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article imageOp-Ed: How to write an economic lesson to the US government, by Xinhua

By Paul Wallis     Jan 25, 2011 in Politics
Beijing - Chinese agency Xinhua is the official news medium of the PRC. When it has something political to say editorially, people listen. Xinhua has come up with a lesson in writing for political economists around the world. It’s a classic.
This article should be read by all China watchers. The author of the piece, credited as editor, Yang Lina, is a real somebody in China. Credits include:
“President of China Society of World Economics, a former member of the monetary policy committee of Peoples' Bank of China, and former director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World Economics and Politics.”
In other words, Yang is in the loop like few others, and writing editorials for Xinhua. Yang’s approach to the subject is that of an extremely high class of academic writer. It’s extremely civil and polished, and notably devoid of rhetoric, a characteristic Western writers might like to examine to eliminate the boorish, illiterate effect of some American commentaries on Chinese issues.
Yang takes a semi-traditional long view of China’s role and issues. The historical view of China as “basically an inward looking country” is simply accurate, but says a lot about the cultural perspectives affecting China’s relationship with the world. Actually, that’s a very mixed metaphor in Chinese history. China’s “inward looking” was a serious problem in the past, but in the present, it’s a natural reaction to the huge changes in the country in just a few decades.
Having dealt with 4000 years of Chinese history and the present in a few sentences, Yang gets down to business. Starting with China’s contribution to getting the world up and running again after the GFC, Yang moves on to citing the 12th Five Year Plan, which is intended to move from export driven economics to a more balanced approach. Yang indicates a move from breakneck growth to sustainability. This is just economic good sense, but also emphasizes the fact that China is a centrally planned economy, a fact most economists seem to overlook with a rather irritating regularity.
The actual significance of this passage is to explain at almost baby talk level the fundamental economic issues and initiatives affecting China in the immediate future. Compared to Western economists’ tendency to virtually examine the birth certificates of every day on the markets, it’s a lesson in “economy of expression”, if you’ll excuse the pun.
So far, Yang has said:
1. This is China.
2. We’re doing a lot for the world.
3. We have our own economic, trade and social issues.
4. We have a plan for dealing with our issues.
5. We’re looking ahead.
Not bad in 216 words. As a lesson in making a lot of major points in a hurry, this piece really deserves a place in media and economic history. Rarely in the last 40 years has an economist delivered such a clear series of unambiguous statements.
The next stage is China’s future role in the world. “Fighting climate change, poverty alleviation,” are just two of the areas China wants to tackle.
(I really don’t want to regurgitate this article. It’s quite a study in expression, and should be read as a whole.)
China also wants to fight protectionism. This is an extremely polite way of saying that trade wars are the last thing anyone needs. China, in fact, has had to fight a battle with itself in its terms of trade, and has been conducting a particularly difficult balancing act with foreign firms for several years.
The next part of Yang’s piece includes the very interesting statement that China may need to make “sacrifices” to achieve the right economic mix for domestic demand. That’s roughly equivalent to saying 1.4 billion people take a bit of managing, and their interests have to be considered in Chinese economic policy, even if there are some costs in the short term.
Domestic demand, in fact, is one of China’s “must do” economic issues. The gigantic Chinese domestic economy, despite the bizarre views of some foreigners, can’t operate effectively or efficiently on the basis of policy-hopping. Results must be achieved. There have been problems, and China can’t derail the domestic economic agenda on the basis of diplomatic niceties or catty remarks from foreign governments. Cooling down the Chinese economy is seen as the better option, even if it means some problems in the short term, because it avoids a hard landing.
That point leads nicely into a brief dismissal of the US position on an upvalued yuan. Yang isn’t actually opposed to an upvalued yuan and feels it does have some benefits, but on the basis of China’s needs. This, by the way, would be the classic internal economic view, controlling inflation in almost the exact opposite way the US is trying to counter deflation. Ironically, Yang mentions that China would have less money “to plough into the US government securities…”, which is an absolute hoot if you’ve been following the saga of China’s ownership of US securities.
As a final parting remark, Yang mentions the EU as a good investment market. That’s a nice way of saying “We can invest elsewhere, you know”, without actually saying anything of the sort. It's no empty threat, though, if push comes to shove off the nearest cliff.
It’s a pity Yang probably won’t get some sort of journalistic award for this piece. It’s as thorough a clarification of Chinese policy as anyone could wish to read. Western writers, particularly the thunderously boring pedants of the US political media, might like to sign up for Yang’s correspondence course, though.
I don't think I've ever seen anyone write a piece so politely telling the world where it gets off.
Footnote: The Xinhua article is ascribed to China Daily, but Google News reports it as Xinhua only. I checked China Daily, and couldn't find the article on it. Yang Lina is credited with editorial functions on most of Xinhua's economic reports. I hope I'm giving credit to the right person for an excellent article.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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