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Guy Sorman has a feature in the recent City Journal that claims the 21st century will not belong to China, as is widely believed. It's a great piece, with excellent reporting on the difficult lives of the Chinese, but his conclusion simply isn't supported by the facts he reports.

Here is an excerpt from his conclusion:

One must tread cautiously when trying to predict China’s future. Over the last century, China has never ceased to surprise with her dramatic U-turns. China scholar Andrew Nathan suggests various scenarios: a revolution (but not necessarily a democratic one); economic bankruptcy (with a military dictatorship taking over); gradual liberalization (unlikely); or the maintenance of the status quo. I think the status quo will prevail, at least for now, for the Chinese people fear new political violence.

Of course, a fifth scenario is possible, the one that can’t be predicted. But those in the West who think that the future belongs to China should think again.

Why? China is growing economically as more and more Western businesses are sending manufacturing jobs over there, and Sorman himself points out that radical social upheaval isn't likely, which means there is a practically endless supply of cheap, docile labor (not to mention a source of military conscripts should they decide to do a little empire building). Meantime the other major powers (except, arguably, the U.S.) are waning. What's to stop China from dominance?

Our only hope is to make our one export to China our educational system.

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China is rotten to the core with state-owned enterprise and bank corruption. No western nation can compare to the corruption and fiscal ineptitude. You can paper over much of that with copious cash, but the next strong wind that blows will tell.

Western nations are waning demographically, and due to the welfare state--the EU. The US still stands to occupy the highest ground at the end of this mid-century, if not the entire century. After that, no one could predict.

You do not seem to comprehend the phenomenon of technological breakthroughs. Such breakthroughs in nanotechnology or biotechnology (longevity etc) can throw everything topsy-turvy.

China has a small minority that is living high from a Potemkin Village facade--while it lasts. Only one with little foresight would expect such a monumentally unbalanced nation to survive with the government and territory intact for more than two or three decades.

Really? You're really predicting a coup or revolution in China in the next thirty years? By whom?

Abhorrent as it is, the Chinese have an effective recipe for control: keeping a tight grip on the media, lavishing the obedient with material comfort, punishing the disobedient harshly, and slowly giving just enough appearance of liberalization to keep the middle class happy.

Their entire fiscal program is to continue to make themselves an attractive destination for investment. At this, they are successful. The prosperity may be fake, but as long as the west continues to prop them up with cash and (foolishly) with technology, they will keep up the facade.

Speaking of technology, of course it can "throw everything topsy-turvy." The problem is, corrupt, controlling Big Brother-type states are well positioned to manipulate such technology for their own aims.

It is difficult to imagine that a regime so corrupt and violent can survive--except that China has--for a long time.


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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on May 8, 2007 9:48 AM.

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