Monday, April 2, 2018

What We Don’t Know About China (optional)

If interested, check out the article entitled “Nobody Knows Anything About China: Including the Chinese Government”.

It’s written by James Palmer, a longtime resident of Beijing, and the Asia Editor of Foreign Policy. This is a widely read, semi-scholarly magazine, with a pro-Democratic lean. And I think it’s fair to say that in contemporary America, the Democrats are more pro-China than the Republicans.

So the expert at a pro-China media outlet is providing excruciating detail that no one knows much for sure about what comes out of China. This is not a matter of prejudice: it’s simply not like other countries, and should not be interpreted as such.

The article is exactly what the title says: a litany of things about China that no one really knows for sure, including the Chinese. There are a huge number of links to deeper sources on many issues.

This is a problem for macroeconomics given the earlier post detailing how Westphalian sovereignty affects the interpretation of economic data.

Willingness to accept [is] … typical of the gullibility and compliance of many foreign NGOs … when dealing with China …

That’s a meaty quote from a magazine with an interest in keeping people informed.

N.B. One word in the article is kind of obscure: Potemkinism. The source of this word is an 18th century Russian official named Potemkin. Russia had conquered a lot from the Turks. In the old days, the point of conquest was to acquire a region that had value. Russia had conquered poor, backward areas, and the Empress wanted to see all the newly found riches. So Potemkin faked it. Today, his name is still used as a college-level word to indicate a nice façade covering up the bad news. Down in Texas they have a phrase I always liked for people who do this: “All hat and no cattle”. We all need to acknowledge that there’s a positive probability that China is all hat and no cattle.

BTW: Here’s a post from the 2009 class about Westphalian sovereignty is an underlying problem with international debt crises.

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