Top 10 Sinophobe Myths

Just as with Russia, the Western media (beholden as it is to its power elite sponsors and anti-Rest ideology) peddles many tropes about China that cloud real understanding of this fascinating civilization-state. In the spirit of Sino Triumphalism, this is my attempt to set the record straight and overturn the lazy arguments used to dismiss, Brezhnev-like, China’s imminent rise to superpowerdom. My message to those Sinophobes: talk cooks no rice. For more on this topic see 1, 2, 3, 4, 56.

MYTH: The lack of IP rights curbs innovation, so the Chinese economy will remain based on producing cheap knock-offs of superior Western goods.

REALITY: China now focuses on copying products because its technologically lagging, and as such it is much easier and cost effective to reproduce already existing products than to come up with your own. Much the same can (and was!) said of Japan in the 1960’s, or Germany in the 1880’s – but look at them now!

The lack of IP rights makes this assimilation far easier – why waste money paying rent to foreign software companies when you can use their products for free so easily? You’d have to be their stooge to do this! Throughout history, many successful developers, such as Germany and Britain, flouted IP rights and funded industrial espionage to modernize their economies. They only started praising the virtues of IP rights when they got rich to protect their own new interests.

With China already taking the leading positions in sectors such as High Speed Rail and supercomputers, the time when it joins the developed world in “kicking away the ladder” can’t be far off.

MYTH: Corruption and inequality is growing rapidly, which will lead to rising social tensions, economic stagnation, revolts, and collapse. 

REALITY: Corruption is largely irrelevant to economic growth, unless it is cripplingly high (which it definitely isn’t in China). For instance, only 9% of Chinese reported paying a bribe in 2010, which is actually the same as Japan.

True, inequality has risen sharply, with the Gini index reaching 47. This figure is similar to the US and lower than most Latin American countries, albeit far higher than in Europe. However, a peak in inequality is typical of countries in the middle of their industrial development, and is expected to fall in the coming years. Indeed, this seems to be already happening, with the poorer inland provinces beginning to grow faster than the wealthier coastal regions in recent years.

MYTH: The brouhaha over China today ignores its bad loans and real estate bubble, which will explode and sink its economy any day now. 

REALITY: Pundits have been ranting about China’s bad loans problem for a decade, but in reality the issue is less acute now than it was then. In the meantime it is the Western financial that collapsed (and had to be bailed out at huge taxpayer expense). Chinese leaders noticed this problem early and nipped it in the bud with a series of restructurings in the 2000’s.

The real estate bubble isn’t really a bubble because, no matter how many empty apartments there are, half of China’s population is still in the countryside and will continue moving into the cities for decades to come.

MYTH: Back in the 1980’s, there was the same hysteria about Japan becoming No. 1, and look what happened to them! This Sino triumphalism is nothing but a passing fad.

REALITY: China’s population is TEN TIMES bigger than Japan’s. Realistically, Japan could have never become the world’s biggest economy because doing so would have required its GDP per capita to rise to double that of the US. In stark contrast, China’s GDP per capita needs only be a QUARTER that of America for it to become the world’s largest economy. Some economists think that’s already happened (see below).

MYTH: The Communist Party suppresses all freedom of thought, which will inevitable lead to stagnation, regional rifts, and pro-freedom uprisings.

REALITY: First, the idea that the CCP truly suppresses free thought nowadays is a bit quaint. There are plenty of think-tanks – more than in the US – that are discussing exciting new concepts such as deliberative democracy, Comprehensive National Power, and new ways of measuring economic growth.

Second, the leadership is forward-thinking and responsive. To illustrate this, in a recent speech Hu Jintao called for a “circular economy” and “sustainable development.” (Can you imagine Obama voicing similar sentiments? The Republicans would devour him alive.) This is backed by concrete policy measures. For instance, in response to its reliance on coal China invested in renewable energy manufacturing capacity and now produces half the world’s wind turbines and solar panels.

Third, not only does democracy or the lack of it have no discernible effect on the speed of development – in fact, China itself is a refutation of that theory – but its not even that oppressive compared to countries commonly called “democratic.” So it jailed Liu Xiaobo for 11 years (who claims China would be better off under colonialism). But in the meantime, the Marxist activist Binayak Sen got life imprisonment in India, and the US is waging a campaign to shut down Wikileaks and imprison Julian Assange. No talk of a Nobel Peace Prize for those two.

Fourth, it is extremely arrogant to claim that China will necessarily want to follow in the footsteps of the West. It may well take its own sovereign road to democracy, such as a democratization of the current NEPist model. Even if it does democratize aka Taiwan, then why should it collapse? Its factories and people will remain in place; so will economic growth, albeit with a blip or two during the transition. And according to our “democratists” wouldn’t such a development make China stronger anyway?

As for George Friedman’s forecasts that a widening gulf between the coast and inland regions will cause the coastal elites to identify with foreign interests such as Japan and the US and break the power of the government… well, this is the same guy who goes on about The Coming War with Japan. No more comment required.

MYTH: Outside showpieces like Shanghai and a few other coastal cities the entire country struggles on in Third World poverty, illiteracy and immiseration.

REALITY: This is belied by fairly basic statistics. A country with 67% cell phone penetration, 36% Internet penetration, and more cars sold per year than in the US as of 2009 cannot be “Third World” be definition. Nor does a literacy rate of 97% or an infant mortality rate of 16/1000 jive with this description.

As of 2010, the IMF gives China a real GDP per capita of $7,500 (which is lower-middle income by international standards). However, in reality this is probably an underestimate. For instance, Thailand with a GDP per capita of $9,000 had manufacturing wages of $250 per month in 2009, as opposed to China’s $400 per month. Its consumption stats also indicate a higher living standard (which is all the more impressive given its high savings rate). In any case, China is a decidedly middle-income country.

MYTH: The People’s Liberation Army is full of rusty Soviet-era hardware and derelict warships that will be obliterated in a conflict with the US.

REALITY: Now resting on a solid economic foundation, the Chinese military is being rapidly modernized. In recent years it has unveiled its own drones, a fifth-generation fighter prototype, and a “carrier-killing” ballistic missile. It accounts for a third of global shipbuilding capacity, enabling a rapid naval buildup (even as US capabilities degrade due to fiscal problems and cost overruns). A recent RAND study indicates that China is already be able to establish air superiority over Taiwan in the event of a hot war over the straits.

As Paul Kennedy noted in The Rise And Fall Of The Great Powers (of which Chinese strategists are big fans), military power follows naturally in the wake of economic power. The Chinese economy will eventually be so much larger than everyone else’s in the Pacific basin that its neighbors will have no option but to acquiesce to its hegemony, even if it doesn’t win them over by its rapidly growing soft power.

The only military sphere in which China lags the US (and Russia) is in the size and sophistication of its strategic nuclear forces. But even there it may be stronger than it appears. It was recently revealed that it has built 5000km of tunnels in the hills of Hebei province. For all we know hundreds of ICBM’s could be hidden away there.

MYTH: The Chinese economy is dependent on exports for its economic growth, meaning that even if the US collapses it will bring the Chicoms down with it.

REALITY: This is a complete myth. Whereas gross exports are at 40% of GDP, what matters are NET EXPORTS – which are at just 7% of GDP. (In fact this past quarter it even reported a trade deficit). Or if we look at it regionally, those Chinese regions which export a lot are all located on the southern and south-eastern coasts, and account for less than 25% of the population; the rest of the country is far more autarkic.

Now true, a collapse in export demand will lead to a temporary rise in unemployment in those export-dependent regions. But the Chinese can do without the “heroic” American consumer. They’ll just consume more of their own production (as it increasingly the case anyway).

MYTH: China will grow old before it grows rich.

REALITY: No, it won’t. According to UN projections, its share of the population aged 15-65 will have dropped from 72.4% now to 68.9% by 2030 (by which time it will be a developed country by its current trajectory). For comparison, Japan’s working age population today is just 64.0% – that’s less than China two decades later!

Furthermore, there are still massive productivity gains to be collected from urbanizing another 20%-30% of the population. As peasants continue moving into the cities, the urban workforce which is the source of most added value production will continue growing well past the time China the total labor force begins shrinking. The decline in the numbers of children will enable each one to get a better education.

MYTH: Even if it grows at 10% a year, it will take China’s $5.9 trillion GDP decades to catch up to America’s $14.7 trillion GDP growing at 3% a year. That will come no sooner than 2025. And that’s assuming that Chinese GDP figures are accurate (they’re not, of course, given the Communist penchant for lying).

REALITY: This is a very common argument, even in respected venues, but one that shows fundamental economic illiteracy. The $5.9 trillion GDP is China’s NOMINAL GDP, which reflects a very weak yuan. If the yuan were to appreciate against the dollar, growth in nominal GDP will be much faster than real growth – and in fact IT IS, growing at nearly 25% for the past five years.

Its REAL GDP, which accounts for differences in international prices, is far bigger at $10.1 trillion and not far from America’s $14.7 trillion. But even this may be an underestimate. Back in 2008, the IMF and World Bank both reduced their estimates of China’s real GDP by around 40%; these revisions are considered questionable. Using those old figures, China would already be at America’s size. This is supported by comparisons of Chinese consumption (e.g. Internet access; manufacturing wages; etc) to other middle-income countries, which in my approximations give it a real GDP per capita of perhaps $12,000 and implying a total real GDP of $15-16 trillion.

The case for Chinese manipulation of statistics is unproven. One of the primary arguments here used to be that economic growth didn’t track electricity consumption. But that’s not too convincing in light of China overtaking the US in electricity consumption in 2011.

China’s economic growth has tracked South Korea’s very closely but with a 20 year lag (or 15 years using the old, bigger GDP estimates). Its real GDP per capita in 2000 was equivalent to Korea’s in 1980; as of 2010, it was equivalent to Korea’s in 1990. (The story for nominal GDP growth is remarkably similar: China’s number for 2010 is equivalent to Korea’s in 1988). Now if China continues following Korea’s historical per capita trajectory, it should have a real GDP of $22-$30 trillion by 2020 and $40-$55 trillion by 2030 (former figure based off current GDP estimates; latter off the bigger estimates). This means the US should be overtaken by 2020 at the latest and left in the dust soon after. Assuming a steady rate of convergence to international prices, China’s nominal GDP too should become the world’s biggest by the 2020’s.

The groundwork is secure. Human capital is the foremost determinant of economic growth rates, and China’s today is far higher than South Korea’s two decades ago (recent international standardized tests show that performance even in China’s poorest provinces is close to the OECD average, while Shanghai won global gold prize).

Now consider that China’s foremost obstacle to global superpowerdom is highly unlikely to grow quickly, is overburdened by fiscal deficits, and may yet default on its obligations – and that by then, China’s currency will likely be free floating. In that case, the yuan will be the most likely contender for the title of world’s reserve currency. Upon assuming it, its nominal GDP – and weight in the global economy – will become every bit as dominant as its real economy of steel mills and factories.

EDIT: This article has been translated into Russian at Inosmi.Ru (10 главных мифов китаефобии).

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. georgesdelatour says

    Your title is confusing.

    Sinophobia is the fear of Chinese domination. A Sinophobe argues that Chinese domination is imminent and bad for the rest of us. You argue that Chinese domination is imminent. You don’t spell out whether you think it will be bad for the rest of us.

    • I’m using Sinophobe in the same sense of a “Russophobe” on the blogosphere, i.e. someone who uses argues that it is an incorrigibly backward, corrupt, soon-to-collapse country with little (or no) evidence in support.

      I really have no idea if a Sino-centric world (at least in East Asia) will be better or worse for the “rest of us.” I do think that having China in the leading seat will slightly raise the world’s chances of preventing catastrophic AGW; at least, half their elites aren’t fixated on its denial.

      • great reply on AGW. the Chinese are also doing a lot against it by burning all that sulfur.

  2. Excellent post. I question only the last economic summersault: You can’t draw a simple of China’s current growth on account of it being like South Korea in 1980. However, behind the bizarre and wide-ranging GDP stats, China’s economy is effectively the third great pole in the world, as shown by their massive carbon emissions and consumption patterns (greater than Europe/USA).

    As long as the “unknowns” don’t ruin them (climate change, failed democratization, a bubble), then over the 20 years with even moderate growth China will become the world’s leading economic power.

    I would also question your assumption of regional supremacy. Certainly they will be extremely important, but I am not convinced a coalition of Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and India, along with offshore balancer the U.S. to coordinate them, could not contain China (if “containment” or military hegemony are still valid concepts).

    Incidentally, you should send this as a “Think Again” piece to Foreign Policy.

    • The guys at Think Again don’t like me. This article 10 Myths about Russia’s Demography started out as an idea for a submission there, however they rejected it (possibly because the head of the project Susan Glasser is one of those Putin Is Evil Incarnate types).

      Not really sure why you dislike the “economic somersault.” The US has a population of 300mn; Europe, of 500mn; China, of 1,300mn. Chinese school students have skills above those of the OECD average (as per the PISA tests). It is not restricted by a planned economy, and – unlike Korea – it has a high rate of female participation in the labor force. So I don’t see why the idea that China could be up to 3x bigger than the US by the 2030’s is a wild fantasy.

      You don’t need to “fit” China’s growth to Korea’s historical either to arrive at very high GDP’s a couple decades down the line. For instance, assuming a typical East Asian tiger growth pattern with a falloff in growth as per capita incomes rises – i.e. say a growth rate of 10% until 2015, 7% for 2015-2025, and 5% to 2030 – gives a quadrupling of GDP by that date.

      Incidentally, its the very size of this economic behemoth that I suspect will prevent a successful containment. China will simply be too big for that (unless India starts developing unexpectedly quickly).

      • You just take the OECD tests that show how they are at school. I think there can be a quite a difference if you take data after completion of professional training, especially in universities. The Chinese students are given subjects to study, they can’t choose a lot and some Chinese unfriendly sources say they are among the least motivated students.

  3. yalensis says

    Nice piece! It is a pleasure to see ignorant stereotypes demolished one by one.
    Dumb question, returning to the theme of Chinese orthography: does the writing goes left-to-right, right-to-left, or top-to-bottom? Just curious…

    • Candide basically answered everything: Left-Right Top-Bottom now, Top-Bottom Right-Left in the old days.

      I should only add that the majority of Traditional and Simplified characters are the same or very similar.

  4. Estimating the economy is a problem, but whatever, its great and growing.
    You did your job of showing Chinese potential for wealth and power, although this does nothing to make people not fear and dislike a nation that seems to be thin skinned and authoritarian.
    You missed geography, of course there’s modern transport and it helps a lot, but crossing regions with little population makes infrastructure very expensive compared to its returns. Geography also means that China is not in the best position to become a sea power because in the South and Eastern Pacific defense favours the existing sea alliance and from there they can successfully interdict Indian Ocean shipping. So China may certainly be able to overrun Taiwan, but an ensuing war will dismantle their economy unless they develop an overaching blue water navy that can secure supplies through the Western Pacific rim (sure they can that now), the Indian Ocean (what about the Gulf?) and the South Atlantic.
    Naval buildup takes a long time and Germany during the Empire for example had the problem that their Hochseeflotte wasn’t a blue water navy. The English could easily blockade that country and were seeking to destroy the enemy after the Germans tried to draw them out by shelling England a little bit. There was no real German threat of an invasion supported by the navy and even in defeat the British could have retreated and maintained their blockade with all suitable options, like airplanes and submarines. So the German navy, as an instrument for control of the oceans and interdicting the enemy’s lines of communication, was defeated right from the start and their few cruisers and colonial troops fought daring, but for an already lost cause. The same can just as easily happen to every newcomer who tries his hand at a blue water naval engagement and there have been few success stories for a long long time.

    • georgesdelatour says


      In previous posts Anatoly has suggested that technology may soon change the whole nature of naval power. In particular, aircraft carriers are probably already impossible to defend from an attack by a technologically sophisticated adversary like China.

      • I believe that when the aircraft carriers are down in the sea. In my opinion the carrier concept is very sophisticated with LPD, LHD, LHA and the supercarriers, they are part of forces that includes guided missiles and they are themselves guided missile platforms with increased UAV capabilities for long range strikes beyond the reach of these anti-carrier missiles. Reading the US navy stuff, they are well aware that coastal waters are getting quite dangerous and for this reason there’s a debate about adding to the LCV some kind of suitable carrier plattform (seems like a kind of LPD). The thing is rather that as I understand Anatoly, he is stating a misconception that aircraft carriers are big ships carrying only aircrafts and have to operate 500km from the shore at max, when they’re really much more complex platforms and the aircrafts are only a segment of the arsenal of weapons. The problem is less about killing carriers at the coast, but in the blue sea, that’s their natural area of operation (if they’re closer to shore it means they have sufficient countermeasures in order not to fear your coastal artillery) while LHA and LHD can function as sea control ships or coastal aircraft carriers and are added by the cheaper LPD that can go even closer. (Arrange them in a chain for cover and the supercarrier can be 1000km from the coast with several missile traps in between it and the launching platform) All carrier attacks will certainly be prepared by massive drone attacks to take down enemy surveillance. (Look at the recent aerial battles between Israel and Syria for that purpose)
        So I stand by my word that guided missile cruisers and aircarft carriers are converging in capability and that you have to look at the strike group as a whole to asses their capabilities and weaknesses. So far no naval power seems to think that he can have a blue water navy without airborne units, especially jets that can in quick succession attack and reload. Whether these are manned and how much stealth they have is the next issue. UAV are likely to have weaknesses in aerial combat despite good maneuverability and will have a hard time making new decisions with radio silence. Current Brazilian, PLAN, Indian, French, Spanish, Italian, Thai, Argentine or Russian Navy (to name a few, adding LHA, LHD and LPD adds even more) seem also to think that it’s necessary to have aircraft carriers with jets for blue water capabilitiy and invest billions in that capability. The difference between newer navies derived from the Russian naval concept and the US will likely be the degree of aircraft capability vs guided missile capability. However, I doubt that there’ll remain much differnce between guided missiles and UAV that are about to at least partly replace the traditional manned combat aircraft. So in a way, I doubt that there’ll be much difference between guided missile cruisers and aircraft carriers, safe for size perhaps. And in naval warfare size not only means better blue water capability, but also a higher concentration of defense against attacks that come bow, stern or broadside.
        If the aircraft carrier is to be annihilated as an important tool of war, you need more than coastal artillery that can be used for a successful attack on a (!!!)spotted carrier. That’s area denial, but in a war it would be of as much use as the Hochseeflotte that could control the German coast as much as they wanted, the British blockade was steady. You need something that can go for longer distances than any manned aircraft and fight down all the countermeasures encountered. In my opinion that needs humans in direct control and it isn’t possible to just programm such a force or even radio control them only. This force will be the next to be carried to sea because it has range and precision to make a small load devestating. It will certainly speak Chinese in great numbers and the area denial systems may be a good starting point, but I doubt that American supercarriers are unable to support it nor that carrier strike groups are not suitable to deploy and defend such a force.


          That’s what I mean, the super-carriers aren’t so suited anymore to get close to the beach. But the US has 18 (LHA and LHD) smaller aircraft capable carriers for that purpose and additionally 12 LPD for getting other forces there to knock out infrastructure that endangers carriers.
          It’s also a truism that smaller ships are easier to defend because they have less surface in case the defense is only arrayed in specific structural points like the bow and the stern. If they ship rather has a broadside defense then size does matter.

      • I think you have the wrong perspective and I want to help you to get a better image. Running a full blown war, especially a naval war, of grand scale and duration, needs much more fuel than the whole economy consumes in the same time. The petrol reserves are hardly enough for starters. The decision is not about who is blowing up vessels in the sealanes bordering China, but who gets his petrol and who perhaps needs less to operate (because of nuclear power and efficient engines). Just look at the current consumption of the rather small ground war in Afghanistan ( Anatoly hasn’t proven that these missiles are part of a system that can unblock Chinese oil supply in case of hostilities, nor that the Chinese have any means to block US and NATO supplyroutes. It’s this issue that decides who wins because trying to get the oil by land is too susceptible to interference. Of course there’s always the possibility that some new energy source gets discovered like using solar energy to convert coal and water or algae into fuel (I favour algae because they grow much faster than other plants, they already grow too much and there’s plenty of space to farm them). However, this means that I’m at odds with Anatoly’s economy of scarcity following the disastrous decline in oil production and the climate change (but I believe in China burning up lots of sulfur to keep growing and cool).

        For a guided missile combat the big artillery battles between warships are perhaps the best comaparison. Just look at Skagerrak, a few hits could cripple a ship, but you had to hit that elusive beast. Today we have both improved fire that’s very smart and we have equally very smart countermeasures, including faking to be the aircraft carrier. So if you launch an attack on an aircraft carrier you spotted and go on active emission, this may just have been the trap the carrier force has been waiting for. You took the bait of the ship that is not the carrier and they destroy you and your expensive intelligence equipment with the carrier force. Modern war is no less unpredictable and cunning than the battles of old.

        • All the carriers are nuclear now; the final gas-burning carrier – KITTY HAWK – was retired a couple of years ago and replaced as the USN’s forward-based Pacific Fleet carrier by GEORGE WASHINGTON. So they don’t burn fuel themselves, although they carry huge amounts so as to refuel their own aircraft as well as TG units. But you’re correct that Carriers don’t go to sea unescorted; their role is to act as a floating air base for power projection inshore, and their escorts provide them protection, usually including at least one AEGIS cruiserr. The figure of how far offshore they need to be is a function of how long they want their aircraft to remain airborne and still have enough fuel to make it back.

          • True, but the escorts and amphibious carriers still need lots of fuel. Going nuclear is precisely one of the ways to escape this staggering demand for hydrocarbon.

        • There is a great deal of make believe going into this discussion – much as the speciality of generals is winning the last war, strategists tend to fit the next one into existing patterns. Offensive weaponry is increasingly being neutralised by smaller defensive means – aircraft vs anti-aircraft missiles – but much more to the point is the fact that the US cannot stomach the lost of a couple of treasure ships – they are not going to get into a war for survival against China. There is and will continue to be much flexing of muscles, but China will roll back the American threat not by military but by economic means. Taiwan is a case to point – all the talk of conquest and defence is laughable – Taiwan could not survive a Chinese economic blockade without a collapse in its economy, and so will ultimately be compelled to accept reunification.

  5. yalensis asked:

    Dumb question, returning to the theme of Chinese orthography: does the writing goes left-to-right, right-to-left, or top-to-bottom?

    Officially, modern Chinese is written from left-to-right as is English. But traditionally, it was (and still can be) written from right-to-left. Chinese scrolls are often written from top-to-bottom.

    It Taiwan, many books are still published in top-to-bottom calligraphy, and you start reading a page from the upper-right corner and work you way down to lower-left. Also in Taiwan (and often in Hong Kong) the old traditional characters are used, rather than the simplified characters which are the official standard in China. The traditional characters are definitely more artistic, but have about double the number of strokes and thus take about twice as long to write. Of course, it’s not an issue on a computer.

    For some fun, go to and type something in English. Choose simplified Chinese and see how it comes out. Then try it as traditional Chinese.


  6. @AK
    Why don’t you factor in, or even mention, the gender imbalance and water problems (recent drought in Yangtze, pollution etc.)?

    • Because, much like Russia’s high rate of homicides, it’s not good but can’t seriously dent its prospects.

      China will have very serious problems from the 2030’s due to the knock on effects of accelerating AGW, but this doesn’t fall within the scope of this post.

      • Could you perhaps give polygamy a thought. If they’re is a shortage of women much beyond the rates that are covered by homosexual desires(another problem in China and many other countries), this can lead to some boiling social issues. In my humble opinion, the marriage market will be the place where the sustainability will be decided in many countries (leaving much leeway for political systems that promise to cure that issue and possibly even bond together). Because wealth enables a better control of sexes in utero and a good job in a city likely means more government control, one child policy and female infantizid will become increasing problems with the economic upward movement. Even if the party decided to stop the one child policy, social values on their own would dictate a large male overpopulation that receives the great prizes of economic development from childhood onward (I wonder what happens when they face a big and long economic misfortune that just happens in every economy). At least in Tunisia, where the Arabian revolts started, this was a very big issue because you needed to be an affluent man in order to marry and some had no chance at it despite ability and diligence.

        • georgesdelatour says

          Sorry Kurt, do you mean polyandry? I believe it’s existed in parts of Yunnan & Sichuan for centuries.

          My friends in China tell me that the sex imbalance is, if anything, pushing China towards gynocracy. Women are becoming more valued in relative scarcity, therefore more socially powerful.

          The Chinese cultural preference for boys doesn’t have the religious underpinnings it seems to have in Muslim countries, so I see no reason it won’t wane as the country becomes more urbanised.

          • All religions have a preference for boys. It is culture which leads to low girl/boy numbers as you can see it in Christian countries like South Korea and Taiwan but not in Africa or South America. Nor is urbanisation a remedy for it.

            • georgesdelatour says
            • georgesdelatour says

              I started reading up on this, and there’s some fascinating speculation going on.

              1. Will high male competition for females in China boost average IQ and cultural energy, as only the cleverest / richest / most motivated men get to reproduce?


              2. Will massive Chinese demand for North Korean brides ultimately cause the collapse of North Korea?


              One thing I’m trying to figure out. There’s probably a correlation between low marrying age and high female foeticide. A quick check suggests this is true for India – Kerala has India’s highest average marrying age (21) and pretty much the natural sex ratio. In India late marriage means smaller family size, but in China, what with the one child policy, does that mean people who marry at 16 have no more kids than people who marry at 30? If that’s correct, the key statistic will be the marrying age…

              • A similar situation was created in colonial North Africa where slave trade was suppressed and the old habit of rich men having several wives continued. Well, so far I’ve not heard of any resulting genetic enhancement among North Africans, rather of an increase of homosexual acts in the form of child abuse of little boys (rape and prostitution). “Naked Lunch” celebrates that atmosphere and Hirschfeld M (1923). Die intersexuelle Konstitution. Jahrbuch fuer sexuelle Zwischenstufen. is a more scientific approach, but in German.

                Europe’s population growth after our Malthusian catastrophe and the little ice age was with 21 year old women getting more children than 16 year old Muslim women in North Africa because they stayed fertile much longer. Simply said, a 16 year old girl can get pregnant, but at the detriment of growing herself. On the other hand her anatomy is much better suited to giving birth because she’s more elastic and won’t have micro-breaks in the pubis that otherwise are a sure sign of a woman that gave birth.
                This is based on (German)
                Rolf Peter Sieferle, Familiengeschichte. Die europäische, chinesische und islamische Familie im historischen Vergleich, Berlin 2008

          • Polyandry is a Tibetan custom, polygamy is a Han-Chinese custom that other, but less important, ethnic groups in this region also had/have.
            Shenzhen for example is famous for its concentration of women and Hong Kong inhabitants having a mistress there.

            • georgesdelatour says


              I’m no expert on the demographic history of the 19th century Mahgreb; but I doubt conditions were very close to 21st century China. The Barbary Corsairs got rich by direct acts of violence – kidnapping over a million Europeans, for instance – so, if anything, the most violent members of North African society were probably the most reproductively successful. You’re also talking about a tribal society with large families and very high endogamy.

              I know a couple of beautiful Chinese women and they’ve married rich nerds. Gong Li married Ooi Hoe Soeng – a Singaporean businessman – and that’s not untypical. I’m generalising massively here, but I’d say Chinese women are far less attracted to “bad boys” than western women are.

              • Colonial Maghreb was exactly colonized to end their enslaving of whatever persons and free the European captives. I suggest, you rethink your statement, because I’m referring exactly to this period.
                Considering the previous piracy period the greatest share went to naval officers, bankers and rulers, all people who could rise in a society with high vertical mobility, while aggression, as always, was needed among the rank and file. So this is actually breeding competent individuals. The very competent naval officers were considered the critical resource and threat among the Barbary pirates, so they were never allowed to return home alive by the Spanish.

            • georgesdelatour says

              Reflecting what I just wrote, I was thinking about the Edison Chen photo scandal. Clearly some beautiful Chinese singers and actresses fell for Mr Chen’s charms. The titillation of the scandal would be unthinkable in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan or Iran. So maybe China is approaching western sexual mores…

        • yalensis says

          The one-child policy in China has been a huge mistake, leading to a significant imbalance of genders. If you look throughout history there have been many examples where lack of available brides led desperate men to wars and invasions (allude to Viking invasions plus Roman abduction of Sabine women, etc.). Until Chinese gender imbalance straightens itself out, the only viable solution is polyandry. Specifically, each Chinese lady should be allowed to take two husbands. Husbands need not worry who is bady-daddy, modern DNA testing takes care of that. You’re welcome, China, I will send you invoice for my brilliant idea.

          • yalensis says

            P.S. I forgot to mention how polyandry works: Husband #1 gets to sleep with wife on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Husband #2 gets Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays. Wife gets Sunday off to rest and recuperate.

            • Polandry is a Tibetan custom of sharing a wife between brothers who have a rather similar genetic package in a country where wives traditionally died of quickly. The Tibetans had also quite a violent culture because when they left their mountains they had superpowers because of high altitude adaption and could get themselves a wife. The one child policy is not suited for that purpose because it means men don’t have brothers, but rather cousins. Sharing between cousins means this is something new and the genetic difference is much broader. Even if there’s polyandry only one child per women is allowed so who will make it? That will surely lead to a big quarrel because each man wants one male offspring to worship the ancestors. Worshiping adopted ancestors gives you a very weak position in society, even more so if these are for example the ancestors of your wife. Chinese tradition simply develops much slower than current adaption requires. I went out with a Chinese upper class girl and she told me of her large family, well, her mother was a judge. So it would be interesting to run a social analysis in which segment of society the women are missing.

        • georgesdelatour says

          I really don’t understand what you’re saying. Let’s take Algeria. Are you referring to the indigenous population or the French conquerors & settlers – the pieds noirs? French conquests & land seizures were extremely violent. Here’s Lieutenant-Colonel de Montagnac,1843:

          “All populations which do not accept our conditions must be despoiled. Everything must be seized, devastated, without age or sex distinction: grass must not grow any more where the French army has put its foot… I personally warn all good militaries which I have the honour to lead that if they happen to bring me a living Arab, they will receive a beating with the flat of the sabre… This is how, my dear friend, we must do war against Arabs: kill all men over the age of fifteen, take all their women and children, load them onto naval vessels, send them to the Marquesas Islands or elsewhere. In one word, annihilate all that will not crawl beneath our feet like dogs.”

          From Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer to Ben Bella there was almost no time when locals were not resisting French rule, usually violently. French Algeria was effectively an apartheid state. By “vertical mobility” for the indigenous, what do you mean? The beni-oui-oui? How many Berber “bankers, naval officers and rulers” were there in French colonial Algeria?

          • Thanks that you point out our misunderstanding. I’m talking about pre-colonial conditions of slavery in the Maghreb (including Algeria) due to its pirates and the colonial conditions of shortness of women due to polygamy and high marriage expectations. I don’t take about resistance to France or whatsoever.

  7. donnyess says

    “With China already taking the leading positions in sectors such as High Speed Rail and supercomputers”

    Only Russia (maybe India) has the talent and abstract thinking ability to compete with the US in computing and the soft sciences…a key reason why the US is so focused on brain draining the country and dismembering it. China is currently a sweat-shop country (shoes and tee-shirts) and Japan has long hit the point of diminishing returns in terms of tech development. The US has no intention of allowing Asia or Russia any leadership role in key strategic industry or intellectual property ownership.

    • They have the German transrapid because in our small country with little competition in railways none thinks it a good idea to spend so much money for so little return.
      But as far as I know, now they’re trying to build a much simpler and cheaper version of the transrapid. Well, that wouldn’t be the first time someone showing the Germans have a knack for complicated and expensive designs.

  8. “China now focuses on copying products because its technologically lagging…”

    Well, anyone who wants to, anywhere in the world, can read up on all sorts of engineering topics. What would be an excuse for lagging? Actually, I don’t think they’re lagging as much as not innovating. They seem to be up to speed on existing technologies.

    “Much the same can (and was!) said of Japan in the 1960′s, or Germany in the 1880′s…”

    Did people really say that Germans copied too much in the 1880s? I think that’s the decade when Daimler and Benz invented the car.

    “…the time when it joins the developed world in “kicking away the ladder” can’t be far off.”

    If and when they do something monumentally new, like Sputnik and Gagarin’s flight were in their time or the Manhattan project or the Moon landing, or Daimler and Benz’s cars, that would be a huge morale booster for them and it would shut a lot of people up. Something like the space elevator or lab-grown organs or cold fusion.

    “MYTH: Corruption and inequality is growing rapidly, which will lead to rising social tensions, economic stagnation, revolts, and collapse. ”

    In regards to political stability, I think that their biggest challenges are external, not internal. Outside forces (Western media, Western governments) dream of sparking a separatist revolt in Tibet and among Chinese Muslims. I’m sure these same forces would like to spark class and regional resentment within China. If the Chinese government holds firm against Western propaganda, they’ll avoid political instability.

    “MYTH: The brouhaha over China today ignores its bad loans and real estate bubble, which will explode and sink its economy any day now. ”

    Anyone who has eyes can easily understand how the Chinese economy works, what sustains it, why it is so freakishly healthy. We don’t need to know anything about high finance to understand this because it is so simple – they produce things that billions of people on all continents want to buy. Useful products, not fraud or wishful thinking form the basis of their economy. The myth above seems to be motivated by projection.

    “As for George Friedman’s forecasts that a widening gulf between the coast and inland regions will cause the coastal elites to identify with foreign interests…”

    An obvious example of wishful thinking by those foreign interests.

    • You need more than reading public publications to be able to make products. There is a lot of secret sauce in many products, often even forgotten by the producers why they do it the way they do it.

      And yes Germany was called a copycat in the 1880’s (even later). Just as the British were ones called copiers by the Chinese (see for example silk and porcelain)

      China doesn’t need to worry about bad debt because it grows 20% a year (nominal) which means it is really hard to make bad real estate loans and those are the ones that are the bulk of debt and its security

    • Well, anyone who wants to, anywhere in the world, can read up on all sorts of engineering topics. What would be an excuse for lagging?

      Well, yes they can… but implementing those engineering topics requires a great deal of capital, skills base, industrial ecosystem, etc… i.e. you can know all there is to know about the workings of a semiconductor factory but you ain’t gonna be able to build one in the middle of the Congo any time soon.

      In China’s case, it is still far from the lead in many areas (barring a few like electric vehicles, HSR, efficient coal plants). They haven’t even yet managed to reverse engineer late-Soviet turbofan jet engines for fighters (though this is likely to be overcome within a couple more years).

      (This somewhat reminds me of an episode after WW1. The Germans were forced to surrender their patents as part of the Versailles conditions. The US chemical industry found that it was actually unable to benefit much from this, because their know-how and capabilities were so inferior to Germany’s at that point – and this despite the US being one of the leading economies by that time).

      The key criterion by which the decision to copy or innovate is made is one of cost. Taking the jet engine example, it is far cheaper for China to assimilate that already-existing technology than to developed their own own next-generation engines. Doing so would involve competing head-to-head with the likes of Pratt & Whitney or General Electric which have far more experience.

      Did people really say that Germans copied too much in the 1880s?

      Yes, and there were scandals with Britain about German export-import tricks (e.g. making one small insignificant component in the UK, attaching it to a product otherwise made in Germany) to market their goods as “Made in Britain”. I can’t find a reference with a few minutes of Googling, but there’s a good account of it in Landes’ Wealth And Poverty Of Nations book. (He’s the pro-European one, don’t worry). 😉

      Something like the space elevator or lab-grown organs or cold fusion.

      China has only just built up a (more or less) modern industrial economy. Give it a few more years. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more and more cool stuff coming out of there. See these Wikileaks cables for some interesting accounts of what they’re up to.

      • Comparing Germany and China has a slight problem, the Germans had as part of their tradition a solid middle of literate craftsmen mediating between unskilled labour and people with a university education who didn’t get their hands dirty. This craftmanship know-how doesn’t seem to me to be as available in China, although like most Communist countries they have a good education compared to the low economic output. Acquiring this know-how will in my opinion be necessary to bridge the income gap and is part of the story your statistics don’t tell. If it’s not gapped, the economic development will stagante at a lower lever than for example Europe or has to develop a suitable economic niche. But for a giant that’s difficult.

  9. OT:

    I saw a bit of Russian news today, and Medvedev was talking about doubling the area of Moscow and moving government offices into a currently rural region outside of the city. My first reaction was “WHAT?!?”

    To me it’s always made perfect sense that the commercial and administrative center of the city should be in the center of the city. That way all the office drones who live around and beyond the center have an equal chance of commuting to it in under an hour, no matter what compass direction they hail from. But if you move the commercial and administrative center towards one edge of the city, actually even beyond one of its current current edges, then all the office drones who live far from that edge are screwed. Did I misunderstand something? Is this motivated by corruption in regards to construction contracts? What a bizarre piece of news.

    I grew up on the eastern edge of Moscow, right by the Ring Road (we never called it MKAD). I think it took something like 40 minutes by bus and subway to get to “the center”. How long would it have taken me to reach the city’s western edge? Probably an hour and a half. That part of the Moscow region which Medvedev wants to turn into the new downtown? I don’t know, maybe a couple of hours.

    • I read about it as well, actually don’t think that’s a bad idea. Might relieve some of the congestion in the city center and create a new locus of development.

      If they follow through with this, I hope they’ll move the capital to the south-eastern part where some close relatives have property. Though according to this map they won’t quite make the cut.

      PS. Let’s use the DAM post to continue this discussion? Thanks.

  10. I want to add this link because in my opinion it’s the most sensible approach to sinophobe myths and a US-PR China conflict (including the overrated carrier-killers for carriers facing bad conditions that have been known since the Fechteler report of Operation Mainbrace in 1953).

  11. below_freezing says

    some of the replies are laughable. no women? the average male:female ratio for the whole population is 107:100, within the healthy range. 50 million extra men, maybe. there’s 650 million women in China though, 700 million men vs. 650 million women, what do you think the odds are now?

    gender equality is greater in China than in Germany.

    sweatshop country? we aren’t Vietnam or Philippines. we may not be at the level of the US yet, but we produce the 2nd most patents in the world, put a man in space, had nuclear submarines in 1971 in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, made the world’s fastest supercomputer, made the first quantum communication network, have the 2nd and 5th largest telecom hardware companies (Huawei, ZTE) in the world, make 1/3 of shipping tonnage, have the world’s largest high speed rail system and this is all with a GDP/capita of 5000 USD; there is no sign of a slowdown any time soon.

    i am a chinese grad student in the US, and seriously, if you take a look at downtown L.A. and a look at downtown Shanghai, just use your eyes and tell me, with a straight face, which is closer to collapse.

    • Too_much_snark says

      So tell us with a straight face, “chinese grad student in the US”, how many Chinese graduate schools rank in the top 100 in the world?

      • There are two big ways to get high on the list. English as operating language and history. Chinese schools have neither.

  12. “REALITY: Now resting on a solid economic foundation, the Chinese military is being rapidly modernized. In recent years it has unveiled its own drones, a fifth-generation fighter prototype, and a “carrier-killing” ballistic missile. It accounts for a third of global shipbuilding capacity, enabling a rapid naval buildup (even as US capabilities degrade due to fiscal problems and cost overruns). A recent RAND study indicates that China is already be able to establish air superiority over Taiwan in the event of a hot war over the straits.”

    AK I know this is an old post of yours, but have you seen this recent PhD dissertation published on RAND about a potential conflict over Taiwan? It’s quite a slog (200+ pages) but very interesting and enlightening:

  13. Anatoly,

    I found a couple inaccuracies in your commentary… minor perhaps, but they undermine your arguments somewhat.

    On Myth #1, you write “Much the same can be said of Japan in the 1960s … but look at them now!” Well yeah, Japan has been in economic stagnation and decline for the past 20 years (though it is militarily strengthening). So what are we supposed to be looking at? Anyway, Japan and Germany post-1945 have primarily Messrs. Marshall and MacArthur respectively to thank for their economic success, two American gentlemen as it happens.

    On Myth #10, you adjust China’s nominal GDP from $5.9 trillion to a real figure of $10.1 trillion—but then you conveniently forget to perform the same adjustment on America’s $14.7 trillion nominal GDP! You just offer up the same figure again for comparison as a “real” one! So you’re not comparing like-with-like.


    • (1) Japan fell into stagnation when it was already a developed country. A China in stagnation with Japan’s GDP per capita will have an economy 3x that of the US. That would make for a cardinal change at the global level.

      (2) US GDP (PPP) = US nominal GDP by definition. Please brush up on basic terms.

  14. 1) Good stuff.

    2) “On Myth #10, you adjust China’s nominal GDP from $5.9 trillion to a real figure of $10.1 trillion—but then you conveniently forget to perform the same adjustment on America’s $14.7 trillion nominal GDP! You just offer up the same figure again for comparison as a “real” one! So you’re not comparing like-with-like.” Well, well, well in case of China you have a deliberately undervalued currency and in case of the US you have a vastly overvalued currency so whilst Chinese real GDP will be higher than its nominal one precisely the case with the US will be precisely the opposite if unit of measurement different than / from the US dollar is to be used.