Sunday, August 23, 2015

Things fall apart?

China is not well known for its economists, despite having the world's second largest economy.  There are those inclined to blame the Chinese for the current round of economic turmoil, but really, it's a bum rap.  They're just caught up, like the rest of us, in a worldwide, probably inevitable fuckup.

China blooms with new housing complexes in various states of completion, most of which seem likely to crumble into decay before ever being occupied because the Chinese can't afford to buy them.  They were built (and continue to be built, in some areas) to provide employment for those losing jobs in the export industries that were the engine for China's rapid growth over the past few decades.

China's exports have suffered partly because of competitors who can pay even lower wages than Chinese manufacturers, but more because of decreased demand for cheap manufactured goods in the West.  It seems that the consumers of cheap manufactured goods just don't have as much money as they did in the past, and the Westerners with lots of money are too few in number to buy much — even if they were interested in cheap Chinese goods, which they're not.

Still, all that money accumulated in the bankrolls of the few had to go somewhere, and genuinely safe investments (like US bonds) were paying bupkis.  The result was a roughly seven per cent rise in US stock prices — which started to look a lot like bubble territory.  Another result was a rush to buy quite risky dollar denominated debt from developing countries.

Well, in recent days, stocks have lost almost everything they gained in the run-up, and those third-world borrowers look a lot like they're getting ready to default, no longer able to sell raw materials to contracting Chinese industry.  By the way, the main investors in that developing nation debt were mutual funds, so retirees depending on returns from such funds for survival may wish to start shopping for discounted cat food — just watch out for the stuff from China, which may not be especially safe.

I could go into a lot more detail, but you're already bored, so I'll just summarize:  the massive transfer of wealth from workers to oligarchs has fucked up the entire world.

Here's one thing I can say for China, though — Xi is going after the Chinese oligarchs and slapping them down for being the corrupt reptiles they are.  There is no reason to believe that our own oligarchs are any less corrupt or reptilian — but there's nobody in a position to swat them.  Pity.

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