Friday, November 26, 2004

China Stumbling?

I’ve written before that while China could become a peer rival to us in future decades, either regionally or even globally, this future is not assured. I think Chinese geography with numerous enemies surrounding them would hamper their efforts to become more than a regional power. In addition, I do not think that China must become more powerful. A future of civil war and secession is also possible.

This is what my Jane’s email reports:

IN RECENT months, Foreign Report has issued warnings about the state of the Chinese economy. By all accounts it is enjoying a boom. But there are clear signs that the economy is running into trouble. Protests and disorders are spreading in urban factories and through the rural community.

I’ve been skeptical of China’s economic gains. Not because they are not happening, since I imagine Chinese statistics are better than old Soviet numbers, but because of how those numbers are being racked up. Like the old Soviet Union, China’s economic growth is coming from moving peasants to city factories. And even the most productive peasant turned into the most inefficient factory worker will produce more GDP and bump up national statistics. This is not sustainable. Eventually, established workers must become more efficient for an economy to really take off.

While Chinese collapse is surely preferable to a growing, xenophobic, hostile nuclear-armed China, collapse won’t be a nice trip for anybody. Truly, our foreign policy toward China must be quite the balancing act. Throw in the goal of prodding a prosperous but peaceful and friendly China and you have a China problem that defies easy solutions.