November 16, 2018


There Is Only One Superpower (Gordon G. Chang, November 15, 2018, Strategika)

We start with the conventional wisdom. "No one denies that in the long term, things look good for the People's Republic," writes Kerry Brown, a professor at King's College in a recent opinion piece.

Actually, the situation is not good. The economy, the engine of China's extraordinary four-decade advance, is clearly exhausted.

Juiced by debt--especially since the end of 2008--the country now cannot grow without gobs of it. When the so-called "hidden debt" is taken into account, the economy is incurring one-and-a-half times as much indebtedness as it is producing nominal gross domestic product if official GDP figures are accurate.

They're not. China is not growing at the 6.7 percent pace claimed for the first three quarters of this year. In reality, it's less than half that. The combination of slow growth and unprecedented accumulation of debt suggests the country is heading to a systemic crisis.

While China moves toward its debt crisis, Xi Jinping, its ruler, is reversing the "reform and opening up" policies that fueled China's rise. It is ironic that as the country approaches the 40th anniversary of the start of its era of economic liberalization, Xi is reembracing not only state-dominated economics but also totalitarian-style politics.

The embrace of Maoism leaves China ill-prepared to meet the critical challenges of the eroding environment, crumbling demographics, and emerging societal modernity. Xi can coerce but not persuade. His ideological campaigns are leaving the Chinese people, for the most part, cold.

Externally, Xi is showing a face of China that most abhor. Beijing is grabbing territory from neighbors, closing off the global commons, and proliferating nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. It makes common cause with a host of bad actors, such as genocide-committing generals in Burma and misery-creating autocrats in Latin America. Even Beijing's friends recognize it has chosen the wrong path. For instance, Brown, the King's College professor, is the author of "How China Is Losing the World."

Posted by at November 16, 2018 6:40 AM