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Daily Productive Sharing 370 - An Observation of China in 2021

Daily Productive Sharing 370 - An Observation of China in 2021
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(下附中文版)

#Misc

Dan Wang, a think tank analyst living in Shanghai, has written a lengthy summary at the end of the last five years, and in his annual summary for 2021, he devotes a large section to China, with many unique and insightful observations.

For example, his observation about Beijing:

  1. Everything that can go wrong in urban design has gone wrong in Beijing.
  2. Beijing’s goal is to channel entrepreneurial spirit towards useful goals. Profit cannot be the final standard of value, and the country’s best and brightest must work towards national salvation.
  3. The currency of Beijing is power.

Hs observation about Hong Kong:

  1. But Hong Kong was also the most bureaucratic city I’ve ever lived in. Its business landscape has remained static for decades: the preserve of property developers that has created no noteworthy companies in the last three decades.

Hs observation about China:

  1. There’s a little joke that the ideal company is led by a Beijinger, who would provide the vision, leadership, and government-relations savvy; its finances would be led by someone from Shanghai, and its operations managed by someone from Shenzhen (who would hire people from Sichuan and Anhui to do the actual work).
  2. A distinctive feature of Chinese governance is to continuously fix slogans, like “reform and opening” to move the country away from socialism, and the more recent “common prosperity” to move it back.
  3. I expect that China will grow rich but remain culturally stunted. By my count, the country has produced two cultural works over the last four decades since reform and opening that have proved attractive to the rest of the world: the Three-Body Problem and TikTok.
  4. Instead, the country is more likely to be seen as a land of censorious commies. In the developed world, China’s unfavorability ratings have reached an average of 60%, according to Pew Research.
  5. As Chinese businesses and the state are growing more capable, the leadership is becoming more brutal towards many of its own citizens as well as foreign critics. China is, in other words, a place that both moves fast and breaks things _and_moves fast and breaks people.
  6. The good and/or bad thing about China is that everything changes every 18 months. So it’s all the more important to observe reality on the ground.
  7. China has been mostly shut in 2021, a hundred years after the party’s founding. I think that the government has no real exit plan for this pandemic. Any time it looks like it might relax, another variant shows up. The leadership probably has no firm aspiration to open the border at any date, and instead will assess the situation of variants and medical treatments every so often. If things don’t look good, then it won’t open up.
  8. I guess I’m more on the side that omicron can’t be contained. The government won’t go down without a fight, I’m sure, which means that it will implement lockdowns far more severe than anything it has done to this point.

Hs comparision about US-CN :

  1. The Chinese state has long placed greater value on resilience over efficiency, which has dragged down its performance on metrics that economists care about, like return on equity.
  2. The US is ahead of China on the sort of mathematical economics that win Nobel Prizes. But China is ahead of the US on the actual practice of political economy.
  3. The rule of thumb for US businesses is that China makes up half of global demand for most products, from wind turbines to structural steel; and China will account for a third to a half of expected growth over the next decade.

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Dan Wang 是一位生活在上海的智库分析师,最近五年的年末他都会写一封长篇总结,2021年的年度总结里,他花了很大篇幅来讨论中国,有很多独到而深入的观察。

比如关于北京的观察:

  1. Everything that can go wrong in urban design has gone wrong in Beijing.
  2. Beijing’s goal is to channel entrepreneurial spirit towards useful goals. Profit cannot be the final standard of value, and the country’s best and brightest must work towards national salvation.
  3. The currency of Beijing is power.

关于香港的观察:

  1. But Hong Kong was also the most bureaucratic city I’ve ever lived in. Its business landscape has remained static for decades: the preserve of property developers that has created no noteworthy companies in the last three decades.

关于中国作为一个整体:

  1. There’s a little joke that the ideal company is led by a Beijinger, who would provide the vision, leadership, and government-relations savvy; its finances would be led by someone from Shanghai, and its operations managed by someone from Shenzhen (who would hire people from Sichuan and Anhui to do the actual work).
  2. A distinctive feature of Chinese governance is to continuously fix slogans, like “reform and opening” to move the country away from socialism, and the more recent “common prosperity” to move it back.
  3. I expect that China will grow rich but remain culturally stunted. By my count, the country has produced two cultural works over the last four decades since reform and opening that have proved attractive to the rest of the world: the Three-Body Problem and TikTok.
  4. Instead, the country is more likely to be seen as a land of censorious commies. In the developed world, China’s unfavorability ratings have reached an average of 60%, according to Pew Research.
  5. As Chinese businesses and the state are growing more capable, the leadership is becoming more brutal towards many of its own citizens as well as foreign critics. China is, in other words, a place that both moves fast and breaks things _and_moves fast and breaks people.
  6. The good and/or bad thing about China is that everything changes every 18 months. So it’s all the more important to observe reality on the ground.
  7. China has been mostly shut in 2021, a hundred years after the party’s founding. I think that the government has no real exit plan for this pandemic. Any time it looks like it might relax, another variant shows up. The leadership probably has no firm aspiration to open the border at any date, and instead will assess the situation of variants and medical treatments every so often. If things don’t look good, then it won’t open up.
  8. I guess I’m more on the side that omicron can’t be contained. The government won’t go down without a fight, I’m sure, which means that it will implement lockdowns far more severe than anything it has done to this point.

关于中美比较:

  1. The Chinese state has long placed greater value on resilience over efficiency, which has dragged down its performance on metrics that economists care about, like return on equity.
  2. The US is ahead of China on the sort of mathematical economics that win Nobel Prizes. But China is ahead of the US on the actual practice of political economy.
  3. The rule of thumb for US businesses is that China makes up half of global demand for most products, from wind turbines to structural steel; and China will account for a third to a half of expected growth over the next decade.

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