Japan from the inside out

China: How much longer can it defy the odds?

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, February 11, 2007


It’s by no means certain that the 21st century will belong to China, though some consider it inevitable—including Chinese political and business leaders. In fact, those Chinese political leaders may also be the business leaders, and vice versa. As Will Hutton points out in his latest book, The Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century, that’s a big part of the problem.

Hutton believes that what is unsustainable will not be sustained, and that the status quo—or continued development along the same path—is part of that which is unsustainable in China.

China has poor foundations on which to build the subtle network of institutions of accountability necessary to manage the complexities of a modern economy and society. Sooner or later, it is a failing that will have to be addressed.

He continues:

A new great power is in the making, but one whose pursuit of its self-interest takes the amorality of power to a new plane. It is not just the Chinese who should be concerned about its institutional and moral failings; all of us should be.

These excerpts from his book appeared in the Observer. It’s so good I could post a quote from every paragraph, but you can read the whole article here.

One problem Hutton does not seem to cover is the graying of Chinese society and its lack of a modern social security system. But the details about that are in this article from the Boston Globe. For example, says Chen Zhi, chief of the department of population and social science in Sichuan Province, which has the highest proportion of seniors in China:

“We are like a man getting old before he gets rich.”

China has managed to evade a lot of problems while maintaining its basic post-Mao course. Some thought that introducing elections at the village level would lead to greater democracy; it hasn’t. Others thought that the Internet and its “Information must be free philosophy” would transform the country. Rather, the government has co-opted it. It’s anyone’s guess how much longer China’s leadership will continue to be successful with this balancing act.

One Response to “China: How much longer can it defy the odds?”

  1. […] AMPONTAN gives us a fascinating excerpt from Will Hutton’s book, The Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century. it’s becoming commonplace for China-watchers to wager for or against China’s future, as if the world’s economy were a horse race.  While ampontan has good points, Hutton’s thesis is better (and, I agree with ampontan, he covers most of the points) and more useful for looking at the world economy as a non zero-sum game. […]

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