Market Viewpoints: A G-2 world beckons

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By: Manish Singh
Crossbridge Capital LLP
 

Chimerica: A G-2 world beckons
 
The Chinese economy of today is a far cry from the days of Chairman Mao Zedong and the “Great Leap Forward” – his second Five Year Plan which lasted from 1958 to 1963 – and proved a complete disaster for China. It left millions of people dead and many more miserable for decades to come. Frank Dikötter a Dutch historian in his excellent book – “The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962–1976” – has painstakingly gone through the Chinese Communist Party’s own record and declassified letters of complaint, secret police reports, statistics, surveys and other archived papers, to draw the picture of misery that China was in the 1960s. By Dikötter’s count, the Cultural Revolution – formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 until 1976 – left 45 million dead as Mao forced peasants off their land on to co-operative farms and mindless industrial projects. Mao wanted to lift Chinese steel production by putting the whole nation to work at over 600,000 backyard blast furnaces. Instead, he got famine and tens of millions dead. Mao had been warned by then Soviet Union leader, Nikita Khrushchev, that China’s course to industrialisation risked a famine. Khrushchev knew it from his own knowledge of Josef Stalin’s reckless ambition for industrial power that unleashed a famine in Russia in 1932-33 and killed up to five million in Ukraine, a country land rich and fertile for agriculture. Today however, China is the world’s second-largest economy using its wealth to build “colonies” around the world and the only real challenger to US hegemony. This miraculous turnaround achieved in just over 40 years – beginning with the “reform and opening up” of China in 1979 – has led to multiple years of double-digit growth (see chart below).

 

At a time when American prestige is fading and China’s status is rising and as the US and China work to find a mutually acceptable trade deal and negotiate as equals, it is difficult to imagine how unequal the two nations were in 1979 – the year of the big reforms in China – let alone in 1949 when Mao established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In 1979 China’s GDP stood at $178bn and was 6% of US GDP. Today, China’s GDP is 63% of US GDP ( chart below). The history of US-China relations is a fascinating read and China has gone from being a pariah state to the US in 1949 to its most important trade relationship in the world. So much so that we are heading into a G-2 world where China and the US will make rules for the rest of the world to follow. Europe is the big loser in all this and only has itself to blame – no structural reforms, low growth, high unemployment and an over-reliance on exports and not domestic demand.

 

Feb. 28th, 2018.

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