Chinese exceptionalism, or do we just notice it because it is so large. I clicked through to this chart from a link on Instapundit that said to note how Chinese fertility fell off the map. When I watched the video though, what I saw was ALL the fertility rates falling at roughly the same pace, at roughly the same point. The lesson seems to be that fertility tends to drop with increasing mortality, wealth, and technology -- which is what many of us have been saying in response to Paul Ehrlich for years.
I am probably over-reading this, but I am sensitive that there is a sort of storyline of Chinese exceptionalism -- due to their taking some sort of totalitarian third way -- that seems to be admired among certain US socialists and environmentalists and Thomas Friedman. This hearkens back to all the admiration for the Japanese MITI-managed economy, right before their economy crashed for two decades or so.
China flourishes because it has a culture, never fully suppressed by Mao, whose people take well and quickly to capitalism -- much of the development around Southeast Asia in previous decades was led by expat Chinese. The totalitarianism that is, depressingly, so admired by the US intelligentsia is just going to lead China into the abyss. Already we can see bubbles emerging due to the state's forced mispricing of key economic inputs, from capital to oil. The burden of spending on triumphalist projects like super-bridges and mega-buildings and Olympics and high speed trains is going to start appearing over the next few years.
Here is my prediction: The Chinese are going to have a bubble burst that will rival any such economic explosion that we have seen in the last century. I have been looking at the situation and by a number of metrics, the bubble is already huge. I would bet against China, but the problem (as with all shorts) is timing. Government officials, if they really dedicate themselves to the task, can extend bubbles for a long time. Even in the US, which is less authritarian and more transparent, it can be argued that Fannie and Freddie and Barnie Frank and Alan Greenspan helped push off the reckoning by at least 5 years. Of course, the longer you push it off, the worse it gets. Which means the Chinese bubble is going to be a doozy.
Postscript: Here is a nice example -- admiration from US environmentalists for China gutting their economy to make arbitrary goals
It's interesting to note the dedication China has displaying in achieving its [energy efficency] target -- shutting down entire operations and even executing rolling blackouts. Surely there would have been some amount of embarrassment for the nation on the world's stage if it had missed its target, but that likely would have been minor. It's worth noting the difference in political culture: What do you think would have happened if the US had such an energy-reduction target to hit, but a sagging economy got in the way?
I can tell you with some certainty: We would have missed that mark.
Will there never be an end to Americans who take advantage of our uniquely strong speech protections to laud totalitarians?