The government of China has launched its 13th five-year plan (known as 13.5), sticking with the form if not the substance of Stalinism. But in our modern and networked world, China wants the world to understand its planning process, so it released this catchy video in American English:
The video explains how comprehensive the planning process is:
Every five years in China, man
They make a new development plan!
The time has come for number 13.
The shi san wu, that’s what it means!
There’s government ministers and think tank minds
And party leadership contributing finds.
First there’s research, views collected,
Then discussion and views projected.
Reports get written and passed around
As the plan goes down from high to low,
The government’s experience continues to grow.
They have to work hard and deliberate
Because a billion lives are all at stake!
It must be smart: note the picture of Einstein along with Chinese leaders such as Mao Zedong (around 0:50).
Today, China abandoned its 35-year-old one-child policy. Based on the now debunked threat of overpopulation that was popularized by Stanford University scholar Paul Ehrlich, the communist government subjected the Chinese people to forced sterilizations and abortions. Many newborn babies were either killed or left to die. Today, the Chinese population suffers from a dangerous gender imbalance that favors boys over girls at a ratio of 117:100, and a demographic implosion that threatens future economic growth and prosperity. In fact, as Human Progress advisory board member Matt Ridley shows in his book The Rational Optimist, population growth and economic expansion go hand in hand. The horrific consequences of the Chinese one-child policy are a reminder of what happens when governments are allowed to interfere in the deeply personal decisions of individual citizens and their families.
For months, the United States has contemplated launching a series of naval patrols in the South China Sea. Pentagon leaders are especially determined to defy China’s position that building “reclaimed” or artificial reefs and islands also creates rights to new territorial waters surrounding those entities. On October 27, the Navy sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen on a “freedom of navigation” patrol within 12-miles of a man-made island in the Spratly chain. That action triggered an immediate outburst, with China’s Foreign Ministry admonishing the United States to “immediately correct its mistake and not take any dangerous or provocative acts that threaten China’s sovereignty and security interests.”
Washington’s action is a dangerous escalation of already worrisome tensions in the South China Sea. It is understandable that, as the world’s leading maritime power, the United States is unwilling to accept Beijing’s extremely broad territorial claims in that body of water. The full extent of China’s claims would cover nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea. U.S. officials stress the importance of the sea lanes that pass through the area. They note that some $5 trillion in oceanic commerce is involved, and that unimpeded navigation is especially crucial to the trade and overall economies of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other U.S. allies in East Asia.
The importance of continued free navigation in the South China Sea is obvious, but two points are relevant. First, China has made no credible threat to disrupt the trade routes. Indeed, given China’s vast stake in international trade, threatening trade flows in any region would be risky to the point of self-destructive folly. Second, one has to ask why the United States is expected to take the lead in dealing with this issue. A Reuters article notes that “U.S. allies such as Japan and Australia, are unlikely to follow with their own direct challenges to China, despite their concerns over freedom of navigation along vital trade routes.”
If China truly poses a threat to trade routes that are so essentiall to countries in the immediate neighborhood, why aren’t those countries initiating naval patrols to challenge Beijing’s claims? Why is the United States, whose homeland lies thousands of miles away, the only challenger? The answer is that such reticence by the East Asian countries continues a long-standing habit of free riding on U.S. security exertions. That is never going to change unless and until Washington conveys the message to those countries that the United States is through bearing the expense and incurring the risks of dealing with matters that are (or at least ought to be) far more important to them than to us.
The trajectory of U.S. policy in the South China Sea creates a crisis atmosphere and entails the grave risk of a direct military confrontation with China. The potential benefits flowing from an aggressive U.S. policy are, at most, quite modest. China’s East Asian neighbors should not be allowed to stand on the sidelines while Washington does their dirty work for them.
SHANGHAI, CHINA—Shanghai is China’s financial capital. A former Western concession, the city today shows little sign of the many bitter political battles fought over the last century. Tourists throng the Bund along the Huangpu River while global corporations fill the skyscrapers in Pudong, across the water.
But politics in China today is a blood sport. President Xi Jinping has been taking down powerful opponents, so-called “tigers.” However, he has not revived propaganda posters, once a pervasive political weapon.
Yang Pei Ming, a tour guide, started collecting posters in 1995. He eventually set up the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center. Explained Yang: “With the shift toward a more modern and forward-thinking China, it would be a mistake to forget our history.”
Now licensed by the government, the exhibit’s official name is the Shanghai Yang Pei Ming Propaganda Poster Art Museum. Yang accumulated 6000 different propaganda posters and a plethora of other tchotchke from Mao’s suffocating personality cult.
SHANGHAI, CHINA—Shanghai, China’s financial capital, enjoys a double skyline. The city proper, or “old city,” sports a fascinating mix of colonial buildings and modern architecture. The “New Area” of Pudong hosts Shanghai’s four tallest structures, on the east bank of the Huangpu River.
In contrast, when I first visited Shanghai a couple decades ago there were few buildings, commercial or residential, racing skyward. Pudong was mostly empty, with more brush and trash blowing down the streets than buildings with people working in them.
But there is another China. More distant towns offer a vision into the past—more traditional, less advanced, more isolated. Shift to the nearby countryside and incomes drop substantially, averaging less than $2000 per capita. My traveling group stopped by the remains of an ancient fortress and the Great Wall, which required walking along dirt roads lined by homes constructed with bricks taken from the ruins. The primitive toilet had holes in the wooden floor, through which the ground was visible.
As expected, Chinese President Xi Jinping raised the issue of antidumping abuse during his recent visit to Washington. Specifically, he called on the United States to stop using “nonmarket economy” methodology when imposing antidumping duties on imports from China. The issue is going to become more and more pressing as a diplomatic problem over the next year, because the United States is required under WTO rules to end NME treatment by December 2016.
NME methodology is one of many ways the United States inflates the protectionist impact of U.S. antidumping law. My colleague Dan Ikenson has thoroughly documented the senselessness of NME treatment. Last year, I wrote a Cato Policy Analysis looking at how U.S. officials and policymakers might respond to the December 2016 deadline.
That deadline coincides closely with the end of President Obama’s term in office. The president can choose to leave his successor years of trade conflict and WTO litigation by refusing to act. Or he can do the right thing for the American economy and U.S.–China relations by ending NME treatment as soon as possible.