Monday, March 3, 2014


Given what's going on in Europe, there is a tendency I suppose simply to say, "who cares," and move on to the deteriorating situation which seems to be playing out just as predicted.  But in the long run, how China turns out in both the near and short term will be more important, unless Putin, about whom Angie today questioned his sanity, blows up the whole world.

China looms larger today than even a few weeks ago because the Ukraine situation is going to put even a further damper on European growth which has not been looking good since the start of the year.  China is clearly going to slow but probably not come anywhere near stopping.  What is happening there, in my opinion, is more political and economic with Xi recognizing the need to consolidate power as a means by which he can tackle the two biggest problems facing the economy which are a monstrous culture of corruption at every level and a serious and growing problem with the financial sector which is overextended to a remarkable degree and undercapitalized to the extent that many institutions are de facto bankrupt and must be wound down.  The massive real estate bubble is the magnification of this which will create a rationing of credit in the manufacturing and retail sectors which, too, are undercapitalized.

What has been a surprise, however, is the unbridled policy of currency devaluation which we have witnessed, far different than the subversive approach which has always marked Chinese practice as if they are saying, "we're devaluing, what are you going to do about it?"  Apparently not much if the last month is any indication.  Xi's consolidation and it's consequences are to be balanced by export earnings which is about the last thing the Western countries wanted to hear.

The approach is, of course, another confirmation of the most unfortunate refrain heard in the foreign policy halls of power that Xi is just another chief executive who has absolutely no respect for The Leader and considers him easily ignored.  It also relaxes his dealings with the PLA who will be hurt by Xi's reforms in their domestic holdings by allowing them to play fast and loose with their newly acquired toys in thoughts of expansion in Asia.  I find it simply remarkable that the "pivot towards Asia" which clearly provoked the Chinese leadership was followed just last week by the announcement of plans for a large cut in military spending just as China ramps up the same.  This administration's view of the world of foreign policy and indeed of the world itself, is self-created, colliding only occasionally with the reality that by that time has eclipsed The Leader's view of the world.  China is of course watching the developments in Europe and her future actions may…and I say may…be influenced by their outcome.  Risk is there but as opposed to just a few short weeks ago, it may be more political than financial as advantage is taken to fill the vacuum which the U.S. is apparently creating.  It's not a pretty sight; let's hope it can be improved upon.

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