China, the New Paper Tiger

Paper Tiger: Inside the Real China
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In any serious military clash many, if not most, of the foreign interests would pull out. The national income figures are suspect. Many economists doubt their validity. Moreover, as with all countries, the wrecking of the environment paradoxically boosts GNP, even though in some parts of China pollution is knocking 5 years off expected longevity. Translating this laggard economy into military power is a fraught business.

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And the trend may prove enduring, if China succeeds in its stated aim of shifting permanently from a resource-intensive economy, heavily dependent on manufacturing and construction, to one based far more on services. An Anatomy of Chinese. Fang-Long Shih. Michael Boylan. Lies That Bind.

However aggravating China find US foreign policy, it is unlikely to engender the level of fear that motivated the US during the Cold War. What incentive does China have to try and catch up with America in the military arena?

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China, the New Paper Tiger - Kindle edition by John Tierney. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like. 'Paper Tiger': Understanding China's Nuclear Structure to grow further and obtain significant new capability, others describe China's nuclear.

Not that much. When one boils it down there are only two areas where serious confrontation could break out. One is the South China Sea and the other is Taiwan.

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But the Taiwanese have shown over decades that they have learnt how not to provoke China. It will not go to war over small uninhabited islands. The Chinese are much more likely to be aggressive in economic relations. In Africa and Latin America they have fast increased their trading relationship. In Africa their aid is going into infrastructure projects.

The Chinese Origins of ‘Paper Tiger’

It is beset by slowing growth and other serious problems, notably rapidly rising debt and a rapidly ageing population, to many of which its leaders appear to have no clear solutions. Meanwhile, plans to rebalance its economy and promote much-needed structural reforms have lost momentum.

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Unless China acts more decisively to overcome those obstacles, they may constrain both its future development and its global economic ambitions. Mao Tsetung famously said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. On the global stage, however, enduring power is based on economic heft. By that criterion, China should have a lot of it. All this has provoked both awe and concern in capitals around the world.

To be sure, in this view there will be some bumps along the road ahead, just as periodic financial crises punctuated the industrial rise of the US during the late nineteenth century. For China optimists, however, these would be temporary setbacks, from which the country would swiftly recover to regain its relentless upward trajectory. Yet such visions sit uneasily alongside the growing list of huge problems piling up in China, to many of which its leadership appears to have no clear solutions and some of which it seems to lack the will — and indeed political clout — to tackle decisively.

Some are short-term and cyclical. But many are longer-term, structural and increasingly deeply rooted. In other words, a steady decline in longer-term growth, not a quick bounceback, was in prospect. But one, fairly widely shared, interpretation is that the intention was to jolt a sluggish government bureaucracy out of the complacent belief that the economy would somehow recover by itself from its current slowdown and to goad them into action.

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Its most troubling aspect is not just its size, which is comparable to that in some advanced economies; it is the alarming speed at which it has risen — trebling since — and continues still to rise, as ever more money is pumped in in an effort to keep growth up and unemployment down. Much of the money is going, not into productive investment, but into asset bubbles, into rolling over existing loans to technically insolvent borrowers and into the coffers of state owned enterprises.

Their confidence in the economic outlook also appears to be flagging, to judge by the sharp slowdown over the past year in their capital investments, which actually fell in July. Meanwhile, the economy remains burdened with vast excess capacity, particularly in coal and steel, while zombie companies are kept alive on artificial life support. Here, too, official efforts to impose cutbacks have had to contend with concerns about the potential political cost of depressing the economy and raising the unemployment rate. Beijing recently ordered the coal industry to reverse course by expanding production, apparently out of concern that reductions in output had led to steep price rises.

Nor is much progress being made towards another key government goal: rebalancing the economy by replacing investment with consumption as the main growth driver. Indeed, China has actually been going backwards. Final household consumption, at 39 per cent of GDP, is not just extraordinarily low by international standards; it is well below its 47 per cent share in Though services now contribute more in nominal terms to growth and output than do manufacturing and construction, that is largely attributable to a sharp slowdown in fixed asset investment and rapid expansion of financial and property-related services, both fuelled by the bubble economy.

But since they adopted a sweeping reforms blueprint in late , its implementation, other than in parts of the financial system, has been timid, piecemeal and slow, as it has increasingly run up against entrenched political and institutional resistance. Then, optimists argue, Mr Xi will at last be free to appoint his own team of loyal colleagues and forge ahead boldly with his agenda. However, even if he succeeds in further consolidating his grip, big questions remain.

Another is what action the next top leadership will take to deal with them and whether they will succeed. China clearly wields growing clout beyond its own borders. However, its impact is uneven. Regionally, its weight and reach are increasingly felt in east and south Asia.

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Globally, it is a different picture. China is still far more of a rule-taker than a rule-maker, a relatively quiescent member of the main multilateral and various regional economic and financial organisations to which it belongs. Nonetheless, some individual countries have profited handsomely, notably natural resource exporters such as Australia, Brazil, the Middle East and parts of Africa. The powerful magnetic attraction of its apparently insatiable domestic demand, coupled with generous promises of funding — not always delivered on — have also purchased Beijing influence in capitals around the world.

However, some of the magic charm is starting to wear off. And the trend may prove enduring, if China succeeds in its stated aim of shifting permanently from a resource-intensive economy, heavily dependent on manufacturing and construction, to one based far more on services. More recently, industrialised countries have taken a hit, too, as China has sought increasingly to dispose of excess capacity in products such as steel on global markets at rock bottom subsidised prices.

By doing so, it has both exported deflation and is threatening to stir up a trade backlash in both the US and Europe — a risk that may increase sharply if Mr Trump carries out his threat to slap punitive tariffs on Chinese exports. The situation has since stabilised, though there have recently been signs of renewed outflows, while the Renminbi has continued to weaken, notwithstanding repeated official pledges to hold it steady.

While those risks remain Beijing, ever reluctant to cede control, seems likely to be even more wary of liberalising the capital account, a prerequisite of making the renminbi a fully-fledged reserve currency. That has not deterred Beijing from pursuing eye-catching international initiatives, of which the most ambitious and costly is OBOR, on which Mr Xi has staked much personal prestige.

Both trends have aroused concerns elsewhere that China is now bent on exercising global economic dominance. The reality, however, is more complex.

China: A Paper Tiger With a Burgeoning Yet Erratic Economy

As long as China saves more than it invests, it will continue to run external surpluses, obliging it to export capital to the rest of the world. Indeed, warning signs are emerging that it is already hitting limits. One is growing resistance in the US, Australia and most recently Europe to the wave of Chinese acquisitions there. The pushback stems partly from concerns that some planned acquisitions may pose national security risks but increasingly from resentment that, while western economies have become happy hunting grounds for Chinese acquirers, many Chinese industrial sectors remain firmly closed to investors from abroad.

Paper tiger

Failure by Beijing to extend greater reciprocity risks causing government attitudes to harden and barriers to go up abroad. Meanwhile, in parts of the planned OBOR route, notably in south east Asia, suspicions are being voiced that the project comes with political strings attached. As a result, China is belatedly imposing stricter disciplines on future such loans and directing them to supposedly less risky borrowers in an attempt to stem further losses.

Increasingly, state-backed overseas investment is being channelled into projects carrying the OBOR label, though analysts question how financially viable many will be, particularly as some appear motivated more by foreign policy and national security considerations than by the pursuit of commercial returns.