Back in 2019, I divided China’s recent economic history into three periods.
The net result of these three periods is that China did enjoy some growth thanks to partial liberalization. The good news is that the wrenching destitution and suffering of the Mao years is now just an unpleasant memory.
But the bad news is that China is still not a rich nation.
And there’s no reason to expect much future progress because of Xi’s misguided policies.
…some of us were always skeptical of the notion that China would achieve great economic success after having reversed its move toward market liberalization in 2012 and returned to central planning for its industrial policy. …The idea that a country can become rich through central planning is a myth. …malinvestment, economic distortion, and politically driven policies replete with special-interest-driven handouts, all of which are characteristic features of central planning, eventually inflict a sizeable economic toll that’s impossible to hide. When this happens, the economy slows, companies collapse. …we have a deep historical record that shows repeatedly that state direction of economic activity impoverishes rather than enriches. Many people in America today — on the left and right — still have faith that central planning can work economic marvels, and that we should therefore emulate China’s policies. …Too many politicians, economists, and pundits are invested in the illusion that — equipped with models that can ostensibly predict the future — they can design clever plans to organize the economy.
It’s no surprise that bad policy has bad economic consequences. But it also appears that bad policy has adverse psychological effects as well.
Here are some excerpts from a Washington Post column by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute.
China is in the midst of a quiet but stunning nationwide collapse of birthrates. …China’s nosedive in childbearing is a silent alarm. It signals deep disaffection with the bleak future the regime is engineering for its subjects. In this land without democracy, the birth collapse can be read as a landslide vote of no confidence in President Xi Jinping’s rule. …Since 2013 — the year Xi completed his ascent to power — the rate of first marriages in China has fallen by well over half. Headlong flights from both childbearing and marriage are taking place in China today. …Birth shocks of this order almost never occur under stable modern governments during peacetime. …“the birth of a baby,” in the words of the government-run publication People’s Daily, remains “a state affair.” But now Beijing wants more babies from its subjects. A dictatorship may use bayonets to depress birthrates — but it is much trickier to deploy police state tactics to force birthrates up. …The dictatorship has brought this demographic defiance upon itself.
Unhappy and pessimistic people don’t have children.
Well-heeled Chinese are leaving China for Singapore, attracted by the city-state’s low taxes and high-quality education, amid anxiety over China’s direction under leader Xi Jinping. …Around 10,800 wealthy Chinese left the country in 2022, according to estimates from New World Wealth, a research firmthat tracks the movements and spending habits of the world’s high-net-worth citizens. …Singapore…has particular attractions for Chinese citizens. It is relatively close to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, Mandarin is widely spoken alongside English, and the city boasts excellent schools and a financial sector heavily focused on wealth management. …permanent residency and a fast-track route to Singaporean citizenship are available for those willing to invest at least 2.5 million Singapore dollars ($1.9 million) in new or existing Singapore businesses. …another factor driving Chinese nationals to move abroad is unease over a darkening climate for accumulating wealth in China, as Mr. Xi talks up the need for greater redistribution in his drive for a more egalitarian society.
I’m not surprised that class warfare discourages entrepreneurs. That’s trueeverywhere in the world.
The exodus from China also was addressed by Li Yuan in an article for the New York Times.
They went to Singapore, Dubai, Malta, London, Tokyo and New York — anywhere but their home country of China, where they felt that their assets, and their personal safety, were increasingly at the mercy of the authoritarian government. …Many of them are still scarred by the last few years, during which China’s leadership went after the country’s biggest private enterprises, vilified its most celebrated entrepreneurs, decimated entire industries with arbitrary regulation… Singapore works because about three million of its citizens, or three-quarters, are ethnic Chinese, and many speak Mandarin. They also like that it is business-friendly and global-minded and, most of all, upholds the rule of law. …For decades, Hong Kong played the role of safe haven for mainland entrepreneurs because of its autonomy from China. That crumbled after Beijing introduced a national security law in the territory in 2020.
I’ll close by observing that China’s economic outlook may be even worse than we think because of dishonest data. And if China follows bad advice from the IMF and OECD, the outlook will become even gloomier.
Courtesy of International Liberty.
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