now she can manage to sit up, at least. Whether it is a miracle or not, you better ask the person involved. Your inlaws had a combined income of 100RMB in 1984, how much are they getting now? Do they think they are much better off now than 30 years ago? Ask people on the street and in the countryside, are they better off now than 30 years ago? What did they (people in their 50s or older) have in 1984 in terms of food on the table, clothing, transportation, housing and more importantly, opportunities, etc.? What do they think of the change? They are the people who can make the decision as to whether what has happened in the past 30 years is a miracle or not. Stop your buzz about GDP, gross or per capita. If I could hardly fill my stomach yesterday and can afford a dinner of steak every week now, I think it is a miracle. Don’t forget that starting low is not the necessary condition that you will get better. There are many people around the world whose lives are no better (if not worse) than 3 decades ago.

January 2, 2010 @ 9:55 pm | Comment

buzz Even so, I remember seeing a video of Niall Ferguson and James Fallows at a forum in Aspen, Colorado in which Fallows offered up the very same criticism. In fact, that’s how I know.

Hate to break it to you, but Fallows doesn’t speak Chinese either yet that doesn’t stop him from being a superb commentator on trends in China. (He speaks and reads Japanese.)

And yes, I blame Mao for much of China’s plight. I always have. Deng set about dismantling Mao’s deranged economic and social policies the day he took over. That’s what I was trying to say to Stuart, that there isn’t one CCP. Mao’s CCP and Deng’s were not a continuum, at least not entirely. It is ironic – Mao’s CCP screwed China, the modern CCP has spent much of its time undoing the calamity wrought by the old CCP. And I don’t give them blanket credit – what they basically did was let China be itself – industrious, capitalistic, competitive. But they did do this, the advances happened under their watch (as did many not so wonderful things) and so I have to give them credit for the good and the awful. But you cannot talk about Mao’s CCP as though it’s the CCP of Hu and Wen. Just look at what China was under Mao and what it is today.

Poet, nice poem. But I have to ask, do you honestly believe China initiates “a small genocide now and then”? As many genocides as countries in the West?

AK: If I could hardly fill my stomach yesterday and can afford a dinner of steak every week now, I think it is a miracle. Don’t forget that starting low is not the necessary condition that you will get better. There are many people around the world whose lives are no better (if not worse) than 3 decades ago.

Very, very well said.

January 3, 2010 @ 12:52 am | Comment

“Just look at what China was under Mao and what it is today.”

It’s impossible not to concede that point, but Ferguson is talking about a bigger, global picture. So was I.

If it is to be China’s century then we can conclude that at some point in the next several decades Beijing’s area code will move to the top of world leaders’ call sheets – a world in which China holds sway at the geopolitical high table.

How will this best serve the interests of alleviating human suffering and advancing the causes of a more tolerant, peaceful world? Nobody knows the answer to that question, Richard. Certainly I don’t pretend to. Is it possible that a CCP-ruled China leads the world into a new age of Aquarius? Maybe. But I have serious doubts about that.

One thing I’m pretty sure about is that China’s per capita GDP will continue to rise and more of its people will be pulled from poverty. But what about the global picture? Can a ‘China century’ encompass the moral responsibilities and restraint we should all demand of those with the greatest influence? Can they be the leaders of a free world? Will they use their considerable weight to champion the rights of the truly impoverished nations of this planet?

And here’s the question that raises even more doubts about a CCP-led new world order:

Do they care about any of this?

January 3, 2010 @ 7:01 am | Comment

If it is to be China’s century then we can conclude that at some point in the next several decades Beijing’s area code will move to the top of world leaders’ call sheets – a world in which China holds sway at the geopolitical high table.

We’re already there.

How will this best serve the interests of alleviating human suffering and advancing the causes of a more tolerant, peaceful world?

It may not. Look at the rise of the Soviet Union – how did they make the world a rosier place? Yet the fact remains, they were the second strongest power in the world for 40 years, at least militarily.

Will they use their considerable weight to champion the rights of the truly impoverished nations of this planet?

I have my doubts, and I certainly wish I could say that they would. However, where is it written that a major power needs to do this? There have been many powers throughout history from Genghis Khan to Caesar to Alexander to Stalin to Napoleon who created vast misery in their wake. And I hate to say it, but if you ask many people outside of the US, they may say that my country’s own track record is hardly outstanding. I would disagree – all in all the US has done a pretty good job, considering how corrupting its power could have been, and the biggest abuses have been during the Bush administration (and yes, I know about Chile and Guatemala and Iran, all of which pale next to the good the US has done). So why so much angst over China’s rise? And is that energy well spent? China will probably not be the great power we would like to see, from our Western perspective. It will be what it will be.

January 3, 2010 @ 9:56 am | Comment

looks like Fallows agrees with Krugman:

http://tiny.cc/RMB682

Time to start stocking up on canned goods?

January 3, 2010 @ 10:09 am | Comment

“…where is it written that a major power needs to do this?”

It isn’t. It shouldn’t have to be.

“…all in all the US has done a pretty good job, considering how corrupting its power could have been”

I absolutely agree.

“So why so much angst over China’s rise?”

Because, unlike America, the CCP are not constrained by the checks and balances that put the moral questions and consequences of their foreign policies at the forefront of public debate.

January 3, 2010 @ 10:19 am | Comment

What does a China’s century mean? Does it mean that China will be like the U.S. in the American century and has its turn to lead the world? As a world leader, it can’t do without moral high ground, advantages in culture and technology and, very importantly, allies, which help to project its power, influence, etc. China has none of these.

China, despite its economic growth and trade partners all over the world, has no allies, except a few bad boys as pseudo friends, such as Burma, Pakistan, Iran, who are proteges to China, as they tend to get into trouble and risk being sanctioned.

China has plenty of money and can buy favor from other countries, but can’t buy ally, respect or loyalty. Politically, China is backward and belongs to one of the very few untouchables in the world. So, what is the likelihood to have a Chinese century in the foreseeable future?

January 3, 2010 @ 11:26 am | Comment

“…where is it written that a major power needs to do this?”

It isn’t. It shouldn’t have to be.

Stuart, what you are saying flies in the face of history. You are holding China to an artificial standard based on your belief systems but canceling out the history of mankind. Most ascending powers are far from benevolent forces of goodness, charity, light and love. Perhaps none.

And where does all this angst, this hand-wringing get you? I gave up moralizing a few years ago. I’ll point out what I see as China’s sins, and America’s too, but I also realize that the worst approach is moral superiority. It backfires every time, especially when your own country (or at least my own country) falls far short of the lofty criteria you’re holding China to.

I just read the Fallows piece an hour ago – excellent as usual. I do think the krugman column is problematic, as the comments indicate. I never saw him assaulted with so many negative comments, mainly for failing to acknowledge how much protectionism is institutionalized in America through farm and other subsidies. Other than that, and his casual attitude toward the dollar’s demise, I think his main point is right – China’s unfair trade practices need to be dealt with.

El Chino – No, it doesn’t mean China will lead the world. That is a very, very long way off. But it will grow in influence and strength as the the US recedes.

I think we’ve talked this one to death, don’t you?

January 3, 2010 @ 11:30 am | Comment

ecodelta: “China’s century? Not yet likely. China’s millenium? Quite possible.”

You’ve been reading too many Chinese history textbooks. The last 1,000 years were not China’s millenium. Neither were the 1,000 years before that. (Yes, yes, I know all about the Han, Tang, and Qing. Spare me the lectures.) What on Earth would make you believe that the next 1,000 years will be any different? Again, how is it that 8 years of shitty leadership, a bit of military adventurism, and an economic recession combine to undo hundreds of years of Western supremacy and innovation? The idea is patently ludicrous. In short, China is in no position to challenge the West’s political, military, economic, social, and cultural might. What is it exactly (aside from nationalism and fear, of course) that causes people to believe that the future belongs to China? What advantages does China bring to the table? Not much, if you ask me. Indeed, the West invented modernity, while the Chinese are still preoccupied with the question: “How can we be both modern and Chinese?”

Allow me to put it this way: If Americans woke up tomorrow to find that China and the U.S. had switched places – that America faced the very same problems that China faces now – they would grab their guns and shoot themselves in the head. China is an ungodly mess. In the end, the Chinese will be fortunate to save just themselves, much less provide the kind of leadership and vision that many hope to see in a world leader.

January 3, 2010 @ 11:46 am | Comment

Buzz, are you my friend Dror? Same IP, same philosophy, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

China and the US are a long ways from switching places.

January 3, 2010 @ 11:59 am | Comment

Ak: “Your inlaws had a combined income of 100RMB in 1984, how much are they getting now? Do they think they are much better off now than 30 years ago?”

My inlaws are very fortunate. They are among the 12% of Chinese who have benefitted the most the past 30 years. Subsidized housing from Peking University, an adequate (if still paltry) monthly salary, modest needs, and regular contributions from my wife and I (which they never spend), make it possible for them to live a much better life (materially, at least) than most Chinese. Even so, they are far from impressed with themselves or with China. Indeed, they would both rather leave China and live abroad, something my wife and I will make possible in the not too distant future.

Ak: “If I could hardly fill my stomach yesterday and can afford a dinner of steak every week now, I think it is a miracle.”

If you’re eating steak once a week, you must also be one of the lucky few. Congrats! While you’re stuffing your face with Kobe beef and sipping your latte (or 龙井), take a moment to reflect on the fact that fully 500 million of your Chinese compatriots are doing their level best to get by (i.e., feed and clothe themselves, pay educational and medical expenses, save for the future, etc.) on US$2 per day or less. Then there are the hundreds of millions more who make more than US$2 per day but are still dirt poor. You’ve got to hand it to the CCP: sixty years after the founding of the P.R.C. and thirty years after Opening and Reform, there are still a billion very, very poor Chinese. “Chinese miracle” my ass. “Chinese distaster” is more like it.

Go ahead, believe the myth. It’s much better than reality.

January 3, 2010 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

Richard -

I’m not your friend Dror. I’m your friend Buzz. Is it possible that Dror and I share a common IP address because we use the same VPN?

January 3, 2010 @ 12:18 pm | Comment

Buzz, please stop being a revisionist. Anyone who saw the China of 40 years ago – even 20 years ago – and the China of today knows there has been a huge improvement in most people’s quality of life, and not only in the coastal cities. I have spoken to enough of them – hundreds – in English and in Chinese to know how much better they feel life is compared to the Mao days. Most also have serious issues with the government; none would say they love the CCP. But they all recount either their own or their parents’ memories of hunger. Maybe they aren’t eating steak, but they have more pf a choice than just cabbage and radishes. You are revising history.

If you want to say most people in China are still living in the same squalor and poverty as 40 years ago, fine. But I don’t want you saying it here. It’s false.

January 3, 2010 @ 12:24 pm | Comment

How I would love to reread Niall Ferguson’s essay again, this time with a bit more perspective – say 50 years. Alas, I’m unlikely to still be alive and lucid in 2060.

January 3, 2010 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

“Buzz, please stop being a revisionist.”

What’s wrong with revisionism? It’s what most good historians do for a living. Seriously. Take Niall Ferguson. Didn’t you just love his book about how we’d all be much better off had Germany won WWII? It’s a perfect example of revisionism.

“If you want to say most people in China are still living in the same squalor and poverty as 40 years ago, fine. But I don’t want you saying it here. It’s false.”

Sorry, Richard, it’s not false. Perhaps you, too, should consider: 500 million Chinese (i.e., equivalent to the entire population of the E.U.) live on US$2 per day or less. Imagine trying to do the same. Would you call it “squalor”? (Hint: Yes, you would.)

Now try imagining what it would be like trying to make it on US$5 per day or less. Squalor? You bet. 800 million Chinese (i.e., the E.U. plus the U.S.) do just that.

Why is it that we compare everything in today’s China to the Cultural Revolution? Why must we use such a low standard? Sure, Hu Jintao looks all right next to Mao Zedong. (Just like George W. Bush looks good next to James Buchanan.) Indeed, everything looks pretty good when you compare it to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and Mao. It’s a sad state of affairs when the Cultural Revolution becomes the common metric by which we measure the success and failure of a Chinese regime. Sad, sad, sad. It’s long past time for people to expect more from the government of China. It’s long, long, long past time for the Chinese people to expect more.

“Chinese miracle”? Don’t make me laugh.

January 3, 2010 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

It’s really not my intention to cause trouble. I simply see things much differently – and more clearly, I think.

As I said before, in 1980, fully two-thirds of Chinese people lived on US$1 per day or less, while just over one-third (37%) of Chinese people live on US$2 per day or less now. On the face of things, it looks like progress. After all, 37 percent (now) is less than 66 percent (1980). However, you must remember that US$2 constitutes a much smaller percentage of GDP now than US$1 did in 1980. That means that the 37 percent who earn US$2 or less are every bit as poor (POORER!) as the person who earned just US$1 in 1980. Indeed, considering the dramatic increase in China’s population since 1980 (i.e., 37 percent of today’s population is much more than 37 percent of China’s 1980 population), you might say that China’s efforts to diminish the number of poor (in absolute terms) have been less than outstanding. Add to all of this the dearth of public services (e.g., quality public education and medical services) and the feeling you get when watching some people get wildly rich while you get poorer and you begin to see why I don’t believe the ridiculous hype.

Sorry, Richard. I just don’t get guys like you. Call it squalor. Call in poverty. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and all that. Or putrid.

January 3, 2010 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

Last comment before calling it quits. I just ran across this interesting piece about the Chinese military selling armoured personnel carriers to the Iranian government. Many of the comments were left by angry Chinese disgusted with their own government. Bravo.

http://persian2english.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/a-note-about-the-armoured-vehicles-from-china-to-iran/

Is this what a Chinese century would look like? (Yes, yes, I know that the U.S. also sells weapons.)

January 3, 2010 @ 2:23 pm | Comment

@Buzz — I like you! Don’t give up yet!

January 3, 2010 @ 2:34 pm | Comment

Richard,

“Stuart, what you are saying flies in the face of history.”

I know it’s idealistic in the extreme, but the planet needs the next century’s superpower(s) to raise the bar. The examples of history, as I acknowledged in #20, are not going to get the job done. My argument is that the CCP (in its current form) could make American hegemony seem like a walk in the park. We should treat history as a cautionary tale, not as a template for exploitation of the weak by the strong.

“And where does all this angst, this hand-wringing get you?”

First, I don’t entirely accept the premise of your question. While I’m concerned about the state of the planet 50 years from now, I don’t pin its survival entirely on the fate of the CCP. They are, however, going to play a part for better or for worse.

“…but I also realize that the worst approach is moral superiority.”

I’ve spent long enough in China to know that, although a distinction needs to be made between moralizing and looking for moral leadership. Many I’ve engaged with fail to see that.

“I think we’ve talked this one to death, don’t you?”

After only 36 comments? Surely not? I would prefer to think that the future course of the planet is best served by keeping the debate alive and letting whichever nation is leading the world know that their motives are being questioned and their actions scrutinised.

“I think his main point is right – China’s unfair trade practices need to be dealt with.”

Agreed. And I think Obama has had a wake up call after Beijing and Copenhagen. I think his instinct to engage is right, but he needs to show China that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

January 3, 2010 @ 4:10 pm | Comment

Buzz,

I don’t think you are reasonable enough in this case. You are either a perfectionist or you have drawn the conclusion before looking for evidence. As I said, stop the buzz about GDP. That means nothing to somebody who needs food, cloth, housing and transportation. As an “average” (median) Chinese about the change in the past 30 years.

You have to admit that you inlaws have benefited a lot. They are not average, but they are real, in my opinion, better than your constant 2 dollar buzz. (The whole GDP thing can be misleading in both directions) Whether they want to emmigrate (hey, they have at least this choice now) or not cannot change the fact that they are much better off now than 30 years ago.

January 3, 2010 @ 7:52 pm | Comment

People seem to be acting as though whether China should, in some moral sense, be the the most powerful country in the world and whether it will are the same question. They aren’t.

China is, at the moment, a developing country with all the attendant problems of a developing country. It’s current nominal per capita GDP is at levels last seen in the UK in the mid-to-late 19th century, when the UK was the world’s first super power. It is this hundred-year gap that separates China and the developed world, one which even the successful boom economies like Japan, Taiwan, and Korea did not bridge without much in the way of political change. This century, then, will not be ‘Chinese’ any time soon, at least not in the next twenty years.

But is this a reason for, say, Americans, to feel more secure in their dominance? Of course not, the greatest risk is not that this century will be ‘Chinese’, but that no one power will dominate although some will try. Phillip K. Bobbitt described how Britain and France, in their post-1918 ‘Unipolar moment’, were in fact so exhausted as to be like scare-crows – imposing, but lacking both the means and the will to regulate world affairs and punish transgressors. The result of these global policemen’s failure to act was a second world war. The vacuum resulting from France’s annihilation and Britain’s bankruptcy was filled by the United States, a country not, except in a few areas, antagonistic to either of those powers. In this the United States did not act opportunistically, but out of a recognition that a lack of a policing force in world affairs would inevitably lead to voracious aggression by the strong against the weak which would eventually threaten the whole world.

Fast forward to current times and you start to see the risk of the United States and her allies becoming worn-out ‘scare-crows’ in exactly the same fashion. Whilst the United States and her allies are still willing to deploy soldiers to prevent Afghanistan, for example, becoming once again a base for international terrorism, it makes sense for the Chinese to allow the US and NATO to do the heavy lifting. China will not impose her will on that country whilst she can enjoy the fruits of the US/NATO’s efforts (such as they are) for free. The true risk, therefore, is that the US and her allies will become too weak to carry out such efforts, but that China will not be capable of filling the gap, either because of internal division or external opposition resulting from its retention of a dictatorial political system.

If China remains a paranoid dictatorship where the government clings to power by keeping the population suspended in an artificial state of nationalistic fervour it is totally imposible to imagine China becoming the kind of regulating force for peace that the world needs and which previous powers have so imperfectly been. It will neither be stable enough to sustain such an effort nor popular enough to be accepted in such a role. A ‘Chinese Century’remains impossible with the CCP reigning in its current form, no matter how much unoriginal and mock-controversial opinion Niall Ferguson crops into his own basket.

January 3, 2010 @ 7:59 pm | Comment

Hmm, ironically, as I am reading and writing this I am listening to History Channels monthly rerun of Armaegedon week.
Everyday a different scenario of doomsday.
As mentioned before China has a plethora of problems. One thing the world has never seen before is such a demographic disparity in male to female ratios as we see now in China AND India.
What THAT will foretell remains to be seen.

January 3, 2010 @ 9:12 pm | Comment

Is the next world conflict going to be triggered by men desperate for a (female) sexual partner?

A new epic struggle in the future?

Just see what happened with Hellen of Troy or in The Rapture of the Sabines.

January 3, 2010 @ 9:36 pm | Comment

Along the Northeast boarder, the inter-racial marriages happen mostly with Chinese men and Russian women. There is also sex imbalance in Russia, of a different kind. The two problems cancel out.

January 3, 2010 @ 11:52 pm | Comment

Eco:
I like your Rape of Sabine Women remark. This was the beginning of Rome and by extension of the Western civilization. Something like this may have to happen before we see Pax Sinica?

January 3, 2010 @ 11:57 pm | Comment

IMHO western civilization started with clasical Greece.

Expansion with Alexander the Great.

By the way, Rome was founded by Troyans refuges, from Asia… Minor. That is, if you believe what Virgil wrote in the Aeneid.

January 4, 2010 @ 1:00 am | Comment

@serve

If you ever decide to go onto a female rapture spree, be careful with the Spaniard even the Latino variety.

Too much of a fiery spirit. And the mothers in law are not much better. ;-)

January 4, 2010 @ 1:52 am | Comment

FOARP: If China remains a paranoid dictatorship where the government clings to power by keeping the population suspended in an artificial state of nationalistic fervour it is totally imposible to imagine China becoming the kind of regulating force for peace that the world needs and which previous powers have so imperfectly been. It will neither be stable enough to sustain such an effort nor popular enough to be accepted in such a role.

I completely agree.

I think we are all defining China’s Century our own way. I don’t see China as replacing the US or becoming the world’s strongest country. China’s Century is one in which China calls many of the shots, and one in which it can extract from other countries what it wants. It will never be what the US has been; its attitude to the world is too different, much more hands-off and philosophical.

Buzz seems to be arguing that because 500 million are still in poverty China can’t be a rising power. I disagree. GDP is irrelevant. Russia was grim and dirt-poor for most of its citizens who lived under constant terror of arrest and exploitation. Didn’t matter. The USSR could finance wars and control the Security Council and keep the US dancing everywhere in the world to contain the USSR’s influence.

This is all part of my larger point – that China can be on the one hand a third-world country and a backwater, and on the other hand a major global force. Because it’s not about GDP. It’s not about 500 million rural poor. It’s about whether China can buy its way into key industries and influence governments to favor China’s interests. It’s about China having the sway to thwart the US when it feels it has to, with global consequences (thik Copenhagen). It’s about China’s labor and fiscal policies affecting the economies of hundreds of other nations.

It is not about China becoming the strongest country in the world, of having a big army and threatening to colonize other lands, of replacing the US. China doesn’t seem much interested in that course (yet) and militarily is of little consequence (for now). It is simply about influence and clout, about growth. The 500 million peasants are, tragically, irrelevant, because the other 1 billion are satisfied enough. It used to be 800 million hungry, so most feel there have been improvements.

Buzz, I am not only pointing to the CR as a point of comparison. I am talking about what people today remember. That is all that matters, the change in their own lives. Look at the Great Leap Forward, and look at China before Mao – hunger was still the most common national characteristic. Mao actually helped reduce hunger during his first 10 years in office, but that was short lived. Even if you can point to times when there was food in abundance, the fact remains: most Chinese people over 50 remember growing up hungry and now there is enough food for everyone. That is the difference between life and death. Are there still 500 million in China who are hungry the way they were under Mao? I honesty don’t know, though I tend to doubt it; the CCP is pretty good about getting food to those who need it, if only for its own survival. But let’s go with the worst-case scenario of half a billion people starving and near death. How does that alter China’s acquisition of mining companies in Australia and gas companies in Azerbaijian? If these starving people you refer to are there now they have been there all through the Deng years, and remained hungry despite how far China has come – in other words, their hunger has been irrelevant to China’s transformation. And therefore, how can we say because of these people China won’t keep growing and building and acquiring and smashing its competitors? How will their hunger threaten China’s progress in the future if it hasn’t yet?

They are one in the massive set of problems China has to deal with. The environment is even more pressing and more impossible. And yet China presses ahead. For those who say it can’t last and that it’s tenuous and that it’s a house of cards and that its people are still too poor so they risk revolution – I can only say that I once held all those same beliefs, and still hold some of them today. But Chine keeps going, no matter how those in the peanut gallery insist she’s got to fall.

One last comment, since we’re missing half of the equation: This scenario is not based solely on China’s ascension. It’s based on the US’ decline. And that, more than anything else, is tipping the scales so drastically. We have 40 states on the verge of bankruptcy, banks going insolvent every day, more than 25 percent real unemployment and a very bleak picture until at least 2014. Flush with cash, China could basically stand still and it would rise in comparison to the US.

January 4, 2010 @ 2:05 am | Comment

From today’s Independent:

China and six other South-east Asian countries yesterday toasted the inauguration of the biggest free trade area in the world, when the Association of South East Asian Nations, or Asean-6, was formally launched.

Covering nearly 2 billion people in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, along with China, Asean-6’s stated aim is to eliminate tariffs on almost all traded goods between its members.

China, by far the biggest member, holds the whip hand in the bloc, with some voicing concerns that the country’s manufacturers, who have become the engine behind the world’s economy for a number of years, will force overseas competitors out of business. Indeed, four members of Asean have opted not to join the founding six countries in the free trade area. Vietnam and Cambodia, for example, are only due to join in five years’ time.

The launching of Asean-6 further demonstrates China’s growing and seemingly unstoppable rise as a global economic superpower, however, and even if 2009 was benign by Beijing’s recent history, by Western standards growth in the world’s most populous nation was breathtaking.

We can deny China’s ability to sustain its successes. We can’t deny its influence, however.

January 4, 2010 @ 2:54 am | Comment

China, throughout its history, and current is, and will be, a nation of peace, committed to the stable and peaceful development of the world, the constructive cooperation and communication between peoples of the world. If there’s ever a “China model” for the world, then it is a model consistent with the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence:

1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
2. Mutual non-aggression
3. Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs
4. Equality and mutual benefit
5. Peaceful co-existence

China does not seek to ‘impose its will’ over any nation, does not seek to establish military or economic hegemony over any region of the world, does not seek to exploit resources or labor from any country, and does not seek to be a world police. China believes that the themes of the 21st century are mutual cooperation and harmonious coexistence. This is China’s commitment to the world.

January 4, 2010 @ 3:57 am | Comment

Revealing slip-up from Buzz Lightyear: “had Germany won WWII.” Neil Ferguson, of course, was talking about the First World War, not the Second.

History is invariably colored by one’s own prejudices. For example, Richard states that Napoleon “created vast misery in their wake.” That’s the view of most of Europe. Even so, Napoleon still has a great reputation in France and Poland today.

January 4, 2010 @ 4:07 am | Comment

Good catch, Tom. And that’s not a case of revisionism, as Buzz says, but of speculation; Ferguson states very clearly he is speculating about the “what-ifs” of history as opposed to revising actual facts. I think Buzz is having fun here, but I don’t take what he says seriously. The very idea of Fallows calling out Fergie for not speaking Chinese when Fallows himself doesn’t speak Chinese – well, I think it’s pretty clear what Buzz’s game is. And it was nice how he dropped Harvard into the conversation.

About Napoleon – most Americans don’t know the half of it. He only became revered after generations of being regarded by many almost the way Hitler is today.

Update: Sorry if that seemed harsh, Buzz. You may be completely sincere, but something just doesn’t seem to click with your comments. Apologies if I am misreading.

January 4, 2010 @ 4:30 am | Comment

I’m pretty late to this well-developed thread, but just a few comments:

I don’t know where this idea has emerged that a country has to be a utopia to be a significant power on the world stage. It seems targeted specifically at denying China any global status with the excuse that it is too polluted, too poor, too corrupt, too chaotic or what have you. Well, the Soviet Union was a despotic, domestic mess and it certainly had an impact on the 20th century. Same thing can be said about the United States- it became a military power despite institutionalized racism well into the 20th century, persistent and deep urban poverty, questionable education for many and health care shortcomings that would make many other “Westerners” blush. Perhaps the whole point is that a “power” pours many of its resources into military and industrial infrastructure to the detriment of domestic issues. In this respect, China certainly seems well on its way.

But where “China’s century” is concerned, I’m a little more cautious. While its sheer size means it can throw its weight around, the country’s achilles’ heel is also a glaring lack of resources to support the level of industrialization and materialism it envisions (or at least pretends to envision) for its massive population. People persist in highlighting the Chinese advantage side of the equation, but forget that resources flows also require trading partner participation bar military intervention. Push comes to shove in a serious global tussle, Australia or Canada or whoever could cut China off, and to what effect? They lose a market they only had half-access to anyways? They have to find manufactured goods somewhere else? I know millions of workers in industrial countries who wouldn’t mind seeing some manufacturing come back home.

Similarly, it’s not like the rest of the world is asleep at the switch either. This site (for obvious reasons) tends to reduce the world to two countries- China and the US. But the globe as a whole is rapidly industrializing and interconnecting. China cannot just swagger around the world grabbing whatever it wants like the Europeans and Americans did beforehand. Populations in places like Africa and South America are justifiably wary of China- how could they not be, given the bullshit they went through courtesy of Anglo-Europeans? And while the Chinese love to pretend they practice some “non-interference” policy, this is in reality impossible- you affect the political economy of a country the second your first penny gets invested. Coddling dictators works until they are gone and all of the sudden you are shunned for having supported them. Even in more democratic societies, the mere act of investment has an effect one way or another- I, for one, thank the Chinese gov’t for its investments in the Canadian oil sands as a nice buttress to the Canadian federal government’s anti-environmental efforts.

Unfortunately for China, the world is not some blank slate just waiting to be plundered. It is a place that is crowded and rapidly industrializing in its own right, and one in which resources are already increasingly at a premium. And this is what worries me a bit in the long run- the need to feed its massive industrial machine are going to drive China to various military misadventures abroad just like the US and countless others before it.

And finally, I have to agree with Buzz that this whole idea of a Chinese “miracle” is getting tiresome. Oh, they can build expressways! Oh, they can build big skylines! Oh, they can have middle class income earners drive around in cars! What is it with the West’s fascination that China has become, on the surface, like much of the rest of the world? It’s frankly insulting to the Chinese. And it’s also insulting to people in many other “developing” countries whose success and sophistication frankly leave culture-shocked China in the dust but who are omitted from media fawning because they don’t happen to have a massive overpopulation problems. It’s funny how so much nonsense about the “rise of China” comes not out of the country itself but rather Western media.

China will shake the world in many ways- but really just by the default of scale. And I’m not sure how accommodating the world outside of fawning Western academics will be to that movement. I say prepare for a bumpy ride!

January 4, 2010 @ 6:05 am | Comment

Good comment, PB. Actually, it is precisely because China lacks so many natural resources that we are feeling its impact so strongly now. The deals it is cementing with Africa and Iran and many other countries to secure what it needs for many years to come will affect our pocketbooks and reshape traditional alliances.

I don’t see the Jetsons’ skyline of Shanghai or the world’s largest ferris wheel as the proof of a “miracle.” But China’s transformation from a starving agrarian society to the world’s most formidable manufacturing powerhouse in which nearly everyone has a TV and starvation is a thing of the past, where hundreds of millions are now living middle class lives, all in the spaces of thirty years, is as about as miraculous as any socioeconomic phenomenon can be, like the Wirtschaftswiunder after WWII, where a wildly prosperous modern Germany rose from the ashes of Hitler’s devastation. Call it what you will, but it is not your everyday occurrence, and to many people in China today it is a miracle. Maybe it’s just a matter of definitions.

Agree about the bumpy ride to come – very bumpy. There will be a lot of pain and disappointment and broken dreams ahead, just as there have been the past few years here in America. But I think China will keep going, like the US, benefitting from the economic calamity the US has got itself caught up in.

January 4, 2010 @ 6:43 am | Comment

Richard,
While I respect to your disagreement with Krugman/Fallows/Pettis over the RMD exchange rate, I have to disagree with you in support of them. I don’t think American self interest is being served by the current trade/currency system. It has to end in some fashion. Now I would love it if we could negotiate with Beijing as Pettis argues in his optimistic moments, but from all I read Beijing is not going to change the RMB due to the support of its domestic interests. So really the only thing left for America is export tariffs. I agree that it’s going to lead to a dollar crisis, and hurt feelings and hardships on both sides, but it has to happen or the distortions are only going to get worse. Anyway, I doubt Obama would be the one to fully implement a tariff regime, but he would probably just be responding to events coming out of Europe.

January 4, 2010 @ 7:44 am | Comment

I don’t disagree with them about the exchange rate, I disagree with Krugman’s nonchalance about debt and the dollar, something that’s bothered me for two years now. I do think we need to keep pressuring China to achieve a fair value for the yuan, and maybe export tariffs are the only solution now that Wen has made it so clear China’s not going to give an inch. It’s too bad China now holds the cards as the creditor nation, and this could become a long, ugly fight. The fact that we’ve implemented some unfair trade policies ourselves (remember the Bush steel tariffs?) doesn’t help our argument.

January 4, 2010 @ 8:56 am | Comment

Eco: “If you ever decide to go onto a female rapture spree, be careful with the Spaniard even the Latino variety. Too much of a fiery spirit. And the mothers in law are not much better.”

Still, they make good wives and mothers, better than ambitious, career oriented Chinese women.

January 4, 2010 @ 11:42 am | Comment

I’m skeptical of PB’s arguments that resource constraints will inevitably restrain China’s progress.

The existence of the WTO limits the backlash that is permitted from the developed world. To date, China has complied with the WTO rulings against it in trade disputes. Any retaliation not sanctioned by the WTO would be a violation of your WTO treaty commitments. Maybe your voters are for it. But it’s a dangerous path to go down.

China also possesses many advantages in acquiring resources from Africa or Latin America. It earned a large amount of goodwill during the Cold War, as leader and spokesman for the Third World. It is willing to toss infrastructure into the bargain. And it will not bomb you, or invade you, or overthrow your government, or even lecture you about your country’s failings.

The Chinese copper mine in Afghanistan, for example, comes complete with a railroad, a power station, schools, and mosques. The railroad and power station are necessary for the mine to operate. The schools and mosques are not, but they sweeten the deal and generate goodwill towards China.

As Abdel Rahman Ashraf (mining advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai) said: “One day, when there is no more copper elsewhere in the world, the Chinese will have copper.”

Of course China will encounter problems when extracting resources from underdeveloped nations. There already have been problems — most notably, in Nigeria and Ghana. And yet, new deals continue to be struck, new contracts signed. There’s a vast difference between hitting a speed bump and running into a wall.

January 4, 2010 @ 1:19 pm | Comment

“As Abdel Rahman Ashraf (mining advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai) said: “One day, when there is no more copper elsewhere in the world, the Chinese will have copper.””

There’s a reason for that:

http://tinyurl.com/yldkyb9

For now the Obama administration seems to be sucking it up as China waits in the wings to freeload off costly US campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. I suspect the home of the brave are about to reach their tolerance threshold.

January 4, 2010 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

[...] The only interesting conversation of the year so far in the Sinoblogosphere is taking place at the Peking Duck. [...]

January 4, 2010 @ 3:26 pm | Pingback

Not knowing the full background to this it is difficult to comment, but I get the sense from the article that the chinese probably offered the best deal to the afghan government. What exactly were the western companies offering? Allegations of this nature tend to have a context.

very interesting thread

January 4, 2010 @ 5:05 pm | Comment

@serve
“they make good wives and mothers, better than ambitious, career oriented Chinese women.”

If that is the case, good luck and good hunting!

:-D

January 4, 2010 @ 5:54 pm | Comment

@stuart
Grafts are not the exclusivity of China, without thinking to hard I can remember Lockheed in the past and Siemens right now, and the French will send you even their president for the handling (Carla Bruni included if necessary…)

January 4, 2010 @ 6:02 pm | Comment

@Ecodelta – don’t forget Boeing and BAe

January 4, 2010 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

Stuart: For now the Obama administration seems to be sucking it up as China waits in the wings to freeload off costly US campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan..

Do you fault China for that? Thousands of US contractors have done the same thing, riding the gravy train that comes with these campaigns. I have to give China credit for being shrewd if they are capitalizing from the efforts of others. This may be heartless and cruel and distasteful, but it is completely consistent with China’s strategy of getting what it needs at the best possible price without the slightest concern for morality or what the rest of the world thinks. I don’t admire that they pay bribes, but their ability to get what they want, public opinion be damned, is simply a fact of life. And don’t get moralistic – bribery has been at the heart of US policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, where we bribed Iraq Sunnis and Afghan warlords to come over to our side, often with considerable success. Again, that’s not an endorsement, but an observation.

January 4, 2010 @ 11:44 pm | Comment

Richard, good comment regarding China’s strategic foreign moves. This really gets to the heart of the bumpy ride I see ahead, not so much in terms of China’s behaviour but rather in terms of Western domestic attitude changes.

As it stands now, China acts in quite shrewd and strategic ways on foreign policy. Given the nature of the country’s authoritarian capitalist political economy, it presents a cohesive, united front as most Chinese “companies” are really just extended branches of the state itself. People have little illusion that Chinese companies are doing anything anywhere abroad without strong state acquiescence and/or support. Quite apart from the chaotic domestic scene, Chinese companies abroad are working to further the interests of the Chinese state (If “public/private” can even be distinguished in the way Westerners love, which I don’t think it can). In this sense, “China” in many cases really is a unitary entity on the world stage, and this strategic clarity gives it tremendous strength. Chinese companies are not going to do something that goes against Beijing’s interests lest the hammer of the Party comes down on them.

Then let’s take the example of the United States. Many US corporations would sell their own mother if it means a bump in earnings for the next quarter. Many US corporations have also become transnational to the degree that good chunks of their revenue are no longer generated within the United States at all. Rather than acting in clear support of US strategic interests, it would seem they have captured the policy process to an extent that American strategic interests have become almost indistinguishable from corporate profit needs.

So in this sense, the US (and other Western nations, really) have had a chaotic approach to China’s industrialization- it has been fully supported by the corporate base even though it has fostered real damage to domestic manufacturing and middle classes. Corporations are obsessed with profit margins and the short-term- the fact that their massive offshoring is killing the vitality of the working class is of little concern to them. And regulatory capture has meant that Western governments have been blabbering on about the merits of free trade, globalization and engagement with China for years to the point where they have become truisms with no need for tangible evidence in support. Never mind that, from a strategic point of view, they have been hollowing out their own industrial bases.

The West has been treating China with kid gloves not out of altruism or respect (ha!), but really just because of corporate greed. The myth of the billion consumers is persistent and fierce, and woe if major corporate interests are going to let Western governments screw up their access to the Chinese market.

So what’s going to change?

Well, as China becomes more assertive and industrialized, I think the idea of China as the “infinite dream market” for Western companies is finally going to get killed off. China is not industrializing and moving up the value chain just to let foreign companies run wild in its domestic market- it has taken what it needs from gullible foreign suckers (hello, technology) and you can bet that the further development of domestic consumption will be a largely domestic affair. With so many people to keep employed, why the hell would China want to import any finished manufactured goods from anywhere?

Western governments (and companies) are going to wake up to a harsh reality they have not faced for a while- Western companies have no natural “right” to be anywhere. If a strong China doesn’t want them there, who is going to make it otherwise? This will be quite the shock to the Western way of thinking of recent times- that “open” markets are automatically there for the taking. The Chinese have shown they are quite capable manufacturers of, well, pretty much everything. The Party has shown that its overriding concern is domestic stability and employment- Western corporate profit is pretty far down the list.

When this idea of China’s industrialization as a lifeline for Western businesses starts to fall apart, as I think it will in the next few years, that’s when things start getting bumpy. The kid gloves are going to come off and Western governments are going to get a lot more assertive in their dealings with China, for better or worse. This could possibly be accentuated by an over-confident China trying to kick the US in its perceived decline, which could bite back in the nasty way of wounded animals.

January 5, 2010 @ 1:13 am | Comment

PB, thanks for a great comment.

I’ve been waiting for years for US businesses to wake up to the China dream of 1.5 billion customers. It’s the last great hope, and it won’t be let go of easily. Some foreign firms have done incredibly well there, especially some luxury brands and fast food companies, but the gold rush US retailers have been chasing there for decades remains as elusive as ever.

On the other hand, US companies have been bending over backwards since the early 1980s to curry favor with China (General Motors is always the best example of that) and I think they and many MNCs like it are in too deep to stop playing the game. I see no end to the kowtowing anytime soon. Those China success stories from books like China CEO are just too enticing, and the dollar signs aren’t washing out of their eyes anytime soon.

January 5, 2010 @ 6:33 am | Comment

The kowtow will end when these companies realize they have no longer access to Chinese market because of local companies, which they helped to develop, can now beat them no only in price but in technology, in all stategic areas. Companies that will also be fierce competitors in international markets.

When they realize their own folly it will be too late.

January 5, 2010 @ 7:04 am | Comment

Richard,

The problem with US businesses of selling stuff to China is the restrictions imposed by the US government. I’m not talking about the things restricted because of military applications. A few months back House of Representatives unanimously voted to make it US policy to prevent the Copenhagen treaty from “weakening” US intellectual property rights on a wind, solar and other eco-friendly technologies. China will be more than happy to do business with other Western Nations buying and licensing technologies from other countries.

January 5, 2010 @ 7:07 am | Comment

Another advantage of Chinese companies. Is that they are managed by their owners and founders, not by clueless CEOs appointed by shareholders that do not give a dam for the future of their company as long as they can get a quarter with profits or sell their shares with a nice benefit.

Strategy, long term planning, etc, is and afterthought for them.

January 5, 2010 @ 7:14 am | Comment

Pug, I think you probably know what it’s like trying to bring technology into China, where you have to give away the store and often have a percentage of what you’re exporting to China assembled in China. I don’t know if that’s changed since I represented an automotive joint venture back in 2003, but at the time I can promise you in all sincerity, China did not make it easy for an American manufacturer to sell its cars in China, and I suspect that applies to other products as well, even today. They also apply all kinds of tariffs that discourage sales; the wealthy Chinese people I’ve known buy nearly all their foreign products in Hong Kong, the US or Europe.

Eco, good point – what you describe is written up at considerable length in both China, Inc. and China Shakes the World. This phenomenon of needing a Chinese partner has, I’m sure, driven many overseas CEOs to apoplexy, though they have to smile and bow all along the way.

January 5, 2010 @ 7:14 am | Comment

@pug
Nothing would be better than being able to develop new technologies, but nobody want to be sucked dry out of their hard earned knowledge.

China, from the view of a technology firm, looks more like transylvania than anything else.

Some changes in attitude are necessary in order that foreign firms dare to stick their necks out in China.

January 5, 2010 @ 8:17 am | Comment

Selling stuff to 1.3 billion Chinese is not the only dream. There are many other ways to make a profit from China. Take Apple Computer for example. It cooks up ideas in California, asks Taiwanese companies to do the design work, and uses factories in mainland China to make and assemble their products. Apple then ships the products to all the world. The strong industrial base, excellent infrastructure, and low cost in China all help make Apple a very successful company.

People here are talking like Lou Dobbs. Xenophobic, narrow minded, and nationalist (of the pro-West type). Why is it a big deal that some jobs have moved to China? Why is the interest of a Western worker is more important than that of a Chinese worker?

January 5, 2010 @ 8:24 am | Comment

It depends if you are a Chinese or Western worker…

Anyway, some technologies could be better developped in China. It has the greatests needs, manpower.and industrial base, but a different relationship has to be developped.

Piggybacking on foreign know how to trick them later is not going to work in the long run.

January 5, 2010 @ 9:20 am | Comment

Eco:

Knowledge wants to be free. Stealing other people’s ideas is called learning.

Are you aware of the open source philosophy?

January 5, 2010 @ 9:26 am | Comment

Good education comes not from stealing but learning from good teachers.

And good teachers need to eat from time to time. What would happen if they all starve to death?

About open source… Does the GFW use it? If that is the case I want a copy of the source code.

January 5, 2010 @ 9:49 am | Comment

Serve, for the record I detest Lou Dobbs, and I admire the way Apple does business. I disagree profoundly, however, with your statement, “Knowledge wants to be free. Stealing other people’s ideas is called learning.” With that philosophy, Google can publish everyone’s books, make them available for free and turn the world’s writers into paupers. Knowledge is often the result of many years of investment and hard work. Open source is one thing – those participating want to share their knowledge with all the world and invite others to add to it. For may other businesses, however, the technology they’ve developed gives them their competitive edge and incentivizes its people to go even further and create better and more creative products. The company you cite, somewhat ironically, Apple, is a perfect example. Give away all they’ve come up with for free and the developers have no further incentive to move ahead and all of us suffer. This communism of ideas will work just as well as Mao’s collective farms. With no reason to strive for anything better, technology would stop dead in its tracks.

January 5, 2010 @ 10:13 am | Comment

@ Richard

“This may be heartless and cruel and distasteful, but it is completely consistent with China’s strategy of getting what it needs at the best possible price without the slightest concern for morality…”

Exactly, which brings us right back to the concerns I expressed earlier about a coming century dominated by CCP philosophy.

@ PB

Yes, great comment.

“With so many people to keep employed, why the hell would China want to import any finished manufactured goods from anywhere?”

And, in a nutshell, there goes China’s commitment to free trade.

“Chinese companies abroad are working to further the interests of the Chinese state”

Which they vehemently deny, of course. But you are, nevertheless, absolutely correct. Foreign governments aren’t oblivious to this and are reluctant when it comes to approving takeovers/buy-ins that essentially give the CCP a seat on the board of their major assets. The quashing of last year’s Rio Tinto-Chinalco deal is a good example. Australia got that one right.

China’s response? Falsely accuse an Australian citizen working for Rio of espionage/state secrets claptrap and confiscate all his office’s computers. As far as I’m aware he’s still languishing in jail as China plays out its usual game by delaying a trial in order to use the unfortunate Stern Hu as leverage in future negotiations. This is the shape of things to come, which takes us neatly back to my opening quote from Richard #73.

Three points of particular friction as the century sorts itself out:

(i)CCP’s protectionist stance on the RMB

(ii)CCP’s increasing ability to choke off the supply of essential ores and minerals

(iii)The extent of the CCP’s ongoing cyber-espionage efforts

All of which may well contribute to it being a ‘China century’; but not one that will have a happy ending for the majority of its inhabitants.

January 5, 2010 @ 10:18 am | Comment

@ serve t p

“Why is the interest of a Western worker is more important than that of a Chinese worker?”

It isn’t. Which is why I strongly urge the CCP to introduce and enforce a minimum wage for all workers in China. Any chance?

January 5, 2010 @ 10:24 am | Comment

Keep going, China.
Don’t be bothered by a flatterer or offender.

January 5, 2010 @ 10:25 am | Comment

Richard,

You are right about Apple being a closed source company. It is more evil than Microsoft these days in my opinion. However open source is the future. In a few days we will see the new Google Phone, based on the open source Android operating system. You will see many features it ‘steals’ from Apple’s iPhone.

People who have seen the phone call it a “sexy beast”. I can’t wait to get one. With that phone, you can go anywhere in the world, put a local sim card in the phone and start calling without paying an astronomical roaming fee. You can also install any software you want to the phone and even modify the existing software. That is real freedom we are talking about.

January 5, 2010 @ 10:51 am | Comment

Serve, I suggest you study up on Google. If you think Google’s all about open source solely for the good of humanity, think again.

All readers should now leave this blog and read this short but fascinating piece at Seeking Alpha on whether or not China’s growth is real or a mirage. I think this writer knows whereof he speaks. Go there now.

January 5, 2010 @ 11:17 am | Comment

@serve
Wherever you go you will still need a good data plan with Google phone, or cut its access to 3G network in which case a lot of the funtionality is lost.

This has been written from HTC Magic Google phone.

January 5, 2010 @ 11:19 am | Comment

You can jump from wifi hotspot to wifi hotspot though. I did that last time in Asian.

January 5, 2010 @ 11:26 am | Comment

China Mobile has wifi hotspots in many places. You can log on with your prepaid China Mobile phone number. It costs only 2 kuai per hour. No need for 3G data plan if you are in China for a short period of time.

January 5, 2010 @ 11:48 am | Comment

What’s the big deal about the West’s reluctance to transfer technology to China? After all, just two hundred years ago, selling tea tree seeds to foreigners was a capital offense. You might even say that the Qing’s reluctance to sell tea seeds to foreigners was partly responsible for creating the conditions that lead to the first Opium War.

Consider: The English developed a taste for Chinese tea. The Chinese refused to teach the English how to produce tea themselves. The English continued to spend money hand over fist for Chinese tea, while China refused to buy anything from the English. China developed an enormous trade surplus with the English. The English exchequer freaked out when he saw how much silver was leaving on ships bound for China (the costly wars with Napoleon didn’t help much either). The English figured out that the Chinese made excellent drug addicts. China looked around at all the junkies and refused to allow the English to continue selling opium in China. The English got super mad and beat the hell out of China.

The rest, as we say, is history.

The lesson? Had the Chinese agreed to transfer a bit of “tea technology” to the English, perhaps the Opium Wars might never have happened. Who knows.

(How’s that for a bit revisionism, Richard? Actually, it’s not so revisionist after all–unless, of course, you’re Chinese. I’m hardly the first to make the connection.)

January 5, 2010 @ 2:09 pm | Comment

Back to the subject of the Chinese “miracle” and China’s possible rise to global dominance, there is a lecture by Martin Jacques, author of the provocative new book “When China Rules the World,” available through iTunes for free (part of iTunes U). The lecture was delivered in November 2009 at UCLA in November.

I will spare everyone what I think about Martin Jacques and his opinions. Suffice to say that his lecture should warm the hearts of people like HongXing.

January 5, 2010 @ 2:27 pm | Comment

@serve

I went from free wifi hotspot to free wifi hotspot. No need to pay anything.

Could even cache Google maps from local area to find my way around when out of range.

I found that most Hotels and Cafes had open wifis.

January 5, 2010 @ 4:43 pm | Comment

@buzz
If China had used a similar strategy then as it uses today, history would be much different.
Luring foreign powers with its huge market to get needed technology and know how. Playing one power against the other. But they were too aloft.

Today they make a different mistake, alienating those that China needs more than they need China.
They should improve their PR and diplomacy curricula beyond kowtow kamasutra.

January 5, 2010 @ 5:13 pm | Comment

About Richards link. Chinese must buy two cars to use one?

Safest investment on China now should be parking slots, parking houses and underground parking!

There was an interesting implementation in Munich. Complete automstized parking under a main street. Press a button and your car is automatically stored or delivered.

January 5, 2010 @ 5:20 pm | Comment

First, Chinese people’s income is declining

Nope

Then, big chunk of GDP depends on FDI and exportation,

Nope

FED dones not need China to buy T bills, you can see recent data, US savings, that means US people are buying T bill now.

I laughed

January 6, 2010 @ 12:05 am | Comment

@Richard 79, @Ecodelta 80,

No offense, but you guys have any proof that China copies some foreign technology once the product is sold in China? I’m not talking about ipod lookalikes and fake LV bags because they are not considered high tech.

January 6, 2010 @ 12:13 am | Comment

pug, I don’t believe I ever said the Chinese have stolen technology. However, many others have said it. Whether it’s true or not I can’t say but China’s attiude toward IP has been a controversial issue for years.

January 6, 2010 @ 12:18 am | Comment

Who needs proof? You can just slander China all day long, and if anyone contradicts you with facts they’re Communists and brainwashed.

What is China? What does it mean to be Chinese?

China now is of course the PRC and also the ROC, as well as Overseas Chinese, Hong Kongers, Macanese, etc. You’re Chinese if you have Chinese blood and work for Chinese interests. That’s it.

Jay’s multi-polar century is the best hope we have. Once the scales begin to tip in the CCP’s favour (and the signs are already there) they will become increasingly aggressive in their pursuit and control over resources and regions. Anyone who thinks that a CCP century will bring increased light, tolerance, understanding, human rights, and peace to this world is sadly mistaken.

It will take hundreds and hundreds of years before they’re at the level of depravity the modern West is. I highly doubt that China is going to do imperialism, they’re not ruled by Mongols or Manchus anymore. What will happen though, is that the West will be checked. First by the Chinese, then the Arabs, then the Latin Americans most likely. Your days of profligacy at the expense of others are coming to an end.

Remember, too, that freedom of expression allows discourse on the moral implications of a government’s policies

Yet for every man in the West who actually debates things that matter, there are two who will vote for Satan to keep the “bad guys under control”, like those Muslims, gays, and atheists. America’s democracy has managed to be the most aggressive and militant nation in the history of the world, as Europe profits.

@Buzz Lightyear

Only 150 million people in China earn US$10,000 or more per year, while fully 37% survive on US$2 per day

More food for thought- China taxes and redistributes wealth. To claim that 37% “survive on US$2 per day” ignores all of the subsidies given to these very same people. Something that India’s hundreds of millions of poor do not receive.

The Level and Distribution of Global Household Wealth, by James B. Davies, Edward N. Wolff Susanna Sandstrom and Anthony B. Shorrocks, NBER

For China, wealth per adult was estimated at $19,056 in 2000. That makes an average Chinese one a half times as wealthy as an average Indian. But if we take gross domestic product (GDP) per adult instead of per adult wealth, then the income of an average Chinese was only 1.18 times as much as that of an average Indian in 2000. The study says that India’s share of global GDP was 5.9% in 2000, while its share of global wealth was 4.2%.

Even more interesting are the estimates of wealth inequalities within countries. In India, for example, the top 10% of the population had 52.9% of the country’s wealth in 2002-03, while the top 1% had 15.7%. China was more egalitarian, with the top 10% owning 41.4% of the nation’s wealth. The Gini coefficient for wealth in India is 0.669, against 0.550 for China. Wealth is distributed very unevenly in the US, with the top 10% getting 69.8% of the country’s wealth and the top 1% own 32.7%. The Gini index for the US is a very high 0.801.

Taking only GDP and income is useful for macroeconomics. For social causes or whatever, wealth distribution is important.

2. China’s educational system is a sorry embarrassment. (For God’s sake, don’t look at the Chinese graduate student at MIT and then extrapolate.)

Public education everywhere is a sorry embarrassment.

@Richard

Countries have had to kowtow to the US for many decades but managed to retain their own values and cultures and laws.

That isn’t true at all. You need to do some research. Chile was bombed into submission for example. America help kill Congos elected leader and replaced him with a ruthless dictator. Same goes in Haiti. Of course you will just brush this off even though all of the facts and documentation are made available by the US government itself. What good is freedom of information if not even 1% of the American population bothers to know the truth?

You don’t see Japan and Taiwan embracing tyranny and censorship

Taiwan was ruled by tyranny throughout the whole time it was developing. Chen Shui-bian’s “democratically” elected rule was a miserable joke that wasted a decade of the Taiwanese person’s life. I’d say real democracy in Taiwan only began in 2008.

As for Japan, there are videos of leftist politicians being assassinated and silenced through force. Asahi Shimbun has been bombed before. America funnels billions into the LDP. It’s because of this that the LDP was been in power for over 5 decades. That’s not the West’s idealized democracy, just as the PAP of Singapore is not the West’s idealized democracy.

@stuart

as we are already beginning to see, through the coercion of economic blackmail.

Because America *never* does that. How did those sanctions on Cuba work out? I know how they worked out in Vietnam, hundreds to thousands of babies died when they were denied infant formula. Bravo bravo, I bet Miss Thatcher would be so proud of you old chap.

And anyone who believes the PLA won’t be adopting a more aggressive posture in the coming years is sadly deluded.

Excellent support for your wild unsourced assertions as usual stuart.

or threatening to withhold investment if Buddhist monks aren’t silenced.

Kinda like certain countries threatening to withhold investment if Muslim imams aren’t silenced.

to a lesser degree, US globetrotting in the last half century.

Because the Indochina Wars, Operation Menu, support for dictators all over the world, assassination of democratically elected heads of state, Afghanistan and the Iraq War are all exemplary. By that measure, the CCP in the past 30 years have been saints.

And stop selling them to dodgy leaders in exchange for resources that guarantee Africa will remain the most impoverished continent on the planet.

The actual mass murders in Sudan are caused predominantly by US support of rebels in that country. The bulk of the violence ceased before China got involved. Now, people are dying of starvation and malnutrition- NOT violence. These are the lingering aftereffects of US imperialism. Using the same methods to extract the 400,000 figure for Sudanese deaths, we arrive at 1,200,000 Iraqi deaths. You can’t eat your cake and have it too.

If they were educated more openly and were free to express dissenting opinion it wouldn’t be perceived in that way.

It’s the Overseas Chinese who have never set foot in a PRC School who are raising their eyebrows the most.

He really should have consulted me on this.

You have no credentials except an inflated racial ego and a bag of stale euphemisms.

January 6, 2010 @ 12:39 am | Comment

Whether it’s true or not I can’t say but China’s attiude toward IP has been a controversial issue for years.

Controversial because the West manufactures the “controversy”. Even if a minority player speaks the truth, it will be drowned out by the West’s multi-billion dollar international propaganda apparatus.

As far as IP goes, most developing countries don’t respect them. Hell, from my grandmother’s house in Taichung I can find streets lined with bootleg movies, video games, music, almost entirely unregulated.

China is taking IP more seriously in the sense that it’s interactions with international IP organizations is increasing and the volume of patents they are creating is growing at 15% yoy (faster than any other nation).

It’s just the typical West to ask China to shoulder developed world burdens that the West itself is disproportionately responsible, in exchange for even more slander and lies and venom directed at China.

January 6, 2010 @ 12:43 am | Comment

How much do you want to bet that the multi-billion dollar, international, American propaganda apparatus will start blaming “Communist barbarity” for the 1.2 million deaths in Iraq once they decide to start recognizing facts instead of fantasy?

The average American still believes only 10,000 people died in Iraq. How would the world see Germany if the media and electorate believed only 100,000 died during the European theater of world war 2?

January 6, 2010 @ 12:48 am | Comment

Ferin:

Countries have had to kowtow to the US for many decades but managed to retain their own values and cultures and laws.

That isn’t true at all. You need to do some research. Chile was bombed into submission for example. America help kill Congos elected leader and replaced him with a ruthless dictator. Same goes in Haiti. Of course you will just brush this off even though all of the facts and documentation are made available by the US government itself. What good is freedom of information if not even 1% of the American population bothers to know the truth?

Are you insane? I was making the simple point that although a country is strong and has influence, the countries it influences don’t necessarily adopt its culture and tastes. And here you are ranting about bombing Chile. (Did the US ever bomb Chile? And if it did, what does it have to do with my comment on culture?)

You are consumed in your own false dialogue, a gushing geyser of hate and idiocy. Other than that, we all love you.

January 6, 2010 @ 12:51 am | Comment

For the record, since some love calling me a Communist when you can’t refute any of my points, yes I was born in Taiwan.

Went to America when I was in grade school. Only time I’ve spent in China is in the rural North, doing volunteer work. Never been to BJ or SH.

And yes my parents were raised on rabid anti-Communist hatred under the KMT.

January 6, 2010 @ 12:54 am | Comment

Are you insane? I was making the simple point that although a country is strong and has influence, the countries it influences don’t necessarily adopt its culture and tastes. And here you are ranting about bombing Chile. (Did the US ever bomb Chile? And if it did, what does it have to do with my comment on culture?)

You, perhaps inadvertently, implied that kowtowing to the U.S was harmless. Like a fucking walk in the park. And yes, America did bomb Chile and get its elected president killed.

To be fair, he was a Communist.

January 6, 2010 @ 12:55 am | Comment

Whenever you have free time to read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_Chilean_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat

The Chilean coup d’état of 1973 was a watershed event in the history of Chile and the Soviet-American Cold War. On 11 September 1973, the government of President Salvador Allende was overthrown by the military in a coup d’état.

The coup occurred two months after a first failed attempt, the Tanquetazo — Tank putsch — and a month after the Chamber of Deputies condemned President Allende’s breaches of the Constitution.

The US[1] backed military junta took control of the government, composed of the heads of the Air Force, Navy, Carabineros (Chilean police force) and the Army led by General Augusto Pinochet.[2]. General Pinochet assumed power and ended Allende’s democratically elected Popular Unity government[3][4]

During the air raids and ground attacks that preceded the coup, Allende gave his last speech where he vowed to stay in the presidential palace.[5] The official cause of death was suicide.[6][7] After the coup Pinochet established a military government marked by severe human rights violations that ruled Chile until 1990.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende#The_coup

Main article: 1973 Chilean coup d’état

In early September 1973, Allende floated the idea of resolving the constitutional crisis with a plebiscite. His speech outlining such a solution was scheduled for September 11, but he was never able to deliver it. On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military staged a coup against Allende.
[edit] Death
Main article: Death of Salvador Allende
Statue of Allende in front of the Palacio de la Moneda

Just prior to the capture of La Moneda (the Presidential Palace), with gunfire and explosions clearly audible in the background, Allende gave his (subsequently famous) farewell speech to Chileans on live radio, speaking of himself in the past tense, of his love for Chile and of his deep faith in its future. He stated that his commitment to Chile did not allow him to take an easy way out, and he would not be used as a propaganda tool by those he called “traitors” (he refused an offer of safe passage), clearly implying he intended to fight to the end.[50]
“Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Keep in mind that, much sooner than later, the great avenues will again be opened through which will pass free men to construct a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!”
President Salvador Allende’s farewell speech, September 11, 1973.[5]

Shortly afterwards, it is believed Allende committed suicide. An official announcement declared that he had committed suicide with an automatic rifle. In his 2004 documentary Salvador Allende, Patricio Guzmán incorporates a graphic image of Allende’s corpse in the position it was found after his death. According to Guzmán’s documentary, Allende shot himself with a pistol and not a rifle.

Initially, there was some confusion over the cause of Allende’s death. In recent years the view that he committed suicide has become accepted, particularly as different testimonies confirm details of the suicide reported in news and documentary interviews.[51][52][53][54][55] His personal doctor described the death as a suicide, and his family accepts the finding. The notion that he was assassinated persists and is referenced in the Michael Moore film “Bowling for Columbine”[56]

I copied and pasted the text so you can’t use the excuse of “CCP censoring wikipedia” to not read it :)

January 6, 2010 @ 12:58 am | Comment

I condemn US intervention in Chile, Iran, Guatemala and elsewhere. But the US never bombed Chile and you are sloppy and full of rage. Once again, you’ve derailed a thread and once again your comments are going to be screened. I won’t let the crazy ones in, sorry.

And I’ve never accused China of censoring or manipulating Wikipedia. You’re making things up again. In case you haven’t noticed, this post is not at all “anti-China.” None of my posts are, jackass.

January 6, 2010 @ 1:07 am | Comment

Ferin is back from holidays

January 6, 2010 @ 1:36 am | Comment

He’s not back. I’ve gone well out of my way to bend the rules for him and Hong Xing, etc., because I want diverse comments, but he seems hellbent on sabotaging every thread.

January 6, 2010 @ 1:44 am | Comment

@Richard,

Yes, unfortunately, the link you provided is mostly about China stealing US military Secrets. Since China can’t buy it, surely it provides someone an incentive to steal it. This is understandable.

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/international/2009/June/international_June1858.xml&section=international&col=

Why is putting an embargo on selling China green technologies is beyond me. I would not be surprised if someone will steal it too since US companies won’t sell it to them.

January 6, 2010 @ 2:18 am | Comment

I don’t excuse such embargoes. I’m not really sure how we ended up talking about China stealing/copying other technologies – no one in this thread ever accused China of doing this.

January 6, 2010 @ 2:39 am | Comment

China hasn’t needed to steal technologies so much as Western greed, naivety and short-termism has handed it to them on a nice silver platter. As for the Lou Dobbs comparison, I’m not even American. And I don’t see how analyzing America’s destruction of its own middle class courtesy of a convoluted China/globalization policy has anything to do with slandering Chinese workers. It’s a comment on American political economy more than anything else. How is rebuilding America’s manufacturing/industrial base anti-Chinese? Is there a law of nature which states that importing Chinese goods is a moral obligation? I must have missed that. Besides, if China sorts out its domestic situation enough the American market will be a distant afterthought. Give the Americans a break, they need to sort out a whole host of domestic issues without drowning in anymore credit-bought imported goods.

January 6, 2010 @ 2:50 am | Comment

PB, to Ferin and some others any reference here to China is ant-China, and even if you criticize the US you are pro-US. I’ve been trying to say for months that I see China doing better than the US, but you look at Ferin’s comments and you’d think I were from the John Birch Society, trying to plant the stars and stripes over Zhongnanhai.

China hasn’t needed to steal technologies so much as Western greed, naivety and short-termism has handed it to them on a nice silver platter.

That’s the point I was trying to make way up above, when I said US companies have to give away the store.

On another note, China Daily comes out today and says the number of China’s poor is actually much higher than the statistics indicate:

The number of people in China defined as poor would at least triple if not for the country’s decades-old poverty line, a top agriculture expert said.
Country’s poverty line misleading, expert says

“The poverty line in China has not been changed for 20 years in step with the pace of economic development,” said Li Xiaoyun, dean of the Center of Integrated Agricultural Development of China Agricultural University.

China’s poverty line of 1,196 yuan ($175) per capita net income a year is said to be too low compared with the country’s economic development and living standard.

The country’s economy is expected to surge by 8.3 percent this year despite the global economic downturn, according to experts in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

But the poverty line has failed to reflect the average standard of living, Li said. At the end of last year, China had 40 million people living below the poverty line, accounting for 4.2 percent of the total rural population, according to the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

However, the actual picture is far more worrying, mostly because of the outdated standard.

“We are now measuring a poor person with the standard of 30 years ago,” Li said.

That’s China. Rampaging economic titan, star in the ascendant, impoverished backwater, and more.

January 6, 2010 @ 3:34 am | Comment

@ feromerp

I highly doubt that China is going to do imperialism.

I recommend that you consult an optometrist at the earliest opportunity.

Just about every other response of yours was a reversion to the usual logical fallacies. So I respectfully refer you to the closing remarks of #105:

You are consumed in your own false dialogue, a gushing geyser of hate and idiocy. Other than that, we all love you.

Peace, old sport.

January 6, 2010 @ 7:24 am | Comment

I really do try to be nice and give Merp and Hong Xing and Math a platform. And I don’t care if they disagree with me – just look at all of the commenters up above who disagree with me, like pug, Buzz, HX, Serve, etc. I love dissent. It’s hysterical knee-jerk stoopidity that I have a low threshold for. Like the US bombed Chile. Imagine the reaction if I said, totally falsely, that China bombed Tibet.

This thread has gone on long enough. Please use the new thread two posts above this one.

January 6, 2010 @ 7:46 am | Comment

[...] China credit for its accomplishments. Several posts down you’ll find a piece about this being “China’s century.” But I also can’t ignore the bad, and thus below you’ll also find a post on the [...]

February 11, 2010 @ 5:05 am | Pingback

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