Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Pandemic Won’t Make China the World’s Leader

via Foreign Affairs.
China’s initial propaganda offensive was stunningly aggressive, but it now appears clumsy and unlikely to work. The Chinese Communist Party’s narrative is limited by the simple fact that too many people know about the outbreak’s origins in Wuhan and Beijing’s bungled initial response—in particular, its efforts to suppress information and silence many of the doctors who first warned of the emergence of a dangerous new virus. In the face of calls for greater transparency, Beijing ejected American journalists working for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. On Twitter, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry accused the U.S. military of bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan. Although Beijing has backed away from this reprehensible claim in recent weeks, its approach has a whiff of desperation, which hints at Beijing’s own insecurity about the mishandling of the outbreak.

Global skepticism extends, with good reason, to China’s coronavirus statistics. Indeed, while China’s official tally of new COVID-19 cases indicates effective containment (by March 19, the number of new local infections had fallen to near zero), some in China fear that the central government has simply stopped reporting all the test results in order to keep its official count low and to maintain the narrative that it has won the war against the virus; it wouldn’t be the first time Beijing has suppressed unfavorable data.

Some leaders, of course, are embracing Beijing’s narrative and applauding its methods in combating the outbreak—including officials in Cambodia, Iran, Pakistan, and Serbia. But few of these governments have been newly persuaded by recent Chinese messaging; they have a long record of accepting Chinese political narratives and economic assistance, often at the service of their own power at home. Indeed, some early recipients in Europe of Chinese-made testing kits and protective equipment rejected them as substandard. Just this week, Finland’s prime minister fired the head of the country's emergency supply agency for spending millions of euros on defective Chinese facemasks.

Meanwhile, other leaders are already pushing back against China’s attempt to rewrite the global narrative about its COVID-19 response. European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell openly criticized Chinese efforts as “a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity.’” Leaders in Brazil and India, who are facing challenges at home, have quickly turned to criticizing China and eschewing its aid. In Africa, public attention has been riveted by stories of widespread racism against African expats in southern China. And even before the pandemic started, Beijing faced a large trust deficit among its Asian neighbors. A survey of public opinion in six Asian countries, conducted by the Pew Research Center between May and October 2019, and published in late February, found significantly higher percentages of people held favorable views of the United States when compared with China.

In pushing its narrative of triumph against the coronavirus, Beijing’s approach will be compared not only to that of the United States but also to the impressive actions of many Asian countries, including several democracies. Beijing failed badly at first—due to a striking and predictable lack of transparency—and Washington is failing now. But democratic South Korea and Taiwan have performed better than both. South Korea’s impressive testing and contact-tracing regime and Taiwan’s early detection and containment efforts reflect both their governance choices and their ability to learn from past experience with pandemics. Citizens and governments looking for models are more likely to choose those democratic successes than China’s vaunted authoritarian alternative and draconian containment efforts—the real costs of which remain unknown.

Moreover, China’s economy can’t ride to the rescue as it did during the global financial crisis. Although there is a partial uptick on the supply side as Chinese factories reopen, the demand side drivers for China’s growth are in real trouble. China’s economy is too dependent on external demand from the United States and Europe to become the sole savior of the global economy. The 12 countries hardest hit by the virus today account for about 40 percent of China’s exports. Many of these countries are also China’s top suppliers of intermediate goods. China’s economy will not be able to return to its prior growth trajectory of some five to six percent annually until the economies of the United States and the European Union recover, as well. Chinese policymakers will have to hold back some of their domestic stimulus efforts until that happens, knowing such stimulus will have a limited impact if global demand is down. Funding another credit-fueled stimulus as the Chinese did in 2008–9 is off the table due to China’s high overall debt levels and the real risk of triggering a collapse of its financial system.

I'm in the process of reassessing our military situation with regard to China.  Both forces I believe will be in a hurt locker for the next 10 years with a small but surprisingly significant advantage to the US side.


Because we use military spending as part of our stimulus spending.

In other words.  China just squandered its ability to achieve military supremacy in the 2030's.

You'll see defense hawks in the US yield on social spending (which will inevitably come) in return for increased defense budgets.

The terrible 2020's might be off the least for now.

Make no mistake.

We're setting ourselves up for HELLACIOUS inflation once this disaster is over.  But the defense industrial complex got about a 5 year reprieve...maybe longer if this thing comes back in the winter.

A wrecked worldwide economy over the next 5 years coupled with increased spending in the US to lift the economy which will equal increased defense/social spending will give the DoD a chance to get its house in order ONCE AGAIN.

If they're smart we can use this tragedy to put them in a cage.

A virus (that I believe escaped from a lab...but I'll wait till the Pentagon verifies that before I chest thump) might have altered the course of the Chinese nation.

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