Saturday, 1 January 2011

China anti-boosterism

Thomas PM Barnett with a sweeping and persuasive piece of analysis: why the 'China Century' will be the shortest on record. It's mostly a synthesis of stuff you might have read elsewhere (some of it on this blog) but its insights are punchy:
...China [will age] more rapidly than any nation in human history — by 2050 China will have more old people (four hundred million-plus) than America will have people (four hundred million) — ...dramatically driv[ing] up the price of its factory labor in coming years... 
Like most catch-up artists before it, including rising America of the nineteenth century, China has cheated its way to the pinnacle of the global economy, racking up hidden debts of unprecedented proportions. But heading a single-party state, Beijing remains insidiously adept at disguising that mortgaged future...
In the end, China's pervasive short-term thinking exacts a terrible moral price as everybody cheats everybody else with nary a pang of conscience, as lies upon lies are statistically amassed to achieve China's annual growth rate of 8 percent or better...
If America is addicted to foreign money and foreign oil, then China is addicted to foreign supplies of just about every commodity known to man — save highly polluting coal...
Globalization increasingly wears a Chinese face, meaning — over time — China will be the first one to get sucker-punched by every violent extremist out there. And not all of them will be satisfied with a red envelope stuffed with renminbi...
In the end, there is no such thing as a "China model" — just China's demand...
[W]hile China's economic and network connectivity skyrockets throughout the developing world's most unstable regions, its political-military ability to defend those burgeoning interests still boils down to all those red envelopes stuffed with cash...
[A] sort of implicit, limited-liability partnership with America — Washington provides the military muscle and China cleans up on the post-conflict resource extraction — already exists in multiple locations: In Iraq, our "shock and awe" has resulted in China being the only state with oil contracts both north (Kurds) and south (Arabs). In Afghanistan, our counterinsurgency efforts continue while China plants a $3 billion investment in the Aynak copper mine. As for People's Liberation Army casualties in both theaters? Zero...
Eventually, the American public will figure out what's going on and start demanding China pay its own way. "American blood for Chinese oil" hasn't appeared on protest placards yet, but it should — and will eventually...
China is closing out its chapter on extensive growth...and heading into an economic future that will increasingly be determined by its ability to foster intensive growth...Sinking the magic eight ball in the corner pocket every year is relatively easy when all it takes is more, more, more...!
....when things switch to deciding which industries — meaning technologies — should rise and which should fall, does anybody really think a collection of party pols sitting in Beijing is going to figure all that out on their own? Soviet technocrats couldn't pull it off, and neither did the Japanese. That kind of crowd wisdom is only found among real entrepreneurs, angel investors, and the like, and those types of capitalists want both a hands-off and yet decidedly responsive government, or the kind where you have to pay politicians only when there's an election...
As the nation's huge middle class continues to emerge over the next couple of decades, China's single-party system will fail — time and time again — to protect it from the future, which cannot be commanded... 
The middle class has achieved its decent standard of living and wants to pass it on to all those only children. Spook it and it will turn on you with a fury not easily contained, for after all, these are people of real education and accomplishment. They will not be ruled over like children for long...
So long as China features a single-party state, its leadership will be too timid to wage wars anywhere — including across the Taiwan Strait. Why? Because the CCP cannot afford a single loss of face... Absent the ability to rotate ruling parties, China remains a paper tiger...

When something sounds too good to be true - as China does when described by its boosters (most egregiously John Gray and Martin Jacques, who should know better) - it usually is.

1 comment:

Vern said...

That is a top notch chunk of analysis.