Saturday, November 20, 2010

Damn Lies?

China is clearly advancing economically and technologically. But the extent and durability of this rise is uncertain. China's statistics just don't add up:

The lack of good economic statistics often makes it hard to know what's going on here. It's tempting to measure progress by the breakneck pace of construction, which you can see, rather than the pace of economic activity, for which you have no good measurement.

This would be a problem anywhere. But it's a particular problem in China, because the government directs so much economic activity here. It is not exactly central planning any more, to be sure, but nonetheless, government here seems to be much more actively and enthusiastically behind everything from new construction to how much lending activity goes on.

Garbage in, garbage out.

China's rise is real. Rapid growth has allowed the rulers to believe they are causing the growth, but the truth is that the rulers could just as well have been reading the entrails of chickens and sacrificing goats to the Economic Gods for all the real control of the economy that their central planning has provided. Growth would have happened regardless of why they claimed it was happening.

They will face a day of reckoning when the ability of the rulers to believe they are guiding the economy will be outstripped by the impact of the imbalances within China's economy. And the actual increase in the size and influence of the Chinese economy on the global economy will make the effects a global problem.