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China Slows

Worker riots at Foxconn. The Chinese economy slowing; We’ll look at the future of  “state capitalism” in China.

In this Monday Sept. 24, 2012 mobile phone photo, windows of a Foxconn workers' dormitory building are broken after a brawl in Taiyuan, capital of Northern China's Shanxi province. The company that makes Apple's iPhones suspended production at a factory in China on Monday after a brawl by as many as 2,000 employees at the nearby dormitory injured 40 people. The facility will reopen Tuesday. (AP)

In this Monday Sept. 24, 2012 mobile phone photo, windows of a Foxconn workers’ dormitory building are broken after a brawl in Taiyuan, capital of Northern China’s Shanxi province. The company that makes Apple’s iPhones suspended production at a factory in China on Monday after a brawl by as many as 2,000 employees at the nearby dormitory injured 40 people. The facility will reopen Tuesday. (AP)

The United States isn’t the only mega-power about to choose new top leadership. So is China. Here, millions will vote. There, a relative handful will decide. Next month, just like us. And it’s momentous – just the second peaceful transfer of power in China since its 1949 revolution.

And, like us, China has big decisions to make. My guest today says China’s “state capitalism” is now strangling the Chinese economy it once drove. And maybe strangling ours as well. We saw the Foxconn riot. What next?

This hour, On Point: China’s leadership, China’s economy, and ours.

-Tom Ashbrook


James McGregor, author of No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “Two of the largest economies in the world, Chinaand Japan, presented fresh data on Monday that underscored the persistent economic drag on the global economy despite the efforts of policy makers and central bankers around the world.”

China Daily “The official purchasing managers’ index, released by the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, improved to 49.8 percent last month from 49.2 percent in August. However, it remained below the 50-percent threshold that divides expansion from contraction.”

Project Syndicate “China’s 12th Five-Year Plan calls for a shift in the country’s economic model from export-led growth toward greater reliance on domestic demand, particularly household consumption. Since the Plan’s introduction, China’s current-account surplus as a share of GDP has indeed fallen. But does that mean that China’s adjustment is on track?”

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  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    What role, if any, is demographics playing in regard to China’s current economic and labor problems ? The testosterone to estrogen ratio has been reported to be rising to a near 20 % male excess . Is the growing gender bias putting strains on families and their traditional methods of coping with problems ?

    What about age related demographics such as the age dependency ratio (% of working-age population) ?

    China’s ratio, according to a table I just read, has fallen from 45.65 in Jan. of 2002 to 37.82 as of Jan. 2011. ( From World Bank Report at : http://www.tradingeconomics.com/china/age-dependency-ratio-percent-of-working-age-population-wb-data.html )

    _ Is this one of the reasons that some business is coming back to America ?

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      Mr. Ashbrook,

      On an unrelated matter, I have recently become acquainted with a company in your Boston area by the name of “Adapteva”. They will be offering a computer board to the public for under 100 dollars. This board will allow the user to build a parallel processor computer. Wow, this could be big ! It may be the start of a new computer revolution in this country, similar to that which was started by the Altair corporation back in the 70’s. Of course you know what came after that ! The founder of this company would make a great guest, please consider.

  • Shag_Wevera

    Dormitory?  What is this, Lowell MA?

  • StilllHere

    Take a lesson China.  Print as much yuan as you can, grow deficits as much as you can, borrow from anyone who will lend, promise the masses more and more; leave it for another generation to sort out.

    • Don_B1

      By your standards, China already did: when the financial crisis broke in the fall of 2008, China created a near $500 billion dollar equivalent spending plan, to build roads and power plants and other infrastructure, including PV solar plants and other clean-energy approaches to their growing pollution problem of sulfur, nitrogen, and CO2 emissions as well as mercury, arsenic and other toxic metals.

      They also decommissioned some 50 of the worst polluting coal power plants.

      The size of their stimulus, was three times that of the ARRA when put in proportion to the sizes of China’s and the U.S.’s economies. And it worked as China maintained growth.

      But the continuing failure of the U.S. and European economies to restore their economies through failures of needed investment has finally brought their economy to a slowdown, though their need to generate internal spending which has not been achieved to the level needed has been a big contribution, also.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Hey, when a Republican gets into the White House, I expect you and all your fellow True Principled Conservatives to go down there and wave your Don’t Tread on Me Flag at the inauguration.

      I’ll arrange the transportation. Two minivans ought to do it.

      Until then, all we’re left with are all the Conservative lurve shown George W. Bush, who through all those standing ovations at CPAC, and all the fluffing at Fox news and Drudge and such, couldn’t submit a balanced budget in the middle of a 5 1/2 year expansion to save his life.

      You don’t statistically exist.

      • William

         Really? What is your plan?

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Ooh, the wormhole from Williamworld is open. Keep JAQing it, bub.

          • William

             Just like the big man said..nothing from a nobody….

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Funny, it sounds like you’re asking me to overcome your ignorance, intellectual incuriosity, and sense-free compass.

            Where’s the Impossible Missions force when we need them.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

         Times have changed.  We saw it in 2010.

        People are fed up with the bloat and debt in Washington.  It used to be an annoyance but now it is a real threat to our great nation.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Oh, times have changed, just not the way you think.

          For eight years, a Republican was in office, and we had an expansion (during which the median income went down somehow), and deficits were “an annoyance”.

          For eight weeks, a Democrat was there, during the middle of a once-in-60-year recession, Deficits are Crisis One11!!1!one!1!


          No wonder nobody except the Beltway Inbreds believe there are 120 million of True Principled Conservative NotARepublicans waiting to vote for Deficit Hawks who’ll actually, y’know, legislate like it, rather than sloganate about it.

          No wonder no economists give a crap for any of the GOP’s lying numbers.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Once you get out of your partisan bubble you will recognize the problem is the current debt to GDP ratio.  It is dangerously high.

            Further, we have lucked into a global crisis which has kept SHORT term interest rates low.  Even with that we are paying a debt service of almost $500B per year.

            However, you need to look at the duration of our national debt.  It is under 8 years.  Therefore, our $16T in debt will have to be re-loaned at much higher interest rates. 

            If we don’t change the trajectory in the growth of government ASAP then we are f’d.  To quote our VP it is a BFD.

          • Don_B1

            If unemployment is not reduced even sooner, there will not be a way to reduce the deficit without doing horrendous damage to the safety net which is all that is helping those managing to survive with the while waiting for the job market to return.

            Look at what is happening in the U.K. which has entered a second recession from the reduced spending by the U.K. government.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

             I agree with you and Romney agrees with you.  His cuts are slow and gradual.  It takes 4 years to get spending back to 20% of GDP.

            I’m sure there is wasteful and unproductive spending that can be cut but we need pro-growth policies that will grow the private economy — not government.

            The government multiplier effect is a myth.

          • Don_B1

            Your and Romney’s “policies” of tax cuts to stimulate the economy did not work for the eight years of the G.W. Bush administration when the conditions were much more favorable; they absolutely will NOT work now.

            But maybe Romney will do another “etch-a-sketch” and go all spending, like Obama’s American jobs Act? I would not count on it, but it certainly is possible, IF he could get it through the House.

            Even conservative economists support the job multiplier effect. Go take a macroeconomics course from a fresh-water school economist.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

             We may have had a large recession but is arguable whether the troubles in 1979-1982 were worse.

            The recession was over in June of 2009 — before any Obama action had time to take effect.

            The truth is this LACK of recovery is unique in American history.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            An anonymous hold has been put on your comment and it will not appear until 60% of the board votes for the privilege of a straight up-or-down vote.

          • Don_B1

            There is NO CHANCE that the 1979-1982 recession, which was CAUSED by the Fed action of RAISING interest rates, was worse than the the 2007-2009 Great Recession, which was CAUSED by the bursting housing bubble which exposed the overleveraging by homeowners and the bubble in derivatives which the investment banks had generated so their customers (and they themselves) could speculate on mortgage derivatives and the possibility of failures in other derivatives, etc.

            The Fed was able to end the 1982 recession when it deemed the specter of inflation had been beaten down, and then, by ITS action, with some contribution from deficit spending by the Reagan administration, create the incentives for the middle class to spend on housing, etc. to bring the economy back in less than 18 months.

            Since 2008, the Fed has held the discount rate (which was how it effected the recovery in 1982) at near zero, but because of the consumer debt level, this is not a strong lever at this time to energize the economy. This is the time for the government to do some short-term spending to get people employed so they can pay down their debt and resume spending. That is what Obama is trying to do, but Republican are in TOTAL obstruction mode, which is the main reason for the slow recovery.The value of housing in the U.S. lost more than $1 trillion in value; the stock market in 1982 did not come close to losing that much and it only affected the wealthy, not the middle class, in losing basic wealth.

            Of course, I have explained this many times before and never had a point proved wrong, the only responses, if any, being repetition of unsubstantiated claims like yours.

            Vote Republican if you want a second recession with even more of the profits in this country going to the 1% and higher, and a carve-up of the social safety net and less possibility of any but the wealthy succeeding in this country in the future.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

             Well, we will have to agree to disagree.

            I believe the facts are on my side.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

             You also conveniently gloss over the worst 2 years of the Bush deficit he was dealing with a solid Dem congress.  Pelosi and Reid.  Remember them?

            I have a lot of problems with Bush but putting all the blame on Bush is nonsense.

            I recall Pelosi running on a ‘pay-go’ campaign but once in power she quickly abandoned pay-go.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            I don’t care that you have problems with Bush. You don’t statistically exist except as a fetish of our Beltway Inbreds, who have fooled themselves into thinking that every Teabagger out there went sour on Shrub before everyone caught on to his being the worst (per historians) and lowest-rated (per approval ratings with a very compliant press) president in a century.

            Why you think anyone who isn’t you figures the next Republican will be better than the last one is beyond me.

            And the country still remember who drove us into the ditch, no matter what Fox/Drudge-therefore-Politico/the Evening News all say.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

             Romney is a turnaround specialist.  He is uniquely qualified to fix what is wrong in DC.

            In a funny way he will help the Democrats in the long term because after he fixes DC the government ‘brand’ will be improved.

          • Steve__T

             What’s he going to do send them all to china?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

             Silly comment.

          • Don_B1

            Romney will turn the current slow recovery into a downward spiral and a second “Great Recession.”

            Even he knows better: that the Democrats’ desire to stimulate the economy through infrastructure spending is necessary, but even he may not get the House “Tea/Republicans” to agree.

          • Don_B1

            It was NOT, repeat NOT, emphasize NOT, Pelosi who abandoned “PayGo”; it was the REPUBLICAN-controlled House, led by Hastert-Delay, who “decided” they did not “need” it because it would prevent them from passing tax cuts and other Republican spending, like Medicare Part D, which kept the deficits up but did not help the economy generate jobs.

            Will you stop blaming Democrats for Republican failings? (I guess not; it is in your DNA.)

          • WorriedfortheCountry

             Revisionist history.  Yes, the GOP had problems with deficits but it pales in comparison to when the Dems took control (the last 6 years).

            And yes, Pelosi ran on pay-go by criticizing the GOP (rightfully) and then broke her promise and ran up more debt than the GOP.

        • Don_B1

          The times have changed and the ways Republicans have made them bad are being revealed. See:


          • WorriedfortheCountry

             Hmm. Do I have 54 minutes to evaluate the ‘evil’ ALEC has committed through the unbiased prism of Bill Moyers views?

            I’m sure ALEC does things that are for the general good and maybe somethings that benefit special interests.

            This is kind of like when Glenn Beck does a show on how George Soros spreads his millions around to influence laws and politics across the country.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Funny thing about ALEC: They don’t like being outed as ALEC.

            What’s that old saying? “A good idea seldom needs to be lied about.”

          • WorriedfortheCountry

             I’ll watch the Bill Moyer’s ALEC show as soon as he does an expose on the administration TELLING defense contractors to ignore the WARN act even though it is lawless for them to ignore law.

            What is worse, they have indemnified the contractors and have promised to have the taxpayers cover the legal fees and severance costs even though they have zero legal authority.


          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Despite my other rants below, thanks for the link.

          • Don_B1

            If you can open your mind, you might learn something.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    Is part of the problem that America is still a huge driver in the world economy?

    The middleclass has been a huge driver in world economic growth through consumption. As the executive class has relentlessly worked to drive up ‘share holder value’ it has waged war on wages and benefits and shrunk the middleclass. Executives have effectively shot themselves in the foot by shrinking the supply of expendable income which is used to purchase the very g and services of the corporations that the executive class own and or control.

    When asked why he paid his workers so well, Henry Ford is said to have replied, “If I don’t pay them more, who will buy my cars?”

    Impoverishing the middle and lower classes shrinks demand, shrinks purchasing power and shrinks the economy yielding this downward spiral as a result.

    So who are those job creators paralyzed by uncertainty? They are the consumer. They are you and me. As the Billionaire Nick Hanauer says in his talk about who the real job creators are – “Somebody like me makes hundreds or thousands as times much as the median American, but I don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times as much stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000.’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBx2Y5HhplI In this talk he tells us that we are the job creators. This is a billionaire talking: not a lazy, parasitic self-entitled member of the 47% like my 87 year old mom.

    So with this global economic sea change has come a change in the sharing of success: the executive class has been keeping ever more of profits for itself and sharing less of it with the masses who make, fix, clean, repair and deliver the stuff from which profits are realized. The executive class has shrunk THE key driver in economic growth – demand which is in direct proportion to expendable income of the consumer, not the billionaire.

    It’s kind of like the farmer slaughtering the milk cow so he can feed his family steak instead of cheese. The herd shrinks, profits fall and the herd eventually collapses without investment in the herd.

    So the question is, when will the captains of industry recognize that they are steering full speed into an iceberg?

  • LeonardNicodemo

    Capitalism went off the rails here, wasn’t long until it went off the rails there too. 

    • Shag_Wevera

      There are two reasons I don’t want to die.  First, I want to see my children grow and live for as long as I can.  Second, I want to live long enough to see what comes after capitalism. 

      • sam liu

        welfare state 

  • Ray in VT

    What is the impact of rising Chinese wages in our era of international corporations searching out the cheapest labor costs having, if any?  There were some reports a couple of years back of firms shuttering factories in China and shipping jobs to Vietnam because the Vietnamese would work for less than the Chinese were now expecting to receive.

    • Shag_Wevera

      There’s always Africa, my friend.  The greatest ever untapped source of near to slave labor.

      • Ray in VT

        I had thought about that.  There’s certainly a labor supply, and the rush is on by countries, such as China, to get in on the continent’s natural resources, but I’m not sure that it is such a good proposition for international business due to the problem of stability.  China, for all of it’s problems, hasn’t really had more than a hiccup domestically since Tiananmen Square in 1989.  Africa, on the other hand has all sorts of problems with terrorism, such as in Somalia or increasingly in Nigeria, ongoing domestic instability, such as recently in Kenya or Ivory Coast, or horribly inept and ineffective governments, such as with Mugabe in Zimbabwe.  Obviously those problems aren’t everywhere, and where they do exist they are problems to a greater or lesser extent, but I would think that issues like these would be a great disincentive for firms looking to set up shop.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    I would like to hear Mr. McGregor discuss the potential effects of China’s growing gender imbalance on its economic and political stability. Thank you Tom, great topic.

  • Ray in VT

    The economic numbers coming out of China say growth this year is in the 7-7.5% rate.  Now, even given that I have heard some analysts occasionally question the validity of those numbers, should we also not be asking how long the sort of growth that the Chinese have experienced over the past decade or so can continue?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      I once worked in a place where some consultants were hired to “quantify” work which simply didn’t lend itself to that level of quantification.

      It’s not like we were comparing two stores selling espresso, or two factories making widgets. A phone call could end up being a solved problem ticket in 30 seconds, or be the tip of an iceberg catastrophe needing 50 worker-hours to get humming again.

      At a staff-only meeting my manager was trying to describe the situaion, and I piped up, “Draw the curve, plot the points?”, a way of fudging data to make something almost unknowable look good to people who don’t know what’s happening.

      That’s all I can think about when someone mentions the reliability of China’s numbers in a timespan of more than two or three months: “Draw the curve, plot the points”.

      • http://twitter.com/saabdu2001 wilma

         TF. I had a coversation with a CO worker today regarding china,VS us. I work around the Bankings system now. if we could sit down together and talk about this.   

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Wilma, thanks for the input. I don’t have first-hand knowledge. BTW I’m old enough to remember when the capital was called Peking.

          Some folks who know more about China than I describe it as a modern bustling civilization of several hundred million (largely) on the coast, next to a near-feudal near-serf-like agricultural subsistence economy of several hundred million (largely) inland.

          A place so big to change so rapidly over the last 70 years, isn’t going to be so measurable as one can compare baseball batting averages in 1950 to today.

          I don’t claim it’s something about the Chinese character that the numbers are “suspect”, but simply “unknowable”. Just spitballing, I think it highly resembles the veracity of economic numbers from the USSR’s breakup 20 years ago. During the Cold War, the “official numbers” from the USSR were one thing and Westerners had to wonder what they were trying to hide.

          Then there was upheaval and change and it just made getting reliable statistics harder, especially in the “forensic” manner of how things were (say) 30 years beforehand. That should sound familiar.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

    Fiat Currency will never survive we are almost there when money will be worthless. The world is in economic collapse and gold will again dominate the world of currency.

    print money has much the Federal Reserve does but those paper money are worthless.

    • AC

      gold? no way – rare earth metals – and guess who’s cornered 98% of that market – China!

      • LoganEcholls

        Precisely.  The cost of electric vehicles is twice that of their gas powered counterparts.  Even if/when the price comes down, China will own a significant portion of the auto industry without ever building one car.    And of course there is the electronics mega industry.   IRare earth elements are basically the “new oil” commodity, and here we are digging up tar sands, hydrofrakking, and paying off $ trillions in war debt for control of oil rich nations. 

        We’re living in the oil-centric past. 

        However flawed China’s economy and civil rights abuses, they are at least living in an economy of the present, and quite possibly the future. 

        • AC

          all good points – what’s scary is they even own ALL the mining rights for them in this country. Legally sold by Americans, happy to take the money and run….tho at some point, i can see a future of that ‘going by the wayside’ when it becomes imperative to us. like when core reactors need to be cooled ASAP and they’re asking too high a price but we’ve forgotten how to get it ourselves!! I wonder how that will work? Simple adjustments to mining and mineral rights, or will we need an excuse like war? hmmmm…how it’s handled will likely reveal a lot about how evolved human kind REALLY is…… 

  • Shag_Wevera

    The world economy is an apple that is rotten to the core.  Too bad we cannot magically wipe the slate clean and begin anew with a reasonable economic system of our choosing.  It is all too complex and corrupt to ever be successfully unwound now.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    To Don_B1 — the Dems had $878B to spend on infrastructure and they squandered it.

    The recession was over in June of 2009.  It was over before ANY of the stimulus had time to take effect.

    Now you want the country to borrow more money and give it to the same fools that squandered the first trillion.

    It is really more that a $trillion.  Every economist knows that deficit spending IS stimulus.  However, how it is spent matters.  Flushing it down the toilet is worthless.  We’ve had NO budget in the past four years to target that spending.

    Where is Obama’s Hoover Dam?  He couldn’t even approve Keystone which will help economic growth for years and wouldn’t cost the taxpayers a dime. Instead , we got a bunch of Solyndras.

    We are now spending 24.5% of GDP on the Federal government.  Some of that can be redirected toward infrastructure but spending doesn’t have to INCREASE.

    • WorriedfortheCountry

       Don’t you believe the Dems should pay a political price for four years with no budget and squandering $6T in stimulus spending?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Squandered? Yes, I remember it being burned in a pile, like the Disco Demolition night.

      And about half of that was tax cuts. Tell those people about “squandered”.

      Yawn. (Correcting your talking points is really boring.)

      • WorriedfortheCountry

         It is not a talking point.  The stimulus was badly mismanaged.  That isn’t to say some good didn’t come of it.  It was more of a missed opportunity.

        However, of everything Obama has done, this is one area that I am willing to cut him some slack.  We were in crisis and under incredible time pressure to jump start the economy.  However, it is fair to look back and see if anything of lasting value was produced  — like the TVA — something that truly helped the poor and middle class.

        Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and other increased regulations have done much more serious damage.  There was a recent study that Obama regulations have reduced our GDP by $1.8T on an ANNUAL basis.  A stunning figure and very damaging.  It is no wonder that the recovery has been stagnant for over 3 years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507593666 Josh DeYoung
  • Pingback: The ‘middle income trap’: Washington’s new consensus about China « The Militant Nerd

  • http://twitter.com/saabdu2001 wilma

    The united states and china as we know are the supper powers of the world.what is a belief of a controlled powerful group of people beyond our beliefs is changing this world. will see our us dollar shrink to (0) causing the government to control out of fear that this country will default. this whole controlling will cause disruptions and corruption. the obama administration have total knowledge of what to expect.. we are in trouble….   

  • sam liu

    dear Tom:

    i heartedly disagree with the 1st statement by McGregor.
    his response to the riot was over wages might have been lingering, but it seems much more credible of guards harassing the worker(s).

    there was a 2nd inaccuracy further into the program, i think it should be clarified that the mentioning of middle class is not the global Middle Class as understood by most, but as understood as the so called Chinese middle class which starts at 2000RMB ($300/month).

    overall McGregor paints a beautiful picture of what is going on here.

  • sam liu

    people are not forced to work here (right to work) … capitalism is alive here

  • sam liu

    who is in charge of cn going back to the State Owned system– the USA irresponsibility that perpetuated the 2008 Great Recession.

    It came about I suspect from the Stimulus Packages


    American companies like Apple and HP help to feed the communist beast.

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