Sun, Mar 22, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Things fall apart: nothing can last

By Jerome Keating

One of China’s latest memes is that it cannot wait forever to settle the Taiwan question, (read, China will not wait forever for Taiwan to capitulate to its wishes). However, while China’s leaders continue to send this veiled threat, they find themselves racing against a different clock, that of China’s growing internal problems.

This internal threat can best be summed up in the line from William Yeats’ The Second Coming: “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.”

Yeats’ words were written nearly a century earlier, but they aptly sum up the ideas in Gordon Chang’s book The Coming Collapse of China.

Chang wrote that tome in 2001, predicting the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) within a decade. And though that decade has passed, Chang, recently in Taiwan for several speaking engagements, says that although he may have been off by a year or two, his original premise — that China still has deep problems and its leadership is exacerbating, not solving those problems — still holds true.

Support for Chang’s provocative position has further come from two diverse sides. David Shambaugh’s latest article, The Coming Chinese Crack-up in the Wall Street Journal reveals that he, Shambaugh, is changing his position on China.


Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), indirectly reinforced Chang’s thoughts with the admission that China’s economy would struggle to grow by 7 percent this year — its lowest growth in 11 years.

Combine this with Chang’s laundry list of economic problems, and the evidence mounts that the Chinese economic juggernaut is faltering, if not on the verge of collapse. Thus, with its ideological legitimacy lost, all that is left for the CCP leadership is authoritarianism and trumped-up nationalism — a dangerous combination.

What will happen? For starters, forget the self-promoting myth endorsed still by a few pundits that this will be “China’s Century.” Instead, realize that, contrary to party ideology, the CCP supports an increasingly large wealth gap; China now ranks second among nations with the number of billionaires and millionaires. However, this wealth contrasts sharply with the millions of its poor who scrape by on about US$1 a day.

The economic juggernaut full of promises that cannot possibly hold has morphed into an oligarchical Ponzi scheme with Chinese characteristics. Many people at the top, sensing this, are funneling their money overseas. They will bail before they make any beneficial change.

That is unfortunate, but it still does not predict what results will follow. Is there a beast slouching toward Bethlehem? Here the problem becomes multi-layered, for it is not just the CCP leadership that faces a series of dilemmas: The people under the CCP are caught in their own conflicting cultural paradigms that make them damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

First, China has always had two opposing traditions. The Confucian aims for an idealistic harmony in which duties and responsibilities are equally spread from the top down and from the bottom up. Unfortunately this ideal has three drawbacks: It was formed in an agricultural society whose background no longer exists; it relies on a belief in an unrealistic, unchanging hierarchy; and it presumes that humans are good at heart and will not give in to greed nor be corrupted by power.

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