送交者: 高部绘里 于 November 23, 2004 13:37:53:[新观察/xgc.bbsindex.com]
Leaders: China's growth spreads inland 2004-11-21 09:42 [Click:44]
The Economist. London: Nov 20, 2004.Vol.373, Iss. 8402; pg. 14
The country's new prosperity used to be coastal. Now it reaches deep into the interior
THERE has never been a shortage of naive optimists about China. Among them, the British 19th-century businessman who hoped to persuade everyone there to lengthen his shirt-tail by an inch, and today's car-makers who have piled in so aggressively that over-capacity has cut margins to the bone.
Equally, though, there has never been a shortage of naive pessimists either. Throughout the 1980s, a persistent school of doom predicted that Deng Xiaoping's reforms might be thrown into reverse at any moment. By the mid-1990s that argument seemed to be settled. But a miasma of other dark fears soon arose, and has yet to dissipate. China's extraordinary growth has been uneven, worry the pessimists. Prosperity is a phenomenon restricted to the coast; in the bleak interior those left behind will rise up in revolt as they have so often before (Taipings, Boxers and the Communists themselves are variously cited). Inequality has reached critical levels; rural unemployment ditto. There are riots and protests the length and breadth of the land. It is all going to end in disaster.
The optimists were not wholly wrong, and there is some truth in the pessimists' worries. China is indeed getting more unequal as it develops, and public order is a genuine problem. But these ought to be seen as growing pains--transitional and, with luck, surmountable. Two aspects of that are a product of the extraordinary level of mobility that the Chinese workforce has exhibited over the past two decades--the more remarkable since government policy has often attempted to restrict people's free dom to move. One kind has been from interior to coast, so that the privileged growth seen there is spreading its benefits more widely than might at first appear. A second kind, visible across the whole country, has been what may rank as the most rapid rate of urbanisation ever recorded. In the past 25 years, according to admittedly highly uncertain UN figures, the percentage of Chinese living in cities has roughly doubled, to more than 40%. In 19th-century America, to cite another continent-sized country then in the throes of its own radical transformation, it took twice as long, 50 years, to accomplish the same result.
It is not just people who are moving; development is moving, too. Though China's seaboard is still far richer than its interior, the coast has a mighty and growing hinterland, extending back hundreds of miles. The economic dynamo that is Shanghai has lit up a corridor running much of the length of the Yangtze. And, as we report on pages 71-72, Guangdong province in the south, long one of the world's great workshops, now aspires to extend its reach a thousand miles inland, almost to the border with India. Its party secretary is promoting a plan he calls "9+2": the creation of an integrated free -trade area as populous as the European Union, including nine provinces and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. It is home to nearly a third of China's population.
While the idea has come from the government, its success--like so much in China--will need co-operation between bureaucracy and enterprise: in sweeping away restrictions (such as China's little-known but perverse barriers to trade between provinces) and letting private business get on with it. But a China being transformed by two such powerful poles of development as the Yangtze corridor and the Guangdong super-region, primed with capital and know-how by cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong, promises to be very different to one in which prosperity is confined to the water margin.
And there is another reason for not being spooked by the pessimists. If the standard of living of the have-nots is improving in absolute terms--as is broadly the case in China--rising inequality may be easier to stomach than in a society where the poor are getting poorer. Figures show that incomes are still rising in rural China, even if they are rising much faster in the cities. More important, perhaps, is that in a China of greatly increasing social and geographical mobility people can have real hope for their children's prospects. And China still does not look that bad in international terms. Its Gini coefficient, a measure of how unequally income is distributed, shows it to be about as "equal" as America (and more so than Hong Kong)--though again the figures are questionable and may, some say, understate a worsening problem.
The inveterate worriers, naturally, have another worry to deploy at this point. Much of China's amazing growth, averaging better than 9% a year over the past 25 years, has been built on the back of the export market. Yet it is hard to see, they think, how exports could possibly keep on growing at this rate. Indeed, they are likely to fall, if the Chinese currency is revalued, or if the American economy, where many of them still go, starts to slow down. In fact, though, it is increasingly likely that China will be able to withstand such a downturn. For a start, its economy, though trade-dependent, is not excessively so. Its ratio of exports to GDP stands at around 30%: high by the standards of America and Japan, but nothing out of the ordinary compared with European or other East Asian nations.
As prosperity spreads, and more and more Chinese people are able to start affording life's little luxuries, China's domestic economy is starting to become a powerful engine of growth in its own right, just as happened earlier in Japan and, indeed, in America before that. Sustaining all this won't be easy. The Communist Party remains a significant obstacle to the unfettered development of the domestic private sector, thanks to its insistence on protecting inefficient state-owned firms that ought to go bust but instead are allowed to undercut more productive concerns.
All that said, however, China is for the forseeable future going to be the world's lowest-cost manufacturer of most household items, despite growing competition from Vietnam and India. So the process of allowing its hundreds of millions--deprived of material comforts by the insanities of Maoism--to catch up must in the end guarantee a healthy home market. Caution about China is in order: it has gigantic political and social problems, not to mention severe energy shortages and a terrifying level of bad debt. Pessimism, though, is not.