Photo: wikimedia commons
China’s economy is developing rapidly, but its political system less so.So far the lack of democratic legitimacy and blatant inequality between how different Chinese regions are treated have been papered over with rising prosperity. The economy has been booming, so the team in charge is acceptable even if nobody voted them in. It’s a form of political legitimacy which exists across much of the world, but there’s a major weakness to it — when the economy sours, citizens’ anger can get far nastier than what happens in democratic countries. You can’t merely vote the rascals out.
That’s why we can be sure that if China meets economic crisis, then foreign powers will be blamed for the disaster, namely America.
Just look how current food price inflation is playing out:
“The source of China’s inflation is America, they are printing too much money,” Zhan, 50, told AFP as she clutched plastic bags full of vegetables.
“Everything is definitely more expensive than last year.”
But Zhan was echoing Chinese government criticisms of the US move to pump 600 billion dollars into the American economy, which Beijing warns could cause damaging fund flows into emerging economies such as China and fuel inflation.
Wen Xingping, 50, said green vegetables and winter melons were more expensive than last year and had forced her and friends to cut spending on clothes and other non-essentials.
“It is really serious,” Wen told AFP as she braved chilly weather to buy dried fruit and nuts from a stall.
“Prices have increased by 20-30 per cent in the past year. My friends are really worried.”
The reality of course is that China is printing money far more wildly than America, as shown earlier this morning. Nobody forces China to peg its currency to the dollar either.
Yet the scary thing is that when it comes to citizens’ aggregate beliefs, whether in America or China, the level of sophistication or analysis behind cause and effect can be rather basic. Any China crisis could easily amount to simply ‘It’s America’s fault’ in the eyes of the Chinese, even if the true story is far more complex and actually the fault of the Chinese government itself.
Thus its in everyone’s interest for China to avoid an economic crash. Else politics will get extremely ugly.