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Feb. 3 2010 - 11:17 am | 202 views | 1 recommendation | 3 comments

One Thing That The US Can Learn From China

US President Barack Obama (L) and Chinese Pres...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

I generally recoil at the notion that the United States has anything to learn – let alone emulate – from China. How maddening it is when someone as prominent as Thomas Friedman, who publicizes his opinions without fear of censorship or imprisonment,  sings the praises of the Chinese system of government. (Where’s censorship when you need it?) Similarly, Nicholas Kristof, who styles himself a human rights activist, often praises the Chinese education system – a system based on rote memorization, corporal punishment, and excessively long hours. (Kristof, for the record, attended Harvard.)

There is one area in which China has genuinely outpaced the United States over the past few years, however: economic growth. Even as most of the world has endured a punishing recession, China has continued to grow at a clip of 9 or 10%. Meanwhile, the US is mired in slow growth, and, alas, continues to shed jobs.

Dare I say it? Fine: we have to learn from China. Their success at beating the recession is one that the Obama administration should seek to emulate.

The Beijing government took two steps that successfully averted a recession. In so doing, the government preserved the upward Chinese march that has lifted hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty – and into mere poverty. First, Beijing unleashed a colossal stimulus dedicated to infrastructure improvements and construction. This kept millions of Chinese people employed in the building trades that would have otherwise suffered. (Shanghai’s spectacular skyline has become even more spectacular in the past year. Now if only we could see the beautiful new towers through the damn smog.)

Second, and more instructively, the Beijing government cut interest rates and lent massively to banks. The New York Times recently reported that, “Chinese banks are stepping up consumer lending. The proportion of car sales financed with loans has doubled this year, to nearly 25 percent, although most Chinese still head for dealerships with bricks of 100-renminbi notes, each note worth about $14.62. Credit card spending rose 40 percent in the first nine months of the year compared with the same period last year.”

The Beijing government wisely decided to trust its banks – and, more importantly, its citizens – by putting money in their pockets. It was wise enough to embrace and encourage risk, and therefore successfully avert a painful recession.

Sadly, the Obama administration is taking the exact opposite course. What the the country needs now is to encourage risk and empower its citizens through low-interest loans – just as China has done. Lamentably, however, the Obama administration is enacting a paternalistic, anti-risk regulatory regime that will make it harder for Americans to get their hands on cash. Implicit in this approach is the belief that Americans aren’t capable of handling money. This is a wrong-headed move, and one that only increase economic pain.

The US should not seek to imitate China’s human rights policies, its freedom of speech policies, its foreign policies, its lax copyright laws, or its restrictions on citizen movement. But when it comes to money? Maybe those Communists have something to teach us.


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  1. collapse expand

    China supports its workers and keeps industries in the country. We have no concern for American workers, and just screw them over to make as many bucks as possible.

  2. collapse expand

    I refuse to disagree with anyone who lashes Thomas Friedman.

    One question: what happens to China if it’s growth rate slips below 8%?

  3. collapse expand

    The US deserves a huge amount of credit from China for helping that country — at great sacrifice — repossess its sovereignty after it had been crucified for a century by western powers, Russia, and Japan. On the other hand, Mao’s regime deserves credit for stubbornly maintaining it. That said, and after acknowledging the undeniable horrors of China’s recent past — inflicted by its own isolated regime — I say with confidence that the US and China are two countries now headed in opposite directions.

    The Chinese government is frantically building up its country’s infrastructure and trying to improve the material welfare of hundreds of millions of people, knowing that its own tenuous hold on power — its security — depends on the security of its own people. The American government, run by the likes of Goldman Sachs, has a different creed: “I’ve got mine… the rest can rot”. Furthermore, while there are serious human rights problems in China, the regime’s control loosens a bit more each year. And yes, the Chinese government spies on its people, and so does the US government — through Google, who did not have the backbone to stand up to G.W. Bush. Having been born in Texas, and being intimately familiar with their enthusiastic predilection for execution, I can only roll my eyes when I hear complaints about the Chinese (or Iranian) practice. Today’s fear driven, war loving Americans have absolutely nothing over the Chinese in terms of human rights, no matter how loudly they bleat in the CNN and Fox echo chambers.

    The American voter has unanimously — over numerous election cycles — elected to move their manufacturing base to countries such as China for the benefit of a tawdry few incredibly selfish Americans. The “land of opportunity” was relocated by choice. The universally applied AFAB philosophy — “Anything For A Buck. Now!” — of a now defunct Big Five accounting firm has left the US in a shambles. Long term economic planning (gasp!) is still deemed “communistic”… we now see the results of extremely short term economic thinking and a morbid obsession with exorbitantly expensive, offensive military action — there’s no such thing as too much war.

    Now I find myself frantically studying Chinese in preparation to live and do business in China after having wasted my entire adult life to date justifying my existence to inferiors, who spent more of their time engaged in self-promotion and managing their relationships with their managers, than just doing good work — and lots of it, as I have, without reward. I sometimes miss old friends in the USA from my Brazilian home, but you screwed yourselves, and me too. You make it very hard to feel sorry for you.

    I wish things would get better for you. I would like to visit someday and not be threatened with murder (by certain Texans), and not be followed around airports. But you don’t know what the problem is, so the chances of fixing it are zero.

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    About Me

    I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My work has appeared in the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, the New York Press, The Big Money, sp!Ked online, the Epoch Times, the Daily NK, and others. From 2005 to 2007, I wrote a column on culture and politics for the (alas, now defunct) Seattle-based Internationalist Magazine. In so doing, I filed dispatches from Berlin, Seoul, Paris, New York, and, yes, Reno - among other places. In 2009, I reported on business from Shanghai. I attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.

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