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8:13AM

China: The hunger = the hate

On a walk last night and I was thinking about what I know about the future that I feel supremely confident about, and the answer that popped into my head is China's coming difficulties.  Not that I wish it any harm - anything but.  It's just that the hubris and the nationalism and the hunger for all things - all completely natural in a rise of this caliber - are combining to create antipathy abroad and extreme anxiousness at home.  The tough times that follow will force China into a scary and dangerous democratization. It happens to the best; it happens to the rest.  There is no Chinese "alternative."

Neat pair of NYT stories to illustrate.

First one (above) is about an Asian art exhibit.  The paper version had the title that caught my eye:

East is East; West is Omnivorous

Exhibit covers the time period of Europe's early global expansion and the apocalyptic views it generated among the conquered in Asia.

The only thing I thought when I saw the title was, now the worm has turned.  Now the West is West and the East is omnivorous.  And that hunger for all things creates the growing hatred of China.

This has a been a prediction of mine since New Map:  China becomes the face of globalization and thus the target of anti-globalization anger in all forms.  I've been saying this in Beijing for almost a decade, and I don't get many takers.  "We are different," I am told. 

But they're not.  The hunger is unbelievable (China adds ANOTHER 300m to its US-sized middle class in the next 6-7 years) and the hate is real and growing.

See Shambaugh's excellent NYT op-ed on global attitudes toward the Chinese:  all downhill.

Meanwhile, the US is in its hibernation phase, and Obama is the perfect hibernation president.  I'm not bitching. We asked and he delivers.

But the regeneration proceeds.

China, however, tops out on all sorts of things - signalling tougher times ahead.  And this is not a system built for tough times.  You may think authoritarianism is, but it ain't.  No ability to "throw the bums out" = building hatred within the system (frustration that finds no relief).

Nothing I describe here happens tomorrow, and it's easy to dismiss.

But I know this with a certainty:  Right now China is perceived to be passing the US and we find that scary.  But between now and 2030 this all gets reversed in a big way, and that will be far more scary for both sides.  

This is why we cannot abide the fear mongers on both sides; they are too dangerous for the world's future.

The outreach must be pursued and eventual partnership revealed - not out of our fear for them but to modulate what will become China's great fears of all things during the difficult times ahead.

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Reader Comments (7)

Great insights! Again showing the importance of your CIA strategy to maintain the two giants as trading partners & allies as much as possible, de-emphasizing cold war mentality. Yes hibernation is better than the immature isolationism we adopted prior to WWII...but world leadership is becoming more & more important & America needs more than hibernation to adequately participate.
Keep reminding us!

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElmer Humes

I am particularly interested in the Chinese evolution toward democratization (one can only hope and pray it happens without revolutionary disruption) and in the potential of religious/spiritual awakening/rebirth. Is it inevitable or will it be suppressed above all? I firmly believe as a culture moves from collectivism to more individualism, the worship urge is stimulated- the quest to find God awakens from dormancy. How does this potentiality figutre into the mix?

March 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbob Pfeiffer

This isn't a big deal - Americans are totally incapable of understanding how much drones & Bush's illegal war have dented America's global image.

Secondly, the Chinese aren't as obsessed in being "liked" as the US, they do the job that no one else does - affordable motorcycles, petrol-generators, cheap clothing, jobs (not aid).

The Chinese shouldn't be competing in the "global likability" stakes with the US, the problem is that the US spent the most of last decade making several unforced errors.

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaduka

I'd love to read your simulation for India, because the assumption among many US analysts is that India is "more stable" than China.

I doubt it.

India has an out of control population growth, the World's largest population of Muslims (rapidly rising and poorer than the rest), low female literacy rates (compared to China) and terrible pollution.

In addition, democracy has led to stasis - Indian politicians seem incapable of making important decisions; the kind of decisions that will take it to the next level.

Another assumption is that democracy is a given. Americans sell democracy as if it comes packaged with Hollywood glamour and unimaginable wealth - that is far from the truth.

Expect many democratic nations to "regress" into non-democratic government and actually improve economic and human capital indices.

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaduka

I'm sorry to sound so pessimistic and I'm sorry to disturb you again on this blog, but having seen democracy in Africa - I'm not as confident about it as you guys are.

Democracy leaves fractured societies more fractured than they were at the beginning. I've seen it in Kenya and I'm not sure my native Nigeria will survive the 2015 elections, and even if it does it will be fatally wounded.

You kind of remind me of the missionaries who kept insisting that Christianity was better than the local belief systems. That kind of certainty can be dangerous - what if democracy is not the best for China, what if it leads to a Chinese demagogue with even less checks and balances than the current Communist regime.

Once again sorry if I sound too pessimistic.

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaduka

I agree with the assessment of the system, hate and frustration is growing, but the deterministic logic that the chinese middle class will eventually guarantee democratization of the chinese state is just utter nonsense. Dont generalize unique experience of democracy forming from Europe and US to completely other cultural environment - the bourgeoisie strategy is not deterministic, it is dependent on other factors - do Chinese have natural understanding of rule of law? No. Ithey do have only vague ethic. They will be limited in their pursuit of better regime by chinese culture = no liberal democracy based on christian and enlightement basis.

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjkufcak

I hope China has 6-7 more years of good growth ahead, I've spent almost 10 years trying to help them reduce their pollution from their coal-fired power plants and even though I personally did okay in 2012, relative to the need China still has a very long way to go. I'm just one person with one product but I can infer that there is tremendous need for more Chinese SOE economic engagement with the outside world. It's happening much slower than the steady march of the law of diminishing returns. So although I'd like to have another good 6-7 years of stability in China, I am preparing for the worst, at least psychologically. I was out in the very far west of China in Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province. Xining's population is only 750,000 but from the looks of it Shanghai's population is going to be moving to Xining just around the corner. There looks like more than enough housing for the Shanghainese. I noted a couple of years how much construction there was going on in Xning, and there's now even more construction. I saw the same thing on the same trip when I went to the capital of Henan (Zhengzhou) and Shanxi (Taiyuan). Who's going to repay the loans for all that construction? Economies are ultimately about efficiency, if a very large amount of your investment is going into wasteful projects this will ultimate harm the economy. That's China. As for the power industry there is a lot of new coal-fired power stations coming on line, 100s actually. They are mostly 600 and 1000 Mw and will replace plants of 100-300 Mw. Bigger is somewhat better all other considerations excepted, but it make no sense to junk plants that are 10 or 15 years old, and replace that capacity with plants that are only marginally better. (One caveat is that Chinese tend to maintain their industrial assets so poorly that perhaps these plants which would be used for 60-80 years in the U.S. can only hold up 10-15 years in China.) In the past China had export growth of 20% a year and favorable demographics to hide their fundamental problems but that is no longer the case. The picture for China though isn't completely black. People tell me that some export product classes from China are doing very well. China air conditioners and related products are an example, still in aggregate the problems seem to outweigh the opportunities. George Soros said recently that China had to restrain it's bank loans for regional "development" ( i.e.boondoggles) within the next year or so or face the prospect of a sub-prime like debt crisis. That agrees with my more casual observations.

April 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Dunn

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