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Trumps cadeau aan China

NEW YORK – De protectionistische dreigementen van de Amerikaanse president Donald Trump aan het adres van China hebben tot veel zorgen geleid. Als hij zich aan zijn beloften houdt en China bijvoorbeeld officieel bestempelt als een valuta-manipulator of hogere importtarieven oplegt, kunnen de gevolgen op korte termijn – inclusief een handelsoorlog – ernstig zijn. Maar op de langere termijn kan een wending naar protectionisme een geluk bij een ongeluk voor China betekenen.

Het lijdt geen twijfel dat China door een moeilijke fase in zijn ontwikkeling gaat. Na drie decennia van bbp-groei met dubbele cijfers – een prestatie die weinig historische parallellen kent – is het tempo van de Chinese economische groei aanmerkelijk afgenomen. De combinatie van stijgende arbeidskosten en een zwakkere vraag naar Chinese exporten heeft de jaarlijkse bbp-groei van China teruggebracht naar 6,9% in 2015 en 6,7% vorig jaar. De Chinese regering heeft haar groeidoelstelling voor de periode 2016-2020 nu verlaagd naar 6,5 à 7%.

Dat is nog steeds een respectabel tempo; maar het is niet het beste wat China kan doen. Zoals Justin Yifu Lin en Wing Thye Woo in 1951 hebben opgemerkt, toen het inkomen van Japan per hoofd van de bevolking hetzelfde was als dat van China nu, ervoer Japan destijds een duurzame groei van 9,2%.

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