Like most nations with a foothold in the global trade network, China is perpetually engaged in one economic conflict or another. But whether it is anti-dumping action or import restrictions, the sheer size of the foothold China occupies serves to amplify the tensions attached to it.
It is the big numbers – a US$177 billion trade surplus, foreign exchange reserves in excess of US$1 trillion – beamed around the world that have the West worried and it is this kind of environment that gave rise to Peter Navarro's The Coming China Wars.
What Navarro, a business professor at the University of California, Irvine, seeks to do is present the key areas in which China is in conflict with the rest of the world and analyze the possible consequences.
However, from the fictional "US-China Chill Melts Down World Markets (October 25, 2012)" news release that opens the book, it's clear what is in store: A selection of doomsday scenarios that use broad brushstrokes to paint China as a villain.
This is not so much a misrepresentation of the tensions that exist between China and the rest of the world; it is a significant exaggeration of them.
Judging by the language currently emanating from China's central bank – slow differentiation into other currencies as opposed to abandonment of the US dollar – how realistic is the dollar-dumping-leads-to-market-freefall scenario described in Navarro's futuristic news release?
For that matter, come 2012, will the trade surplus and the undervalued currency still be sufficiently hot potatoes to contribute to the meltdown he describes? According to more than a few reports churned out by Asia economists, the answer is no.
Much of this is open to debate, but the point is that Navarro's argument, while making every effort to be accessible, appears to lack the objectivity and detail needed to make it credible.
There is very little in the book that isn't already well-trod ground. We are taken through familiar territory in terms of flaws in China's attitudes towards intellectual property, pollution and foreign and energy policy. On the domestic front, water shortages, social unrest, inferior welfare schemes and AIDS are all highlighted as problem areas.
Threading through these issues is the idea of China as the problem creator or rogue agent out to do the world harm. Perhaps the most disturbing element of this is Navarro's tendency to blame things on an all-controlling power in Beijing.
While this may be close to the truth in areas such as foreign policy, labeling piracy or narcotics production as state-sponsored would appear to skim over the contradictions that are part and parcel of any discussion of China's public and private sector or national and regional government.
In other areas, it could be argued that a grave need to protect creaking domestic systems is the principal driver of Chinese behaviour as opposed to some kind of global malevolence.
Introducing the book, Navarro says it is his goal to facilitate an understanding of "the complexities of the economic origins" of tensions surrounding China with a view finding a peaceful resolution. But this doesn't stop him calling for the use of "military might" to back up the already hard line suggestions he has for dealing with China.
In a climate of growing protectionist sentiment in the US, you are left wondering whether Navarro isn't just fanning the flames.
You must log in to post a comment.
Yes, I would like to receive emails from China Economic Review. (You can unsubscribe anytime)
Copyright © 2018 SinoMedia Group Limited All rights reserved