The inevitable rise of China - hype or reality?

Aug 23, 2011
China is more likely to focus on meeting the needs of its own people than on establishing itself as the new global hegemony, says Dr. Salvatore Babones. Credit: Flickr/Kozuch

A cover article in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs by the University of Sydney's Dr. Salvatore Babones outlines why predictions by economists that China will continue to experience rapid growth throughout the coming decades may be seriously flawed.

Instead he argues: "At its current growth rates will likely catch up to Brazil, Mexico, and Russia around the year 2020 in terms of per capita . There is no particular reason to believe that the China of 2020 will be any more successful than these other states have been."

China's economy grew by an unprecedented average of 9.6 percent per year between 1990 and 2010 according to the .

Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Fogel believes that China will grow at an average annual rate of 8 percent until 2040. While other leading are slightly more cautious they still foresee rapid growth for China well into the future.

However Dr. Babones, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney, believes: "When it comes to gauging China's future growth, economic modelling can offer only so much guidance. For one thing, tend to downplay the fact that as countries grow, growth gets harder.

"There is no example to date of a state taking a very rapid growth trajectory to the top of the , raising doubts about whether China can be the unlikely exception."

Babones takes issue with the perception that China's recent growth is often characterised as the country's deserved return to its historical place in the .

"It is more reasonable to see China's famous can-do attitude as more of a has-done attitude: a legitimate pride in recent accomplishments rather than a harbinger of future success," he says.

He goes on to outline the one-time boosts that helped propel the country in the past and the political, environmental, and structural obstacles that will limit its growth in the future.

"China's dramatic rise over the past 20 years was propelled by two one-off bonuses: the population's declining fertility rate and its increasing urbanization," Dr. Babones said.

"Having boosted productivity and prosperity both factors are now presenting their accompanying downside; declining fertility in the 1970s created an aging population and fewer people to support them and shifting shantytown populations are a result of urbanization.

"In addition it is difficult to imagine a dynamic knowledge economy emerging in a politically repressive one-party state and the environmental barriers to China's continued growth are well documented.

"I believe however that the greatest barriers to China's continuing rapid economic growth are structural. Creating more value than state industries did during the Cultural Revolution was not very difficult but creating more value than today's efficient Chinese firms do will be much harder."

He argues that if the international system comes to see China, and China comes to see itself, as an important but not all-powerful participant in the global system, "irrational fears will diminish on all sides, and rightly so. Tomorrow's China is more likely to focus on meeting the needs of its own people than on establishing itself as the new global hegemony."

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User comments : 35

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JamesThomas
4.4 / 5 (7) Aug 23, 2011
I wish the US would focus on meeting the needs of its own people, as this article states that China will likely do.
Y8Q412VBZP21010
3.8 / 5 (6) Aug 23, 2011
Somehow when I hear people preaching the "China Will Rule The World" story, I can't help but think of all the books from the 1980s selling the same story about Japan.

Don't underestimate China but don't forget that, as an authoritarian bureaucracy, it has its significant weaknesses.
CapitalismPrevails
2.6 / 5 (12) Aug 23, 2011
Don't underestimate China but don't forget that, as an authoritarian bureaucracy, it has its significant weaknesses.


hmm, that kinda sounds like our own country?
nononoplease
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 23, 2011
Hyperbole aside, if you honestly think the US is the political equivalent of China you're a moron and should perhaps consider spending some years living under each.
Y8Q412VBZP21010
2.7 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2011
hmm, that kinda sounds like our own country?


Well ... if it did, you wouldn't be so quick to say that because you'd know the internet monitors might pass such remarks on to the security services -- and that might not be good for your health.

Jeddy_Mctedder
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 23, 2011
using GDP as a yardstick for comparing countries relative to the history of humanity is ridiculous.

josephus, nor any other historian ever used ridiculous statistics to explain and analyze major historical trends. try using english.

gdp is bologna, a statistic devised for the purpose for marketing national debt and one that is easily manipulated at that. one of the most absurd facets of gdp measurements is that they are measured in units of currency that are themeselves subject to control by the central bank......so really they are largely meaningless.
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2011
using GDP as a yardstick for comparing countries relative to the history of humanity is ridiculous.


What about GDP adjusted with purchasing power parity?

http://en.wikiped...s_to_GDP

Or do you have better measurement in mind?
BenjaminButton
5 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2011
I agree. Having studied quite a bit about development in China from a socio-polotical and population standpoint the writing is on the wall for the country. It will no doubt be an important world economy, but it will face enormous challenges which will consume massive resources over time. Indeed there's no guarantee that as a country it will survive all of these challenges. Without going into too much detail...just consider the impact of their terrible and endemic urban air and water pollution on the health system over the next few decades (respiratory dysfunction, cancers, birth defects all manifested far more prominently in China)...that alone could tear the country appart.
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 24, 2011
The problem with rapid growth in a short time vs. moderate growth over a longer period of time is that in the former case the money tends to aggregate much more strongly around individuals than the broad masses.

This in turn should lead to a fall in domestic spending as the workers will be unable to match the rising prices.

That said: unlimited growth is an illusion. At some point we'll have to settle for a steady state or a revamping of the entire system away from a labor driven economy to autmated production/services.
jjoensuu
1 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2011
if it did, you wouldn't be so quick to say that because you'd know the internet monitors might pass such remarks on to the security services -- and that might not be good for your health.


Another fantasy. The Chinese government does not have the resources nor the interest to monitor that level of speech by 1 billion populace.

But since a better explanation seems to be needed, take a look at the amount of government criticism at the Sina Weibo microblogging site.
jjoensuu
not rated yet Aug 24, 2011
one of the most absurd facets of gdp measurements is that they are measured in units of currency that are themselves subject to control by the central bank......so really they are largely meaningless.


In the same category as the country ratings provided by rating agencies and manipulation of other countries currencies and stock markets by investment agencies tied to national governments. I guess it all serves to keep different countries in check...except Zimbabwe...
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2011
The Chinese government does not have the resources nor the interest to monitor that level of speech by 1 billion populace.

Funnily it does. I was trying to send my brother a link to an article about the increased rate of c-sections in china bcause that seems to be a way for the hospitals to make money (he lives there with his wife and newborn baby)

The email with the link was rejected with a comment that such content does not conform to the laws/regulations of China.
Even when I just copy&pasted the text from the site the email was rejected. Even when I then sent a mail that paraphrased what the article said it got rejected... On other occasions I have not had a problem passing mails back and forth.

Either they have VERY good filters or someone actually looks at that stuff and decides whether it's "china-friendly" or not.
Y8Q412VBZP21010
3 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2011
Another fantasy. The Chinese government does not have the resources nor the interest to monitor that level of speech by 1 billion populace.


They put MASSIVE resources into it and they are VERY interested in it. This is not speculation, this is well-documented fact, they don't even try to conceal it.
Y8Q412VBZP21010
3 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2011
PS: Wikipedia's article on Chinese internet censorship is surprisingly tidy:

http://en.wikiped...of_China
Y8Q412VBZP21010
3 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2011
PPS: On Sina Weibo (wasn't aware of it, thanks for that) -- from a PC WORLD article:

"A top Chinese communist party official has urged the country's Internet companies to firmly put an end to the spread of fake and harmful information, a statement that appears to be a warning to one of China's most popular Twitter-like websites."

"... the Chinese government has been watching the platform closely, clamping down when necessary ... . In the case of [a train wreck incident], Sina Weibo moved quickly to phase out discussion of the topic because of the anger vented against authorities."

Big Moderator Is Watching YOU!
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 24, 2011
They put MASSIVE resources into it and they are VERY interested in it.

I'm just curious wether it will be years or decades until all the 'free' countries in the world knock on their door to copy that expertise. All governments are interested in controlling something that could upset their powerbase - wether they are 'democratically elected' or not.
Y8Q412VBZP21010
1 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2011
I'm just curious wether it will be years or decades until all the 'free' countries in the world knock on their door to copy that expertise.


I think you've got your websites mixed up.
You aren't actually posting to PRISONPLANET.COM ... this is PHYSORG.COM.
antialias_physorg
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 24, 2011
I'm just seeing the continuing duscussions about 'pornography filters', 'political content filters' and long term storage of connection info which flare up whenever there is a related incident. One of these days those ultra-reactionary die-hards will get one of those laws passed.

As for other countries: Have you ever looked at the PATRIOT act in the US and what kind of possibilities this opens up for the government? (yes, it only allows for acts against those deemed 'terrorist' - but that is such a broad definition that it could apply to basically anyone)?

Call me cynical. Just saying that the 'free' world ain't all that goody-good when it comes to censorship and freedom of information as all that.
Y8Q412VBZP21010
1 / 5 (6) Aug 24, 2011
Call me cynical.


Nah, I'd just call you silly. Hard to imagine what else to think when people are making up fantasy problems instead of addressing the long list of real ones.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 24, 2011
Well, since the first cases have already come to light where ISPs stored long term contact data (although they are nominally forbidden to do so) - it's hardly a fantasy. Heads have already rolled for this.

Then there's the complete surrender of data to the US for anyone travelling there or simply flying over US terrain (including financial transaction data) - with no provision from how long this stuff may be stored (the accord just says that the data will be stored for a minimum of 15 years). That's already a case of information control.

Imaginary? The accords/treaties/laws are there for anyone to read.
Y8Q412VBZP21010
1 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2011
Imaginary? The accords/treaties/laws are there for anyone to read.


And of course that means China-style internet control is right around the corner.

Bored now. We're done.
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 24, 2011
And of course that means China-style internet control is right around the corner.


No. But it just means that (as with democracy) internet freedoms aren't to be taken for granted and that they are already being encroached step by step. (And that there are those in political positions in conservative parties throughout the world who have made it quite clear that they want the interent fully controlled/monitored)

Bored now.

Yes. That's exactly the problem. Apathy of those who have against the motivations of those who want. In that battle those want always win - if the past century has taught us anything it has taught us that.

Well, by 'us' you may not be included. "Those who refuse to learn from history..." and all that jazz. But I guess some have to learn the hard way.
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 24, 2011
Tough still not on the level of China or Iran, countries like Germany or Australia indeed do have censorship problems.

Criticism of holocaust (I am no denialist at all, just freedom of speech advocate), violent video games, fictional child porn drawings are all banned or restricted even for adults often in these so called "free" countries.
nononoplease
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 26, 2011
God forbid that a society decide not allow drawings of naked children. Oh the horror.
ShotmanMaslo
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 26, 2011
God forbid that a society decide not allow drawings of naked children. Oh the horror.


Yes, it is. Freedom of speech should be restricted only in the most serious circumstances, such as directly incinting violence. Censorship problems are currently present in some first world countries, too.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Aug 26, 2011
...
frajo
not rated yet Aug 26, 2011
In addition it is difficult to imagine a dynamic knowledge economy emerging in a politically repressive one-party state and the environmental barriers to China's continued growth are well documented.

This statement shows that the article is not about scientifical knowledge but about political assessment.

If we knew who's financing his work we maybe could better understand his bias.
KBK
3 / 5 (4) Aug 27, 2011
America is a one party state, anyone with more than two braincells to rub together can easily see that. Those in power, regarding the real power behind the scenes, they do indeed admit this. You just have to search the information out. It's not going to be on the front page (or in any media the common man can reach by accident or purpose) of the newspapers/media they control. Use your head. :)

The colonialism via systemic interference and control was able to hide it's rabidness for over 200 years. Now the system begins to falter in it's reach and designs...and the denizens of the USA are finally being forced to bear witness regarding the fascistic ways of their controllers.

This is fact, not contention, nor rant. Just simple, sad -fact.
nononoplease
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2011
ShotsmanMasto: "Yes, it is. Freedom of speech should be restricted only in the most serious circumstances, such as directly incinting violence. Censorship problems are currently present in some first world countries, too."

You're an idiot.
nononoplease
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2011
KBK: Wake me up when government agents in the US pull people out of their beds to sterilize them, and then we can discuss how alike our regime is to China's.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2011
KBK: Wake me up when government agents in the US pull people out of their beds to sterilize them, and then we can discuss how alike our regime is to China's.


You mean like the US did fom 1907 to 1981?
http://en.wikiped...d_States

This is your wakeup call.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2011
KBK: Wake me up when government agents in the US pull people out of their beds to sterilize them, and then we can discuss how alike our regime is to China's.


Population control is necessary in overpopulated countries like China. Even some people in the US should be sterilized. Its not like people have a right to procreate whenever they want, after all.
nononoplease
1 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2011
antialias_physorg: "You mean like the US did fom 1907 to 1981?
http://en.wikiped...d_States"

Thanks, genius. Guess who advocated that? PROGRESSIVES, SOCIALISTS, EUGENICISTS on the left, the same left that runs China.
nononoplease
1 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2011
ShotmanMaslo: "Even some people in the US should be sterilized. Its not like people have a right to procreate whenever they want, after all."

Who decides... you? Do you not realize that that makes you the moral equivalent of Hitler? But that's nothing new. Thankfully for the US, it will be harder for a fascist like you to get your way---too many of us are armed. And that's why you lefties the world over hate us so much.

If you think the world is overpopulated, at least have the decency to lead by example toward the solution.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 05, 2011
Who decides... you? Do you not realize that that makes you the moral equivalent of Hitler? But that's nothing new. Thankfully for the US, it will be harder for a fascist like you to get your way---too many of us are armed. And that's why you lefties the world over hate us so much.


Hitler killed people, thats why he was evil. Not because he sterilized some retards, that was not an amoral action.

If you think the world is overpopulated, at least have the decency to lead by example toward the solution.


The population of eastern Europe is already destined to diminish, and we are even wealthy compared to China, so we can actually afford more people.