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Comprehensive and very readable overview of Chinese economy from a China expert, with especially useful discussions on Chinese SOE’s, financial system, and the validity of Chinese economic statistics (spoiler: They’re fine). Learned some interesting new things from it, despite having already read a considerable amount on this topic over the years. However, there are some rather questionable takes that prevent me from giving it a full five stars.

前言:一個中國專家對中國經濟的全面而可讀性強的概述,特別有用的討論了中國國企、金融體系和中國經濟統計數據的有效性(劇透:它們都很好)。盡管多年來已經閱讀了大量關于這個主題的書籍,但我還是從這本書中學到了一些有趣的新東西。然而,有一些相當有問題的看法,阻止我給它一個完整的五星。

China is an emerging superpower with a nominal GDP at 70% of the US level (130% in PPP terms). The physical correlates of that are illustrated on the cover of this book – as China’s share of the urban population trebled since 1980, cities and megalopolises have sprouted on the sites of former villages (follow Carl Zha to get a a regular visual dose of such transformations). Yet even as China let go of Maoist lunacies and built up the infrastructure and productive capacity of a First World nation over a single generation, it encountered new problems – pollution, inequality, debt – that some pundits have argued will eventually derail its ascent. This book offers a comprehensive account of the story of the world’s most successful major economic growth story after the heyday of the East Asian tigers, and a more realistic background for analyzing China’s prospects.

中國是一個新興的超級大國,名義GDP是美國的70%(按購買力平價計算為130%)。這本書的封面上說明了它們之間的物理聯系——隨著中國城市人口比例自1980年以來增長了兩倍,城市和特大城市在舊村上如雨后春筍般涌現。然而,盡管中國在一代人的時間里摒棄了瘋狂主義,建立了一個第一世界國家的基礎設施和生產能力,但它也遇到了一些新的問題——污染、不平等、債務——一些專家認為,這些問題最終將阻礙中國的崛起。這本書提供了一個全面的故事,世界上最成功的主要經濟增長故事后的鼎盛時期的東亞四小龍,和一個更現實的背景分析中國的前景。

Interesting/Important Observations
(1) As I have argued in the past, Maoism was a disaster in economic terms – at the end of it, China had a lower GDP per capita than India, despite their human capital disparity. This is not so surprising when one learns that you had a greater chance of dying on the job than getting fired in late Maoist China (cf. “THE CHINESE ECONOMY” by Barry Naughton). It made the Soviet Gosplan look like a paragon of technocratic efficiency. So no wonder that on Mao’s death, the Politburo decided to adopt the proven East Asian developmental state model instead (based on land reform, export manufacturing, and financial repression).
But Chinese practice differed from Japanese and Korean in two key respects.
First, the state played an even more paramount role, with China relying much more on State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). In contrast, most Japanese banks and corporations were private, and while many of Korea’s banks were state-owned, the chaebols were generally private; interesting, the most state-dominated economy was Taiwan’s, where all the banks were (and still are) state-owned, and many companies were owned by the state or Guomindang (though these were mostly privatized in the 1980s to early 1990s).
Second, foreign direct investment (FDI) played a much greater role. Counter-intuitively, this was because of the East Asian tigers’ security integration with the US. In exchange, the US “tacitly allowed to run mercantilist economies, shutting out foreign companies from their markets even as their own companies enjoyed easy access to the US market.” As Kroeber argues, this was a deal that China was never going to get – “as the price of admission to the US-dominated world trading system, China would need to give foreign companies substantial market access.”


In Taiwan, the move to representative democracy was a strategic choice made by leader Chiang Ching-kuo in the 1980s in response to the US decision to normalize relations with Beijing (and hence sever formal diplomatic ties with Taipei). Chiang believed that in order for Taiwan to retain its autonomy in a region increasingly influenced by a fast-growing China, it had no choice but to align itself as fully as possible with American political and ideological values. Similarly, South Korea’s military dictatorship was tolerated by Washington during the Cold War, but would not likely have outlasted the fall of the Berlin Wall by very long, even had it not crumbled in the face of embarrassing student-worker protests ahead of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. By contrast, China’s position outside the US alliance structure means that it has no need to accept the liberal-democratic frxwork.
Would they have happened otherwise? And, more importantly – with China conceivably approaching military superiority in the West Pacific within another 1-2 decades and forcing the US to cede control over the region – will Japan, Korea, and Taiwan remain democracies?

“在臺灣,代議制民主是領導人蔣經國在上世紀80年代做出的一項戰略選擇,以回應美國決定與北京實現關系正常化(并因此切斷與臺北的正式外交關系)。蔣經國認為,為了讓臺灣在一個日益受到快速發展的中國影響的地區保持自治,臺灣別無選擇,只能盡可能地與美國的政治和意識形態價值觀保持一致。同樣,美國在冷戰期間也容忍了韓國的軍事獨裁,但即使在1988年首爾夏季奧運會之前,面對令人尷尬的學生工人抗議活動,韓國的軍事獨裁也不太可能比柏林墻倒塌持續更久。相比之下,中國在美國聯盟結構之外的地位意味著,它沒有必要接受自由民主框架。”(注:所有直接帶引號“”的都引自書中的內容)
不然呢?
更重要的是,隨著中國在未來1-2年內有望接近在西太平洋的軍事優勢,并迫使美國放棄對該地區的控制,日本、韓國和臺灣仍將是民主國家嗎?

(2) Useful chart of China’s power system: Policy largely determined by “leading small groups” tightly lixed to the Politburo (especially under Xi Jinping) – ministries don’t have much power, are largely tasked with implementation.

中國權力體系圖表: 政策很大程度上由與政治局緊密聯系的“領導小團體”決定——政府部門沒有太多權力,主要是執行任務。(略)

(3) Why isn’t China crushing the Hong Kong protesters under tank treads?
Another facet of the FDI strategy was that much “foreign” investment was not really foreign. Nearly half of inbound direct investment has come from Hong Kong, and while much of that may simply reflect the activities of Hong Kong–based subsidiaries of American or European firms, it is clear that Hong Kong firms have been major investors in the mainland… Moreover, as much as a third of China’s reported FDI may in fact be “round-tripping”—investments by Chinese individuals and companies that are routed through companies in other jurisdictions, especially Hong Kong.

(略)
“外國直接投資戰略的另一個方面是,許多“外國”投資并不是真正的外國投資。近一半的外來直接投資來自香港,雖然其中大部分可能只是反映了美國或歐洲公司在香港的子公司的活動,但很明顯,香港公司一直是中國內地的主要投資者……此外,中國報告的FDI中,多達三分之一可能實際上是“雙向投資”——即中國個人和企業通過其它司法管轄區(尤其是香港)的企業進行的投資。”



(5) More from the Annals of Maoist Lunacy:

(略)

(6) While Kroeber doesn’t make the analogy himself, he would clearly agree with Richard McGregor’s argument in THE PARTY that China’s current political economy may be best described as a Leninist/NEPist state. While it has many vigorous small companies, the “commanding heights” of the economy remain state dominated. This includes three of the ten largest companies in the world (Sinopec, CNPC, State Grid), as well as 82 of the 92 Chinese companies on the Fortune Global 500.
Comparison to Japanese and Korean industrial organization:
Chaebol are diversified conglomerates, typically controlled by a founding family. Like keiretsu, they involve extensive use of cross-shareholdings among related companies. Unlike keiretsu, they are prohibited by law from owning banks. This prohibition on bank ownership was a deliberate choice made in the 1960s by the Korean government, which wanted to make the chaebol dependent on credit from state-owned banks and hence responsive to the government’s policy obxtives. … After much experimentation, the system that evolved in China was that of the “business group” (qiye jituan). The business group was first legally defined in 1987, and over the course of the next fifteen years the central government created about two hundred such groups by corporatizing various ministries and production bureaus. …
SOE business groups typically operate within a single industrial sector. This rule is somewhat elastic and most SOE groups have a cluster of investments in sectors unrelated to their core businesses, often in property, travel services, and restaurants. But these investments are generally modest relative to the core businesses. This single-industry focus distinguishes Chinese business groups from the highly diversified Japanese and Korean conglomerates.
Over the years, the SOEs have been steadily reformed:
1. “Grasping the large, letting go of the small” (抓大放小) in 1995, that is, getting rid of the most ineffective and smallest SOEs and holding on to the largest and potentially most competitive ones.
2. Listing commercially attractive assets in a subsidiary on stock markets, while retaining lower-return investments and politically sensitive projects in an unlisted parent company.
3. Creation of State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) in 2003, which is a government shareholder in ~200 central SOE business groups.
4. There were plans – at least, as of the time of writing – to make SASAC into a purely regulatory body, and transfer ownership to a set of “asset management companies” broken down by major industry sectors (modeled after Singapore’s Temasek).
While the adjustments were occasionally painful, SOE performance did improve: “The average return on assets in state firms soared from 0.2 percent in 1998 to 5 percent in 2007.”

雖然本書作者沒有做這樣的類比,但他顯然會同意Richard McGregor在《The Party》的觀點:中國目前的政治經濟可以用列寧主義/新經濟政策主義來做最佳描述。盡管中國有許多充滿活力的小企業,但中國經濟的“制高點”仍由國家主導。這包括全球十大企業中的三家(中石化、中石油、國家電網),以及《財富》全球500強中92家中國企業中的82家。

與日韓產業組織比較:
“財閥是多元化的企業集團,通常由創始家族控制。,它們涉及到相關公司之間交叉持股的廣泛使用。但日本不同,法律禁止他們擁有銀行。禁止銀行所有權是韓國政府在上世紀60年代做出的慎重選擇,當時韓國政府希望讓財閥依賴國有銀行的信貸,從而對政府的政策目標做出回應……經過大量的實驗,在中國發展起來的體系是“企業集團”的體系。企業集團最早是在1987年被合法定義的,在接下來的15年里,中央政府通過將多個部委和生產局公司化,創建了大約200個這樣的集團。
國有企業集團通常在單一的工業部門內運作。這一規則具有一定的彈性,大多數國企集團都在與其核心業務無關的領域進行了一系列投資,這些領域通常是房地產、旅游服務和餐飲業。但與核心業務相比,這些投資通常規模不大。這種單一行業的專注,使中國企業集團有別于高度多元化的日本和韓國企業集團。”

多年來,國企改革穩步推進:
1. 在1995年,“抓大放小”,也就是說,擺脫最無效的和最小的國有企業
2. 讓具有商業吸引力資產的子公司上市,同時保留未上市母公司的低回報投資和政治敏感項目。
3. 2003年成立國有資產監督管理委員會(國資委),是約200家中央國有企業集團的政府股東。
4. 至少在撰寫本文時,中國政府曾計劃將國資委打造為一個純粹的監管機構,并將所有權轉讓給一系列“資產管理公司”,這些“資產管理公司”按主要行業分類(仿照新加坡淡馬錫)。
盡管調整偶爾會帶來痛苦,但國企的業績確實有所改善:“國企的平均資產回報率從1998年的0.2%飆升至2007年的5%。”

(7) While state ownership in Russia is high relative to the West – even once dirigiste France – it’s nothing out of the ordinary relative to BRICS, as well as South Korea (which I have argued is Russia’s closest analogue in East Asia). Meanwhile, China is clearly the most state-dominated.

盡管俄羅斯的國家所有權相對于西方來說很高——甚至一度實行中央集權的法國也是如此——但相對于金磚四國以及韓國(我認為韓國是在東亞最接近俄羅斯的類似國家)來說,俄羅斯的國家所有權也并非不同尋常。與此同時,中國顯然是政府主導程度最高的國家。



(8) One major thing to bear in mind is that while the SOE system have been criticized for producing monopolies, this is inaccurate:
As noted above, a deliberate feature of the SOE reforms of the 1990s was the creation of multiple, competing state firms even in sectors marked down for central control, such as aviation, telecoms, oil, and electricity generation. In less strategic industries the degree of state-sector fragmentation is even greater: in 2011, for instance, there were 880 SOEs in coal mining, 312 in steel, and 264 in nonferrous metals processing. …
One lesson from this experience is that, for countries making the transition from a socialist planned economy to a market economy, full privatization of state assets is not necessarily the critical step, as many economists believed in the 1990s. The indispensable feature of a market economy is not private property but competition. If state assets are privatized but competition mechanisms remain weak, the results will be poor: one just substitutes private monopolists or oligopolists for state-owned ones.
This is a very legitimate point. While China was carrying out intelligent reforms of its SOE sector, the US-worshipping market Bolsheviks in Russia were giving away the crown jewels of the Soviet economy to shady, well-connected characters. This just led to private monopolists replacing the public ones, with a new class of rapacious oligarchs thrown in for free. But at least the Communists didn’t get back into power in 1996 and that’s all that matters.



(10) Despite its status as a “bureaucratic-authoritarian” state (Kroeber’s descxtion), China is also one of the world’s most decentralized economies.
Interesting, this is a legacy of Maoist-era geostrategic concerns:
Decentralization of production partly resulted from China’s immense geographic diversity and its relatively poor transportation lixs. But it was also a deliberate strategy pursued by Mao Zedong, who believed that China’s best insurance against attack by the Soviet unx or the United States was a system that ensured that production of both daily necessities and military equipment could continue even if one or more major industrial area were wiped out.
… though today’s rationale is more purely political-economic:
Unlike Western analysts, who see a fatal contradiction between a dynamic economy and a tightly controlled political structure, Chinese leaders see the two as complementary. Tight political control provides the stability within which economic activity can be decentralized; and the resulting rapid economic growth in turn enhances the party’s legitimacy for having “delivered the goods” of higher living standards.

盡管中國是一個“官僚專制”的國家(作者這樣描述),但它也是世界上權力最分散的經濟體之一。
有趣的是,這是毛時期地緣戰略考量的遺留:
“分散生產的部分原因是中國巨大的地理多樣性和相對較差的交通聯系。但這也是刻意追求的戰略,他相信中國抵御蘇聯或美國襲擊的最好保障是,即使一個或多個主要工業區被摧毀,也能保證日常必需品和軍事裝備的生產能夠繼續。”

盡管今天的理由更純粹是出于政治經濟考慮:
不像西方分析人士認為的那樣,充滿活力的經濟與受到嚴格控制的政治結構之間存在致命的矛盾。中國領導人則認為,兩者是互補的。嚴格的政治控制提供了經濟活動可以分散的穩定;由此帶來的經濟快速增長反過來又增強了中國GCD“提供更高生活水平的商品”的合法性。

(11) We don’t actually know China’s TFR – the SPFC claims ~1.6 children per woman, the Census hints at ~1.1. Amused to see Kroeber take a stab somewhere in the middle:

我們實際上并不知道中國的總生育率(略)

(12) But the really big demographics story in China is the great rural to urban migration, which Kroeber assess as ~2/3 done as of the time of writing. The World Bank estimates that the excess rural labor supply (i.e., workers not needed to maintain the present level of agricultural production) is somewhere around 100 million people. Accounting for future increases in agricultural productivity, somewhere around 120 to 135 million workers are likely to move from country to city between 2012 and 2030—in other words, about half as many as have already made the move. … An important footnote is that while worker migration to the cities will slow down, movement of nonworking family members to the city will probably pick up, as immigration restrictions are relaxed. This could add as many as 100 million more people to the migrant flow by 2030. At that point, China’s total urban population will be about 1 billion, or roughly 70 percent of the total population.
This syncs with my own tallies. Basically, China’s 2030 will be the RSFSR’s 1980 – the point at which the Russian urban population passed 70% of the total, to max out at 73% a decade later. By the middle of the 2030s, I expect a growing trickle of Central Asian Gastarbeiters rerouting to increasingly labor-starved Chinese cities (as they already are from Russia to South Korea).

但中國真正重要的人口統計數據是農村向城市的大規模移民,作者估計,在撰寫本文時,大約有2/3的人已經完成了這一過程。
“世界銀行估計,農村過剩勞動力(也即是,不需要更多的勞動人數以維持現有農業生產水平)大約有1億人。考慮到未來農業生產率的提高,2012年至2030年間,約有1.2億至1.35億工人可能會從農村遷往城市,換句話說,這一數字只有已經遷移了一半左右。一個重要的腳注是,盡管工人向城市遷移的速度將會放緩,但隨著移民限制的放松,非工作家庭成員向城市遷移的速度可能會加快。到2030年,這將使流動人口增加1億。屆時,中國城市人口將達到10億左右,約占總人口的70%。”

這和我自己的記錄是一致的。基本上,2030年的中國將是1980年的俄羅斯,屆時俄羅斯城市人口將超過總人口的70%,10年后將達到73%。我預計,到本世紀30年代中期,將有越來越多的中亞外籍工人改道到勞動力日益匱乏的中國城市(因為它們已經從俄羅斯遷至韓國)。

(13) Interesting to know that Ethiopia (my favorite African country) and Rwanda are the two fastest growing African countries, and the two African countries that have most closely adopted the Chinese model.
Justin Yifu Lin, who established China’s top economic think tank in the 1990s and served from 2008 to 2011 as chief economist of the World Bank, argues that African countries are in a good position to emulate China’s experience of economic development, using state-led infrastructure investment to attract FDI from companies (including Chinese ones) that no longer find China attractive as a site for low-cost manufacturing.19 Two African countries, Rwanda and Ethiopia, have adopted a more or less explicit policy of imitating the Chinese growth model. Over the past decade Ethiopia has been the fastest-growing economy in Africa, with an average GDP growth rate of 11 percent since 2004. Rwanda is not far behind, at 8 percent.
Despite some of the problems highlighted above, Kroeber is certainly no ideologue, and does highlight that life has become much better:
? While China allocates a prodigious amount of GDP to investment, people are still consuming more – consumer spending increased by 7% annually in 1990-2013.
? They have bought the most cars of any country since 2010, and make up the majority of the world’s international tourists since 2012.
? Labor conditions better than in comparable income countries. Child labor is not a major problem like in much of the Third World.
? Social spending is going up as Hu Jintao rebuilt the tattered safety net to replace the old SOE-based welfare system, including nationwide health insurance schemes, free schooling for nine years, and pension scheme coverage from 200 million to 700 million people.
Meanwhile, many problems that analysts cite as potential mines underneath Chinese economic progress are in reality fairly modest and manageable.
Low efficiency of current investments?
lixBookmark These are summed up in a motto frequently cited by one of China’s leading economists, Justin Lin, who attributes it to Premier Wen Jiabao: “When you multiply any problem by China’s population, it is a very big problem. But when you divide it by China’s population, it becomes very small.” … This observation illuminates a common feature of China’s economy in both the Maoist and reform eras: the main goal throughout has been to mobilize resources. Maximizing the efficiency with which those resources are used has always been a secondary concern. This often distresses economists from rich countries, where virtually all economic growth and improvement in living standards comes from efficiency improvements. Visitors to China observe the waste and inefficiency visible everywhere, and often conclude that the economy will soon hit a crisis. These predictions have so far been wrong, not because observers are wrong about the degree of waste, but because they fail to realize that in a country of China’s size, such waste can be irrelevant so long as it is a by-product of an effective process of meeting basic needs.



Nonetheless, Kroeber does later note that with China’s capital stock/GDP ratio approaching rich country levels, there will be diminishing returns from more capital investment. China will have to become more efficient about resource use.
Growth based on unsustainable currency manipulation?
A low exchange rate played some role in China’s export boom, but no more than a supporting one. From 2001 through 2010, when most experts agreed that China’s exchange rate was undervalued, China’s share of global manufactured exports rose by about 1.1 percentage points a year, from 5 percent to 15 percent. In 2010–2013, when China’s exchange rate appreciated rapidly and other costs such as wages were also rising, China still gained about 0.9 percentage points of global market share each year, to nearly 18 percent in 2013.
Degrading environment?
It is, however, worth putting China’s environmental challenges in international and historical perspective. Every country that has grown rich has gotten quite dirty along the way. Today the headlines are filled with stories about toxic smog in Chinese cities and chemical spills in Chinese rivers. It is easy to forget that four decades ago, almost identical headlines were being written about Japan; and that in the 1960s the United States faced severe air pollution problems in big cities like Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, rivers in industrial regions caught on fire, and localities were rendered unfit to inhabit because of chemical pollution.
Finally, nor is Kroeber unduly worried about Chinese debt. Mortgages are unlikely to be the trigger…
The average down payment for a home purchase in China is well over 30 percent and the legal minimum is 20 percent. On average, urban households carry debt that is less than 50 percent of their annual disposable income. This is a far cry from the United States, where down payments of 5 percent or less were common, and household debt peaked at nearly 130 percent of disposable income. This means that even if house prices fall quite a bit, Chinese homeowners will still have positive equity in their homes and will be able to continue paying off their mortgages. China is unlikely to suffer a housing-related financial crisis.

不過,作者后來確實指出,隨著中國的資本存量/GDP比率接近富裕國家的水平,更多資本投資的回報將會遞減。中國必須提高資源利用效率。

基于不可持續的匯率操縱的增長?
“低匯率在中國出口繁榮中發揮了一定作用,但只是起到了支撐作用。從2001年到2010年,當大多數專家都認為中國的匯率被低估時,中國在全球制造業出口中所占的份額每年上升約1.1個百分點,從5%上升到15%。2010年至2013年,中國匯率快速升值,工資等其他成本也在上升,但中國在全球市場的份額仍以每年約0.9個百分點的速度增長,2013年達到近18%。”

艱苦的環境?
“確實是,然而值得從國際和歷史的角度來看待中國面臨的環境挑戰。每個富裕起來的國家在發展過程中都變得相當骯臟。今天的頭條新聞充斥著關于中國城市有毒煙霧和中國河流化學物質泄漏的報道。人們很容易忘記,40年前,幾乎相同的頭條新聞都是關于日本的;20世紀60年代,美國在匹茲堡和洛杉磯等大城市面臨嚴重的空氣污染問題,工業地區的河流著火,一些地方由于化學污染而變得不適合居住。”

最后,作者也沒有過度擔心中國的債務。抵押貸款不太可能是導火索……
“在中國,買房的平均首付比例遠遠超過30%,法定最低首付比例為20%。平均而言,城市家庭背負的債務不到其年可支配收入的50%。這與美國的情況大不相同。在美國,首付不超過5%的情況很常見,家庭債務占可支配收入的比例達到了近130%的峰值。這意味著,即使房價大幅下跌,中國的房屋所有者仍將擁有正資產,并能夠繼續償還抵押貸款。中國不太可能遭遇與房地產相關的金融危機。”

nor a sovereign debt crisis…
Whatever the level, however, a large and rapid increase in debt, such as we have seen in China since 2008, often does lead to financial crisis. But not necessarily. To have a crisis, you need two things: fast-rising debt, and a trigger event that forces shaky borrowers to pay up or go bankrupt. China has the debt, but not the trigger. The classic trigger for an emerging-market debt crisis is an inability to pay back foreign lenders. …
This is obviously not China’s problem. Its foreign borrowings are small—about 10 percent of GDP—and its gigantic foreign reserves of US$3.5 trillion (nearly 40 percent of GDP) give it plenty of ammunition to ward off a speculative attack and preserve the value of its currency. It runs an annual current account surplus of 2 to 3 percent of GDP, meaning that it has more than enough current income to cover its short-term foreign debts.
… nor from weird financial instruments…
The Financial Stability Board, an international group that monitors shadow banking around the world, found that for the entire world in 2013, nonbank assets accounted for 25 percent of all financial system assets, and were equivalent to 120 percent of world GDP. In the United States, nonbank assets accounted for nearly 60 percent of all financial assets, and equated to 150 percent of GDP. In China, nonbank assets were just 9 percent of financial assets, and a relatively modest 31 percent of GDP. … Second, China’s shadow finance is boring. Almost all of it consists of ordinary bank loans that are routed through nonbank institutions. Virtually all of the exotic features that make shadow banking both difficult to measure and potentially destabilizing in advanced countries are absent in China. China has basically no securitized loans, no derivatives, no collateralized debt obligations, no credit default swaps, few hedge funds and real estate investment trusts, and no structured finance vehicles.

也不太可能發生主權債務危機
“然而,無論債務水平如何,像2008年以來我們在中國看到的那樣,債務的大幅快速增長往往會導致金融危機。但不一定。要發生危機,你需要兩件事:快速增長的債務,以及迫使搖搖欲墜的借款人償還債務或破產的觸發事件。中國有債務,但不是導火索。新興市場債務危機的典型誘因是無力償還外國貸款。
這顯然不是中國的問題。其外債僅占GDP的10%左右,其3.5萬億美元的巨額外匯儲備(接近GDP的40%)為其提供了充足的彈藥來抵御投機攻擊,并保持其貨幣的價值。它的年度經常賬戶盈余占GDP的2%到3%,這意味著它有足夠的經常收入來償還短期外債。”

也不太可能來自怪異的金融工具
“負責監督全球影子銀行的國際組織金融穩定委員會(Financial Stability Board)發現,2013年全球非銀行資產占金融體系總資產的25%,相當于全球GDP的120%。在美國,非銀行資產占所有金融資產的近60%,相當于GDP的150%。在中國,非銀行資產僅占金融資產的9%,占GDP的比例相對較低,為31%。其次,中國的影子金融令人生厭。幾乎所有這些貸款都是通過非銀行機構發放的普通銀行貸款。實際上,所有讓影子銀行既難以衡量、又可能破壞發達國家穩定的奇特特征,在中國都沒有。中國基本上沒有證券化貸款,沒有衍生品,沒有債務抵押債券,沒有信用違約互換,幾乎沒有對沖基金和房地產投資信托,也沒有結構性金融工具。”



Corruption is certainly bad – though as I have argued with respect to Putin’s Russia, or Orban’s Hungary, is it even possible to maintain sovereignty from the Blue Empire without building up your own elite?
Profiteering from corruption ran right to the top of the political system. The biggest case that the government has acknowledged was that of Zhou Yongkang, who served on the Politburo standing committee in 2007–2012 and ran the nation’s security services. In 2014 Zhou was formally investigated for corruption and expelled from the party; police claimed to have confiscated assets of $14.5 billion from Zhou, his family members, and his business associates. That amount would rank Zhou as seventh in the list of China’s richest people compiled annually by the Shanghai-based Hurun Report. Foreign media have also documented extensive wealth in the immediate family of former prime minister Wen Jiabao (US$3 billion, according to the New York Times) and current president Xi Jinping (US$55 million in Hong Kong property, and investments in companies worth US$2 billion, according to Bloomberg News). The widespread perception that, in the party and government, no one’s hands are clean of corruption is probably accurate.

腐敗當然是不好的——盡管正如我對普京領導的俄羅斯或歐爾班領導的匈牙利所持的看法一樣,在不建立自己的精英階層的情況下,是否有可能在西方面前維持主權?
(略)

In any case, Kroeber rightly points out that Chinese economy is dynamic enough to support significant corruption, and in any case, corruption has often served understandable political purposes, such as getting elite consensus for reforms, or purging hostile political factions.
Moreover, those people who steal too much & too flamboyantly do eventually get punished.
Finally, this tacit license to steal was not unlimited. Beginning in the early 1980s, the Communist Party waged a continuous and occasionally intense fight against corruption. … Researchers have found that at most one in ten corrupt officials are ever charged with corruption; but those that are charged are almost invariably convicted, and they face harsh sanctions including prison terms of ten years or more or even death sentences, of which 700 were handed down in corruption cases in the decade to 2008.
Finally, regional inequality is getting better:
By 2004, growth in rural consumption began to catch up to urban levels, and the urban-rural income gap began to shrink in 2009.6 As late as 2005, only a half-dozen provinces had urban wages within 10 percent of the national average. The rest of the country was divided between a handful of provinces, mainly on the coast, with much higher than average wages, and a vast mass of interior provinces with much lower incomes. By 2011 this provincial wage gap had closed: half of provinces had urban wages within 10 percent of the national average, and only the coastal megacities of Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai had wages more than 10 percent above the national norm.
So most likely we are not going to see George Friedman’s fevered predictions of the interior regions rising up against the fat cats in the coastal cities anytime soon.

無論如何,作者正確地指出,中國經濟的活力足以支持重大的腐敗,而且無論如何,腐敗往往為一些可以理解的政治目的服務,比如讓精英階層就改革達成共識,或清除敵對的政治派別。
此外,那些偷太多和太浮夸的人最終會受到懲罰。

“最后,這種偷竊的默許并不是無限的。從上世紀80年代初開始,中國就開始了一場持續不斷、時而激烈的反腐斗爭。研究人員發現,多達十分之一的腐敗官員曾被指控腐敗;但那些被指控的人幾乎無一例外地被定罪,他們面臨著嚴厲的制裁,包括10年或更長時間的監禁,甚至死刑,其中700人是在截至2008年的10年間因腐敗案件被判入獄的。”

最后,地區不平等正在改善。
“到2004年,農村消費增長開始趕上城市水平,城鄉收入差距在2009年開始縮小,截止2005年,只有6個省份的城市工資水平低于全國平均水平的10%。中國其他地區被劃分為少數省份(主要是沿海省份,工資遠高于平均水平)和大量內陸省份(收入遠低于平均水平)。到2011年,省份的工資差距已經縮小:一半的省份的城市工資水平低于全國平均水平的10%,只有北京、天津和上海等沿海大城市的工資水平高于全國平均水平的10%以上。”
因此,我們很可能不會看到George Friedman對內陸地區的狂熱預測:在近期內與沿海城市的“肥貓”(fat cats)相抗衡。