Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comparatively weak

Yesterday I was quite busy preparing a presentation for my class on China's political economy. I've made it available online, although it's in Chinese. I'll translate it and post an English version sometime over the weekend.

The topic of the presentation centered on why the development of China's interior is important as a source of comprehensive national power (综合国力, CNP). As opposed to focusing on hard or soft power, Chinese scholars have combined the two with a new capability called coordinating power (协调能力). While hard power is measured in military and economic terms and soft power stemming from cultural attractiveness, coordinating power gauges a government's ability to channel resources and deal with problems. Given modern China's history, this isn't an entirely surprising addition.

Economic development of the interior is critical. From what I've read in the Chinese press and scholarly writings, China's CNP hinges on being able to bring development to the entire country, not just selected areas on the coast. In the presentation I chose Qinghai province to get a sense of its progress since economic reforms were first initiated in the 1980s. I was quite surprised to see annual income rise in tandem with a population, as the Solow economic model and empirical results show that high growth in population negatively impacts income growth (e.g. the more people you have, the smaller the slice of the pie each person gets). However Qinghai's experience goes against the grain. Turns out that the companies in operation were on the secondary and tertiary levels of the value chain, meaning higher incomes for employees.

So what do I mean by today's title? Quite simply that a segment China's academic community looks at the whole of China and other states when measuring strength. It isn't enough to have a strong military or economy, a state also needs an efficient government and domestic stability. From their 30,000 foot level, these Chinese scholars see their country as a comparatively weak country. While their assessment may be accurate today, it will most likely be dated come twenty years.

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