Friday, February 22, 2008

China: economic giant or ...

... stumbling peasant colossus?

The answer is: Yes, sort of. To both.

It's really interesting to read Al Jazeera today to discover that

More Americans believe China, rather than the United States, is the world's top economic power, a poll has found.

The Gallup World Affairs Survey revealed that four out of 10 Americans saw the Chinese economy as the world leader, while only 33 per cent picked the US.
A majority of respondents also picked China as likely to be the world's top economy for the next two decades.

The same survey conducted in 2000 had 65 per cent of Americans putting the US as the world's economic leader.
At the time, more than half of those polled thought the US would remain the world's top economic powerhouse for the following 20 years.

The survey comes amid economic uncertainty in the US, shaken by turbulence in financial markets, a weak dollar and continuing worries over the fallout from the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

China's economy, meanwhile, continues to enjoy record growth.

Of course, if you scroll down the far right side of that page, you'll find reference to another story on China, one that's not quite so positive:

China's politically-sensitive inflation rate has jumped to its highest level in more than 11 years, as harsh winter weather helped drive food prices up by almost a fifth.

According to official data released on Tuesday, the main consumer price index (CPI) soared to 7.1 per cent in January, pushed up by an 18.2 per cent jump in the cost of food.
The figure for January compared with a 6.5 per cent in December, and was the highest since September 1996, when the CPI rose 7.4 per cent.

The latest figures will be a setback to the government which has been trying to tame rising prices and prevent China's fast-growing economy from overheating.
Soaring food prices in particular are already becoming a strain for millions of Chinese consumers and threaten to become a major political problem for China's leaders.

The latest data, for example, shows that the price of pork – a staple meat in China – has risen by 58.8 per cent compared with a year ago.

The problem is that China's economy is so big and so different from any other economy in the rest of the world that it defies simple comparisons. China is an economic superpower because it has totalitarian control of millions upon millions of workers, the overwhelming majority of whom do not share in the benefits of their production. So China looks like a giant in terms of production, while its population continues to suffer....

The moral of this story being: look for data, not confirmation of your own particular ideological biases.

Oh well, another lost cause.

1 comment:

Bowly said...

I've been in China for three years now. I tend to doubt any predictions that China will soon be the next superpower. Someday maybe, but not soon.

For example, our factory was without power every day this week. And this is a relatively rich (Zhejiang) province. We installed generators during construction because we knew this would be a problem. Superpowers with infrastructure issues don't stay superpowers for long.

The response to the recent weather problems was also quite underwhelming. The government pointed to the response as a reason why the government needed to maintain such tight control. I'm going to start pointing out my failures at work to my boss as reasons why he should give me a raise.