Monday, 20 August 2012

China: implosion or explosion?

The People's Republic of China is in a precarious and unstable position.

It has a totally capitalist economy, endemic corruption and no effective legal system that anyone can trust. It relies on exporting to western societies which are themselves descending into materialistic nemesis. The exports rely on slave factory labour, as did Great Britain before the social reforms of the 19th century.

The exports cannot continue because the western societies are also in trouble. They have mountains of debt, greedy consumers and a financial world that barely understands the concept of truth. The main international currency, the US dollar, survives only because countries like China are propping it up in their own interests. Why does China have to ensure that the dollar continues to buy a large number of Yuans? Partly it is so that its overseas customers (i.e. most of them) will buy Chinese goods, largely manufactured by slave labour, rather than the ones made in the west. It is also because much of China’s reserves are stored in dollars and these reserves presumably come from taxes paid by Chinese people.

The average citizen needs to save a lot of money for future contingencies. China’s state capitalist society has no national health service, no state provision for elderly care and no state pension system. A citizen in mainland China can either store money physically or buy property. Banks and share markets are not safe options: ‘the stock markets are rigged, the banks operate in a way that is non-commercial and the Yuan is still strictly non-convertible.’ This is a quote from Mark Kitto’s article You’ll never be Chinese in the August 2012 issue of Prospect magazine.

 The need to store money in property has led to the worst property bubble in history. It could burst suddenly tomorrow or any time in the next decade.  Such a crisis could be precipitated by, for example, foreign owners of office blocks and skyscrapers deciding to sell them. No one knows how or when but it seems bound to happen.

 The result would be that the Chinese government’s property port folio would collapse, leaving it without the funds to prop up the dollar which in turn would mean a rapidly diminishing overseas market. At the same time, there would be much reduced wealth in the home market as people lost their savings to the plunging property prices. A lot of angry people would be consigned to unemployment and poverty and unable to pay for their own healthcare or support in old age. There could be real hardship and the government would not have the cash to relieve this.

 According to Kitto the prevailing culture is wholly materialistic and status-obsessed with little tolerance of foreigners wanting to settle down in China (as Kitto had tried to do over 16 years as an immigrant businessman, only to find himself decidedly unwelcome). Corruption is endemic, pride is taken in the bigness of the country, there is no widespread, trusted legal system and education in other than the city international schools stifles creativity and consigns the majority of pupils to a sense of worthlessness, although I am sure there are elements of it the west could learn from.

 Kitto’s picture of China today is one of status and wealth seeking, corruption, xenophobia and absence of an effective justice system. There is also resentment at the large inequalities which are building up. This is manifest in the private gated communities growing in number.

It has by far the largest military force in the world, with over a million soldiers, although it is not so powerful, flexible and technologically advanced as the US military. Its huge manpower could be deployed either to quash internal conflict or to attack surrounding countries as a means of uniting its population against a common foe.

 So when problems come to a head it seems to me there will either be

  • Implosion. Violent riots and civil war throughout the country. There are numerous regions and ethnic groups to fight over diminishing resources, including food and water, and plenty of single men looking for a cause and having no belief in God to restrain them. Previous internal conflict has been deadly and cruel on a scale difficult to imagine in the west. The first part of the 20th century saw up to 100 million deaths and much gratuitous torture (e.g. Mao Tse Tung buried 40,000 scholars alive).


  • Explosion. With the military occupying surrounding countries and using their minerals and other natural resources. Afghanistan, e.g., has numerous rare earths and much else. Japan is in dispute with China over some small rocky islands. Afghanistan might be seen as a way of employing the large number of single men who could otherwise go on the rampage within China. It has the manpower to completely swamp the country and the ruthlessness to deal barbarically with jihad in the way Mao Tse Tung dealt with the old feudal system in China. As an atheist regime there would be no holds barred, since absolute right and wrong would disappear from the perceived universe, as it did in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

Or could there be a third alternative? Possibly not, but as regards people’s lives the most important factor is not what political or economic system they live under or even whether they live in a time of change or of stability. What counts most is how human beings behave towards each other – family, friend or enemy. If the message of Christ (which unfortunately is not always manifest in the church) were to be absorbed by the People’s Republic then, I believe, whatever political upheavals or military adventures ensue there would be more humanity, to the benefit not only of Chinese men, women and children, but to those of any countries conquered or annexed. 

You may think this an unlikely scenario but I don’t think it is a hopeless one. There is  a rapidly growing Christian community (c.100 million growing at 4 % p.a.), despite official discouragement and some harassment, tempered recently by the increasing number of Communist Party members (70 million in total) becoming evangelistic Christians and a recognition that Christianity has practical potential for the following:

  • reducing corruption when Christian beliefs are sincerely held.

  • encouraging creativity in science, technology, business, social services and the arts (as in Protestant Europe and N.America during the Enlightenment, where recognition of ourselves as being made in God’s image had obvious implications for human creativity).

  • sanctification of truth (essential for science, engineering, accountancy and all human endeavours).

  • questioning human authority, so that no one person can assume the role of a god  (this is what brought about western democracy).

  • communal care and health services free at the point of consumption (Christian communities are already providing care for the elderly and the Party knows this).

Weighed against a population of 1.34 billion this may be hoping too much but where human beings and God are involved extraordinary things can happen which confound all the predictions of the cleverest humans. Who, for example, would have predicted that the world’s most atheistic country would see the most rapid growth of evangelism in our time?


Reach me at