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On worrying about China

By Brian Hennessy - posted Wednesday, 2 March 2016


It is February 2016, and I'm sitting in the Lian Luo Coffee house in Chongqing, a huge metropolis on the Yangtze River upstream from the Three Gorges Dam.

I was also sitting here in 2009 when I wrote an article questioning Western predictions that the Chinese economy was about to go under.

The same experts who had failed to predict a financial crisis in their own backyard were opining – shamelessly – that rising China was about to fall. To sink in fact.

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And here we go again. The big-picture guys are predicting that China's long run of economic success is over, and that it is just a matter of time before ex-President Zhang Zemin's 'Socialism with Chinese characteristics' unravels. Spectacularly.

Given their long history of predicting doom for China, I hope that you will forgive my cynicism. It has been shaped by long experience with the Western commentariat.

I remember 2009 vividly. China was concerned about a world-wide recession, and here in Chongqing, government officials were preparing for the worst.

Rather than laying off people though, the pain was to be spread evenly – all employees would have to accept fewer working hours.

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Laid-off migrant workers were returning home and the police and other internal security agencies had been directed to be 'proactive' in nipping any 'social disorder' in the bud.

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China was readying itself for an economic hard landing.

While this was going on, I noted that housing construction had stalled and that apartments were going cheap. Restaurants had fewer patrons, belts were being tightened, and there was a sense of apprehension in the air.

Then the Chinese ship of state righted itself after the $550 billion stimulus programme got things moving again.

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About the Author

Brian is an Australian author, educator, and psychologist who lived in China for ten years. These days he divides his time between both countries.

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