We Invite You To Predict When China Will Overtake America – The Economist

The Economist magazine asks this intriguing question.

It posts a comparison of economic growth between the two countries and points out that at the current rate of economic growth, China will overtake the United States in 2019. They then suggest you plug-in your estimates of growth for the Chinese and Americans and arrive at your own figure.

Okay, here’s my prediction of when the Chinese are going to overtake the United States.

Never.

It’s all nonsense. Chinese corruption is endemic. Their real estate market crashed two years ago. They had to do an economic stimulus of 400 billion dollars two and a half years ago. They have foreign policy disputes with almost every bordering country and a large number of those that are not. They are building a fleet to challenge the American Seventh fleet in the South China Sea. The difference in economic development between the coastal and interior provinces borders on the incredible. There are rumors (probably true) of gathering Muslim unrest in the far West. I could go on.

It seems likely to me that the estimates of economic growth put out by the Chinese government bear a strange similarity to East Germany’s constant high economic growth before the country disintegrated in 1989.

And watching the Chinese lurch from one foreign police misstep after another hardly gives one any confidence in the nation’s future. If you’re willing to force the Philippines to take your lead painted toy imports by threatening economic retaliation, you have only the vaguest concept of a) right and wrong and b) how you appear to the rest of the world. If one of your ship captains decides to deliberately ram a Japanese naval vessel and you get him out of it by threats, that might not have long term positive results. If a dissident gets a Nobel Peace Prize and you demonize the award rather than keeping a discrete silence and resort to every measure short of blackmail to discourage other countries from attending, you’re not demonstrating balanced judgment. If when faced with a dissident receiving a Nobel Peace Prize, you create, fairly instantly,a bogus “Confucius” prize which you then present to the former President of Taiwan who admits he doesn’t know what it is and fails to appear for the ceremony, you don’t impress anybody.

Never.

This is all just part of the policy narrative from the media beltway. As always, they only ask hard questions of ideas they oppose. This isn’t one of them. The terror of Chinese competition, of their eventual success, is a reproach to criticism of free trade and authortarianism. It calls the very importance of democracy for economic success into question. It makes the idea of open society with rights of privacy seem unnecesary to a nation’s future.

When China has failed to become number one, it will have outlived its usefulness, their will be a new narrative of America losing out. Will it be India, Islamic nations, South Asia or even a resurgent Japan? Who knows? But its’ necessary. It’s a club against policies you don’t like and it works.

James Pilant

4 thoughts on “We Invite You To Predict When China Will Overtake America – The Economist

  1. Andrew

    I agree with you. China will never overtake the United States. Comparing economic growth numbers is misleading as it doesn’t take the reality behind those numbers into consideration. China’s economic success is due primarily to Americans buying the products they produce. When we stop buying their stuff and start buying our own, then their economic prowess will begin to diminish and ours will begin to grow.

    They just don’t have the leadership ability to maintain that type of economic success independently. I’ve heard that they are trying to build a fleet. I don’t think that will ever be a real issue to the US 7th Fleet. Chinas military policy has always been “quantity over quality”. This is why China has the largest standing military in the world, but they are not even close to the most powerful military. Besides, if China decides to challenge the 7th Fleet in terms of naval superiority, they need to realize that we have 6 MORE FLEETS. Somehow, I doubt that Chinas navy will be a problem in the near future.

    About the Nobel Peace Prize, I was a little disappointed when they named that dissident for the prize. I do feel that, given this years prize winner and Barack Obama winning it, the prize committee has become political. This is something it was never really meant to be.

    Like

    1. Recent studies usually centered on dealing with Iran have pointed to serious difficulties for a carrier task force close to land. Patrol boats, cruise missles and deisel submarines are serious threats.
      They definite could force the navy to operate further out and that would post difficulties. I think they are foolish because it would destabilize the balance of seapower and force Japan to rearm.
      But we’ll see.
      jp

      Like

  2. Hold on one cotton picking minute. I repeat to you your own analysis:
    Corruption is endemic. Their real estate market crashed two years ago. They had to do an economic stimulus of 400 billion dollars two and a half years ago. They have foreign policy disputes with almost every bordering country and a large number of those that are not. The difference in economic development between the coastal and interior provinces borders on the incredible. There are rumors (probably true) of gathering Muslim unrest in the far West.
    This sounds a great deal like an assessment of our own country. Using this as a basis would lead one to believe that because they have these problems they can never surpass the U.S. as the leading world power. If China does overtake the U.S. it will be because 1. They maintain better control of their currency ( The U.S. Central Bank is threatening the strength of the Nation by undermining the currency) 2. China is not ham-strung by Culture Wars and stupid Politically Correct notions like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which is causing the U.S. to weaken the Military. 3. Their National Leader is selected for the level of competence he has rather than on the basis of some Charismatic Celebrity appeal (with competence being beside the point).They seem to be able to exert some control over their National Borders (unlike the U.S.). I don’t know if China will ever overtake the U.S.,but if it does, it will be because, like Rome, we have done it to ourselves.

    Like

  3. I have waited my cotton picking minute. First your point on the similarity of the two nations in terms of these events is well taken. But you have to remember my argument rests against a backdrop of a fairly consistent assumption that they don’t (the Chinese) suffer from these kinds of problems and we do.
    I would point out that their currency is artificially inflated and their nation is divided into many ethnic groups and only a majority of the population speak the same language. There is a particularly strong division between North and South China. The last civil war was fought in South China in the 1850’s and 60’s with a death toll of around 58 million people. I have not one iota of belief that that a communist party can pick competent leadership more than occasionally.
    Further, their borders are enormous often unguarded in any way. The simple fact is nobody wants to go there. The only mass migration into China right now if from North Korea and they are not able to stop it.
    Best wishes, jp

    Like

Comments are closed.