Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Sound of a Chinese Bubble Popping?

I have been rather dubious as to some of the cheerleading going on with regard to the China’s new economic model.
To me their new economic model looks an awful lot like a supersized version of the Japanese one that has popped so spectacularly.
By Jamil Anderlini in Beijing, Financial Times, 16 June 2011 (hat tip: NC).

Corrupt Chinese officials smuggled an estimated Rmb800bn ($123.6bn) of ill-gotten gains out of the country over a 15-year period, according to a report released by China’s central bank.
Around 17,000 Communist party cadres, police, judicial officers and state-owned enterprise executives fled the country between the mid-1990s and 2008, the 67-page report said.
For higher-ranking officials who managed to abscond with large amounts of money, the ÛS was the favourite destination, while Canada, Australia and the Netherlands were also popular. Those who could not immediately secure visas for western countries often chose to stay in small countries in eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa while they waited for a chance to move to their final intended destination.
Lower-ranking officials tended to escape to countries bordering China, the report said. The independently administered Chinese territory of Hong Kong was also a popular transit point…
Anecdotal evidence suggests the number of officials absconding abroad with stolen assets is increasing, in part because of a senior leadership transition scheduled for late next year. Many officials fear they will be losers in the power struggles that are expected to accompany the transition.
Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers, 16 June 2011 (hat tip: NC).

ZENGCHENG, China — Pulling out his camera, Zhu Bin grinned and pointed as he scrolled through the images. Two cars sat ablaze against a dark sky in one picture, and in the next, thick rows of police tried to keep order with riot shields.
There, on the street next to the Sun City Hotel and a karaoke bar, it looked like all hell was breaking loose on a sweltering Sunday night. Underneath the streetlights, a mob of hundreds wandered among the smoke and broken glass.
Public discussion about the causes of the violence in Zengcheng has followed a familiar line: low wages and bad working conditions for migrant laborers — who make up more than half of Zengcheng's 818,000 residents — possibly whipped up by criminal gangs.
But interviews here show that the chaos was stoked by anger that had been building for years at the bullying tactics of both the "chengguan," meter maid-like guards who're charged with enforcing municipal ordinances, and the "public security teams," ad hoc officers cobbled together by neighborhood or village committees.
Claims of injustice were a factor in other recent outbursts of rage. Among them:
1.      The biggest protests in 20 years to hit Inner Mongolia, in the north of China. The unrest erupted after a Han Chinese coal truck driver ran over and killed a Mongolian herder who reportedly was trying with others to block the vehicle from crossing their land on May 10. It quickly became a lightning rod for Mongolian complaints that the mining industry and local government have violated their rights and culture.
2.      On May 26, a businessman in the province of Jiangxi, just to the north of Guangdong, set off three coordinated car bombs that targeted government buildings and killed four people, including himself. The bomber, Qian Mingqi, launched the attacks after nearly a decade of efforts to recover compensation money that he said was taken by a local official took when the government demolished his house.
3.      Paramilitary police backed by armored vehicles flooded into a town in Hubei province last week after more than 1,500 residents laid siege to government offices to protest the death of a local legislator. Ran Jianxin, who had a reputation for investigating corruption, died during a June 4 police interrogation linked to bribery charges against him. His family circulated photos that appeared to show the sort of bruising usually associated with torture.
Brian Berry, Bloomberg, 16 June 2011(hat tip: NC).

China’s biggest economic challenges are political in nature and daunting, and will almost certainly get worse. That is because its autocratic system, for all the stability it has provided, will struggle to handle the sustained economic slowdown the country is likely to confront during this decade.
With crucial leadership changes due next year, the jostling has already begun over the people and political postures that the ruling Communist Party will select to steer the country…
 [The economic gains] have been a boon for China. But the country’s rampant growth will nevertheless slow sharply at some point, and this is likely to start before this decade is out…
There is nothing unusual about this. One recent analysis, which examined fast-growing economies in the half-century after 1957, estimates that within five years China will reach the level of income at which, on average, other star economies began to fade…
This mismatch, between weighty expectations of future success and a political structure that can't support them, is reminiscent of many other episodes of dashed dreams, from dot-com busts to housing-market collapses….

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