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Just five years from now.
April 26, 2011 7:00 AM   Subscribe

IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end. According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now.

The IMF's forecast is based on "purchasing power parities" and shows that China's GDP will rise from $11.2 trillion in 2011 to $19 trillion in 2016, while the US' economy will increase from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion.

"Furthermore, under IMF staff estimates, the U.S. gross-debt-to-GDP ratio is not projected to stabilize over the forecast horizon and would exceed 110 percent by 2016, compared with less than 90 percent in the euro area and almost 250 percent in Japan (see Figure 1.12, middle panel). (direct link to pdf report here.)
posted by three blind mice (160 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Quick, kill more brown people and give their scraps to the bankers, that'll fix it!
posted by aramaic at 7:07 AM on April 26, 2011 [23 favorites]


No, no. We need to cut back further investments in our infrastructure and services. That'll do it!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:10 AM on April 26, 2011 [42 favorites]



WI State Senator Glenn Grothman blames the secular atheist socialism fascist single motherss

The Modern GOP says America can't do it and they're going to make it so.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:12 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


The European Union's economy has been bigger than America's for some time now.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:12 AM on April 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


Yeah, setting the snark aside I really don't see why this matters in the least. So what?
posted by aramaic at 7:13 AM on April 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Will Hutton on America's woes.
posted by Artw at 7:14 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait, quick question: Was it ever cleared up and proven that China's incredible, unending 8% rate of growth wasn't completely fabricated by the Chinese government? Are there actual, unbiased, non-Chinese government groups that back that up?

And, uh, yeah. What aramaic said. At some point after America, China. And at some point after China, maybe India. Or someone else. These things tend to happen sooner or later. It should be interesting to see how much this actually changes.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:15 AM on April 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Worth mentioning that on page 2 of the article the IMF write to him and dispute his interpretation of their figures - they say that PPP doesn't matter as much as he thinks it does.
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:16 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, setting the snark aside I really don't see why this matters in the least. So what?

For some reason people over here are all raging educationalists and this might hurt their feelings a bit. As far as I can tell, that's about it.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:16 AM on April 26, 2011


Why wait five years? A few more unfunded wars and entitlement programs will straighten this out in a jiffy! WE CAN DO THIS AMURCA!
posted by Scoo at 7:18 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Meh. An utterly meaningless assessment, other than an excuse to start the latest round of Yellow Peril paranoia.

I'm much more worried about Chinese consumption of shark fins than their economy.
posted by happyroach at 7:19 AM on April 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


I look forward to Indian consumers complaining about how hard it is to understand my accent when I am offering technical support and speaking Urdu.

In other news...
posted by longbaugh at 7:19 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


So what?

It's a matter of faith here in the US that God created us to rule over other nations. One of the harshest criticisms of Obama (from the right, anyway) is that he doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism". Just wait until the 2012 election gets going -- the Republican nominee is going to shriek unrelentingly about "America losing it's supremacy on Obama's watch!" We'll have tee-shirts and everything.
posted by steambadger at 7:23 AM on April 26, 2011 [18 favorites]


raging educationalists

I have no idea what this term means, but I hope it involves battle-axes and chalk-based warpaint.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:26 AM on April 26, 2011 [21 favorites]


For some reason people over here are all raging educationalists and this might hurt their feelings a bit. As far as I can tell, that's about it.

Goddamn autocorrect. It was supposed to read exceptionalists.

FML.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:27 AM on April 26, 2011 [10 favorites]




It's probably all that money we spent on NPR.

Two out of every three tax dollars goes to Ira Glass's bank account. I could write it on a blackboard if you want a citation.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:28 AM on April 26, 2011 [26 favorites]


Ooh, but raging educationalists sounds like so much fun. Such horror, such violence. So many sliderules.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:29 AM on April 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


The "Age of America" is already over. It ended in 1980. I swear, in a hundred years some historian is going to finally decode the data on this dusty, long-forgotten hard drive and be all like "Wow, that dude knew it even way back then!"
posted by rusty at 7:29 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the harshest criticisms of Obama (from the right, anyway) is that he doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism"...

Bingo. Manifest Destiny is getting harder and harder to sell these days. Despite all of the signs that it's already over, Americans want to hang on to sweet ride we've had since the end of WWII. Our transition into being one nation of many will not only determine our future, but the future of many nations where we are still interfering in their internal economics and politics.

And right now it's not looking so good.
posted by notion at 7:30 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


per capita?
posted by empath at 7:31 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Overall size of the economy does not mean much. China has over three times as many people as the United States; it's an embarassment to China it took this long, not the deathnell of American hegemony.

And, don't forget. In America, when there's low economic growth, the President polls poorly. Congress might change hands. The consequences of China of gravity returning to its 8% growth rate (as it must), could be far worse.

The Right likes to talk about the weakening of America because it fits into their narrative that liberals are ruining the country. The Left likes to talk about it because it bolsters their arugment that we should reduce our military presence, be more multilateral and spend more money on social programs. And there is something to the argument. But reports of the death of the American Age are greatly exaggerated.
posted by spaltavian at 7:32 AM on April 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


per capita?

No, not close.
posted by spaltavian at 7:32 AM on April 26, 2011


It matters to me, because I live here... it's not as nice a place for middle-class folks as it was even 30 years ago, and there are fewer middle class folks.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not to worry. As soon as we've transferred the last 20% of the nation's wealth to the top 10%, a new American millenium will be born.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:35 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This could happen, but will the "Age of America" really be over once China's economy surpasses America's in absolute raw $ terms? Surely per capita counts for something, not least because it determines how much you have to spare for power projection costs as opposed to maintaining a basic standard of living. Also, the EU already has a larger economy than the USA, so by that metric the Age of America is already over.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:35 AM on April 26, 2011


It matters to me, because I live here... it's not as nice a place for middle-class folks as it was even 30 years ago, and there are fewer middle class folks.

I think if we wanted to we could fix that, at least in part; but it wouldn't require maintaining our positions as Largest Economy In The World.
posted by steambadger at 7:37 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the harshest criticisms of Obama (from the right, anyway) is that he doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism"

If the "harshest criticism" leveled against the President by the Republican Party is that the Democrats don't believe sufficiently that America is magic, it's easy to figure out where a lot of your problems are coming from.
posted by mhoye at 7:38 AM on April 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


So empire and entitlements are unsustainable after all? Who'd a thunk it?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:38 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It matters to me, because I live here... it's not as nice a place for middle-class folks as it was even 30 years ago, and there are fewer middle class folks.

There are other countries out there, smaller economies, even, that have nice places for people to live, and even have solid middle classes. Even stranger, some of these places have active programs for helping other, non-middle class members of those societies.

Damn socialists...
posted by Ghidorah at 7:40 AM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Frankly, *actual* Americans will be way better off when we start focusing on working together to make everyone's life better and stop having an unending national anxiety attack about our global significance. Nobody is number one forever and it isn't obvious that being number one has done fuck-all for American citizens in general.
posted by clockzero at 7:43 AM on April 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


If the "harshest criticism" leveled against the President by the Republican Party is that the Democrats don't believe sufficiently that America is magic, it's easy to figure out where a lot of your problems are coming from.

Well, yeah. No offense, mhoye, but have you been living in a cave for the last ten years?
posted by steambadger at 7:46 AM on April 26, 2011


Anyway, the Age of America doesn't officially end until China controls all the artifacts or builds a wonder.
posted by steambadger at 7:47 AM on April 26, 2011 [51 favorites]


No, no. We need to cut back further investments in our infrastructure and services. That'll do it!

If there's one thing I've learned from SimCity 2000, it's that that is not a good idea.
posted by atrazine at 7:50 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


there are fewer middle class folks.

That's got precious little to do with the size of the economy, and everything to do with ignorant wish-fulfillment.

American voters repeatedly demanded that the middle-class be destroyed. They didn't realize that was what they were demanding, but they demanded it all the same. People tried to warn them, but were shouted down.

And they got it. Congrats! Yay, the middle-class is dead! At long last, our forty-year project is nearly complete! Woooo!

...and now, for an encore, we're going to convince you all that you were not complicit, that we ourselves were the only True Americans, and that it is all the fault of them chinamens.
posted by aramaic at 7:50 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


In a note I had some years ago from Thomas Malthus, he noted: "See. Population matters...so there."--that said, we still have 700 military bases overseas (not counting unlisted ones), and
China can not match that! We are Number One!
posted by Postroad at 7:51 AM on April 26, 2011


China's per capita GDP will surpass America's in, like, 12 billion years. Look out!
posted by snofoam at 7:54 AM on April 26, 2011


Anyway, the Age of America doesn't officially end until China controls all the artifacts or builds a wonder.

ahem
posted by unSane at 7:55 AM on April 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeah, setting the snark aside I really don't see why this matters in the least. So what?

Dude, if you're not number one, you might as well be Canadian!
posted by dflemingecon at 7:55 AM on April 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


In The Case For Restraint, Author Barry Posen posits that the American experiment in reshaping the world in our image has failed, and that we should stop trying to be, in effect, an imperial power, bring our troops home, and exercise "restraint":
Since the end of the Cold War 16 years ago, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have been running an experiment with U.S. grand strategy. The theory to be tested has been this: Very good intentions, plus very great power, plus action can transform both international politics and the domestic politics of other states in ways that are advantageous to the United States, and at costs it can afford. The evidence is in: The experiment has failed. Transformation is unachievable, and costs are high.

The United States needs now to test a different grand strategy: It should conceive its security interests narrowly, use its military power stingily, pursue its enemies quietly but persistently, share responsibilities and costs more equitably, watch and wait more patiently. Let’s do this for 16 years and see if the outcomes aren’t better.
Of course, there's 3-word problem with this approach:

Non-negotiable lifestyle.

So basically it's more war and empire as long as the bullet merchants keep taking our checks.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:56 AM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


See Mom always told me I should be a bullet merchant, and did I listen?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:58 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyway, the Age of America doesn't officially end until China controls all the artifacts or builds a wonder.

ahem


Shhh!
posted by steambadger at 7:59 AM on April 26, 2011


American voters repeatedly demanded that the middle-class be destroyed. They didn't realize that was what they were demanding, but they demanded it all the same.

That's assuming, of course, that the American voter really has any power over these things.

From the article: "They [China] have a state-guided form of capitalism, and we have a much freer form of capitalism." Of course that's not completely true, that "freer form" is a creature of law and regulation set down and guided by the state--but it also guides the state, in a way not amenable to fixing by those class-destroying American voters.
posted by mittens at 8:05 AM on April 26, 2011


Manifest Destiny is getting harder and harder to sell these days.


Dr. Jerry E. Pournelle's A Step Farther Out was just released as a Kindle edition for $2.99, and (has been addressing) this topic for 30-some-odd years...

From the Preface to the 2011 Edition:
"We live in an age of marvels. Despite that, we feel a sense of impending doom.... That's still true... We could still go to space. We could still mine the asteroids. We could still take part in developing mankind's vast future. Indeed, it is easier to do now than it would have been when I wrote these essays. The unrelenting enmity of the Soviet Union has been replaced by other threats, some of them severe, but none comparable to 26,000 nuclear warheads. We have computers and the Internet. There is free exchange of ideas throughout most of the world, and the information revolution relentlessly expands that area. We still face the threat of famine, but it is not as acute as it was in the times when these essays were written. Communications, transportation, electronics, rocket technology - it's all better now. We can still go to the planets.

We still live in an age of marvels, and it's still true that the only limit to growth is nerve.

posted by mikelieman at 8:06 AM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Clearly the solution is to divide China into several countries. They'd collectively still have an economy of the same size as the US, but it would be less scary.

(Seriously, people, the population of the country matters in comparisons like this.)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:06 AM on April 26, 2011


Clearly the solution is to divide China into several countries.

Funnily enough, I thought of that a while back. I keep hearing about how unsustainable a billion-plus people are run by a government like theirs in a weirdly agricultural-but-with-rapidly-rising-industrial economy can be, and I wonder: what if they were 5 (or so) separate countries with trade agreements? Would that actually work better?

Or is China too monocultural for that? (Which I doubt.)
posted by grubi at 8:14 AM on April 26, 2011


Or is China too monocultural for that? (Which I doubt.)

as we learned in this thread, all of Asia (not just China!) has one culture.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:23 AM on April 26, 2011


Yeah, setting the snark aside I really don't see why this matters in the least. So what?

The flipside of wealth creation is wealth consumption. America has had the happy access to ~25% of the world's riches for decades now, but this wlll change.

China is aggressively investing in South America and Africa, and eventually trade wealth from these areas will flow increasingly to them instead of us.

Here are the major suppliers of California's oil:

Saudi Arabia: 26% of imports
Iraq: 24%
Ecuador: 20%

Theoretically, this oil will go to the highest bidder, and a productive China is a bidding China.
posted by mokuba at 8:36 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


We still live in an age of marvels, and it's still true that the only limit to growth is nerve.

What utter crap. This nation needs more growing up than growing out. We need to focus a lot more on wealth creation, substitution, and distribution, and how to make do with less, especially of that which we import, and of that which we could export.
posted by mokuba at 8:39 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


America. It used to be the world's kick-assest sex-hot space-superpower, bristling with nuke-guns and aviator glasses, chewin' on a stoagie, stummin' a guitar and walkin' around butt naked save for a Stetson, a pair of cowboy boots and a grin that said: "Hey, I just pissed on your carpet, and there's nothin' you can do about it". We all loved America - hell, most of the other countries wanted to BE America. Once Belgium and Ecuador both dressed up as America and made out. It was hot.

But those days are forever over ago, and now America lies shattered and ruined, a blank space in the middle of a torn-out map that no-one can be bothered to look at no more, and which is only fit for moppin' up tepid puke.

What went wrong? How did the land of Sexxxy-Dollar$/Cool become the international mariah that it is today?

It's a good question, and my answer is Delaware. It turns out that all of America's greatness in science, culture, economics and military fetishism couldn't mask the sour cancer at her soft core. Delaware had always been letting down America, and everyone knew it but was too polite to say anything. Now we're all paying the price for Delaware's horrible, horrible suck. Only if we disincorporate Delware from the rest of the United States can we get back to struttin' nude down world Street pluckin' out a tune on the ol' Gibson, and givin' a sexy wink at France while France's husband Germany gets all huff-n-puff and steam blows out its lederhosen. Good times, bros. Good times.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:41 AM on April 26, 2011 [33 favorites]


This means that the Chinese restaurant in the strip mall over on 313 will start having better food, right? 'Cause right now, you know, they really suck and we have to drive all the way to Doylestown for good Chinese.

I, for one...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:50 AM on April 26, 2011


"What utter crap. This nation needs more growing up than growing out. We need to focus a lot more on wealth creation, substitution, and distribution, and how to make do with less, especially of that which we import, and of that which we could export."

How do you simultaneously create wealth *and* make do with less?

Why would you want to when all the resources we'd ever need are right there for the taking? For example, all the energy we'd ever need is available for the cost of sending union workers to orbit to build the solar power collection satellites and sprinkling rectenna arrays over old coal burning power plants.
posted by mikelieman at 8:52 AM on April 26, 2011


If I may:

Metafilter: raging educationalists
posted by Hairy Lobster at 8:52 AM on April 26, 2011


How do you simultaneously create wealth *and* make do with less?

By creating weath for the already wealthy and telling everyone else to suck it up.

Y'know. The usual.
posted by mhoye at 8:53 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


How did the land of Sexxxy-Dollar$/Cool become the international mariah that it is today?

Mariah?
posted by grubi at 8:54 AM on April 26, 2011


rectenna

You'll never hear the coal industry have such a potty-mouth.
posted by mittens at 8:56 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is tired. In the 1930s, it was going to be the Age of Germany. In the 1950s, it was going to be the Age of the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, it was going to be the Age of Japan. Now it's going to be the Age of China.

But it's not. China has a huge problem: it's an empire, the real kind with captive nations and separatist movements. Those nations are going to want out (see "Nationalism"), and the Communist Party (which is another huge problem) isn't going to like that very much.

It will not end well.
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:56 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


China might have to quell several rebellions in the next 20 years. Just sayin'.
posted by grubi at 8:58 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


But those days are forever over ago, and now America lies shattered and ruined

Are you kidding, socialist leanings, robot space planes, marijuana laws changing, no more stress to make the worlds mundane and useless goods, and winding down from 2 wars.

I love the future.
posted by clavdivs at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a matter of faith here in the US that God created us to rule over other nations.

Only among the assholes. We (Americans, that is) are not all assholes, honestly, and by finding a niche job in a college town in the middle of nowhere, I've managed not to have to deal with that kind of asshole very often either.

(What do you mean, "That's not very reassuring for the rest of us"?)
posted by aught at 9:06 AM on April 26, 2011


Mariah?

It's a fitting metaphor. America is the overwrought, oversold Mariah Carey of the international community.
posted by blucevalo at 9:09 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


We got five years, that's all we've got

released by David Bowie in 1972 ... which makes 1977 the end point, which has always made perfect sense to me. The world ended 34 years and everything since has been the equivalent of one of those Roadrunner cartoons where the Coyote runs off a cliff and just takes a long while to realize it.

So in conclusion, it's all to do with the last American combat troops being withdrawn from Vietnam, which happened in the summer of 72. America lost the Cold War and thus the world.

How's that for raging educationalism?
posted by philip-random at 9:15 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm going to be so mad if my greatest contribution to mefi is raging educationalism.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:17 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


If only David Bowie didn't have that inconvenient "being British and setting the story in England" thing going on with that album.
posted by hippybear at 9:22 AM on April 26, 2011


Chinese consumption of shark

Who else read that as "Chinese consumption of snark" and suddenly got really worried? They're exhausting the world's snark reserves!
posted by gimonca at 9:28 AM on April 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Perhaps he meant Britain as a metaphor for the USA.

Also, an empire with captive nations and separatist movements? That's us.
posted by jtron at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Snark is a renewable resource, you knob.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:36 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


At some point after America, China. And at some point after China, maybe India.

At some point during, ice caps and glaciers melt, sea level rises 50 feet.
posted by y2karl at 9:45 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


For the people kvetching about entitlements and unsustainability and the downfall of America: do you mean the programs and services essential for a first world lifestyle without having to pay taxes (which would make us as spoiled as you make us sound) or just the programs and services getting leached off of to pay for more oil and gas subsidies (which is whats actually going on)?

The 'entitlements' aren't so much programs we're entitled to as programs we earn over/after a lifetime of paying sales/income/misc taxes. And they're certainly not unsustainable, or at least they wouldn't be if the money they were supposed to get actually went into those programs.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:03 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


America! YOUR country is WEAK and FOOLISH. You have NO weddings of Princes to commoners nor holidays to celebrate the aforementioned. How do you live with yourself and others like you? HA HA HA! I mock you and all you stand for.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom of Great Scotland and Upper Ireland, everything is ROSY and TRUE and people BOUNCE giddily with GOODJOYFULNESS.

For Lo! Prince Williams is marrificating Catherincia Middlewhelk upon the Frimas. All who belove the Queenfulness of Eliza Regina and her Family Royale shall quake and dribble at this happy occasion. Forsooth, many and varied ejaculations of juicy pride burst like a fountain from the chest holes of the vermin classes, and every chin is shiny and polished, ready to receive a Sovereign's knuckling.

We fear no rampant China, nay! - for when a buxom beauty from the Queen's own salty brood can swash his buckles in public with a canny whisp of a gal like Katty, every true Britisher engorges with lusty brine, fit to POP at the merest impress of a pinhead. GOD CUDDLE YOU, M'AM!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:12 AM on April 26, 2011 [24 favorites]


I don't think it makes any sense to discuss purchasing power parity unless you're comparing per capita figures. And it certainly doesn't mean shit in an international pissing contest.
posted by ryanrs at 10:15 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This post is about GDP (PPP). We can see here that the USA is way ahead of China when it comes to nominal GDP.

It is not clear to me why I should be interested in GDP (PPP), except on a per-capita basis where it would be an indicator of living standards. Can someone explain?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:17 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


ryanrs owes me a coke
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:17 AM on April 26, 2011


quidnunc:

You're 2 for 2. Now do Canada!
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:19 AM on April 26, 2011


For Lo! Prince Williams is marrificating Catherincia Middlewhelk upon the Frimas. All who belove the Queenfulness of Eliza Regina and her Family Royale shall quake and dribble at this happy occasion. Forsooth, many and varied ejaculations of juicy pride burst like a fountain from the chest holes of the vermin classes, and every chin is shiny and polished, ready to receive a Sovereign's knuckling.

Oh sure, you can laugh and you can mock. BUT: I just had a four-day weekend (Good Friday/Easter Monday). Next weekend, I'm having another four-day weekend (May Day and an extra day off for the Royal Wedding). While you "Americans"with your "democracy" and "elected leaders" are at work, I'll be sitting in the sun somewhere, probably in a beer garden, drinking. You can keep your Founding Fathers, I'll take the extra day off, thanks. And I'll raise a toast to Good Prince William, don't you think I won't.
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:33 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


They have the sun in England now?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:35 AM on April 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


It is not clear to me why I should be interested in GDP (PPP), except on a per-capita basis where it would be an indicator of living standards. Can someone explain?

Last I checked, the yuan was at 6 to the dollar and a VERY good Chinese wage (like at IBM) was $20,000/yr.

Imagine what the Chinese import/export economy would look like if the yuan were at parity.

Their exports would be in a difficult place, but their import footprint could be 6X what it is today.

The story of Japan is somewhat similar to this. They were humming along at 360 to the dollar in the postwar, and as the yen went to 250, then 150, then 120 -- now it's 80 -- things have changed for them dramatically.
posted by mokuba at 10:36 AM on April 26, 2011


Sunny days are awesome in England. As soon as it gets above 15 degrees (celsius, sure) the natives head en masse to a park, where they get drunk on cider and run around topless. I think it's like the Blitz spirit, making the most of what they've got, whether it's rationed food or limited amounts of sunshine.
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:37 AM on April 26, 2011


How do you simultaneously create wealth *and* make do with less?

That was the thesis. Import less, especially energy. Consume less so we export more than dollars. Redirect the income flows that is firehosing the top 5% such that everyone here can have a decent life.
posted by mokuba at 10:41 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


For people who like their data in colorful animated chart form, take a look at:
http://www.imf.org/external/datamapper/index.php

It's a lot easier to see just how tiny this Age-of-China-inducing surge is, and just how much a per-capita measure would put it into perspective.


(Um...per-capita means we all get our fair share of the GDP, right? Because I put in for my check WEEKS ago.)
posted by mittens at 10:42 AM on April 26, 2011


It is not clear to me why I should be interested in GDP (PPP), except on a per-capita basis where it would be an indicator of living standards.

But... their GDP goes to eleven.
posted by steambadger at 10:47 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


What!? Holy days a-plenty for the laze-loving Limeymen??? Gadzooks, you crusty Queen-humpers make me retch bile. I saw a Britisher once, you know - a work-shy renegade he was, dribbling with foulness. By Jupiter the thought of it makes me itch with horror. Thank God's milky nipples I have never kissed one tenderly in the Lake District.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:48 AM on April 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here's how it works. Think of the rich like a balloon.

Balloons are stretchy, and can hold a lot of water. However, they have a limit. If we keep on giving the rich tax cuts and subsidizing their losses, eventually their bank accounts will be so full and bloated, they will literally explode and get cash everywhere. This will flood the middle and lower class with wealth. And if we get the federal reserve and the treasury close enough to the wealthsplosion, our national debt issues will be solved.

However, it's superimportant you don't repeat this, as rich people don't want their bank accounts to explode and don't know about this phenomena. They'd lobby against tax cuts if they knew about it. We tell them it's a "trickle down effect." They like that, it sounds gentle.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:50 AM on April 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


You grow beers in gardens? You are very advanced indeed. I once planted Miller Lite cans, and all I got was a severe laceration when I forgot and ran over them with the lawnmower.

In the USA, we'll just have to make do with the primitive way of obtaining beer: solid state beer rays. Or we can just wait until it rains, and put out a bucket to collect bourbon.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:55 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


> If we keep on giving the rich tax cuts and subsidizing their losses, eventually their bank accounts will be so full and bloated, they will literally explode and get cash everywhere.

Are pitchforks involved?
posted by goethean at 10:55 AM on April 26, 2011


I think anyone who doesn't realize that China is in seriously trouble has their head in the sand. The scary part will be seeing how the built-in instability plays out. The odds of the Communist Party maintaining control and rapidly growing the economy without serious disruption for the next ten years are vanishingly small.

There are real problems with their economy and society that have been papered over. There's a vast sociological experiment going on into what happens when you have a society where there are many fewer women than men in a given cohort. Corruption in business and government is endemic. The people in charge are scared to death. The Internet and economic dislocation is transforming their society.

I kind of hope they manage to hold it together in it's current form, because the alternatives may be far worse. Interesting times, indeed.
posted by jefeweiss at 10:56 AM on April 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why is this a bombshell? Hasn't there been talk of China's economy eclipsing the US's for quite some time now?
posted by treepour at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2011


Hunter S. Thompson 1971

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

posted by GregorWill at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Not an economist, but there's a wrinkle in Mr. Arends' argument: namely, China's largest customer is the United States. Unless and until it can get domestic demand going, China needs the US far more than the US needs China. Hence all those Chinese purchases of T-Bills and the like. It's more like a marriage than a titanic struggle of empires.

If China finally lifts enough people out of poverty to get a respectable domestic market going, then it might be another story. But that's a big if, since there might not be enough resources in the world to do it right. And even if they accomplish that task, it would erode their competitive advantage. So the Chinese cost of labor would increase, evening things out a bit.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:01 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, here's a previously for us to savor the inevitable rightwing freakout about China.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:23 AM on April 26, 2011


Let's see... In 5 years, China will have only a billion very poor people. Yep, it's better than America!!!!!1
posted by eas98 at 11:30 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You'll probably have the same number of very rich people. Serfs only count as assets.
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on April 26, 2011


oh ok
posted by dantsea at 11:38 AM on April 26, 2011


China will never be able to open a Hooters however.
posted by longbaugh at 11:41 AM on April 26, 2011


Let's see... In 5 years, China will have only a billion very poor people. Yep, it's better than America!!!!!1

the older I get the more I think the Physiocrats were right, that wealth comes from the land.

Entrepôts can also exist and prosper here & there, but we all can't have a dominant trading sector. Somebody has to actually make the wealth somewhere.

Manufacturing is important, but people who manufacture have to eat, and are thus reliant on the global food surplus for existence, too.

So China is an interesting case. 4X+ the population as us on a nearly identical continental-scale landmass, though with some unfortunate topological realities that their hinterland becomes BFE Asia and not the actual economic Shangri-La that is our west coast.
posted by mokuba at 11:43 AM on April 26, 2011


There's only one option:

the US and EU will have to merge into the Euroamerican Union.

Just think about it: healthcare for everyone!
(we'll have to do something about that gun of yours though)
posted by joost de vries at 11:46 AM on April 26, 2011


I think you'd have better luck with gun control in the US than you would in Norway or Switzerland.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:49 AM on April 26, 2011


Just think about it: healthcare for everyone!
(we'll have to do something about that gun of yours though)


You'll pry our guns from our cold cool, dead dying hands (then hopefully revive us with free healthcare at the last minute).
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:12 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm in the "so what?" category. I see little evidence that American economic policy is aimed at anything other than protecting the best interests of America (understandably), so as a non-American, this doesn't exactly strike me with a lot of fear. Anyway, the wealth inequalities in the US make it seem to me like this moment long since passed symbolically if not mathematically -- when what economic growth there is hoarded into the hands of fewer and fewer people, it's no wonder that the US doesn't seem to be the "shining city on the hill" that it once was considered.

That said, this quote from the article struck me as particularly idiotic:

This is the result of decades during which China has successfully pursued economic policies aimed at national expansion and power, while the U.S. has embraced either free trade or, for want of a better term, economic appeasement.

This is Tea Party-esque isolationist rubbish.
posted by modernnomad at 12:16 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


For entrenched systems, great political and social changes occur after approximately 3 generations (one generation: 25 years), so about 75 years. That's what happened to hard control systems (Soviet Union) as well as soft ones (Mexico's PRI) - both about 75 years. China is an interesting case, in that they have successfully transitioned from hard to soft (the Soviets tried, but failed, with Gorbachev), but if the 3 generations rule holds, then China's still got some 15 years or so before the major inflection point occurs - so look out, come 2024 or so. That means the Communist Party will lose control; but how? China has historically always seen the struggle between asserting central control, and peripheral autonomy. Even when invaded, this obtained - the invaders took over power from the Emperor, and continued ruling from the center. The Communists are simply a modern version of that central control. But it's always a struggle - the provinces are forever trying to throw off the yoke and go their own way. So who knows what happens when the Communist Party loses control - perhaps the centrifugal forces tear the country apart. But then again, while China is an incredibly varied country, culturally, there appears more cultural unity compared, to India for example, and India, has managed to hold together (sometimes barely!), despite their quasi-democratic political system. Or as Yogi Berra may (or may not) have said: "it's hard to make predictions - especially about the future".
posted by VikingSword at 12:31 PM on April 26, 2011


> China is an interesting case, in that they have successfully transitioned from hard to soft

Debatable, to say the least. (P.S. Economist link, seems to be outside their paywall, hope it's that way for others.)
posted by jfuller at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2011


rusty:The "Age of America" is already over. It ended in 1980.

1980 -- Is that the year we went from the Space Shuttle Columbia at NASA to internal Culture Wars about religion and the "need" to emphasize Baptist Christianity in all aspects of American life?

(What a long, strange waste of time and resources it's been!)
posted by vhsiv at 12:55 PM on April 26, 2011


The real story here is staring everyone in the eye, but noone seems to notice: Look at who's #1 in the IMF and the CIA index: Its' EUROPE!

Yeah, in terms of GDP/person, USA might still be slightly ahead, but all those statistics are skewed: For example, in most parts of the US you need to have a car because public transport sucks, whereas mobility is much cheaper in Europe, and car sales are counted towards GDP whereas infrastructure costs do not figure as much.

And let's not start talking about quality of life: I recently read that average working times per year in Europe are something like 75 or 80% those in the States, the main reason being a common 30 days of holidays per year vs. 10 days or so in the US. That's right, Americans work so much more but are only marginally more productive. And don't forget cheap health insurance in most parts of Europe...

As for the influence wielded, well, the American model is to use violence to protect its interests (Iraq, South America....) whereas Europe uses a softer "change if you want to do business with us or be part of the club" approach. The EU totally transformed Turkey. And much of Eastern Europe including Russia. Incidentally, much of Eastern Europe was transformed into democracies at a fraction of the cost that the US spends PER YEAR in Iraq.

And the genius about it all is that noone has noticed! Because it's all distributed and there is no power center. In much of the world (North Africa, Middle East, South America), America is greeted with distrust, if not outright hate, whereas the feelings towards Europe are much more abated.

As for China, as someone said above, a lot of the figures are just guesswork. Also, there has been a change in Chinese foreign policy in the last 10 years or so towards being much less assertive. It seems that China is trying to keep a low profile for the time being. In that sense China is actually more similar to the EU than to the US.
posted by sour cream at 12:57 PM on April 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm smelling something...Reagan-esque about that year...
posted by longbaugh at 12:58 PM on April 26, 2011


Our plan is working your majesty.
posted by joost de vries at 1:47 PM on April 26, 2011


The Habsburg dynasty shall rise again!
posted by Kevin Street at 2:01 PM on April 26, 2011


The Habsburg dynasty shall rise again!

Not if my cyborg clone of Gavrilo Princip has anything to say about it.




Arise Gavrilomorph! ARISE!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:16 PM on April 26, 2011


the US and EU will have to merge into the Euroamerican Union.

NO! Amexicanada will be the greatest country in the world!
posted by fuq at 2:23 PM on April 26, 2011


No, it will Coastal US + Canadia + EU versus Flyover-stan aka Jesusland.
posted by unSane at 2:31 PM on April 26, 2011


(President Trump & VP Palin)
posted by unSane at 2:31 PM on April 26, 2011


I know you're being "funny", but please don't do this.
posted by hippybear at 2:40 PM on April 26, 2011


There are other countries out there, smaller economies, even, that have nice places for people to live, and even have solid middle classes. Even stranger, some of these places have active programs for helping other, non-middle class members of those societies.
But they don't have the POWER and GRANDEUR and MISSION of America. Plus they're weak militarily. Easy places to live but not good for the self-esteem.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:09 PM on April 26, 2011


Pony request: script that autofavorites everything the Quidnunc kid says.

Aren't we still worried about China's human rights record?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:21 PM on April 26, 2011


Hippybear, I live in huntin', fishin', godfearin', farmin', snowmobilin', right-wing votin' flyover country, and I love it. It's the Canadian version, so milder, but not a million miles away from Grand Rapids, Michigan or someplace like that. Rural poverty, hillbillies, army base, tank range, country music, we got all that stuff.

If you've flown into Toronto from Europe you went right over my house.
posted by unSane at 4:02 PM on April 26, 2011


Epping? Really? Great, now I have this running through my brain.

Oh, I wish my brain weren't ALWAYS just a mass of keyword triggers to media I've consumed earlier in my life.
posted by hippybear at 4:07 PM on April 26, 2011


Who cares? How long would you expect a country with 300 million people to do more 'stuff' then a country with 1,200 million?
posted by delmoi at 4:31 PM on April 26, 2011


You'll care when gas goes over $10. Wonder if they'll have to modify the machines and signs like they did 30 years ago.

One funny thing Warren Buffett did during the crash was buy a big railroad that connects the midwest with Seattle & LA. I think this was a play WRT the China trade.

When the dollar goes down and/or the yuan goes up, the quantity of American stuff the Chinese will be buying will increase.

This will be a wealth transfer OUT of the US economy. We will be poorer and they will be richer.

Strong dollars are good if trade is in balance. When it is not, things might go out of whack for a while and the eventual snapback may not be pleasant.

I don't know where things are going this decade and next but my general expectation is that we are simply screwed.
posted by mokuba at 5:09 PM on April 26, 2011


When the dollar goes down and/or the yuan goes up, the quantity of American stuff the Chinese will be buying will increase.

This will be a wealth transfer OUT of the US economy. We will be poorer and they will be richer.


Wait...wait, you did say 'will be buying' rather than 'will be shoplifting,' right? How is that a wealth transfer out of the US economy?
posted by mittens at 5:13 PM on April 26, 2011


China will never be able to open a Hooters however.

Look on the cold hard truth of reality, puny mortal, and despair!
posted by Ghidorah at 5:23 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


How is that a wealth transfer out of the US economy?

They'll be getting twice or 3X as much stuff for their money compared to now.

We'll have less and they'll have more while our producers will have the same income from these sales.

Admittedly, their exports to us will also be hit with this effect, but this is with the overall assumption that they will be less reliant on shipping stuff to us as the century progresses.
posted by mokuba at 5:28 PM on April 26, 2011


How does one group of people exchanging goods for money with another group of people end up being a wealth transfer out of the group who is producing the goods? Are they, as a whole, too stupid to price their goods so they make a profit? Is the US going to suffer some massive collective stroke which kills off the part of their collective brain which lets them clearly see what they should charge for manufactured items?
posted by hippybear at 5:29 PM on April 26, 2011


Commander de vries to the ready room.

I pulled out the ole coal shovel to move some mulch about this weekend. 30 years old, handle needs a good shoring up and it is rusty. Good old american made. It still works. flashback to cuba and the peoples remarkable capacity to keep a chevy running. skip the intro..in the future, they who make the better goods using the least amount of resources will win.

and that will be Finland.
posted by clavdivs at 5:29 PM on April 26, 2011


and the welsh
posted by clavdivs at 5:31 PM on April 26, 2011


How does one group of people exchanging goods for money with another group of people end up being a wealth transfer out of the group who is producing the goods?

dunno, macro makes my head hurt. I'm just looking down the road at what the coming USD - yuan exchange parity implies. We're still a factor of 6 away from that but the trend seems to be locked in to 3X in my lifetime if not sooner.

As the yuan strengthens, they -- all x-hundred million of them in their middle class -- begin to have the same purchasing power as us.

This is good for us in some areas that aren't concerned with the nuts & bolts of resource allocation -- the soft IP of entertainment, corporate services, etc.

But it also means a lot more hard goods will be leaving our economy on boats to China than is the case now.

Things like California's tree crops. As the yuan strengthens the Chinese will be able to buy more of our stuff for the same dollar amount the farmer gets. That's a sucking sound as far as domestic prices go -- we'll have less domestic supply of almonds here, and OUR price will respond upwards in response.

I'm not saying this is necessarily going to happen but it's my general impression of the situation. Again, macro is hard.
posted by mokuba at 5:37 PM on April 26, 2011


So, do you currently feel that the situation between the US and China is such that we are currently seeing a transfer of wealth out of China and into the US? Since right now the positions are reversed?

Because, while I'm not an economist, I'm pretty sure that isn't what is happening.
posted by hippybear at 5:45 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]



So, do you currently feel that the situation between the US and China is such that we are currently seeing a transfer of wealth out of China and into the US?


Isn't that what the Chinese govt. holding US T-bills is all about?
posted by gen at 6:04 PM on April 26, 2011


Treasury: China's holdings of US debt jump 30 percent based on annual revision of data

In an annual revision of the figures, the Treasury Department said Monday that China's holdings totaled $1.16 trillion at the end of December. That was an increase of 30 percent from an estimate the government made two weeks ago.

The government made the change to its monthly report based on more accurate information it obtains in an annual survey. That survey more does a better job of determining the actual owners of Treasury securities.

China was firmly in the top spot as the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury debt even before the revisions. But the big increase in Chinese holdings could ease fears that Chinese investors might begin dumping their U.S. holdings. Such a development could send U.S. interest rates rising. That would slow America's economic recovery and increase Washington's costs for financing the $14.3 trillion national debt.

posted by gen at 6:10 PM on April 26, 2011


The situation now is hard to understand since I have not studied what's going on all that much.

My general impression is that the Chinese have been working like dogs for almost 20 years, moving up the value chain of manufacturing.

It is their labor they've been exporting to us more than anything, and in return we've been shipping them money.

Greenspan ramped up the global supply of dollars to facilitate this globalization in the 1990s, and our major trading partners have been taking our money and loaning it back to us via our consumer credit companies, starting in the late 90s:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CMDEBT

The "Global Saving Glut" that powered the housing bubble was a virtuous cycle of American consumers getting home loans and HELOCs, buying Chinese-made stuff, the Peoples Bank of China taking these dollars from their exporters and lending the USD back to us (while giving the Chinese exporters newly-printed yuan instead).

We had to do some special financial engineering to save the Chinese money they had in our GSEs -- I don't know the details but TMK their money in the GSEs was made good in 2008-2009 somehow. NBC SNL skit.

The chinese people have built up $3T in USD-denominated savings.

This is a significant amount of money -- the combined market caps of the top 15 US companies, from Exxon to Coca Cola, or $25,000 per US household.

The Japanese have about half that I guess, dunno, this table shows their holdings of US Treasury debt.

Some day the money trade is going to have to be replaced with actual goods and services. Hard goods like food & energy are something of a zero-sum game, something sold to China cannot be sold here. That is the wealth transfer I am thinking of. It is the combination of this trade flow PLUS the strengthening of the yuan that I find . . . interesting.
posted by mokuba at 6:10 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't that what the Chinese govt. holding US T-bills is all about?

Not sure that has anything to do with having the US manufacturing things to sell to China and having that act of trade creating a transfer of wealth from the US to China as an act of that trade... But I'd be willing to listen to your reasoning behind your statement.
posted by hippybear at 6:10 PM on April 26, 2011


Isn't that what the Chinese govt. holding US T-bills is all about?

Lending us money so that we can accelerate their industrial growth...I think that's still a transfer of wealth away from America.
posted by mittens at 6:11 PM on April 26, 2011


As humble American serf (aka wage slave), I don't feel I really have a horse in this race, but I did want to mention that I personally won't shed a tear as long as those six flags are still on that rock out about a quarter of a million miles from us.

Oh, and, also, I not only witnessed, but also posted in the thread that gave birth to the "raging educationalists" meme.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:15 PM on April 26, 2011


Some day the money trade is going to have to be replaced with actual goods and services. Hard goods like food & energy are something of a zero-sum game, something sold to China cannot be sold here. That is the wealth transfer I am thinking of. It is the combination of this trade flow PLUS the strengthening of the yuan that I find . . . interesting.

If the dollar is worth less, doesn't that mean the debt China holds is worth less, thus fewer actual goods and services go out? I mean, I think I get what you're saying--it's one thing to buy goods and services, it's another to buy the store and the factory and the sidewalk and the road and take them all away, then there's nothing less. But if they are buying US goods and services, that means all this unused capacity we've got going on gets used, we build more factories, hire more workers, put more money behind more good ideas, and we grow. Food and energy...well, we know energy's not zero-sum, there's a gazillion watts unused glowing down on us, blowing the leaves in the trees, the whole bit, and if we need to sell food, we have acre after acre of corn that is better off in someone's belly than in their gas tank, so I'm just not seeing a downside. Maybe I'm missing it!
posted by mittens at 6:17 PM on April 26, 2011


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "WI State Senator Glenn Grothman blames the secular atheist socialism fascist single motherss

The Modern GOP says America can't do it and they're going to make it so
"

What is this, I don't even...

(And I grew up in a house that had little infographics showing how abortion compared to NAZI GERMANY!)
posted by symbioid at 6:19 PM on April 26, 2011


The important thing to understand is that money isn't wealth. It's a claim to wealth. So we haven't exported much wealth to China -- yet, though we have been "sharing" our national technological know-how, which is a form of intangible capital wealth.

The actual wealth flow begins when we receive these dollars back from China from selling them stuff. A factory wage here is ~$50/hr, so the accumulated trade deficit says we owe them about 30 million man-years of labor, so far.
posted by mokuba at 6:20 PM on April 26, 2011


A factory wage here is ~$50/hr

*raised eyebrow*

The national average hourly rate for assembly line workers in the US is between $8.50 and $20.00 per hour. At least, according to this website, which was the first that Google spit at me.
posted by hippybear at 6:24 PM on April 26, 2011


a factory wage here is ~$50/hr

We're still talking about America, right?

I guess I'm confused about what you're considering wealth here. If they sell us stuff, in my mind, we're sending them wealth for all the little plastic scrubbies and car parts and iPads. Because the stuff we're buying isn't used to build much, it's mostly consumer (and thus consumed) goods, it doesn't look like we're building up wealth in the transaction.
posted by mittens at 6:25 PM on April 26, 2011


But if they are buying US goods and services, that means all this unused capacity we've got going on gets used, we build more factories, hire more workers, put more money behind more good ideas, and we grow.

I think the Chinese are going to be very strategic in what they buy from us.

Food and energy...well, we know energy's not zero-sum, there's a gazillion watts unused glowing down on us

The oil economy is zero-sum, and it remains to be seen whether there's a replacement for it yet. I'm very hopeful, but not convinced.

if we need to sell food, we have acre after acre of corn that is better off in someone's belly than in their gas tank

Again, the Chinese are going to be very strategic in what they buy from us.

so I'm just not seeing a downside. Maybe I'm missing it!

Optimistic man is optimistic.
posted by mokuba at 6:26 PM on April 26, 2011


If they sell us stuff, in my mind, we're sending them wealth for all the little plastic scrubbies and car parts and iPads.

no, we're mostly sending them money.

Trade in Goods with China

TOTAL 2010
Exports: $92B
Imports: $365B
Balance: ($273B)

$270B of money in 2010.

With this money they can do a lot. Like buy Chevron, if we let them. They'd still have $50B left over. My apartment building sold to someone this year @ $50,000 per unit, so that $50B could have bought 2000 apartment complexes like mine (a not-small complex with 500 units).
posted by mokuba at 6:33 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


steambadger writes "Anyway, the Age of America doesn't officially end until China controls all the artifacts or builds a wonder."

Three Gorges Dam
posted by Mitheral at 6:33 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The national average hourly rate for assembly line workers in the US is between $8.50 and $20.00 per hour.

I was going for the skilled rate. They don't need cheap labor from us, they have enough of that already.
posted by mokuba at 6:35 PM on April 26, 2011


So what are they going to buy from us so strategically? Oil companies and apartment buildings?
posted by mittens at 6:39 PM on April 26, 2011


Oil companies and apartment buildings?

Productive assets around the globe, yes.

Australia wanted to curb China resource investment: WikiLeaks

The important thing to factor into one's understanding of the situation is how much of all the stuff we got from China was capital goods and how much was consumer goods.

It wasn't all "plastic crap" as people say, a lot of it was routers, PCs, and other stuff that makes business hum.

How this trade works out to our benefit is going to be determined by what the Chinese buy in return with their money. If it's the same mix of "plastic crap" we bought from them 1995-2010, then great.

If not, not so great.
posted by mokuba at 6:49 PM on April 26, 2011


What does that mean? Huh? "China is here." I don't even know what the hell that means.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:16 PM on April 26, 2011


You'll care when gas goes over $10. Wonder if they'll have to modify the machines and signs like they did 30 years ago.
That won't affect me that much. Plus how selfish is it to want the Chinese people to remain poor so they don't compete with you for finite resources? I would say it's pretty selfish. The problem with the Chinese government is their government style, not the fact that the Chinese are lifting people out of poverty.
Isn't that what the Chinese govt. holding US T-bills is all about?
When you loan someone money, you transfer wealth to them. Wealth comes out of China, and then China lends it back to the U.S. government.

Also, remember that the Chinese are explicitly doing this to keep the Yuan low so that people don't go out of work, they want to keep their low labor cost structure. If the Yuan revalues, then that goes away.
Things like California's tree crops. As the yuan strengthens the Chinese will be able to buy more of our stuff for the same dollar amount the farmer gets. That's a sucking sound as far as domestic prices go -- we'll have less domestic supply of almonds here, and OUR price will respond upwards in response.
Wow, we might some of those jobs back? Sounds horrible... Unlike the idiots running the U.S, the Chinese understand the point of keeping their people employed and upwardly mobile. They want the currency and the labor cheap so they can continue to sell it to the U.S.


This is the same phobia people had about the Japanese in the 80s/90s.
posted by delmoi at 7:39 PM on April 26, 2011


Plus how selfish is it to want the Chinese people to remain poor so they don't compete with you for finite resources?

My personal desires are orthogonal to the present discussion, delmoi.

When you loan someone money, you transfer wealth to them. Wealth comes out of China, and then China lends it back to the U.S. government.

No, as I've tried to explain above, money is not wealth, since wealth is that which satisfies human wants of utility, and money itself is only useful as a paper good (wallpaper, toilet paper, etc).

Wealth has various forms and various sources.

Capital wealth tends to stick around longer than the ephemeral wealth that services provide, or "cheap plastic crap" for that matter.

Much of the "investment" of the previous decade was into our housing sector -- the decorative lighting, the granite countertops, and the stainless steel appliances. This was entirely consumption, and as such we did not gain much capital formation from all this.

The Chinese, through their monetary policy, did, however.

they want to keep their low labor cost structure. If the Yuan revalues, then that goes away.

yes, this is the obvious level. I don't know what's going to happen with China over the next few decades, how strong the yuan will get and what this will do to our trading relationship.

But "it's all good" I think is premature with this. Some very very bad things can happen to us economically through our misinvestments and general stupidity.

Wow, we might some of those jobs back? Sounds horrible...

I'm trying to explain one future that may or may not evolve. I'm no expert and don't know anything, but all I'm trying to say with this is that it is actually possible that a strengthening yuan could suck a significant amount of hard wealth out of this country, making consumer prices here higher than they are now.

Things like pork, beef, gasoline, fruit, etc. Wages in China are about 1/6th what they are here, so theoretically parity with the yuan is in the cards. Whether this happens and how remains to be seen.

This is the same phobia people had about the Japanese in the 80s/90s.

Indeed it is. The demographic dimension is completely different though, as is the development trajectories of Japan 1868-1988 vs. China 1978-now.

Back in the 1980s someone forgot to look at Japan's population pyramid to see that they would be running out of people starting around now.

China, actually, has something of a similar demographic cut-off coming up now -- right now the # of 20 yos is peaking and will begin to actually decline. But China has an immense labor surplus still so this is not quite the negative it was for the Japanese, 1990-now.
posted by mokuba at 8:11 PM on April 26, 2011


I'm no expert and don't know anything, but all I'm trying to say with this is that it is actually possible that a strengthening yuan could suck a significant amount of hard wealth out of this country, making consumer prices here higher than they are now.


Higher prices for stuff made with Chinese labor, which would mean more Jobs for U.S. workers.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure, like I said that's obvious. But there's still a massive gap between China and us.

The factory wage at Honda is going to be paying RMB3500 in 2013. That's $500.

A month . . . $3/hr.

China could quadruple their wage base and not lose jobs to us.

Like ol' Perot said back in 1992, the global wage level is going to meet at $6.

Plus it remains to be seen what exactly we produce that the Chinese want to buy from us.

Kinda like "coals to Newcastle" with manufactures, really.
posted by mokuba at 10:27 PM on April 26, 2011




Nah. China still have a lot of catch up. It's meaningless to look at only GDP. From Nation Power Index which weighted GDP, defense spending, population, and technology. China needs at least until 2029 to catch up to the United States.

Of course, that assume Chinese economy can grow at breathing taking pace in the aughts. Which is unlikely as an economy become a middle income country, growth will slow down.

Do you think Chinese will continue to tolerate the massive poisoning of their environment in the name of economics growth?
posted by Carius at 10:53 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


And all of this "growth" precludes any political uprising or civil unrest they'd have to deal with. Economics without politics is fantasy. It all goes together.

China will not likely surpass the US economy for a long, long time.
posted by grubi at 7:35 AM on April 27, 2011


And all of this "growth" precludes any political uprising or civil unrest they'd have to deal with. Economics without politics is fantasy. It all goes together.

As I understand it, most of China's wealth and economic activity is focused on the East coast, while central/western China is still pretty much poor and underdeveloped as it's ever been. That's also where the ethnic/religious tensions among the non-Han Chinese is strong. The Chinese are building lots of Infrastructure like high-speed trains, but millions of migrant workers from outside th Eastern cities also seem to be taking those trains back to where they came from as factories close and jobs vaporize.

Lawrence Wilkerson spoke about China & America's "Deadly economic dance" of you buy our IOUs (with the associated vig), we buy your manufactured goods, we all get rich. He put the question to George Soros, "Eventually, the dancers are going to be forced apart once the econopocalypse hits music stops. Isn't the one with the manufacturing base going to be able to pick itself up off the floor sooner?"

Soros is reported to just have smiled.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the idea that manufacturing is the determiner for economic health is going to be shattered in the next decade or so. "Oh, we build things! We win!" Uh, no. Money isn't always made on tangibles, folks. And certainly not exclusively.
posted by grubi at 9:13 AM on April 27, 2011


Money is the opposite of wealth. It is only a claim on wealth.

Wealth at its most basic is the state of being well, having no unmet needs or wants.

So it is possible to be wealthy with very little, if your needs and wants are minimal.

We extend this to the goods & services that make us well, ie that satisfy our needs and wants.

We extend it further to encompass the capital goods and knowledge that assists in the creation of these goods and services -- factory tooling, the human capital that goes into enterprise.

So manufacturing capability is somewhat important in the scheme of modern life, given how much stuff we like to use. Manufacturing creates goods with a significant producer surplus -- which is the market price minus cost of production.

Things have really changed in the past 30 years. Back in 1984, Steve Jobs was opening up manufacturing facilities in the bay area. These days that's inconceivable.

We've been living in a credit bubble since the 1990s, and it's unclear how long our trading partners -- China, OPEC -- will continue cycling our money back to us so we can keep buying their stuff.
posted by mokuba at 12:48 PM on April 27, 2011


Leaving aside the wealth thing...because, seriously, I'm just not a billionaire because my basic needs and wants are met.

We've been living in a credit bubble since the 1990s, and it's unclear how long our trading partners -- China, OPEC -- will continue cycling our money back to us so we can keep buying their stuff.

What are their other options? Where is the other market? I know there are plenty of emerging markets and young consumers who want and need things...but come on. Are they going to dump our debt? On whom? Are they going to make us pay up? How?
posted by mittens at 1:46 PM on April 27, 2011


Good points, mokuba, but how does the information industry translate into capital and wealth? We aren't manufacturers, but remove our contribution and it all comes tumbling down.

That's why I say simply claiming manufacturing is your barometer is false. We're in a post-industrial phase. The impact of declining manufacturing may be diminished with the increase in information technology, but it may be too soon to tell.

In other words, it's a little more complicated than one might think.
posted by grubi at 2:05 PM on April 27, 2011


Are they going to dump our debt? On whom? Are they going to make us pay up? How?

I don't have the answers to these questions, and I suspect nobody does. This is why silver is pushing $50 and gold $1500 right now I guess. Over the last year China's holding of treasury debt has increased 30%, a stupendous amount.

I really don't know where this story is going . . .

how does the information industry translate into capital and wealth

it's an awesome force of wealth-creation. Just look at people paying 50c a day to play WOW for hours a week, an amazing deal compared to other forms of entertainment.

Media can be copied which has its good side for consumer and/or pirates and bad-side for producers.

What I see developing in the future is "virtual reality" -- computer-delivered entertainment -- increasingly serving as a substitute good for more expensive forms of entertainment

In the first world, bring entertained is a major need, and computers do that well.

IT also of course serves as traditional capital in increasing the productivity of labor -- I'm old enough to have worked in offices with typewriters, and boy was that work-flow slow.

IT also removes the spacial divide between economies; we offshore much of our business to the Philippines, India, and other putatively English-speaking countries, win-win I guess.

I also think IT will increasingly work for us directly, via AI. Google is a pretty good substitute service for a librarian!
posted by mokuba at 2:45 PM on April 27, 2011


I also think IT will increasingly work for us directly, via AI.

Robots can't run themselves. Somewhere down the line are professional nerds keeping it all running. AI has its limits.
posted by grubi at 2:57 PM on April 27, 2011


In other words, it's a little more complicated than one might think.

I think our economy is in for a major restructuring, yes. I'm old enough to remember what the 1960s looked like, at least what survived into the 1970s.

We've got a $20B/month trade imbalance with China, which is 2/3rds of our import rate.

Japan is at $5B/month, or 50% of their exports.

Saudi Arabia, it was $20B imbalance for 2010, 60% of total imports from them.

Some of this runs into the Trifflin Dilemma, but on balance I tend to think/fear we're just being bled dry with these imbalances.
posted by mokuba at 3:12 PM on April 27, 2011


Robots can't run themselves.

They will -- the secret of IT is ever-increasing productivity.

Information Employment in California (CAINFON)
posted by mokuba at 3:15 PM on April 27, 2011


Fine. So be it. Because after a century of "growth", we Americans are fat enough.

I like corn curls too, but I take em out of my mouth once in a while.
posted by Twang at 6:43 PM on April 27, 2011


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