China targeting 8% growth in 2010 ?

That’s the BBC headline. My question is how accurate is it? We aren’t talking about a Western Democracy. This is almost the last of its kind, a communist state. It is easy to find numerous web sites discussing the lack of accuracy and inflated claims made by the Soviet Government during its time. Eastern European Communits countries have a similar dismal record of accuracy. When China’s Great Leap Forward had already become a disaster (1956) government statistics showed it to be a great success. Now that foreign investment, exports and international agreements are on the line, is the temptation less? It was explained to me over and over again by many news articles and “analysis” (sometimes even by my Chinese students) that China would be the big winner during the world economic crisis, that it was immune to economic downturn. If that is so, why did the Chinese Government create a 586 billion (U.S.) dollar stimulus package for its economy?

What about the issue of corruption? The only real information about the critical nature of corruption is anecdotal. Try these two stories. About 80% of the foreign money sent to help survivors of the earthquake in 2009 wound up in the hands of the government. Researchers estimate that 73 billion dollars a year are spent on government banquets.

How about this quote from the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace:

Failure to contain endemic corruption among Chinese officials poses one of the most serious threats to the nation’s future economic and political stability, says a new report from the Carnegie Endowment. Minxin Pei, an expert on economic reform and governance in China, argues that corruption not only fuels social unrest and contributes to the rise in socioeconomic inequality, but holds major implications beyond its borders for foreign investment, international law, and environmental protection.

Are Chinese economic statistics accurate? I have my doubts. What about the greater question? Is China going to be the next world superpower? My prediction is no. There are too many geographic, foreign policy, economic  and cultural difficulties for the country to maintain its stability for even the next decade.

James Pilant

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