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Home / Brad Delong, Berkeley / Grasping Reality with Both Hands: bradford-delong.com: 2018-06-09 21:25:35

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: bradford-delong.com: 2018-06-09 21:25:35

Summary:
The big problem China will face in a decade is this: an aging near-absolute monarch who does not dare dismount is itself a huge source of instability. The problem is worse than the standard historical pattern that imperial succession has never delivered more than five good emperors in a row. The problem is the aging of an emperor. Before modern medicine one could hope that the time of chaos between when the grip on the reins of the old emperor loosened and the grip of the new emperor tightened would be short. But in the age of modern medicine that is certainly not the way to bet. Thus monarchy looks no more attractive than demagoguery today. We can help to build or restore or remember our “republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government“. An autocracy faced

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The big problem China will face in a decade is this: an aging near-absolute monarch who does not dare dismount is itself a huge source of instability.

The problem is worse than the standard historical pattern that imperial succession has never delivered more than five good emperors in a row. The problem is the aging of an emperor. Before modern medicine one could hope that the time of chaos between when the grip on the reins of the old emperor loosened and the grip of the new emperor tightened would be short. But in the age of modern medicine that is certainly not the way to bet.

Thus monarchy looks no more attractive than demagoguery today.

We can help to build or restore or remember our “republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government“. An autocracy faced with the succession and the dotage problems does not have this option. Once they abandon collective aristocratic leadership in order to manage the succession problem, I see little possibility of a solution.

And this brings me to Martin Wolf. China's current trajectory is not designed to generate durable political stability: Martin Wolf: How the west should judge the claim sof a rising China: “Chinese political stability is fragile...

...History suggests that they are right. The past two centuries have seen many man-made disasters, from the Taiping Rebellion of the 19th century to the Great Leap Forward and cultural revolution. It is quite easy therefore to understand why members of the elite seem convinced that renewal of the Communist party, under the control of Xi Jinping, is essential. We must recall that the upheaval of modernisation and urbanisation through which China is now going, destabilised Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Yet this tightening of control could derail the economy or generate a political explosion in a country containing an ever more literate, interconnected and prosperous people. China wishes to be a huge Singapore. Can it?

Western models are discredited: The Chinese elite is right: they are, alas. The dominant view among the rest used to be that the west was interventionist, selfish and hypocritical, but competent. After the financial crisis and the rise of populism, the ability of the west to run its economic and political systems well has come into doubt. For those who believe in democracy and the market economy as expressions of individual freedom, these failures are distressing. They can only be dealt with by reforms. Unfortunately, what the west is getting instead is unproductive rage.


China does not want to run the world: On this point, we can express doubts.... Like all great powers before it, China will surely wish to arrange the global order... to its liking.... It is also trying to influence behaviour, not least of all Chinese students, abroad. All this represents the inevitable extension of Chinese power abroad.

China is under attack by the US.... The truth is that power is inevitably a zero-sum game. The rise of Chinese power will be seen as a threat by the US, whatever China’s intentions may be. Moreover, many... do not really accept Chinese positions on Tibet and Taiwan, are suspicious of China’s intentions and resent its success....

US goals in trade talks are incomprehensible: China is right: they are ridiculous. But within them are genuinely important issues, notably intellectual property.

China will survive these attacks: This is almost certainly true.... A greater threat to China would lie in the domestic reaction to a far more hostile external environment....

This will be a testing year: It will. In fact, it will be a testing century.... The west needs to think much harder.... The US administration’s view—that the unilateral exercise of US power is all that is needed—will fail. It will not manage the global commons that way, not that the Trump administration cares.... It will also not achieve stability.... It is essential for westerners to realise that our biggest enemy has become our inability to run our own countries well. Meanwhile, the only future for an interdependent world has to be based on mutual respect and multilateral co-operation...


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Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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