Political Observer & Almost Marx
What might The Reader make of this China ‘essay’? This January 5, 2023 pronouncement seems ominous! Does the headline and the sub-headline give the game away? These paragraphs demonstrate what to The Reader?
For the better part of three years—1,016 days to be exact—China will have been closed to the world. Most foreign students left the country at the start of the pandemic. Tourists have stopped visiting. Chinese scientists have stopped attending foreign conferences. Expat executives were barred from returning to their businesses in China. So when the country opens its borders on January 8th, abandoning the last remnants of its “zero-covid” policy, the renewal of commercial, intellectual and cultural contact will have huge consequences, mostly benign.
First, however, there will be horror. Inside China, the virus is raging. Tens of millions of people are catching it every day . Hospitals are overwhelmed. Although the zero-covid policy saved many lives when it was introduced (at great cost to individual liberties), the government failed to prepare properly for its relaxation by stockpiling drugs, vaccinating more of the elderly and adopting robust protocols to decide which patients to treat where. Our modelling suggests that, if the virus spreads unchecked, some 1.5m Chinese will die in the coming months.
There is not much outsiders can do to help. For fear of looking weak, the Chinese government spurns even offers of free, effective vaccines from Europe. But the rest of the world can prepare for the economic effects of the Communist Party’s great u-turn. These will not be smooth. China’s economy could contract in the first quarter, especially if local officials reverse course and seal off towns to keep cases down. But eventually economic activity will rebound sharply, along with Chinese demand for goods, services and commodities. The impact will be felt on the beaches of Thailand, across firms such as Apple and Tesla, and at the world’s central banks. China’s reopening will be the biggest economic event of 2023.
The reader might just sample this selection of sentences, paragraphs of the remainder of this essay:
As the year progresses and the worst of the covid wave passes, many of the sick will return to work. Shoppers and travellers will spend more freely.
The party is banking on it. It hopes to be judged not on the tragedy its incompetence is compounding, but on the economic recovery to follow.
The ending of China’s self-imposed isolation will be good news for places that depended on Chinese spending.
Elsewhere, though, China’s recovery will have painful side-effects. In much of the world it could show up not in higher growth, but in higher inflation or interest rates.
Take the oil market. Rising Chinese demand should more than compensate for faltering consumption in Europe and America, as their economies slow.
According to Goldman Sachs, a bank, a rapid recovery in China could help push the price of Brent crude oil to $100 a barrel, an increase of a quarter compared with today’s prices (though still below the heights reached after Russia invaded Ukraine).
For Europe, China’s reopening is another reason not to be complacent about gas supplies later in the year.
For China itself, the post-pandemic normal will not be a return to the status quo ante. After watching the government enforce zero-covid in a draconian fashion and then scrap it without due preparation, many investment houses now see China as a riskier bet.
The final paragraph of this polemic, masquerading as reportage, is a recapitulation of English/British arrogance, a natural inheritance of The Economist writers, who have the temerity , the gall to lecture the Chinese…
Opium Wars, two armed conflicts in China in the mid-19th century between the forces of Western countries and of the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1911/12. The first Opium War (1839–42) was fought between China and Britain, and the second Opium War (1856–60), also known as the Arrow War or the Anglo-French War in China, was fought by Britain and France against China. In each case the foreign powers were victorious and gained commercial privileges and legal and territorial concessions in China. The conflicts marked the start of the era of unequal treaties and other inroads on Qing sovereignty that helped weaken and ultimately topple the dynasty in favour of republican China in the early 20th century.
‘The full story of the British Yangtze gunboats is exceedingly well told in Gregory Haines’s ‘Gunboats on the Great River’, Macdonald and Jane’s, London, 1976, which is the source of much of the above material’
Under the rubric ‘Normal not normal’
As Chinese officials struggle to repair the damage, they should remember some history. China’s previous great reopening, after the stultifying isolation of the Mao years, led to an explosion of prosperity as goods, people, investment and ideas surged across its borders in both directions. Both China and the world have benefited from such flows, something politicians in Beijing and Washington seldom acknowledge. With luck, China’s current reopening will ultimately succeed. But some of the paranoid, xenophobic mood that the party stoked during the pandemic years will surely linger. Exactly how open the new China will be remains to be seen
This above ‘essay’, reads like an hysterical re-write of this Economist essay of January 2, 2023:
Political Observer & Almost Marx