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Has Xi Jinping bankrupted China? It is finally possible to imagine a post-Communist regime

Xi and South Africa's Cyril Rampahosa at this week's Brics summit (Deaan Vivier/Beeld/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Xi and South Africa's Cyril Rampahosa at this week's Brics summit (Deaan Vivier/Beeld/Gallo Images via Getty Images)


August 24, 2023   8 mins

It is hard to tell when a crisis in a dictatorial regime, such as the sudden breakdown of China’s economic model, is not about this or that, but about the regime itself. My own experience in this regard is very discouraging. In 1984, my book Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union contained many pages about nationalities I claimed were heading towards independence — not just the well-known if still very obedient Baltics, Armenians and Georgians, but others occupying vastly larger territories, the then barely known Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Turkmen (I readily confess that it never occurred to me that Ukrainians might join them).

The response of every established Western Sovietologist was that I had foolishly confused folkloric categories with actual living and breathing nations — they were just “Soviets” who occasionally wore funny hats, and it was pure and utter fantasy that they might ever want to be independent. That was just seven years before the final and official collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is axiomatic that nations endure while regimes must collapse, but none of the easy Soviet analogies works when it comes to China. Yes, Beijing recognises 55 minority populations, but they account for no more than 9% or so of the total, and some of the nationalities really are only folkloric, unlike the Uyghur, Kazakhs and Tibetans whom the Chinese must actively repress.

As to the economy, it only broke the morale of the Soviet Communist Party after two decades of increasingly demoralising stagnation that had become obvious by 1980 even to casual visitors, who noticed a very distinctive no-hope “Soviet” look on most people’s faces. The Chinese Communist Party, by contrast, emerged from a visibly malnourished and downright dirty state — when I lived there in 1976, human waste was carted through its streets — with tentative growth from the early Eighties accelerating from the Nineties, gloriously enriching China until very recently.

Even today’s bad economic news reveals no terminal, necessarily regime-destroying diseases, as was true of the Soviet Union, which had to import wheat every few years even as it built more tractors for its farmers than the US. In China, in fact, the only wealth-destroying disease has been the very thing that every tourist and even some experts have admired immensely: the proliferation of a hugely impressive, mostly well-designed and well-built infrastructure, from high-speed trains that now reach even into Laos while connecting some 550 cities in 33 provinces, to the motorways that link every part of China, some all the way up mountains and into deserts, to the roughly 250 full-service airports (in 1976 only eight had enough runway for our small Trident jet), to the immense ports which imported 95 million metric tons of soya beans alone in 2021, when the Port of London handled 50 million tons of everything.

How do wonderful infrastructures destroy wealth? One example is sufficient. In 2018, on a drive along the North Korea border, I encountered a vast and beautiful white six-lane highway suspension bridge across the Yalu river. It was built to connect the Chinese city of Dandong with North Korea, to service the trade boom Xi expected with the promised opening of the North’s economy. Naturally, it would require a customs house, duly built as a very impressive high-rise, warehouses and more than 10 blocks of commercial offices. Yet when I visited, the bridge ended in a North Korean potato field, traffic was exactly zero, the customs house was empty and so were the office blocks and warehouses, some paid for by private border merchants who were bankrupt when I met them in Dandong (they openly cursed Xi for going along with the US-sponsored Security Council Embargo).

Savings that could have enriched many Chinese citizens, including the 180 million officially counted as “very poor” and the further 300 million or so still trapped in poverty, were instead wasted on the Yalu bridge complex, with uncountably greater waste on infrastructure all across China. The list starts with a least 100 grossly under-utilised airports  and the many highways that are mostly empty of traffic even in crowded China, including the wonderful multi-lane G-214 that runs all the way from the near-tropical tourist town of Dali in Yunnan up the ever-rising landscape to Tibet.

The immediate issue now is not what might have been, had the capital been used to reduce poverty, but the way the money was found in the first place. Some was collected from taxes, but much more was found by adding to the immense debt mountain that now paralyses the investments of the private building firms that built skyscrapers and gigantic apartment blocks all over China, as well as the uniquely Chinese semi-private municipal and provincial joint ventures that built factories and infrastructural projects. The latter’s money came from the loans of the local branches of state banks, whose managers could not just say no to local party bosses, who could choose to invite them to sumptuous dinners in pretty company or to lock them up for corruption investigations as they saw fit. Back in Beijing, senior managers at Bank of China headquarters — whose role models are neither Mao, Lenin nor even Xi Jinping, but rather their Bank of England and Federal Reserve counterparts with whom many have studied in the US and England — kept trying to discipline the flood of bank loans to the chronically overambitious joint-venture companies. But they had no power at all to scare off the party bosses.

Pan Gongsheng, the current Bank chief, is certainly the most independent official surviving in Xi’s intensely autocratic China, just as the head of the Russian central bank, Elvira Näbiullina, is the most independent official in Moscow. Yet Pan knows he cannot stop the infrastructure projects that are daily adding to China’s debt mountain, without immediately replacing a debt crisis with a mass unemployment crisis — any more than Näbiullina can stop the Ukraine war, whose dead and wounded are much less of a threat for her than the ultimate horror of war-spending inflation (which in Russia can quickly starve 44 million pensioners).

The sudden economic crisis that has stalled China’s economy after decades of growth is very obviously not just “cyclical”. Xi Jinping cannot afford to just sit it out: the immense debt mountain must be reduced to resume profitable investments. In the US, the cure for the 2007-2009 debt crisis that stalled Europe’s economy as well, was the 2008 bankruptcy of literally high-flying Lehman Brothers (its 20-somethings in different offices in the same Manhattan building sent notes to each other by Federal Express via Memphis, Tennessee), and of hundreds of other high-fliers large and small. As for the millions of US homeowners with unpayable mortgages, they just walked out, becoming instantly homeless but also debt-free. Yet very few remained homeless because the US economy picked up very quickly once it was drastically purged of non-repayable loans. (Japan’s housing collapse, on the other hand, stopped the economy for a decade because home loans were personal and could not just be abandoned)

In China, the problem is the opposite: uncounted millions have all or much of their savings in apartments that stand empty, generating tax and other costs instead of income, and they cannot just walk out of them. They need renters, who in practice must be mostly young couples setting up families, especially today, when many young and not-so young single Chinese are stuck living with their parents. It is at this exact point that an economic problem becomes a political one, which can be lethal to any regime, even Xi Jinping’s constantly self-praising and seemingly formidable autocracy.

The first political blip did not originate in ancient China nor even in post-1949 Communist China — it only dates back to July 2023. It was then that the authorities stopped publishing the 16-to-24 unemployment statistic that reached 21.3% in June, a number both very high and also a gross underestimate by all accounts. What makes this unemployment potentially explosive is not the fact that June unemployment was actually much higher than 21.3% (expert estimates start at 30%), nor even the fact that the July percentage was not published because it was even higher, but rather Xi Jinping’s very personal responsibility for much of it.

It was Xi alone, in an expressly personal decision in the name of social equality, who abruptly shut down China’s vast private tutoring industry in July 2021, depriving new university graduates of desirable starter jobs; the seven largest teaching companies alone had to fire 250,000 graduates. Enterprising graduates tried to teach privately, but in October 2021 online tutoring was halted, while those who gathered a few pupils for lessons in parks of cafes were told to stop or face arrest when spotted by police.

Also very much Xi Jinping’s personal responsibility was the abrupt collapse in the demand for new graduates in the entire high-tech sector, which followed the disappearance of China’s most dynamic entrepreneur Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma. Dictators are well known for their jealousy. And the spectacle of Ma being serenaded by more than 25,000 utterly ecstatic Alibaba employees on his birthday (he himself was singing and playing the guitar) was just too much for Xi, who only receives a dutiful clapping from his corralled party underlings.

In November 2020, Ma was summoned to a Party office for having dared to question a lesser official’s remarks. A few days later, the record-breaking $34 billion stock-market listing of his new Ant Group, which was set to hire tens of thousands, was abruptly stopped, as was Ma himself, who disappeared for three months until he was trotted back out in humiliating circumstances. Then, instead of hiring 20,000 new graduates as it did in 2020, Alibaba had to fire 20,000 in 2021, while many other jobs were suppressed by other Chinese high-tech companies whose chiefs cancelled new projects to avoid attention.

Many in China also know that Xi is personally responsible for the spread of anti-Chinese attitudes around the world, which, in turn, has greatly reduced investment, affected employment, and made Chinese tourists and students feel unwelcome in many countries. And the educated know that it was Xi personally who promoted the “wolf warrior” diplomats who openly upbraided and even insulted the governments to which they were accredited, earning headlines in China and the contempt of the locals for all things Chinese. And it is widely understood that Xi has gone out of his way to encourage Chinese soldiers, sailors and pilots to act aggressively, causing incidents with India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as US ships and aircraft. (Xi made Colonel Qi Fabao, who was filmed inciting the 2020 Galwan incident that killed 30 Indian and four Chinese troops, a delegate to the Party Congress, China’s equivalent to the House of Lords.)

With China in deep trouble, and finding himself in the cross hairs of any party boss who dreams of evading his “anti-corruption” goons long enough to oust him, might Xi be tempted to invade Taiwan to divert attention? The belief that leaders start wars to divert attention is common among cotton-wool-between-the-ears intellectuals, and in Hollywood it is gospel, but the real thing is very rare. Even the theory that General Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the Falklands in 1982 to divert attention from Argentina’s perpetually bad economy and the Junta’s torture chambers is rather shaky. For one thing, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington resigned to take responsibility for mixed messages that might have encouraged the Argentines instead of deterring them.

In any case, Xi’s talk of war — which is all about the “rejuvenation” of Chinese manhood, and the impellent necessity to redeem a very long history of defeats (the last in Vietnam in 1979) by winning a war, any war — started when China’s economy was still in splendid shape. If anything, it is the conflict in Ukraine that might encourage Xi to invade Taiwan, because it proves that wars can be fought without a nuclear Armageddon, and with many other limits too (a Russian will soon ascend to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral). Not even the collapse of Putin’s quick-victory plan might dissuade Xi, who will rely on treason within Taiwan’s astonishingly lackadaisical armed forces to win quickly. Last year, Taiwan reacted to sharply risen tensions by increasing military service to a measly one year from an absurd four months — and then delayed the start to 2024…

In the meantime, the entire world will pay a price for China’s economic downturn because it accounts for such a big slice of the world economic pie, though with a very welcome consolation prize: for the first time since 1949, it is possible to imagine a post-Communist China.

When, in November 2022, thousands of Foxconn factory workers ignored police orders as they spilled out of the giant plant in Zhengzhou because they did not want to be trapped by a Covid lockdown, and then actually attacked the policemen who tried to stop them, Xi did not order machine-gun fire. Instead, he capitulated unconditionally, abruptly stopping all Covid restrictions everywhere — leaving the Party’s authority in tatters. China has been in a state of post-traumatic stress ever since, now with rising bitterness for the lost jobs of youth and the lost savings of the old. Xi has created a world defined by interesting times, in which it is possible to imagine both a Taiwan war and a post-Communist China.


Professor Edward Luttwak is a strategist and historian known for his works on grand strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations.

ELuttwak

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J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago

My sense is Xi’s draconian covid lockdowns broke China. Apart from the economic effects, I think they broke the spirit of the Chinese people. I recall reading an account of an exchange between officials enforcing lockdown and a family. A family member said words to the effect that ok, they’ll go back to their apartment, you win, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because “this is the last of us.” The speaker’s statement was interpreted as meaning their family would have no more children because who’d want to bring kids into modern China.
If Xi is personally to blame for China’s woes, the question is how would he be deposed given his grip on power seems to be so strong? Is there a secret cadre of senior party members willing to arrest him and take power? Would they be more pro-Western? It’s the same problem as wishing Putin gone: would his replacement be better or worse?

Yan Chernyak
Yan Chernyak
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

as for Putin, the answer is simple: at this point, ANY change would be better. Yes, perhaps in the moment it could be somehow worse (difficult to imagine, though), but it would bring the dynamics and hope to otherwise stalled situation

Last edited 8 months ago by Yan Chernyak
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Yan Chernyak

That’s just so patently untrue it’s difficult to know where to start.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I think it’s worth asking: “better or worse in what way?”.
To an extent, being worse than Putin inside Russia isn’t a problem for anyone else but the Russian people. It’s expansionism that is the problem for the West. I’ll add that Putin would be replaced only if the Ukraine expansion categorically failed. There’s a chance that might bring a new leader determined to “Hit it with a bigger hammer”. But that’s less likely than the alternative.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Why do you think it is “patently untrue”?
Yes, it might be possibly worse.
But, maybe new government would stop Ukrainian war and West would be so grateful that they would force Ukraine to accept loss of Crimea?
Then new Russian government could claim victory and oligarchs could start enjoying their wealth again.

Martin McCoy
Martin McCoy
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Correct. The new leader might be a Putin clone, but they will at least have the opportunity to distance themselves from the war on the basis that it was “Putin’s Folly”.

Martin McCoy
Martin McCoy
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Correct. The new leader might be a Putin clone, but they will at least have the opportunity to distance themselves from the war on the basis that it was “Putin’s Folly”.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

I think it’s worth asking: “better or worse in what way?”.
To an extent, being worse than Putin inside Russia isn’t a problem for anyone else but the Russian people. It’s expansionism that is the problem for the West. I’ll add that Putin would be replaced only if the Ukraine expansion categorically failed. There’s a chance that might bring a new leader determined to “Hit it with a bigger hammer”. But that’s less likely than the alternative.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Why do you think it is “patently untrue”?
Yes, it might be possibly worse.
But, maybe new government would stop Ukrainian war and West would be so grateful that they would force Ukraine to accept loss of Crimea?
Then new Russian government could claim victory and oligarchs could start enjoying their wealth again.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago
Reply to  Yan Chernyak

That’s just so patently untrue it’s difficult to know where to start.

R S Foster
R S Foster
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

…Civil War, and a period of Warlordism…which is what has followed the collapse of a Chinese Dynasty for millennia…

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
8 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

And the chinese instinct is to always avoid instability and uncertainty.

Tina D
Tina D
7 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

It seems to be a repeating theme. Empress Dowager Cixi (1800s) was considered a despot but is known for initiating a series of modernisation efforts in China, especially during the later years of her rule. She supported the construction of railways, telegraph lines, modern schools, and military reforms.
These initiatives aimed to strengthen China’s infrastructure, education system, and military capabilities.she supported modernisation efforts, but resisted comprehensive political reforms that could have addressed China’s governance issues and empowered the people.
This lack of reform contributed to social unrest and political instability.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

That’s a terrifying prospect, given the number of seriously unpleasant weapons those warlords might have access to.

Bosnia, with nukes. Help!

Last edited 7 months ago by Roddy Campbell
Mirax Path
Mirax Path
8 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

And the chinese instinct is to always avoid instability and uncertainty.

Tina D
Tina D
7 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

It seems to be a repeating theme. Empress Dowager Cixi (1800s) was considered a despot but is known for initiating a series of modernisation efforts in China, especially during the later years of her rule. She supported the construction of railways, telegraph lines, modern schools, and military reforms.
These initiatives aimed to strengthen China’s infrastructure, education system, and military capabilities.she supported modernisation efforts, but resisted comprehensive political reforms that could have addressed China’s governance issues and empowered the people.
This lack of reform contributed to social unrest and political instability.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

That’s a terrifying prospect, given the number of seriously unpleasant weapons those warlords might have access to.

Bosnia, with nukes. Help!

Last edited 7 months ago by Roddy Campbell
Mirax Path
Mirax Path
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Havent resubscribed and so seem to be missing some edit functions. Sorry for the double post.

Last edited 8 months ago by Mirax Path
Mirax Path
Mirax Path
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I had a 3-hour conversation with a chinese friend living in the west last night. She is very pessimistic about what is going on in China. The young in particular are broken and have taken the 4 vows : No courtship, no marriage, no children, no buying of a home. The perils of home ownership are now well understood!
They have embraced the “lying flat” and “letting it rot” postures of extreme passivity in the face of massive youth unemployment and oversupply from the tertiary institutions. Many are resigned to staying at home forever.There is even the phenomenon of paid children : parents paying their children a salary to be full-time children looking after their parents, ie cooking, cleaning, coddling the parents.
Is there such a clear realisation that Xi is the architect of their troubles as the author asserts?Not according to my friend. She says many are brainwashed. Some are so crazy that they are attacking restaurants selling roast goose as the word goose sounds similar to Russian and such restaurants are supposedly disrespecting Russian-China ties. Newly expanded anti-spying laws are creating a climate of fear, paranoia and suspicion she thinks reminiscent of the cultural revolution. Many of the young are true believers of communism and statesman Xi. There was an incident recently in London where Chinese art students (Royal college of Arts) painted communist propaganda slogans on a Brick Lane wall.
What does one do with anger in China? Take to the streets to be disappeared or gunned down?

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

The upside is that fewer people is good for the planet

Mike MacPhee
Mike MacPhee
8 months ago

Dead wrong in fact. Dysfunctional demographics is at the heart of the problem in the West and is the whole problem in China.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike MacPhee

If you care to look at what is currently happening in robotics and artificial intelligence then you will see that we are not far off the time when robots will replace human labour. Most experts believe that artificial general intelligence will arrive within 5 years and humans being born now will be an unemployable burden.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

pfui

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
8 months ago

If robotics and AI create wealth (there would be no investment if these were unlikely to) then that wealth allows new entrepreneurial initiatives, creating jobs that never previously existed – the vast majority of jobs that exist now never even existed 50 years ago.

This process is inexorable if wealth via technology continues to be created. The wealth is distributed generally across the economy, given a few basics of freedom to trade and the protection of the transactions of that trade by the rule of law

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Haycock

I’m afraid you are mistaken. The wealth generated by replacing humans with machines is not “distributed generally across the economy”. It is sucked up and hoarded. This inexorable march of progress will not be over until every last possible job has been destroyed. In the meantime, carry on pumping your own petrol; checking out your own groceries and if you have any complaints about it, talk to the customer services bot.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago

Not true. If the wealth is hoarded then the elite suffer. That is why they are proposing a universal basic income so people continue to buy goods and are free of the drudgery of labour. I always choose the automated options to defeat ignorant Luddites

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago

Not true. If the wealth is hoarded then the elite suffer. That is why they are proposing a universal basic income so people continue to buy goods and are free of the drudgery of labour. I always choose the automated options to defeat ignorant Luddites

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Haycock

I’m afraid you are mistaken. The wealth generated by replacing humans with machines is not “distributed generally across the economy”. It is sucked up and hoarded. This inexorable march of progress will not be over until every last possible job has been destroyed. In the meantime, carry on pumping your own petrol; checking out your own groceries and if you have any complaints about it, talk to the customer services bot.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
7 months ago

Most serious experts wonder if we’ll actually ever achieve true AGI.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

False. Most serious experts expect it within 15 years

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

False. Most serious experts expect it within 15 years

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

pfui

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
8 months ago

If robotics and AI create wealth (there would be no investment if these were unlikely to) then that wealth allows new entrepreneurial initiatives, creating jobs that never previously existed – the vast majority of jobs that exist now never even existed 50 years ago.

This process is inexorable if wealth via technology continues to be created. The wealth is distributed generally across the economy, given a few basics of freedom to trade and the protection of the transactions of that trade by the rule of law

Jason Highley
JH
Jason Highley
7 months ago

Most serious experts wonder if we’ll actually ever achieve true AGI.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike MacPhee

If you care to look at what is currently happening in robotics and artificial intelligence then you will see that we are not far off the time when robots will replace human labour. Most experts believe that artificial general intelligence will arrive within 5 years and humans being born now will be an unemployable burden.

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago

If your really believe that, then do us all a favour Dug

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

No need to be unpleasant: it suggests you are not confident that you are right and indeed, you would have good reason to be.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

No need to be unpleasant: it suggests you are not confident that you are right and indeed, you would have good reason to be.

Andrew Stoll
AS
Andrew Stoll
8 months ago

Definitely! If those fewer people are good to the planet

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Stoll

AI will have to ensure that they are

Last edited 7 months ago by Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Stoll

AI will have to ensure that they are

Last edited 7 months ago by Douglas Redmayne
Mike MacPhee
Mike MacPhee
8 months ago

Dead wrong in fact. Dysfunctional demographics is at the heart of the problem in the West and is the whole problem in China.

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago

If your really believe that, then do us all a favour Dug

Andrew Stoll
Andrew Stoll
8 months ago

Definitely! If those fewer people are good to the planet

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Lying flat is a response to hopelessness that perhaps is worsened by China’s social credit system that makes it harder for people to get ahead.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Interesting post, thanks. I’m surprised that Xi isn’t given more blame, but brainwashing through state media is powerful as we all learned during the covid era.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

We know that many people in Russia had doubts about Stalin policies but were careful to not express their views even to family members.
Xi is not Stalin, but Chinese are not stupid.
You either try to do your best under current leadership or become non person.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Most Germans didn’t blame Hitler in 1938. Everybody blames him now.

Chris Maille
Chris Maille
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Yes, everybody does, but that is highly problematic, because it also stops almost everybody from understanding that the people are as much to blame for what had happened as Hitler is to blame. And that’s an open invitation for it to happen all over again. And not only in Germany.
I acknowledge that it is difficult to balance reconciliation and doing proper lessons learned after catastrophic episodes such as national socialism or covid. And the worst is yet to come with the climate hysteria.

Chris Maille
Chris Maille
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Yes, everybody does, but that is highly problematic, because it also stops almost everybody from understanding that the people are as much to blame for what had happened as Hitler is to blame. And that’s an open invitation for it to happen all over again. And not only in Germany.
I acknowledge that it is difficult to balance reconciliation and doing proper lessons learned after catastrophic episodes such as national socialism or covid. And the worst is yet to come with the climate hysteria.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

We know that many people in Russia had doubts about Stalin policies but were careful to not express their views even to family members.
Xi is not Stalin, but Chinese are not stupid.
You either try to do your best under current leadership or become non person.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Most Germans didn’t blame Hitler in 1938. Everybody blames him now.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

But the older, more intelligent people do know what is happening. They remember what happened with Mao and realize that Xi is copying Mao.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

And what will they do with this realisation? Who stopped Mao then?

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Yes.
You seem to understand workings of dictatorships.
Unlike many in the West and on forums like this who have no clue.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Yes.
You seem to understand workings of dictatorships.
Unlike many in the West and on forums like this who have no clue.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

And what will they do with this realisation? Who stopped Mao then?

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Sounds like an opportunity for a new hardcore music scene, sino-punk, perhaps.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Let’s hope it is as common as Chinese friend of you claims.
Failing China is in the West interest.
West did great without China till late 90s.
All this talk about China being relevant is due to idiotic globalisation policies of the West.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrew F
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Xi’s China looks increasingly like Hitler’s Germany in the 1930’s. Extreme nationalism is encouraged and rewarded while sensible people can do nothing but keep their heads down. The dictator provokes foreign action then uses that action as an excuse for further nationalism and militarism. The US’s anti-China turn was both predictable and expected. It’s one thing for a third world nation far behind the world in terms of technology and military might to manipulate their currency, steal technology, and otherwise tilt the economic board in their favor, but it’s quite another for the world’s second largest economy and military to continue doing it and expecting established powers to just keep looking the other way. The US and others are simply acting in their national interest, but, unfortunately, this plays neatly into Xi’s narrative of an ‘arrogant west’ trying to ‘keep China down’. Get ready to see all those civilian factories that were built by shortsighted western investors who don’t see anything but profit and loss turned into factories for Chinese arms and armaments as China follows Hitler’s example of using military service and arms manufacture to keep everybody employed and sufficiently under the state’s supervision. I fully expect they’ll soon be putting out propaganda aimed at getting women to have more children that could have been lifted nearly word for word from Berlin 1936, replacing white Aryans with Han Chinese.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
8 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

The upside is that fewer people is good for the planet

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Lying flat is a response to hopelessness that perhaps is worsened by China’s social credit system that makes it harder for people to get ahead.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Interesting post, thanks. I’m surprised that Xi isn’t given more blame, but brainwashing through state media is powerful as we all learned during the covid era.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

But the older, more intelligent people do know what is happening. They remember what happened with Mao and realize that Xi is copying Mao.

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Sounds like an opportunity for a new hardcore music scene, sino-punk, perhaps.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Let’s hope it is as common as Chinese friend of you claims.
Failing China is in the West interest.
West did great without China till late 90s.
All this talk about China being relevant is due to idiotic globalisation policies of the West.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrew F
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 months ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Xi’s China looks increasingly like Hitler’s Germany in the 1930’s. Extreme nationalism is encouraged and rewarded while sensible people can do nothing but keep their heads down. The dictator provokes foreign action then uses that action as an excuse for further nationalism and militarism. The US’s anti-China turn was both predictable and expected. It’s one thing for a third world nation far behind the world in terms of technology and military might to manipulate their currency, steal technology, and otherwise tilt the economic board in their favor, but it’s quite another for the world’s second largest economy and military to continue doing it and expecting established powers to just keep looking the other way. The US and others are simply acting in their national interest, but, unfortunately, this plays neatly into Xi’s narrative of an ‘arrogant west’ trying to ‘keep China down’. Get ready to see all those civilian factories that were built by shortsighted western investors who don’t see anything but profit and loss turned into factories for Chinese arms and armaments as China follows Hitler’s example of using military service and arms manufacture to keep everybody employed and sufficiently under the state’s supervision. I fully expect they’ll soon be putting out propaganda aimed at getting women to have more children that could have been lifted nearly word for word from Berlin 1936, replacing white Aryans with Han Chinese.

David Yetter
David Yetter
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I recall a similar story of a young Chinese man had been apprehended for some crime (I think of a political nature), who was to told that his punishment would extend for three generations. He reacted by laughing and telling his captors, “No, this is the last generation.”

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Great post.
I have no idea why some people believe that non Communist China would be less hostile, in reality, than current rulling class?
WW1 started between powers which were not ideologically opposed to each other.
But still their national interest collided.
For starters West needs to stop training Chinese students.
China is an enemy.
I know it will not happen.
But would Britain train German pilots or naval crews in let say 1938?

Liakoura
L
Liakoura
2 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Since my first visit to China in 2002 I’ve spent over nine years living here, mainly in what’s called a second tier city of between 4 and 6 million people
I spent the entire three years of the Covid pandemic in the country, in a city where there was a ‘lockdown’ from the 1st February 2020 until the 26 February 2020, 800 miles from Wuhan. This was a city of 4 million+ people.
Education and almost all work places were shut, along with restaurants, shops, places of entertainment, gyms and even parks. Buses and trains were not running, motorway exits were closed, internal and international flights were cancelled. A few essential workplaces such as hospitals were allowed to continue working.
But there were no restrictions on leaving home for exercise, (masks were compulsory), and open air markets ensured people could buy food. Because of fear about what was happening in Wuhan, and there being nowhere to go, this hard lockdown lasted just three weeks.
Your ‘sense of Xi’s draconian covid lockdowns’, is a figment of your imagination and for almost all of China, other than small parts of Shanghai, Beijing and a few other places, there was nothing remotely approaching Boris Johnson’s dithering and ignorance, that resulted in three lockdowns lasting almost 16 months and 232,112 deaths.

Yan Chernyak
Yan Chernyak
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

as for Putin, the answer is simple: at this point, ANY change would be better. Yes, perhaps in the moment it could be somehow worse (difficult to imagine, though), but it would bring the dynamics and hope to otherwise stalled situation

Last edited 8 months ago by Yan Chernyak
R S Foster
R S Foster
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

…Civil War, and a period of Warlordism…which is what has followed the collapse of a Chinese Dynasty for millennia…

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Havent resubscribed and so seem to be missing some edit functions. Sorry for the double post.

Last edited 8 months ago by Mirax Path
Mirax Path
Mirax Path
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I had a 3-hour conversation with a chinese friend living in the west last night. She is very pessimistic about what is going on in China. The young in particular are broken and have taken the 4 vows : No courtship, no marriage, no children, no buying of a home. The perils of home ownership are now well understood!
They have embraced the “lying flat” and “letting it rot” postures of extreme passivity in the face of massive youth unemployment and oversupply from the tertiary institutions. Many are resigned to staying at home forever.There is even the phenomenon of paid children : parents paying their children a salary to be full-time children looking after their parents, ie cooking, cleaning, coddling the parents.
Is there such a clear realisation that Xi is the architect of their troubles as the author asserts?Not according to my friend. She says many are brainwashed. Some are so crazy that they are attacking restaurants selling roast goose as the word goose sounds similar to Russian and such restaurants are supposedly disrespecting Russian-China ties. Newly expanded anti-spying laws are creating a climate of fear, paranoia and suspicion she thinks reminiscent of the cultural revolution. Many of the young are true believers of communism and statesman Xi. There was an incident recently in London where Chinese art students (Royal college of Arts) painted communist propaganda slogans on a Brick Lane wall.
What does one do with anger in China? Take to the streets to be disappeared or gunned down?

David Yetter
David Yetter
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I recall a similar story of a young Chinese man had been apprehended for some crime (I think of a political nature), who was to told that his punishment would extend for three generations. He reacted by laughing and telling his captors, “No, this is the last generation.”

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Great post.
I have no idea why some people believe that non Communist China would be less hostile, in reality, than current rulling class?
WW1 started between powers which were not ideologically opposed to each other.
But still their national interest collided.
For starters West needs to stop training Chinese students.
China is an enemy.
I know it will not happen.
But would Britain train German pilots or naval crews in let say 1938?

Liakoura
Liakoura
2 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Since my first visit to China in 2002 I’ve spent over nine years living here, mainly in what’s called a second tier city of between 4 and 6 million people
I spent the entire three years of the Covid pandemic in the country, in a city where there was a ‘lockdown’ from the 1st February 2020 until the 26 February 2020, 800 miles from Wuhan. This was a city of 4 million+ people.
Education and almost all work places were shut, along with restaurants, shops, places of entertainment, gyms and even parks. Buses and trains were not running, motorway exits were closed, internal and international flights were cancelled. A few essential workplaces such as hospitals were allowed to continue working.
But there were no restrictions on leaving home for exercise, (masks were compulsory), and open air markets ensured people could buy food. Because of fear about what was happening in Wuhan, and there being nowhere to go, this hard lockdown lasted just three weeks.
Your ‘sense of Xi’s draconian covid lockdowns’, is a figment of your imagination and for almost all of China, other than small parts of Shanghai, Beijing and a few other places, there was nothing remotely approaching Boris Johnson’s dithering and ignorance, that resulted in three lockdowns lasting almost 16 months and 232,112 deaths.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago

My sense is Xi’s draconian covid lockdowns broke China. Apart from the economic effects, I think they broke the spirit of the Chinese people. I recall reading an account of an exchange between officials enforcing lockdown and a family. A family member said words to the effect that ok, they’ll go back to their apartment, you win, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because “this is the last of us.” The speaker’s statement was interpreted as meaning their family would have no more children because who’d want to bring kids into modern China.
If Xi is personally to blame for China’s woes, the question is how would he be deposed given his grip on power seems to be so strong? Is there a secret cadre of senior party members willing to arrest him and take power? Would they be more pro-Western? It’s the same problem as wishing Putin gone: would his replacement be better or worse?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

“No matter how many men you kill, you can’t kill your successor”.*

(Seneca’s warning to Nero, 1st century.)

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago

Putin may have done that several times already – but of course one time he won’t.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Well his successor will have to be elected. I suppose. Though the west would prefer a coup.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago

Seriously?

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

It was almost better in the old Soviet days, when Party officials would quietly sideline one leader, and install another.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago

Seriously?

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

It was almost better in the old Soviet days, when Party officials would quietly sideline one leader, and install another.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Well his successor will have to be elected. I suppose. Though the west would prefer a coup.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago

And you can’t punish children who will never be born.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

Then like Stalin said: “no man no problem”
Most dictatorships fail when they become too soft.
That is why North Korean and Iran leaders are correct in their policies in terms of self preservation.

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago

Putin may have done that several times already – but of course one time he won’t.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago

And you can’t punish children who will never be born.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

Then like Stalin said: “no man no problem”
Most dictatorships fail when they become too soft.
That is why North Korean and Iran leaders are correct in their policies in terms of self preservation.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

“No matter how many men you kill, you can’t kill your successor”.*

(Seneca’s warning to Nero, 1st century.)

George Venning
GV
George Venning
8 months ago

So much of this is bananas. The idea that the US was able to shake off the financial crisis because homeowners were able to walk away from loans and thus write down debt compared to the benighted Japanese, who held their debts and suffered a lost decade following the bursting of the bubble.
The US position is sort of true (although many, many more lost their homes to foreclosure than “walking away”). And although the financial institutions were able to write down their debts, what did they do with their lightened balance sheets (and massive federal support)? They bought up the homes that households had been foreclosed out of at bargain basement values. And then rented them back to the same rubes at rising rents, because the foreclosed couldn’t get another mortgage.
What took place in Japan wasn’t all that pretty, but it didn’t involve a massive upward transfer of wealth and a bailout of the rich by the working poor. And the legacy of that is far from over.

George Venning
George Venning
8 months ago

So much of this is bananas. The idea that the US was able to shake off the financial crisis because homeowners were able to walk away from loans and thus write down debt compared to the benighted Japanese, who held their debts and suffered a lost decade following the bursting of the bubble.
The US position is sort of true (although many, many more lost their homes to foreclosure than “walking away”). And although the financial institutions were able to write down their debts, what did they do with their lightened balance sheets (and massive federal support)? They bought up the homes that households had been foreclosed out of at bargain basement values. And then rented them back to the same rubes at rising rents, because the foreclosed couldn’t get another mortgage.
What took place in Japan wasn’t all that pretty, but it didn’t involve a massive upward transfer of wealth and a bailout of the rich by the working poor. And the legacy of that is far from over.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago

Fascinating as usual. Although I’m not sure a post-communist China would be any kind of consolation prize, given the way post-communist Russia panned out.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

Well, post Communist Russia is much less dangerous than Soviet Union and hundred of millions of peoples of former Soviet colonies regained their freedom.
You and other 51 people who upvoted you somehow see it as failure?

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

Well, post Communist Russia is much less dangerous than Soviet Union and hundred of millions of peoples of former Soviet colonies regained their freedom.
You and other 51 people who upvoted you somehow see it as failure?

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago

Fascinating as usual. Although I’m not sure a post-communist China would be any kind of consolation prize, given the way post-communist Russia panned out.

Susan Grabston
SG
Susan Grabston
8 months ago

We are at a system change point in history with convergence of multiple financial, social, and technological factors. Whether its China, the US, or Europe a vacuum will need to be filled and the world is short of ideas. In this household we have spent time learning core skills, diversifying risk, and preparing for a very uncertain decade. I hope our efforts will all prove to be the product of an over-active imagination, but irrespective of China’s woes they are far from alone in facing a wall of worry and “situation normal” does not lopk like the global default.

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

I would love to hear details on your preparations if you have the time. I am anxious about the future but unsure what to do.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

You are wise to prepare. If China, the U.S. and most of Western Europe is wallowing in debt, as we usher in a net zero economy, it’s difficult to imagine a positive outcome. Or, we just devalue the currency by 75% and everyone takes a proportional haircut.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/274179/national-debt-in-eu-countries/

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

It is mathematically impossible for all currencies to simultaneously devalue and the dollar hegemonic based upon US debt means that debt has ultimately become irrelevant to a currency’s value

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
7 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

It is mathematically impossible for all currencies to simultaneously devalue and the dollar hegemonic based upon US debt means that debt has ultimately become irrelevant to a currency’s value

Suzanne C.
Suzanne C.
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

I would love to hear details on your preparations if you have the time. I am anxious about the future but unsure what to do.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

You are wise to prepare. If China, the U.S. and most of Western Europe is wallowing in debt, as we usher in a net zero economy, it’s difficult to imagine a positive outcome. Or, we just devalue the currency by 75% and everyone takes a proportional haircut.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/274179/national-debt-in-eu-countries/

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
8 months ago

We are at a system change point in history with convergence of multiple financial, social, and technological factors. Whether its China, the US, or Europe a vacuum will need to be filled and the world is short of ideas. In this household we have spent time learning core skills, diversifying risk, and preparing for a very uncertain decade. I hope our efforts will all prove to be the product of an over-active imagination, but irrespective of China’s woes they are far from alone in facing a wall of worry and “situation normal” does not lopk like the global default.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
8 months ago

Central planning always fails. China’s economic miracle happened because the country allowed for enterprise to flourish. Xi has sought to turn his country into the preeminent world power but in the process has reversed the economic reforms that allowed economic growth. Now, like all planned economies, China faces its reckoning.

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Agree. This is the executive summary

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Agree. This is the executive summary

Bryan Dale
BD
Bryan Dale
8 months ago

Central planning always fails. China’s economic miracle happened because the country allowed for enterprise to flourish. Xi has sought to turn his country into the preeminent world power but in the process has reversed the economic reforms that allowed economic growth. Now, like all planned economies, China faces its reckoning.

Stan Konwiser
Stan Konwiser
8 months ago

The difference between the US and China in dealing with a debt crisis is this: The US dollar as the world reserve currency gives the US the ability to print money. For 30 years we have been sending those printed dollars to China through our trade imbalance that has funded their growth. The Covid epidemic and the gradual Western decoupling with China is cutting off that funding. Xi’s conceit that he is responsible for China’s success rather than the foolishness of the Western international corporations (Davos crowd) may be his undoing.

Stan Konwiser
Stan Konwiser
8 months ago

The difference between the US and China in dealing with a debt crisis is this: The US dollar as the world reserve currency gives the US the ability to print money. For 30 years we have been sending those printed dollars to China through our trade imbalance that has funded their growth. The Covid epidemic and the gradual Western decoupling with China is cutting off that funding. Xi’s conceit that he is responsible for China’s success rather than the foolishness of the Western international corporations (Davos crowd) may be his undoing.

Ted French
Ted French
8 months ago

Great article.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
8 months ago
Reply to  Ted French

“we sit around writing comments, longer than the article itself, with long rambling paragraphs full of philosophical statements and words of deep wisdom, editing repeatedly and multiple spell check, only to be shunted at the end with 5 likes, or often, horror of horrors, with the dreaded red mark of shame….

And this …this…gets 24 likes?”

– What pretty much all the Unherd subscriber base is thinking right now.

Francisco Javier Bernal
Francisco Javier Bernal
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Only the posers

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

But it is a great article!

You are confusing popularity with substance. It’s a common misapprehension today.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Well, upvoting is quicker than posting something similar.

Francisco Javier Bernal
Francisco Javier Bernal
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Only the posers

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

But it is a great article!

You are confusing popularity with substance. It’s a common misapprehension today.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Well, upvoting is quicker than posting something similar.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
8 months ago
Reply to  Ted French

“we sit around writing comments, longer than the article itself, with long rambling paragraphs full of philosophical statements and words of deep wisdom, editing repeatedly and multiple spell check, only to be shunted at the end with 5 likes, or often, horror of horrors, with the dreaded red mark of shame….

And this …this…gets 24 likes?”

– What pretty much all the Unherd subscriber base is thinking right now.

Ted French
Ted French
8 months ago

Great article.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

So COVID may kill Communist China!
It almost makes one believe in Divine Retribution.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

So COVID may kill Communist China!
It almost makes one believe in Divine Retribution.

Sophy T
Sophy T
8 months ago

‘Many in China also know that Xi is personally responsible for the spread of anti-Chinese attitudes around the world, which, in turn, has greatly reduced investment, affected employment, and made Chinese tourists and students feel unwelcome in many countries’
Chinese students and tourists are more likely to be unwelcome because they have unattractive habits such as literally pushing people out of the way, going back to buffets and shoving food into plastic bags, in public loos not ‘pulling the plug’ and even leaving the loo door wide open while in there.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Aha! “the world’s oldest civilisation” at its very best.Thank you.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
8 months ago

Charles, I bet you thank god you’re an Englishman every night.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

I most certainly do!

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
8 months ago

Me too!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Terry Davies

Good man!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Terry Davies

Good man!

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
8 months ago

Me too!

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago

Perhaps you even “consider you have won life’s lottery”.

Actuality despite all its woes and crumbling culture, we are still very lucky to live in this grubby, bustling, mostly good-natured country.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

I most certainly do!

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago

Perhaps you even “consider you have won life’s lottery”.

Actuality despite all its woes and crumbling culture, we are still very lucky to live in this grubby, bustling, mostly good-natured country.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
8 months ago

Charles, I bet you thank god you’re an Englishman every night.

Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
8 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Can confirm…..just returned from a trip to French Polynesia and the locals intensely dislike the Chinese. Many first hand stories were told by locals and they’re very glad that the Chinese tourist presence has almost completely dried up even though their economy is largely driven by visitor’s money.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

Indeed. One only needs to experience their most uncivilized behaviour on a NYC subway. Especially on the N train.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Please tell us more.
Chinese I met in London were polite and well behaved.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Please tell us more.
Chinese I met in London were polite and well behaved.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

It’s the same in much of Africa, where imported Chinese workers and engineers haven’t endeared themselves to the locals.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

Indeed. One only needs to experience their most uncivilized behaviour on a NYC subway. Especially on the N train.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

It’s the same in much of Africa, where imported Chinese workers and engineers haven’t endeared themselves to the locals.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

I am not a great fan of China.
However, ones I came across were polite.
Unlike most Germans and French.
No idea about buffets and toilets.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Aha! “the world’s oldest civilisation” at its very best.Thank you.

Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
8 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Can confirm…..just returned from a trip to French Polynesia and the locals intensely dislike the Chinese. Many first hand stories were told by locals and they’re very glad that the Chinese tourist presence has almost completely dried up even though their economy is largely driven by visitor’s money.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

I am not a great fan of China.
However, ones I came across were polite.
Unlike most Germans and French.
No idea about buffets and toilets.

Sophy T
Sophy T
8 months ago

‘Many in China also know that Xi is personally responsible for the spread of anti-Chinese attitudes around the world, which, in turn, has greatly reduced investment, affected employment, and made Chinese tourists and students feel unwelcome in many countries’
Chinese students and tourists are more likely to be unwelcome because they have unattractive habits such as literally pushing people out of the way, going back to buffets and shoving food into plastic bags, in public loos not ‘pulling the plug’ and even leaving the loo door wide open while in there.

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago

There seem to be 2 narratives about China, the country is finished because there are not enough new workers for the economy to grow. The same people also want me to believe that the Chinese economy is doomed because of high unemployment

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Both things are possible.
Low birth rate kills you long term.
High unemployment creates problems for current leadership.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Both things are possible.
Low birth rate kills you long term.
High unemployment creates problems for current leadership.

D Walsh
D Walsh
8 months ago

There seem to be 2 narratives about China, the country is finished because there are not enough new workers for the economy to grow. The same people also want me to believe that the Chinese economy is doomed because of high unemployment

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

In any case, Xi’s talk of war — which is all about the “rejuvenation” of Chinese manhood
Viagra’s cheaper.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
8 months ago

Putin and Xi shall be known hereafter as the Viagra Twins

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I reckon Putin didn’t need the blue pill last night.

RJ Kent
RJ Kent
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Not the one from The Matrix, I’m guessing?

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Not a blue pill but he certainly gave Prigozhin a surface to air suppository

RJ Kent
RJ Kent
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Not the one from The Matrix, I’m guessing?

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
8 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Not a blue pill but he certainly gave Prigozhin a surface to air suppository

Dominic A
Dominic A
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I reckon Putin didn’t need the blue pill last night.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
8 months ago

Putin and Xi shall be known hereafter as the Viagra Twins

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

In any case, Xi’s talk of war — which is all about the “rejuvenation” of Chinese manhood
Viagra’s cheaper.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago

Illuminating collation of some of the challenges facing Xi but the final paragraph suggests Luttwak is as unsure as the rest of us as to how this will play out. The original justification for “containing” the USSR in the late 1940s was that, sooner or later, the Russian regime would mellow and become less aggressive (which it did albeit four decades later). Maybe all we can sensibly do today is apply the same policy to China and wait patiently. As Luttwak says we can now imagine a post Xi or even a post communist China but even he seems reluctant to forecast confidently its imminent arrival. Whether we need to wait four months or four decades is anyone’s guess.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago

Illuminating collation of some of the challenges facing Xi but the final paragraph suggests Luttwak is as unsure as the rest of us as to how this will play out. The original justification for “containing” the USSR in the late 1940s was that, sooner or later, the Russian regime would mellow and become less aggressive (which it did albeit four decades later). Maybe all we can sensibly do today is apply the same policy to China and wait patiently. As Luttwak says we can now imagine a post Xi or even a post communist China but even he seems reluctant to forecast confidently its imminent arrival. Whether we need to wait four months or four decades is anyone’s guess.

Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago

At long-content commentators’ suggestion that people go onto to YouTube and view some walking tours of Chinese cities. No audio, nothing, just walking tours. I found that somewhat helpful to understand China a bit better, and I recommend people try it themselves.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Top tip. See also the Joe and Nic’s Road Trip channel on YouTube for fascinating, unvarnished drive-throughs of US towns.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Top tip. See also the Joe and Nic’s Road Trip channel on YouTube for fascinating, unvarnished drive-throughs of US towns.

Steve White
Steve White
8 months ago

At long-content commentators’ suggestion that people go onto to YouTube and view some walking tours of Chinese cities. No audio, nothing, just walking tours. I found that somewhat helpful to understand China a bit better, and I recommend people try it themselves.

j watson
j watson
8 months ago

Let’s hope the Author’s contention struggling dictators don’t seek to distract with armed conflict as much as we might think proves prescient.
He doesn’t mention the Taiwan elections next year with pro-independence candidate/parties looking likely to win. Can Xi absorb that too without lashing out? At which point a chain reaction may occur outside his control but many others too. 2024 going to be a quite a geo-political year.

j watson
j watson
8 months ago

Let’s hope the Author’s contention struggling dictators don’t seek to distract with armed conflict as much as we might think proves prescient.
He doesn’t mention the Taiwan elections next year with pro-independence candidate/parties looking likely to win. Can Xi absorb that too without lashing out? At which point a chain reaction may occur outside his control but many others too. 2024 going to be a quite a geo-political year.

Terence Raggett
Terence Raggett
8 months ago

Maybe a Mafia state (or number of regional states) is the most likely outcome to the fall of a Communism, Russia being an obvious example. The most delusional and dangerous assumption is that ‘anything would be better’ than the current regime, leader, etc. One thing for sure is that they won’t adopt western style democracy – there is no mechanism or cultural basis for doing so. The world will just became more dangerous.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

It would be better for the West.
Maybe I am too cynical and heartless, but I don’t much care about about Chinese and Asians and Africans.
Do you really think they care about us?

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

It would be better for the West.
Maybe I am too cynical and heartless, but I don’t much care about about Chinese and Asians and Africans.
Do you really think they care about us?

Terence Raggett
Terence Raggett
8 months ago

Maybe a Mafia state (or number of regional states) is the most likely outcome to the fall of a Communism, Russia being an obvious example. The most delusional and dangerous assumption is that ‘anything would be better’ than the current regime, leader, etc. One thing for sure is that they won’t adopt western style democracy – there is no mechanism or cultural basis for doing so. The world will just became more dangerous.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

I agree with most of the authors points.

That said, I think the greatest problem China faces is demographics.

You can not have a nation of 4-2-1 children, expect those children to care for their parents AND conclude they have the resources to have their own families.

Never mind that the ratio of men to women is way out of whack because parents who could only have one child chose to have sons and abort daughters.

You cannot expect people to tap into savings and stimulate the economy when those savings are trapped in illiquid assets like apartments, particularly when those assets are depreciating in value.

No, unless something dramatic happens, China is on a decades long path to irrelevancy.

It is both tragic and unnecessary.

The only outstanding questions now are..
Will the regime do something radical and dramatic such as sacrificing the old and compelling young people to marry and have babies. Seems crazy to us but the the forced abortions that occured under the 1 child policy also seem nuts to us. Maybe they decide to default on all that debt or a very large portion of it. Maybe that happens in a planned way or not.Will they go quietly or with a big bang?

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

China will continue to grow. The whole collapsing narrative is overblown as is the demographics. You would swear that no western country had demographic challenges, many are worse and have been below replacement for decades.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Who will be the first to open a “take away “ on the Moon?
China or India?

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

I prefer Indian food to Chinese.
But neither would survive.
They would attack each other shops..

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

I prefer Indian food to Chinese.
But neither would survive.
They would attack each other shops..

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

Define “grow”.

And, grow how? Debt fueled investment?

Are they somehow gonna actually get domestic consumption on track with astronomical youth unemployment, with a graying population, with young people who have to take care of their parents and grandparents, with a population that has its wealth tied up in property that is depreciating?

Really, where is this miracle growth gonna come from exactly?

And yes, the west has its own demographic issues, but at least we are closer to replacement than China and we have more immigration.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

You think mass importation of low IQ savages from sh*t countries is a solution to West problems?
Turning West into Muslim or African helhole is not solving anything.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

You think mass importation of low IQ savages from sh*t countries is a solution to West problems?
Turning West into Muslim or African helhole is not solving anything.

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago

Wrong. The demographics in China are far worse than most Western countries (and the USA will continue to grow). And China’s not going to have immigration to fall back on a) because its population is so large that you’d needs 10s of millions to move the needle and b) no one’s queueing up to move there anyway.

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
8 months ago

China’s demographic risk is not only the population age imbalance and trend lines but the risk of civil unrest/ war between the wealthy coastal regions and an impoverished (relatively) interior.
This is the historical demarcation of past civil wars and is Xi’s greatest fear. It lies behind all his retro-grade re-centralization of power and is why the senior party hacks allowed this to happen – they too fear the same nightmare
The continuation of a united China is possible but historically unusual. Ancient deep-seated cultural and dynastic memes, unexpunged by brutal Maoist purges and not yet nullified by Deng’s offer of prosperity for all, may yet express themselves in very untidy ways

Last edited 8 months ago by Bruce Haycock
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago

Western nation’s populations are still growing despite the birth rate being below replacement level due to immigration. With wages less than 1/4 of most western nations, youth unemployment of 20% and an authoritarian government, not many immigrants are choosing to go to China to offset the lack of babies

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Please Billy.
Mass immigration of low IQ savages into Europe is not long term solution to West problems, regardless of China problems.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Please Billy.
Mass immigration of low IQ savages into Europe is not long term solution to West problems, regardless of China problems.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Who will be the first to open a “take away “ on the Moon?
China or India?

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

Define “grow”.

And, grow how? Debt fueled investment?

Are they somehow gonna actually get domestic consumption on track with astronomical youth unemployment, with a graying population, with young people who have to take care of their parents and grandparents, with a population that has its wealth tied up in property that is depreciating?

Really, where is this miracle growth gonna come from exactly?

And yes, the west has its own demographic issues, but at least we are closer to replacement than China and we have more immigration.

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago

Wrong. The demographics in China are far worse than most Western countries (and the USA will continue to grow). And China’s not going to have immigration to fall back on a) because its population is so large that you’d needs 10s of millions to move the needle and b) no one’s queueing up to move there anyway.

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
8 months ago

China’s demographic risk is not only the population age imbalance and trend lines but the risk of civil unrest/ war between the wealthy coastal regions and an impoverished (relatively) interior.
This is the historical demarcation of past civil wars and is Xi’s greatest fear. It lies behind all his retro-grade re-centralization of power and is why the senior party hacks allowed this to happen – they too fear the same nightmare
The continuation of a united China is possible but historically unusual. Ancient deep-seated cultural and dynastic memes, unexpunged by brutal Maoist purges and not yet nullified by Deng’s offer of prosperity for all, may yet express themselves in very untidy ways

Last edited 8 months ago by Bruce Haycock
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago

Western nation’s populations are still growing despite the birth rate being below replacement level due to immigration. With wages less than 1/4 of most western nations, youth unemployment of 20% and an authoritarian government, not many immigrants are choosing to go to China to offset the lack of babies

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

China will continue to grow. The whole collapsing narrative is overblown as is the demographics. You would swear that no western country had demographic challenges, many are worse and have been below replacement for decades.

Daniel P
Daniel P
8 months ago

I agree with most of the authors points.

That said, I think the greatest problem China faces is demographics.

You can not have a nation of 4-2-1 children, expect those children to care for their parents AND conclude they have the resources to have their own families.

Never mind that the ratio of men to women is way out of whack because parents who could only have one child chose to have sons and abort daughters.

You cannot expect people to tap into savings and stimulate the economy when those savings are trapped in illiquid assets like apartments, particularly when those assets are depreciating in value.

No, unless something dramatic happens, China is on a decades long path to irrelevancy.

It is both tragic and unnecessary.

The only outstanding questions now are..
Will the regime do something radical and dramatic such as sacrificing the old and compelling young people to marry and have babies. Seems crazy to us but the the forced abortions that occured under the 1 child policy also seem nuts to us. Maybe they decide to default on all that debt or a very large portion of it. Maybe that happens in a planned way or not.Will they go quietly or with a big bang?

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
8 months ago

I see, in other news, that China has grown by 6.3% yoy to this last quarter.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago

It’s hard to believe anything anymore. A quick search online showed that the bridge described in the article is only 4 lanes and has finally opened to N. Korea.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
8 months ago

No doubt. In China GDP is an input. It is set by the CCP and local governments then borrow as needed to fund infrastructure projects – and as GDP is a measure of economic activity this works. Of course there is the debt …. but Luttwak talked about that.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago

If Britain borrowed £100 billion and spent the whole lot on motorways to nowhere it would also see a large increase in GDP, however it would be stuck with a massive debt and lots of roads that didn’t improve the nation’s productivity. Simply looking at GDP is overly simplistic

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
7 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You mean like HS2?

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

Yes.
This is uk Chinese type idiocy.

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

Yes.
This is uk Chinese type idiocy.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
7 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You mean like HS2?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago

It’s hard to believe anything anymore. A quick search online showed that the bridge described in the article is only 4 lanes and has finally opened to N. Korea.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
8 months ago

No doubt. In China GDP is an input. It is set by the CCP and local governments then borrow as needed to fund infrastructure projects – and as GDP is a measure of economic activity this works. Of course there is the debt …. but Luttwak talked about that.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago

If Britain borrowed £100 billion and spent the whole lot on motorways to nowhere it would also see a large increase in GDP, however it would be stuck with a massive debt and lots of roads that didn’t improve the nation’s productivity. Simply looking at GDP is overly simplistic

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
8 months ago

I see, in other news, that China has grown by 6.3% yoy to this last quarter.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

Massive Soviet wheat purchases kept the fabled Rock Island Line alive until 1980.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

Massive Soviet wheat purchases kept the fabled Rock Island Line alive until 1980.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

Suggest Xi migrates to Taiwan, then generously offers to become the leader of a unified Nationalist China in a DPP / Kuomintang coalition.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

We need a laughing emoji option.

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

We need a laughing emoji option.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
8 months ago

Suggest Xi migrates to Taiwan, then generously offers to become the leader of a unified Nationalist China in a DPP / Kuomintang coalition.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dumetrius
Sophy T
Sophy T
8 months ago

‘as was true of the Soviet Union, which had to import wheat every few years even as it built more tractors for its farmers than the US.’
Why was this? Because of incompetent farming practices or poor soil for wheat growing?

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
8 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Incompetent farming practices. There was no real incentive to increase yields , just meet your target.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

In other words we kept the putrid USSR alive because we/NATO needed a credible enemy.
In the end off course the USSR proved to be too stupid, as to be beyond belief.

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago

I expect the US did it (sold the USSR wheat) because they got paid.
Whatever you may say about the Warsaw Pact countries, it does seem (quite bizarrely) that they took paying things like their Western debts very seriously. Poland, for example, had large loans from Western banks and (to my knowledge) never defaulted.
Just as all these countries had hard currency shops with high end goods for party officials and foreigners (I once went to one in Prague), they did have this strange policy of treating foreigners like VIPs and their own citizens like dirt. Not something you’d ever see in the West … hold on a moment …

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes it does seem rather “bizarre” that they should have honoured their debts to the “capitalist running dogs” etc.
I was surprised when I heard that HMS Edinburgh was carrying 4.57 tons of Soviet gold, destined for the USA when it was sunk in WWII.

Yet back in 1918 the Bolsheviks cancelled ALL of Imperial Russia’s debts causing a bit of a crisis for the Bank of England.

Last edited 7 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes it does seem rather “bizarre” that they should have honoured their debts to the “capitalist running dogs” etc.
I was surprised when I heard that HMS Edinburgh was carrying 4.57 tons of Soviet gold, destined for the USA when it was sunk in WWII.

Yet back in 1918 the Bolsheviks cancelled ALL of Imperial Russia’s debts causing a bit of a crisis for the Bank of England.

Last edited 7 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

It was credible enemy in terms of military power, global expansion of communist ideology and other achievements (Sputnik etc).
Yes, they were at the expense of population living standards, but as we see in Russia now long term serfs still believe in the project.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
8 months ago

I expect the US did it (sold the USSR wheat) because they got paid.
Whatever you may say about the Warsaw Pact countries, it does seem (quite bizarrely) that they took paying things like their Western debts very seriously. Poland, for example, had large loans from Western banks and (to my knowledge) never defaulted.
Just as all these countries had hard currency shops with high end goods for party officials and foreigners (I once went to one in Prague), they did have this strange policy of treating foreigners like VIPs and their own citizens like dirt. Not something you’d ever see in the West … hold on a moment …

Andrew F
Andrew F
7 months ago

It was credible enemy in terms of military power, global expansion of communist ideology and other achievements (Sputnik etc).
Yes, they were at the expense of population living standards, but as we see in Russia now long term serfs still believe in the project.

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
8 months ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

Actually, they did get some good yield outcomes. It was the distribution from the farm gate to the dinner table that failed miserably. Or even getting the bumper crops harvested
Distribution is one of the main areas where central planning fails – it’s too complex and too distributed for bureaucrats and rule-setters to manage. And of course, open to rorts at every stage.
Distribution requires the legitimate self-interest incentives of all the players involved, and the contractual protection every step of the way by the rule of law
This did not exist in Communist Russia nor current Russia (especially the rule of law – the rule of power and standover remains the main enforcer there)
In post-Deng China, commercial self-interest was allowed to kick in, but contract protection of property rights, while evolving, still stumbled on the rule of law whereby the king and the king’s men needed to submit to it as well as the masses. The CCP beliefs and power structures never quite came to grips with this..