thinking out loud

Sam Pawlett gusm at
Fri Jul 26 19:44:18 MDT 2002

Mark Jones wrote:

> Also, China may indeed go into crisis on one of a number of fronts:
> demography, ecology, resource depletion (energy/water etc).

These are the reasons  why China will never become world hegemon or even join
"developed" nation states and if it does it will be a pyrric victory. The five
evils you outline will undermine China economically and hence socially and
politically.  Its economy is still largely coal driven and will probably remain
so since there are to my knowledge little fossil fuels within its borders.
China's goal in its industrialisation drive is to reach developed nation status.
A difficult goal when the country is already running out of fresh water and
energy. It will face grave pollution problems once the new highway system is
finished and the automobile becomes the preferred mode of transport (if it
does--that is the hope though). Another problem is a shift in the Chinese diet
away from the traditional complex carboydrates to a more Western diet of red meat
(i.e. fast food), soda pop etc. The already serious ecological problems will be
exacerbated if this diet is to be sustained through domestic cattle raising and
industrial agriculture.

I also think that the numbers behind China's impressive macroeconomic performance
in the past two decades are a little deceptive given the size of its population
(1.2-1.6 billion).  It may sound simplistic, but how could it not lead the world
in industrial output with such a large population? How could it not be surging
ahead in productivity growth when it was so low in the first place? Further, per
capita income in China is still ,what, 1/30th of the US?. China therefore has
little power on the demand side of the economy. It is crucially dependent (as are
all export oriented nations---that means just about everybody now) on the
domestic American economy. I really think that the USA will be world hegemon as
long as it is buyer or consumer of last resort. That gives the Americans
tremendous political power. That could change if the dollar is no longer the
benchmark currency and a safe haven for speculators or if there is a major slump.

Of course I would never begrudge China "developed" nation status or any of its
citizens a Western  life style. I just don't think it is ecologically possible
given its current state of natural resources, population pressure and industrial

Sam Pawlett

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