Friday, December 30, 2011

China 2012: Collapse vs. Triumph vs. Mere Survival

Gordon Chang has been predicting the collapse of the CCP Chinese government since 2001. Mr. Chang is not yet ready to change his mind about the ultimate demise of Chinese communism -- although he admits his timing may have been off by several years. Here he updates his predictions of collapse:
Why has China as we know it survived? First and foremost, the Chinese central government has managed to avoid adhering to many of its obligations made when it joined the WTO in 2001 to open its economy and play by the rules, and the international community maintained a generally tolerant attitude toward this noncompliant behavior. As a result, Beijing has been able to protect much of its home market from foreign competitors while ramping up exports.

By any measure, China has been phenomenally successful in developing its economy after WTO accession -- returning to the almost double-digit growth it had enjoyed before the near-recession suffered at the end of the 1990s. Many analysts assume this growth streak can continue indefinitely. For instance, Justin Yifu Lin, the World Bank's chief economist, believes the country can grow for at least two more decades at 8 percent, and the International Monetary Fund predicts China's economy will surpass America's in size by 2016.

Don't believe any of this. China outperformed other countries because it was in a three-decade upward supercycle, principally for three reasons. First, there were Deng Xiaoping's transformational "reform and opening up" policies, first implemented in the late 1970s. Second, Deng's era of change coincided with the end of the Cold War, which brought about the elimination of political barriers to international commerce. Third, all of this took place while China was benefiting from its "demographic dividend," an extraordinary bulge in the workforce. _Gordon Chang China Collapse 2012
Chang goes on to explain why China no longer enjoys these favourable conditions...worth a look.

Damien Wa takes a different position on China's prospects, one that could almost be called giddy, considering many of the changes currently taking place within the celestial kingdom:
Major economic adjustments are usually never pleasant, and most leaders would prefer to minimize the pain on the largest swath of the population possible during that process. The Chinese are no different in this regard, but how much heavy-lifting can they tolerate?

Yu and a similarly reform-minded lot are advocating temerity over timidity, likely in a bid to influence the direction of debate as there are forces inevitably arrayed against them. Plenty of interests in China eschew these changes that will involve taking away some of their wealth, likely prompting a vigorous defense of the status quo...

To me, one of the biggest questions next year is whether China can create the necessary political conditions, amid one of the most important transitions in a decade, to forge ahead with its restructuring. With the anticipated slow down in growth and a shrinking export surplus, there appears to be an opportunity to steer the ship of state in a different direction. _Damien Wa The Atlantic
Alright, perhaps Wa is not being giddy over China's prospects. But he is allowing the possibility that China's leadership might make the right decisions over the next year or two.

Investor Jim Rogers has long been a China optimist, and has even moved himself and his children to Singapore, in order that his progeny could learn to speak fluent Mandarin Chinese. But is Mr. Rogers' optimism justified?
Claims by Jim Rogers, talking up his New Asian Home, that Chinese real estate financing methods avoid the extremes which gave us the subprime crisis are hopeful and highly charitable but are unreal. Before 2007, his storyline is that Americans and Spaniards were buying four or five houses with no job, no down-payment, and 120% loans (with the 20% extra to buy Donald Duck furniture and washing machines from China). The myth goes that China and India dont have that problem - but in fact what they have is far worse.

The loans to finance phantom housing projects are lent to nobody, or rather persons who might or could buy in 5 to 10 years, represented "in trust" by often fictive or notional municipalities that either do not exist or will never be created. Housing and apartment types and fixtures/fittings are deliberately given upmarket specifications and costs, making it even more unlikely that real human beings can or could buy them. Exactly like the USA or Spain, Asian banks take the mortgage amounts and jiggle them up even more, play the cash on the pinwheel casino of the global finance machine, go bankrupt, and get bailed out by the State. We can ask: How is this different from the US subprime crisis or Spain's real estate meltdown ?

Maybe only in one respect: related to their economies and average GNP per capita, the Chinese and Indian real estate bubbles are several times bigger than in the US, UK, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and other hard-hit countries now either openly in recession or near it.

Strong industrial production growth and growth of exports from China and India can only absorb this hole in their domestic economies for a certain amount of time. With sales to the depressed European and US markets - their biggest export markets - already declining, the multiplier feedback of decline inside their economies will rapidly grow, This feedback inside their economies to falling demand growth is already producing the fast feedback of their central banks printing a lot more money: the inflation generating process is well under way, even harder to control than in the OECD economies which were already semi-stagnant or "in persistent slow growth" when the crisis hit, and is unlikely to stop anytime before the economy slumps. Our concern is to predict when decline shifts to sudden and rapid falls in overall economic activity. _Market Oracle
All of this is not meant to suggest that Europe and the Anglosphere -- not to mention the Asia Tigers -- are sailing clear and untroubled waters. Every industrial power on Earth is going through difficult times of one sort or another -- particularly problems of debt and demographic decline.

But China (and India) was (were) meant to be the hope of the future, the economic bulwark (s) for the 21st century. Signs of significant cracks in China and the other BRICs may be telling us to look elsewhere for hope.

1 comment:

kurt9 said...

There is discussion of Gordon Chang's predictions on NextBigFuture.