Monday, September 1, 2014
15

Por qué China no va a dominar

LONDRES – ¿China está lista para convertirse en la próxima superpotencia del mundo? Este es un interrogante que se formula cada vez con más frecuencia conforme el crecimiento económico de China sigue aumentando a más del 8% anual, mientras que el mundo desarrollado continúa sumergido en una recesión o al borde de una recesión. China ya es la segunda economía más importante del mundo, y será la más grande en 2017. Y su gasto militar crece más rápido que su PBI.

La pregunta es bastante razonable si no le damos un giro estadounidense. Para una mente estadounidense, sólo puede haber una superpotencia, de manera que el ascenso de China automáticamente será a expensas de Estados Unidos. En rigor de verdad, para muchos en Estados Unidos, China representa un desafío existencial.

Esto es excesivamente desmesurado. De hecho, la existencia de una única superpotencia es sumamente anormal, y el concepto sólo surgió luego del colapso inesperado de la Unión Soviética en 1991. La situación normal es la de coexistencia, a veces pacífica, a veces beligerante, entre varias grandes potencias.

Por ejemplo, Gran Bretaña, cuyo lugar muchas veces se dice que fue ocupado por Estados Unidos, nunca fue una "superpotencia" en el sentido estadounidense del término. A pesar de su imperio expandido y de su supremacía naval, la Gran Bretaña del siglo XIX nunca podría haber ganado una guerra contra Francia, Alemania o Rusia sin aliados. Gran Bretaña era, más bien, una potencia mundial -uno de muchos imperios históricos que se diferenciaban de potencias más pequeñas por el alcance geográfico de su influencia y sus intereses.

La cuestión pertinente, entonces, no es si China reemplazará a Estados Unidos, sino si comenzará a adquirir algunos de los atributos de una potencia mundial, particularmente una sensación de responsabilidad por el orden global.

Aún planteada de esta manera más modesta, la pregunta no admite una respuesta clara. El primer problema es la economía de China, tan dinámica en la superficie, pero tan desvencijada por debajo.

El analista Chi Lo lúcidamente presenta un panorama de éxito macro de la mano de un fracaso micro. El gigantesco estímulo de 4 billones de renminbi (586.000 millones de dólares) en noviembre de 2008, principalmente inyectados en empresas estatales deficitarias a través de préstamos bancarios directos, sustentó el crecimiento de China frente a la recesión global. Pero el precio fue una mala asignación, cada vez más grave, del capital que resultó en carteras cada vez mayores de préstamos morosos, mientras que los excesivos ahorros de los hogares chinos inflaron burbujas inmobiliarias. Es más, Chi sostiene que la crisis de 2008 sacudió el modelo de crecimiento de China liderado por las exportaciones, debido a una deficiencia prolongada de la demanda en los países avanzados.

China hoy necesita urgentemente reequilibrar su economía. Para ello debe hacer un giro de la inversión pública y las exportaciones hacia un consumo público y privado. En el corto plazo, parte de sus ahorros tienen que ser invertidos en activos reales en el exterior, y no sólo estar anclados a bonos del Tesoro de Estados Unidos. Pero, en el más largo plazo, debe reducirse la excesiva tendencia de los hogares chinos al ahorro mediante el desarrollo de una red de seguridad social e instrumentos de crédito para el consumo.

Es más, para ser una potencia económica mundial, China precisa una moneda en la que los extranjeros quieran invertir. Eso implica introducir una convertibilidad plena y crear un sistema financiero profundo y líquido, un mercado accionario para recaudar capital y una tasa de interés de mercado para los préstamos. Y, aunque China habló de "internacionalizar" el renminbi, es poco lo que hizo hasta ahora. "Mientras tanto", escribe Chi, "el dólar sigue respaldado por las fuertes relaciones políticas de Estados Unidos con la mayoría de los países más grandes del mundo que tienen reservas extranjeras". Japón, Corea del Sur, Arabia Saudita, Kuwait, Qatar y los Emiratos Árabes Unidos se protegen bajo el paraguas militar de Estados Unidos. 

El segundo problema tiene que ver con los valores políticos. El futuro "ascenso" de China dependerá de desmantelar íconos clásicos de la política comunista como la propiedad de activos públicos, el control de la población y la represión financiera. El interrogante sigue siendo hasta dónde se permitirá que lleguen estas reformas antes de que pongan en jaque al monopolio político del Partido Comunista, garantizado por la constitución de 1978.

Dos valores culturales importantes apuntalan el sistema político de China. El primero es el carácter jerárquico y familiar del pensamiento político chino. Los filósofos chinos reconocen el valor de la espontaneidad, pero dentro de un mundo estrictamente ordenado en el que la gente conoce su lugar. Como sostienen las Analectas de Confucio: "Dejen que el gobernante sea un gobernante, el súbdito un súbdito, el padre un padre y el hijo un hijo".

Por otra parte, poco se cree en la santidad de la vida humana: el budismo sostiene que no existe ninguna diferencia entre los seres humanos y los animales y las plantas. En 2004 se incluyó en la constitución china una promesa de proteger los derechos humanos; pero, como ilustra el caso reciente del disidente ciego Chen Guangcheng, se trata básicamente de una ley en desuso. De la misma manera, la propiedad privada se ubica por debajo de la propiedad colectiva.

Luego está la doctrina confuciana del "mandato del cielo", según el cual se legitima el régimen político. Hoy, el mandato del marxismo ha ocupado su lugar, pero ninguno de los dos tiene lugar para un mandato del pueblo. La ambivalencia sobre el origen del gobierno legítimo no es sólo un obstáculo importante para la democratización, sino también una causa potencial de inestabilidad política.

Estos legados históricos condicionan hasta dónde China podrá compartir un liderazgo global, que requiere cierto grado de compatibilidad entre los valores chinos y occidentales. Occidente sostiene que sus valores son universales, y Estados Unidos y Europa no cesarán en su esfuerzo por imponerle esos valores a China. Es difícil imaginar que este proceso pueda revertirse, y que China comience a exportar sus propios valores.

China tiene una opción: puede aceptar los valores occidentales o puede intentar forjar una esfera en el este de Asia para quedar aislada de esos valores. Esta segunda opción provocaría un conflicto no sólo con Estados Unidos, sino también con otras potencias asiáticas, particularmente Japón e India. El mejor futuro posible de China, por ende, quizá resida en aceptar las normas occidentales y a la vez intentar sazonarlas con "características chinas".

Ahora bien, ninguna de las dos opciones es un escenario en el que China "reemplaza" a Estados Unidos. En mi opinión, eso tampoco es lo que quiere China. Su objetivo es el respeto, no el predominio.

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  1. CommentedKeet Wong

    China won't rule because it doesn't seek to rule. It will act in its own strategic and economic interest. It will neither "rule" like a Colonial European power nor will it assume moral superiority and impose its values on the rest of the world like an American Superpower. These are completely Western constructs.

    Is China culturally different from the West? Yes. Are cultural differences a source of tension? Absolutely.

    All I'm hearing from the article and comments aren't reasons for why China won't rule, they are reasons for why you hope China doesn't rule.

  2. Commenteddan hitt

    I"m surprised that nobody has called Professor Skidelsky out on population control. As far as i know, the Chinese government is the only one on earth that has actually taken some responsible action towards population growth ---- and it has been quite successful, and is one of the reasons they are becoming so prosperous while we in the west sink further towards poverty.

    A second key to its success has been, of course, its tiny military. Despite bordering on 14 countries, some of them big, and some of them having been hostile in the past, it manages to get by on one-tenth the war budget of the US despite having 4 times as many people.

    Finally, it's not so clear that there's anything "rickety" about their economy. They seem to beat us (us being America, and more generally the west) at everything.

    My hope is that we can learn something from China, perhaps beginning with our imperial pretensions. Our founders urged us not to get involved in European problems (and presumably global ones), but we have foolishly ignored them, so we are drifting towards catastrophe.

    But i guess even if we are such dimwits that we cannot learn from China, at least human civilization does have a future, albeit a Chinese one.

  3. CommentedBakhtiyor Khujaev

    China will never become a world power in the meaning of empire that UK was and US is. There is no long lasting and effective financial/economic/industrial ideologies to share with the rest of the world. Moreover the most powerful influence China might practice simply lacks - no tools, no key people to act, no sound ideas. However, it might be sort of a try - unless China is learning how to live having a potential super world power.

    What do we do when this child graduates?

  4. CommentedYoshimichi Moriyama

    I basically agree that China won't rule East Asia, let alone the world. I think there are more reasons why it cannot be a number one country in Asia than why it can.

    There are weaknesses in China's politics, economy and society. As I don't want to write a long comment, I take up the renminbi in context with Chinese history and politics.

    The Chinese leaders won't loosen their tight political grip on the people, not simply because they are communists but first because political power is inseparably linked in China with aquisition of wealth. It is so in today's China and so was it in Chiang Kaishek' China, in Ching's China, in Ming's China...

    If we look at Chinese society and Western sociey, I'd like to liken society to a barrel. A barrel is made up of planks, loops and the bottom. The loops tie the planks together; without the loops, the planks do not hold together.
    In the West there is no need for loops. The planks and the bottom are all needed to make a barrel. Because the role of the loops is internalized by each plank.

    In China since the time of the first Chinese empire, Chin, Chinese society was ruled by authoritarian regimes. Chiang Kaishek's government was no exception. The Chinese communist party is no exception, either. The CCP is best understood as another Chinese dynasty.

    It needs authoritarian rule for itself. It needs authoritarianism for Chinese society, too; it is as if Chinese society knows no other way to be governed.
    Without one sort or another of authoritarianism China might go to pieces as had repeatedly happened. So there is at least some truth when the Chinese leaders say, "They cannot do away with the style of Chinese politics."

    They cannot afford people's free economic activities without risking social disintegration. Controlling money or the financial secter is decisively important for regulating economic activities as the source of the leaders money and as the means of holding down the people and the society at large.

  5. CommentedMatteo Sestito

    I agree that China won't be a "superpower" in the American sense. Indeed a stand-alone "superpower" never existed: even US during the last 20 years has not unilaterally ruled the world and before that US had to coexist with its opponents (firstly Soviet Union).

    However, it isn't so hard to imagine a situation in which China influence becomes so large that it exports its own values.
    I agree with your point that China is currently "accepting Western norms while trying to flavor them with Chinese characteristics". History repeats itself over time: a rising civilization takes some values from previous rulers and blends them with its own values. Europe did so with Islam a few centuries ago.

    So if China's growth (in both economic and military terms) will continue, why can't we imagine that the West will look with admiration the new Sinic world power and that it will start to take certain characteristics of China? West claims its principles are universal ones, but also others over the past centuries claimed that.

  6. CommentedPUNDALIK Kamath

    Um; These are the professor's own words."Buddhism holds that there is no difference between humans and animals and plants.." Really!

    I suggest the retired professor read few good books on Buddhism in his retirement days with lots of time, before he jots down his colomn written from his coffe table perch.

    No Buddhist myself, I would say Buddhism is much more complex and profound than that, Professor.!
    Kamath

  7. Commentedpeter fairley

    Buddhism? sees no difference between animals and humans & plants? Please consult some Buddhists on this.LOL. Even if that is true, I think better to blame Marxism and general anti-religious sentiment in Chinese rulers for their peculiarities... It seems economic success more than pure western values buys various political powers. China certainly has some weaknesses but relative to structural problems in EU and USA who is holding the best cards?... The simple Confucian understanding of the need to share enough with the people below to stay in power may work fine for China for many years. Could not many British authors have written a similar article about USA in the early 20th century?

  8. CommentedByung Gook Han

    I agree with most of his points other than his reference to Buddhism and Confucian as a limitation to Chinese value. When Buddha equated animals and plants to humans, he obviously meant to say that animals and plants deserves similar respect as a living creatures to those of humans.

    Regarding Confucius' teaching, let me quote a paragraph from Kim Dae Jung's article titled "the myth of Asia's antidemocratic value" appeared in Foreign Affairs in 1994, which quote Meng-tsu, another great Confucian after Confucius.

    "But almost two millennia before Locke, Chinese philosopher Meng-tzu preached similar ideas. According to his "Politics of Royal Ways," the king is the "Son of Heaven," and heaven bestowed on its son a mandate to provide good government, that is, to provide good for the people. If he did not govern righteously, the people had the right to rise up and overthrow his government in the name of heaven. Meng-tzu even justified regicide, saying that once a king loses the mandate of heaven he is no longer worthy of his subjects' loyalty. "

    Obviously, "mandate of heaven" is not legitimized regardless of the nature of regime. The great scholar of Keynes needs to better understand true Asian value before simply denouncing it.

  9. CommentedRob Ferrin

    This is a very unfortunate misunderstanding of Buddhism and the sanctity of life. Buddha clearly teaches a distinction between humans, animals, and plants. For starters, only humans can practice the dharma. Humans, being accorded six sense faculties, have far more karmic responsibility than any other life forms. Plants, having only one sense faculty are not human equivalents. Nor are animals. This does not mean all sentient life shouldn't be extended compassion and equanimity, but Buddhism has not held back Human Right's movements in China.

  10. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    The unique factors with China are scale and history. It is bigger and older than most conceivable competitors. this will determine much of it's relations with the world.

    The internal relation between population and rulers is also subject to these factors. Bigger groups tend to have relatively less value per individual.

  11. CommentedDennis Argall

    I tend to share views with Keshav and Andres.

    The 'choice' you posit is itself part of a 'western' wish for sustenance of western perspectives and power through paradigms probably of declining relevance. We have to open our minds to the evolution of international power in as yet unknown ways in the next several decades. Whether this contains threats or opportunities we do not add to security or exploit opportunities by sticking with old thinking.

    China, with long established foreign policy principles, does not know now how these principles will need adaptation, development and change as its power grows.

    Having been in Beijing in the beginning of the reform period, I am very conscious of the way the best Chinese leaders constantly search for new ways of thinking about issues and resolving them - much more than 'the west' does, where freedom to think in new ways is so limited in government, academia and elsewhere. This Chinese freedom seems not understood, not brought into the equation by western political, academic and media observers.

    Looking back on the evolution of China in the past 35 years, it is important to see that there have been no overall models for them in the former USSR, the USA, India or elsewhere, though there have been myriad borrowings at relatively micro levels. My observation is that the west, in those 35 years, has begun a downward spiral in the quality of its governance, its management of economies, its ways of dealing with externals other than by violence... Why would China aspire to them?

    That's why China has to figure it out in its own way. Much advice, gratuitously tendered, even when greeted with smiles, tells Chinese leaders more about the advisors than about running China. Running very large countries is very difficult, it's not just a linear scale. The revolution in China in the past 35 years is without question the fastest and most profound in human history. And it's far from finished, it has both a 'forward' momentum and internal contradictions to work themselves out or be levered about.

    We do not serve ourselves well in the 'west', intellectually or politically, to try to pin the fish scales of western notions of the nation state or its international behaviour onto the imagined skin of this emerging phenomenon. To do so is simply to put scales over our own eyes.

  12. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    In this uncertain world many Pundits have been proven wrong, and specially with China, it is almost impossible to predict anything. The case in point is the book, 'Competitive Advantage of Nations', published in 1994, by Michael Porter, who completely missed to mention the word 'China', in the entire 800 pages, where chapters were devoted to the more competitive nations at that point of time.

    More than competitiveness, what has come out in the article is the might of values and what values really would count in the future. I think China would tend to be still more inward focussed stemming from the need to spur domestic demand in the wake of the current crisis. There is no other pressing need at the moment; the world would be better of if this happens.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  13. CommentedKeshav Prasad Bhattarai

    I think China does have no ambition to rule the World .Its goal is prosperity for its people and the respect for its national identity- that was ignored and humiliated for long. Also I think that it has no aim to replace USA and put it in that position, what it wants is the assured security of its continued journey to prosperity and a sizable army and military capability to protect its economic interest.
    Similarly, China has both territorial and maritime disputes with almost all country in East and South East Asia including with India - another great Asian power.
    Moreover, rising economies like Indonesia, India and Vietnam along with established economic power like Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all are making strong demand with U.S. to remain in their region and play crucial strategic role to meet the challenge posed by China both ideologically and strategically.
    I never think American power emanates from its military and money, but from the values of freedom and democracy that American people love and have made it their identity. What the great might of its education, technological innovation followed by research and development and the sense of responsibility to protect freedom of people to freedom of navigation from one corner of the World to the other, cannot be replaced by any other country so soon.
    American values, American goods, American education and look at Microsoft, Apple, Google, face book, twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo to Gillette and Coke or Pepsi - all American, so when will China be able to compete with all these and prepared to replace America? With its size, level of innovation, and a single country in the World – that stands equal to all its people than any other country in the World is the greatest reserve of power of America and so has become a dream destination of all the young and meritious people around the World.
    Besides, American fight against Malaria, AIDS, and food aids to millions and lifting more than 4 billion people from poverty across the World along with its rise, has given America a new and unique power – that is far stronger than its military has offered to it.
    So to win American power in all these respects in foreseeable future is next to impossible.
    But it does not mean that America is a perfect society, it is not and cannot be a perfect society. All the major problems the World faces today from terrorism to environmental degradation and existing poverty to large extent are “Made in America or Made by America” in this that country and this may pose a greater challenge to America than China.

  14. CommentedAndrés Arellano Báez

    The western values are unreal. There is no real democracy in our societies (there are governments who protects the interests of the powerfull) and there is no real capitalism or free market (there are socialism for the richest and the banks). Those are concepts with no real apllication in our lives, here in the west. So, why China needs to change and insert these unreal values in his nation?
    In the west, we are no living in democracies. We are living in oligarchies.

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