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China on Course to Overtake US Economy

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On February 11, 2005 @ 6:42 am In Commodities,Economy,Politics | Comments Disabled

Here’s a stat to get the old ticker pumping first thing in the morning:

Past 25 Year Growth Rates:

China: 8%+
U.S.     3%

on an inflation-adjusted average annual rate

Does that place a recent meme circulating on Wall Street (particularly from right-leaning economists) that the increase in Oil prices is due to "speculators" into some context?

Consider this from the WSJ [1]:

Wsj_china_01232005191041_2Understanding this trend is far from academic, with an impact
likely to shake up businesses and governments and today’s U.S.-driven world
order. Having the world’s largest economy will give China a greater say in
global affairs. Its currency, which is now pegged to the U.S. dollar, will join
the yen and the euro as globally traded currencies and in doing so will erode
the dollar’s position as the world’s default coin of choice. China’s military,
which has enjoyed double-digit budget increases for much of the past 15 years,
is likely to grow larger, bolstered by the huge economy.

The Central Intelligence Agency, for one, is taking note. A
research arm, the National Intelligence Council, issued a report last month
likening China’s emergence and its impact on the world to that of the U.S. in
the last century and Germany in the 19th. The report says that by 2020 the
world’s geopolitical center of gravity will tilt toward Asia, especially China,
the economy of which will have surpassed Japan’s to become second only to that
of the U.S.

Events could knock China off course. The country is beset by
deep-seated problems, from shortages of energy resources and water to severe
environmental degradation and an enlarging gap between the prosperous and poor
that could generate widespread unrest. Some economists argue that to sustain
long-term growth, market economies require political freedom — something the
communist government shows scant intention of bestowing. (emphasis added).

The obvious conclusion is that we are entering a period of global competition for resources, and our biggest competitor will be China (pop: 2 Billion), followed closely by India  (pop: 1 Billion). Indeed, China has already surpassed Japan to assume the position of No. 3 trader in the world, behind
the U.S and Germany.

I have been thumbing through two books  on the subject:  The Chinese Century [2] by Oded Shenkar, and China, Inc. [3] by Ted Fishman, the latter of which I will be dragging on a vacation/business trip at the end of the month.

The Journal [1] optimistically notes that China’s historical periods of dominance tend to be self-defeating:

"China also has a history of economic supremacy, having been the
world’s largest economy for much of the 700 years starting around 1000. In an
echo of today’s capital and technology transfers, the introduction of
early-ripening rice and later of New World crops like maize and sweet potatoes
created food surpluses, allowing the buildup of porcelain and silk industries
that dominated global trade, says Kent Deng, an economic historian at London
School of Economics. As late as 1730, historians say, the country produced a
third of the world’s manufactured goods. China currently dominates about 12% of
world manufacturing.

Yet history provides another lesson that puts the Chinese
economic leviathan in perspective. Despite its dominance, the country was
quickly eclipsed by the rapidly industrializing Western European nations and the
U.S., in part because it failed to develop systems of scientific research and
ways to commercialize findings. Much the same criticism is leveled today at
Chinese companies and government, whose research and development spending trails
that in wealthier nations."

The implication is that unless the communist capitalists move towards a more market based (versus centrally planned) economy, its only a matter of time before they make a fatal error. I’m not all that convinced this is a persuasive argument. Consider in tandem with that thought our market based economy in the United States:  How highly manipulated (i.e., non-market forces) is the US economy?

For the full blown China paranoia, however, we need to go to  321 Energy’s discussion [4] on "China’s Master Plan to Destroy America:"

"The final war for the planet’s resources has already started. You name the commodity and China’s buying it and consuming it in HUGE quantities. Last year they consumed nearly half of the world’s cement, twice the world’s consumption of copper, and nearly a third of the world’s coal, 90% of the world’s steel plus nearly every other commodity you can think of has been in greater demand by China.

However in order to propel such furious economic growth, there is one key commodity you need above all the others. And if you can’t get enough of it, having all the other resources won’t matter. The most prized and sought after commodity which makes the world tick is oil. With out it, you have nothing. Your economy would be frozen and your military would be left inept.

As China’s Master Plan to Destroy America manifesto outlines, the multifaceted battle plan recommended by the Chinese military has taken shape . . .

Frankly, destroying the biggest buyer of your goods doesn’t sound like much of a brilliant plan. But get past the paranoic ravings, and the discussion on energy competition is quite insightful.

Also, the CIA has quite a few things to say on the subject. The full report is linked below, but I had to include at least one graphic:

click for larger graphic:
China_economy_1 [5]

source: CIA, Mapping the Global Future [6]

Lastly, a friend did an absolutely brilliant analysis [7] of how China is securing their energy future in Russia and Venezuala; If I can dig it up, I’ll post it later . . .

>>

Sources:

Mapping the Global Future [6]: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project
NIC 2004-13
CIA, December 2004
http://www.cia.gov/nic/NIC_globaltrend2020.html
http://www.foia.cia.gov/2020/2020.pdf   (PDF version [8])

China and the Final War for Resources [4]   
Bill Ridley
321 Energy, February 9th, 2005
http://www.321energy.com/editorials/winston/winston020905.html

China May Be on Course To Overtake U.S. Economy [1]
By CHARLES HUTZLER
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, January 24, 2005; Page A2
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB110651152358433393,00.html


Article printed from The Big Picture: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog

URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2005/02/china-on-course-to-overtake-us-economy/

URLs in this post:

[1] WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB110651152358433393,00.html

[2] The Chinese Century: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0131467484/thebigpictu09-20/104-3776013-8226334

[3] China, Inc.: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0743257529/thebigpictu09-20/104-3776013-8226334

[4] 321 Energy’s discussion: http://www.321energy.com/editorials/winston/winston020905.html

[5] Image: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/china_economy_1.gif

[6] Mapping the Global Future: http://www.cia.gov/nic/NIC_globaltrend2020_s2.html

[7] brilliant analysis: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2005/02/chinas_oil_grab.html

[8] PDF version: http://www.foia.cia.gov/2020/2020.pdf

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