Why China Is Not Going To Win

A lot of futurists and analysts are talking about China these days — how China is poised to become the next economic superpower.

This is why they’re wrong. Not just the appalling working conditions and governmental fascism — those are hideous enough — but the workers’ wages. My math suggests they’re pulling down roughly US$4.80 a day.

How are they supposed to become an economic superpower when their labor force doesn’t make enough in a single day to buy a Big Mac?

(I know it’s more complicated than that, but the fact remains, it’s embarrassing. Plus they’re fucking fascists.)

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  1. China might win, but it’s going to take a hell of a long time and a lot of catching up. They’ve got more than a billion people, most of whom are living in poverty (real poverty, not American big-screen-TV-and-a-car poverty).

  2. America went through a period of child labor and horrible conditions, as did England. It can take a while for labor conditions to improve.

    I think the reason China can become a major economic superpower is that they are investing massively in infrastructure. What made America a superpower was investment in bridges, roads, the postal system, railroads across the country, planes, the highway system, the power system, even our federal system. All our economic prosperity was built on top of these things.

    It is one reason I’m no longer a Republican, they started thinking that infrastructure was a result of rich people having more money. History to the contrary.

    BTW Josh, can you believe this weather we’re having in Vegas? I live off Trop and Eastern, and winter keeps deciding it doesn’t want to be here.

  3. If China “wins”, it will not be based solely on their own strengths, but equally if not more so on our own weaknesses. And we have a ton of ’em. With the social fabric of our own society rotting to its core AND the country falling off an economic precipice at the same time, China and others may simply be the ones who are left standing after our own self-inflicted demise.

  4. Another thing: similar lists of fascist-type rules also exist at US factories, where we have actual factories anymore. There is nothing uniquely Chinese about what’s on that list, except perhaps the “one-child policy” thing — which actually, is a good thing considering that overpopulation is at the core of just about every major problem we fact.

  5. They’ve got more than a billion people, most of whom are living in poverty (real poverty, not American big-screen-TV-and-a-car poverty).

    I can see you’re speaking from your great breadth of worldly wisdom and experience, Erica.

    Actually, there is poverty in China – of course there is – but there’s also much more affluence than many Westerners seem to want to accept, even in third-tier cities like Jiangmen. And what poverty there is strikes me as being not too dissimilar from that experienced by a huge swath of Americans right up through the Great Society years.

    And anyway, it’s absurd to think of “winning” or “losing” in this context. That’s the kind of simplistic analysis that brings us a G.W. Bush. Better to ask, are we in a period when Chinese ways of thinking, organizing and doing are going to figure more or less in our lives?

    If you frame things this way, the answer is not at all clear whose ostensible values predominate: American neoliberalism seems to mesh pretty well with Chinese authoritarianism. (The interface is called “WalMart.”)

    By the way, a Sichuanese family of three can eat and eat well for less than what a Big Mac costs. Again, a misplaced yardstick of analysis.

  6. FYI –

    The U.S. most probably relinquished the title of ESP to China on or about Sept. 15, 2008. Almost no previous power ever wanted to hand off the baton, it just happened, especially from the complacent ones.

    To become an economic power, a country must be able to grow very large and China has nothing to do but grow very large. It’s their turn. They’ve tasted the Big Mac and they like it. The fact may be that not one component of the their Big Mac is imported to their country. I don’t know. However, it’s not hard to imagine the entire supply chain to make a burger, fries, and a coke to originate within the country, even the stucco and stainless steel for the facility. They certainly don’t include a Happy Meal toy “Made in the U.S.A.” Also, many U.S. suppliers have already located to China years ago just to supply their Chinese customer base.

    So what does China need to become an ESP? One thing is lots of money (or debt) and they already have it because they make and sell lots of stuff like the U.S. used to do. Times have changed. Right now, I think every U.S. citizen owes China more than $1666.00. At today’s price, that U.S. debt could buy everyone in China two Big Macs. Other countries have lots of money and debt too, but they do not have the other resources that China has, so, they are unlikely to become the next ESP before China.

    In the meantime China doesn’t need much from the U.S. except for ideas and democracy. The ideas, they seem to believe, are free to copy – and democracy is chugging like a train. China doesn’t really need U.S. consumers any longer because they will have enough of their own once they get onboard the unstoppable train.

    Insightful references:

    The honorable Mr. Bow Tie who has already acted upon what he’s seen in his crystal ball, found at this YouTube clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w84EiCt0Lqk has something to say about China at 3:10.

    The honorable(not) Hank Paulson, from a clip at Charlie Rose – http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/1431 At 12:55, Mr. Invisible Post T.A.R.P Fiasco secretes his “vision” for Goldman Sachs (his employer at the time of 2004) in China and the rest of the world. What he really means to say in truth-speak is, “I want to secure all the Chinese’ savings because they are the only population left on earth who actually have any savings and then I want to have them sign 30-year loan docs so they can buy Mediterranean-style sub-division homes through out all of China which I will have loaned hard-money to advance builders who believe they have the best thing going since McDonalds came to town and that’s the World Way.”

    Strike, while the iron’s hot.

  7. China will win nothing. Their economy goes as ours goes because we’re a big part of theirs and vice versa due to all the goods we buy from them. However, I will not rule out the possibly that they try to “annex” the U.S. by calling our debts with them if the U.S. can’t sustain business with them, and given the state of our economy, it’s not a given we can.

  8. The endpoint of this whole debt thing might be that at some point, 20 years from now, some demagogue is elected here on a platform of unilaterally canceling our foreign debts. Of course, then the dollar will be worthless, but it’ll probably be near-worthless anyway by then.

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