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Tuesday, July 18, 2006



It is perhaps unreasonable to project too far into the future how China will employ its newfound geopolitical clout. Despite its current highly favourable trade balance, the country has serious internal problems. These problems concern its leaders far more so, I suggest, than the subtle geopolitics (of which the book mentioned seems to be concerned) around its borders.

There are two serious challenges facing China and only one of them indirectly involves the US. The first is that in its rush to riches China has lamentably forgot to give proper attention to health services in the countryside. Its rural population is suffering systematically of diseases and maladies that would only baffle any advanced western nation. Basic health services have seriously disintegrated under the weight of an ossified central management from Beijing.

These difficulties are creating a social tension that is practically untenable, with the young rushing off to the cities to find jobs almost as a matter of survival. (Free circulation around China is not permitted because all social services, such as medicine and schooling, are given in the region within which people are registered.)

The second problem, a corollary to the above, is that China must create jobs, to meet the demand by this shifting mass of population, at the rate of many thousands per day. This means it is on a trade treadmill, that is, it must generate more trade to create more jobs to satisfy a growing demand sustained by a rural exodus of massive proportions.

The fact that the "sleeping giant" would one day "awaken" was first posited by Alain Peyrefitte in his 1973 book "Quand la Chine s'éveillera..." (When China will awaken). His prophecy has proved to be very accurate.

But, its consequences are far less easy to predict. All we can hope for is a "soft landing", but how and where remain a mystery. It must develop, obviously, an internal consumer economy that is relatively independent from external demand for Chinese goods.

In any event, there is little or no reason to particularly fear China and its need to resolve a purely internal problem. The error is made possibly in projecting those problems beyond China's borders ... which is not a linear forecast.



I agree with you. As a Chinese PhD candidate in economics in a US economic department, I have to say many Chinese intellectuals think they have lots of internal problems. The instituitions in China are quite weak. No independence of justice, corruption and very serious nepotism in all level of the government, low social capital all will become a big barrier for sustainable growth of economy.

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