Is the Chinese government on its last legs?

In his book, The Coming Collapse of China (Random House, 2001), Chinese-American writer Gordon C. Chang argues that the Chinese Communist system can’t last much longer – he gives it until about 2006. Here’s a link to a CNN interview with Chang:

And to a review of the book by conservative Catholic intellectual John J. Reilly:

From Reilly’s review:

Could this happen?

BTW, a friend of a friend of mine is a PFC in the U.S. Marine Corps and claims he is being trained to fight in China. That could be just a contingency preparation . . .

I was under the impression that China has been undergoing rather massive industrial/commercial upgrading and modernization, has put several ambitious projects into action, and is making good ground in entering the 21st century. But I’m not all that familiar with China, so…

I see China as moving more towards how the Soviet Union should have ended before Mr. Reagan decided to make it crash tumbling to the ground in an uncontrolled explosion - progressive economic reforms, slowly easing the Communism social programs away (but not toally), eventual privatization of industries (though with a state-controlled company in each industry), and then the introduction of other political parties, controlled at first to not be too radical a change, and eventually easing into democracy.

Of course, that process could take decades, and frankly, the Chinese probably don’t have decades to work with. What I fear happening more is a too-powerful leader coming back to power.

I certainly don’t see Americans fighting in China in my lifetime, At least, I really hope not, because that would be catastrophic for everyone involved. :frowning:

I’m not sure if I read that correctly. … WHAT?

Just a contingency. Soldiers are trained to fight in the conditions of any conceivable foe. The fact that they train for a Chinese engagement really doesn’t mean anything.

I’ve heard nothing of the PRC making even a few tentative steps in the direction of legalizing competitors to the Communist Party. They haven’t even allowed Hong Kong to keep the few feeble elements of democracy it had under the British.

Copied that direct from Reilly’s review of Chang’s book; not clear if that’s Reilly’s prose or Chang’s. But what it describes has, indeed, happened many times in Chinese history, or that least that’s the traditional Chinese picture of what happened/happens when dynasties change.

Since the United States military has nothing better to do, and is extrememly undertaxed at this time, the’ve decided to go play chicken with China.

I can’t find it online, but China in response has said that it cannot defeat 7 carrier groups at once, and would immediately work towards being able to do so, with a target date of 10 years from now. The chickenhawks in the pentagon must think that starting an arms race with China is a good idea.

So, can China face its comming economic crisis while playing 'who has a bigger penis?" with the US military? Russia couldn’t handle it, but it was a smaller country, and the effort practically bankrupted the US. I don’t think we can survive such a play again.

Seriously, the world is run by idiots.

China is not anywhere near collapse, and certainly not by 2006 – an idea I find ridiculous since there is no indication to suggest it in the first place.

You have a widening poverty gap, yes, but you also have massive urban migration; what it boils down to is, essentially, that urban dwellers are richer than country folk, which is still better than almost everyone being poor (which was the old China). Rural poverty is being addressed (and largely covered up as well) but it simply does not feature that highly.

As for the statements about Deng and Mao, I do not think it is true that under Degn and his successors the communist party retreated in any meaningful way, but I would need specific examples to discuss that. One of the deining characteristics of the Chinese Communist Party is their complete grip on power and communication channels; these have not changed significantly in decades, although authority may have been shuffled and allocated to, e.g., regional officers or bureaucratic heads. Factor in the rampant corruption that is a mainstay of China and you have a really complicated picture, but still no indicators for any kind of collapse.

The Soviet Union is being used as a model on how not to go about things; China is now introducing economic reforms (has been doing so for the past several years) and there is a rumour that this will eventually lead to greater political reforms. All well and good if it happens, but to me the Communists look more powerful than ever, and I happen to live in their considerable shadow.

Foreign investment is booming under the Communist Party reforms, leading to international partnerships that only serve to strengthen the economic base of the Commies. The direction we’re heading now would appear to be capitalist pseudo-communist totalitarianism, if you will.

What has been happening is that slightly less autocratic and rather more modern leaders have stepped up; the old guard is still far too powerful to allow any radical changes to the Party structure, even if anyone signalled any intention to make such changes. So in the next few years you can easily predict a Chinese economic engine roaring nicely and lots more of the commie propaganda we’ve got so far. That may be an indicator of tight control, but there aren’t any indicators of collapse I am aware of, and if there were – particularly if the indicators were financial-- the first people to know about it and worry would be Hong Kongers (who are presently more concerned with the rather more realistic possibility of being politically crushed and controlled by the mainland). Anything involving the words “Finance” and “China” is automatically hideously complex (even after the reforms of recent years) so I may be unaware of significant trends and predictions, but the point is that Hong Kong – one of the financial capitals of the world – wouldn’t be.

You would probably have to visit cities like Beijing and Shanghai, or even Shenzen and other less famous centres, to grasp how far China has come in economic terms, and how far it still intends to go. Shanghai in particular is IMO a vision of modern large-scale high-tech urban development, that in my opinion beggars any city in Europe or the Americas. I think you might as well expect New York City to collapse just because there’s an idiot of a mayor in charge at present, or expect the US as a whole to implode owing to the countless blunders of the administration.

catastrophic collapse is what I was talking about, by the way. Isolated collapses are not to be ruled out, and, indeed, are to be expected in this part of the world. Even Hong Kong, the most westernized of Chinese cities, has a long history of banking, property, and generally economic collapse.

Regarding the Taiwan issue, all one has to do is look at the growing economic integration between Taiwan and the mainland to realize that much of China’s output is (as usual) a whole lot of self-asserting bluster. China does not need to invade Taiwan because Taiwan is increasingly outsourcing to China for its industries, such as microchips and semiconductors, to the point that cross-strait economic cooperation is much too advantageous to both sides to chance ruining it.

Both sides will continue to rattle their swords; some (not all) Taiwanese will hope that eventually international scrutiny, alliances and a softening, younger Communist Party will be conducive to some form of secession or independence, while China will continue to thunder about what is its property and all the rest of that crap. The one significant danger is if the Old Guard decides that the Taiwan issue must be resolved before the Old Guard dies off in the next decade, for fear that the new generations of Communists may take a softer approach to the matter. However generally speaking the Chinese have a good thing going on, why would they want to spoil it with war over Taiwan and anger numerous powerful entities for issues that haven’t really changed substantially for years?

My perspective on such things is that, while in large part, China is not modernized, and any collapse will only be truly harmful on the ‘civilized’ part of it, the cities and industrial belts… the traditional farmers will do just fine… there is one coming.

Now, I’m not the most familiar with China, but what I’m concerned about is both the pattern of Japan and their demographics. There tends to be, historically, after a great leap… after a massive investment in expansion, a counter-wave of depression, that can be critical or not, depending on governmental planning, as the rate of expansion can not be kept up permanently. Like a man running. Trip him and he’ll fall on his face.

The second issue is their eugenics program, the one-child program, with a large percentage of those one-children being male. This results in, apparently, a very spoiled child, the ‘little emperor’ syndrome. I can see many of them in the military, eventually, or in government, with a much more… ah, aggressive, and less restrained perspective on the world. Now, the old guard won’t want to give up power until the new guard are 80 or so, but…

Well, when they hit that point, the point where the social tensions are really straining, I’m expecting a war or total collapse of the economy. Maybe 2020, 2030. Not looking forward to it, either.

Of course, this is simply my personal analysis, and I may be wrong. Anyone?

Just a slight nitpick: About half or more of the Marines I know joined as PFCs. In other words, they were a signature and a couple pokes in the ass away from a civilian. He’s not going to know anything you (or we) don’t know.

Sure, they’ll collapse.

Thirty minutes later, though…

Start out by saying I never read the book. People have been sending me exceprts and snippets et al since it was published. I think the author is trying to sensationalize the issues. Also, reading a book published in 2001 means it is waaaaaay out of date (when the economy is growing approximately 8% y/y and means the economy has increased by at least 35% since the author started writing).

Dissident and astrophysicist Fang Lizhi always said that China has been on the verge of civil war. He’s a smart guy and I tend to agree with him. But why now or by 2006? Compared to any time since I’ve lived in China in 1985, IMHO see China is being furthest from breaking down and most advanced to entering the middle class.

I have the advantage of perspective having first coming to the mainland in 1985 and spending 3 years in the Southwest countryside. As a pretty naive young man, I thought that China was a basket case with no hope in hell of modernizing. Lessee, as I walk to work in the morning I am passed by cars built to international standard by at least 10 makers, many of the 300 million mobile phone users are connected (Siemens just shifted a huge chunk of their mobile phone R&D to China), pass several McD’s/KFC/Pizza Hut’s/Starbucks, work in a modern high rise, live in a building where the power has never gone out and join the 40 million other people using broadband.

Now it’s not about consumerism, but historically there’s never been a war between 2 countries with McDonalds. That suggests taiwan, US and Russia won’t be duking it out with China.

Couple points usually missed or glossed over by Chinese commentators. Point the first, China is embarking on a huge wave of basic infrastructure development. Roads/ports/railways/airports where none existed before have opened up huge areas for Chinese labor to feed the export machine. This also provides huge economic benefits and ROI that is almost beyond calculation.

Point the second, for the first time in recorded Chinese history there is mobility in the countryside. Peasants are coming to the big city (and live in pretty nasty conditions) and have the opportunity for wealth creation for the first time in Chinese history. It’s real trickle down. Country cousins have education and opportunity that never existed before. It’s a tough row to hoe, no doubt about that, but it is a sea change from the status quo of the past couple thousand years.

Point the third, the Chinese diaspora. There are educated and successful Chinese around the globe that are coming back to China. Driven by a lot of factors including time to cash in on a piece of the pie. They are the ones opening up China and bridging east to west.

I’ve got another biz trip tomorrow, but thought I’d throw out a few scraps.

China’s economic success is confined to the cities? And the rural areas are poor?

Well, economic successes found in one class/group can trigger violence by another class/group.

So, China’s “economic boom” does not preclude rebellion & social disorder.

One or more provinces trying to secede & become autonomous has been an option throughout Chinese history.

So far as I’ve heard, the only Chinese provinces interested in independence* are the historically non-Chinese autonomous regions – Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia. There are independence movements in (or at least for) all of them. Apart from those – even Manchuria, which was barred to Chinese immigration when the Ch’ing dynasty ruled, and was proudly non-Chinese up to the end of WWII, has been so thoroughly sinicized that I’ve been unable to find any evidence of an independence movement there – and I have searched.

*(Well, unless you count Taiwan as a “Chinese province,” and you assume it’s not independent already, but let’s not get into that one!)

Yeah, sometimes you hear rumblings about China about to be in trouble, but I don’t buy it.

China’s not going to stop until it reaches superpower status and wealth rivaling that of any other country.

Why should it stop there?

That is true, but the chance seems so remote. According to the Communist Party, rural poverty is being beaten back systematically, although that may have more to do with the Party’s definition of “poverty” than the substance of economic improvements it brings about.

Economic success, I should add, is not found is only one class or group. On average, urban residents are significantly wealthier than rural residents, but urbam dwellers themselves range from the street workers, to salary men, entrepreneurs, all the way up to the mega-billionaires.

As China Guy says, there is a real trickle-down effect taking place here. If rural dwellers in general can’t make the move to an urban centre, they’ll pool resources to send one or two family members, who then send money back home (for example).

On the whole, I think the more or less accurate official line is that conditions for Chinese (rural and urban) have been getting better for decades now (although for urban dwellers disproportionately so), so I don’t see any real rationale for rebellion and social disorder – not to mention that the folks in power will not tolerate that kind of behaviour.

Tai Ping Rebellion 2! Industrial boogaloo!

Gotta agree with Abe: The view from HK suggests the Chinese leadership is as strong as ever.
The Tianaman Square “incident” is well under the carpet and there is no indication of any kind of repeat; the Communist Party is now admitting entrepreneurs, so the transition to a market economy seems to be going smoothly from an ideological pov; the Taiwan tussle is all mouth, no trousers - on both sides; and Hong Kong is merely an amusing experiment in tolerance (maybe one day an amusing experiment in limited democracy).
It appears that a serious threat to the status quo in Beijing could only come from outside Greater China (which includes HK, Taiwan).