China rising

Posted on Monday, January 18th, 02010 by Kirk Citron
link Categories: Long News   chat 0 Comments

The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

Robert Fogel writes in Foreign Policy this month:

In 2040, the Chinese economy will reach $123 trillion, or nearly three times the economic output of the entire globe in 2000… Although it will not have overtaken the United States in per capita wealth, according to my forecasts, China’s share of global GDP — 40 percent — will dwarf that of the United States (14 percent) and the European Union (5 percent) 30 years from now.

If we’re considering the long term future, it may seem parochial to worry about which nation is “ahead” — but the world will  be a different place if China is the country setting the global agenda for everything from climate change and the exploration of outer space to human rights and censorship (go Google!). China is rising; is the rest of the world ready?

Some recent news stories about China:

1. Last year, China passed the U.S. in carbon emissions. Not only that:
China overtakes Germany to become largest exporter
China overtakes U.S. as world’s biggest car market
China consumers to overtake U.S. in a decade

2. They’re making great strides in technology:
Nuclear power expansion in China stirs concerns
Gene rice on its way in China
China’s high-speed-rail revolution
China unveils anti-missile test
China energy efficiency “improves in first half”

3. And science:
China ascendant
Get ready for China’s domination of science

4. As the dustup with Google shows, China approaches social issues differently:
China’s says web crackdown to be “long-lasting”
China to be short 24 million wives
In China, DNA tests on kids ID genetic gifts, careers

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

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  • Francis J.L. Osborn

    I don’t buy it.

    Robert Fogel is a bright man, but his forecasting here seems profoundly flawed. His predictions are stunningly optimistic, exceeding even the imagination of most Chinese students, and we all know – surely – that one should never predict the future based only on present trends. One necessarily has to explore factors active on the present, because change happens in response to those forces, not simply of its own volition!

    I ask people to read it. It seems clear that in his obsession with raw past data he can’t see the wood for the trees and misses the shifting nature of international economics, and that his radically pro-China line (Cynically, I wonder if it’s a calculated headline catcher?) ignores completely the social pressures facing China, the brewing demographic problems, and the dangers facing its political unity and even its clear global geographic disadvantages against the United States.

    This is not, I think, a good example of forecasting!

  • As a Chinese myself, what I find most interesting about the rise of China is that we are leapfrogging into the 21st century. The speed of development is so fast that few people can really lean back and take the long view. While I don’t want to comment on what the rise of China means for the whole world, I do recommend people from the West take a multi-dimensional views on this subject, not just looking at China in the last 100 years, but also take a look at this country in the past 1000 years. A recent lecture at London School of Economics by Martin Jacques might serve as a good guide:

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  • When the Chinese enonomic surge began, the received wisdom was that they would increasingly become more western in civic matters. It seems more and more that the opposite is the case – ‘we’, if anything, are becoming more like ‘them’ – remember those Tibetan protestors cleared off the streets in London in the brave new dawn of New Labour? Not to mention the possibilty of surveillance drones. They will no doubt be cruising over Middlesborough’s sink estates by the time we welcome the world to the 2012 Olympics.

    I suppose being British, we’ve always had an ‘in’ on the hegemonic power, sharing a language with and displaying an empathy for it’s culture despite being geographically outside of it. So much of our pop culture, for instance, has been an awkward embrace of or reaction against the “American dream”. We excitedly imagine its vast, unexplored vistas, despite our awareness of the cramped, hellish urban reality (i.e. one not that different from our own) that for so many represents the reality of living in the US. Having been brought up on those terms, it’s quite interesting to imagine how the “Chinese dream” is going to play out.

    Population, I guess, will also become the central political issue again (remember Malthuss?) – if it isn’t already. Hard to thnk of ‘Long Nows’ with that many mouths to feed today, I suppose… The combination of a big, autocratic state, unaccountable to its citizens, driven by neo-capitalist greed, with a spiraling population to be fed within the context of a global environmental catastrophe could be quite nightmarish.

    L.U.V. on ya,


    p.s. – good luck with the clock!

  • Susan

    Does no one think that China gross and reckless disregard for the environment, in favor of “growth”, will not come back to bite the entire planet? “Green energy” development aside, coal power plants are not slowing, cancer-causing chemicals are poured into water and river and air; I can’t help thinking about a story on BBC this weekend, hearing about a chrome factory dumping its remnant poisonous chemicals into the street, into the sewer, and thus into the water table. This eventually winds up in the ocean – you can see the pollution from space, flowing into the Pacific.

    Not to mention general harm to endangered species and ocean fish stocks, global reach for the grab of disappearing resources and thus exportation of this disaster, and on and on. Without serious national environmental protection, this “growth” of China should be feared by the entire planet, unless it is able to use its wealth to do a 180-degree turn in awareness. How likely is that to happen in just thirty years?

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  • Impossible. No country in human history has ever had double digit growth into the stratosphere. It’s impossible. End of story. A big crash is coming, and China will have a difficult time growing out of it.

  • lois

    I agree with Susan’s comment Jan.25 “this “growth” of China should be feared by the entire planet, unless it is able to use its wealth to do a 180-degree turn in awareness ”
    and you know what ? something else they should have mentioned in this news story … another dirty little secret about China that no one seems to have the guts to report … how’s about showing the World the way the Chinese brutally butcher and eat Dogs ? Makes you wonder about some of our human race and how an ancient and supposedly wise culture could do so much wrong on so many issues. It’s not just the enviroment that they need to do a complete 180 degree turn in.

  • Jay Casey

    A future with the Chinese setting the agenda is not one I want to come about. Not unless their culture and government change drastically. I lived in China for four years recently and that was enough for me to know I don’t want China calling any shots. The Western liberal tradition makes for a future of freedom and prosperity tempered by justice. I’ll do anything I can to keep it that way.

  • Hubert Krüger

    This forecast is the worst I’ve ever seen.
    There is no way that China will get his GDP per capita anywhere near the US or the EU in the next 3 decades.
    They also can’t overun them with additional population growth, because they just couldn’t feed 2,5 or 3 billion people.
    I also can’t imagine how the EU could shrink to 5% of the worlds GDP. It’s the biggest market on the face of the planet followed closely by the US.

  • Hubert Krüger

    P.S.: I just crunched the numbers. To have a GDP of $ 123 trillion in 2040 China needs to sustain an average yearly growth (including inflation) of 37,7%. That’s more than triple the current growth.

  • Aaron

    China simply can’t sustain its growth the way it has been doing. The only reason its economy has been growing is because it has 1.3 billion people and it has, with Western help, increased the average productivity of those people.

    Yet, it faces so many challenges to increasing that productivity that it will be nigh impossible for it to match American standards- (1) it faces a aging population, just like Europe, (2) it faces a vast disparity between coastal and central wealth (3) faces a resurgent Russia, (4) will face a resurgent America in the 20’s-30’s.

    And nobody cares about how China treats their dogs. Get off your cultural high horse.

  • urko

    to lois: How about the whole world shows how Americans brutally torture innocent people who are suspected in terrorism?

  • jay

    Live in China a few years like I did and you’ll know why I think a rise by China is the least welcome long news I know of. I also think it won’t happen to the extent writers are saying.

  • Rossraider

    While I understand where you are coming from, it seems unlikely to me that China will ever surpass the United States, at least in the next century. In fact, I have read a few books (and quite a lot of articles) on the subject. This is my conclusion:

    Control of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is necessary for economic dominance in the 21st century, and is something towards which China will be at a distinct logistical disadvantage, compared to the United States.

    Furthermore, China is filled with inner tension. Ethnically and psychologically, it is totally divided. While Han Chinese make up the majority and are the wealthiest (which gives them control of the PRC's government), they are at odds with the Manchus, Tibetans, Muslim Turks, and Taiwanese (all of which have fairly influencial separatist movements). In fact, China has never completely ruled the area which it does now. Tibet was rarely controlled by the Chinese dynasties, and even then their control was fleeting. Taiwan was only part of China on and off between the 16th century and the 19th century.

    Moreover, the more populous coastal regions, on which are all of the major cities, are significantly more wealthy than their neighbors in the interior. The Han Chinese in the more rural and uneducated interior are therefore jealous and angry with the people on the coast. They frequently demand that the government gives them a fair share of the money gained in imports and exports, which the government, situated on the coast, refuses to do. It would be simple for the frustrated interior people to cut off food and resources to the coast, strangling them. This was actually the strategy of Mao when he fought the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War.

    While China is growing exponentially, it is impossible for this growth to sustain itself. Eventually, as all economies do, it will reach a point of equilibrium, and, therefore, stagnation. It is fairly easy to see how this would be caused. It could start with dwindling oil, coal, and raw material supplies (something that is already happening in China), or it could start with the inevitable increase in the cost of labor, which will happen as the demand rises. Once that happens, it will only take a few years for the entire economic system to collapse. Like Japan in the 1980s and 90s, China (the government, which controls the bank system) makes its loans to a lot of people who can't afford them (like our banks did before the current Recession) and it can afford to, because it is having a massive amount of growth. Once the growth stops, those people and the government will be left in total debt. This will ravage the Chinese economy, further instigating conflict between the various groups at odds in China.

    Communism has always been at a long-term disadvantage to capitalism or the less restrictive forms of socialism. The government is usually forced to overextend itself in order to comply with all of the monetary needs of the people, and therefore resorts to totalitarianism (something we see in China). While it is becoming more capitalist, China's government is still as totalitarian and orwellian as ever. As shown by the Soviet Union, such restrictive government tends to stagnate creativity and opinion, both of which are necessary for China (or any nation) to grow technologically on the long term. While the Soviet Union seems to have collapsed due to monetary troubles, it only had monetary troubles because the US and NATO were able to become so much more technologically advanced and use those advancements to control any and every resource they could, starving out the Soviet Union. The US's advancements drew in many countries to its own “American bloc”, and not to the Soviets. I point to the USSR's War in Afghanistan, where US-supplied Mujahideen destroyed the Soviet helicopter force with missiles, demoralizing and defeating the USSR ground forces. They then had to retreat. I suspect the same thing will happen to China.
    For those reasons, I doubt China will go as far as you claim.

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