Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why fears of Chinese domination are overblown

According to the former editor of the South China Morning Post, Jonathan Fenby, quoted in the WSJ:

Fixing some of the country’s more difficult problems, such as agricultural reform and revamping the hukou household-registration system, which would allow residents to move more freely, could cause trouble in a system as connected as China’s.

“You pull one brick out of the wall and the rest comes crumbling down,” Mr. Fenby said. “Of course, that’s what [President] Xi [Jinping] will want to avoid.”

Another theme is what Mr. Fenby calls China’s “trust deficit,” which stretches from air pollution to food safety to the government.

“Having gone through the first generation of very strong growth, you obviously run into problems.” People now don’t want just material advancement, but less deception, he said.

Of course, every potential superpower has gone through growing pains. But the difference with China, Mr. Fenby said, is that there aren’t independent organizations to spur change. During America’s industrial revolution, for example, muckraking journalists exposed problems in the meatpacking industry and mental institutions, which helped to spur reform. In China, that is unlikely to happen.

“Everything is enclosed within the system,” Mr. Fenby said. “They don’t have the mechanisms to deal with it.”
Personally I worry that an implosion is far more likely when it comes to China's political future. It's a likelihood I suspect policymakers elsewhere also fear.

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