I’m continually puzzled by the American fetishism for China’s economy. I had commented on a blog post the other day and a woman made two replies. First, she criticized my claim that Wal-Mart would have difficulty paying its employees more and arguing that their employees were equivalent to “slave labor.” Next, she argued that China’s “bureaucratic system” had managed to put the United States to shame.
Unfortunately, I do not find her thinking all that atypical in the American populace these days. It’s not just one group either. On the political scene, we have politicians from across the spectrum making these same criticisms. On the conservative end, Donald Trump is most notable for viewing China as an ‘economic threat’ that is destroying the American economy. He wants them to stop taking ‘good jobs’ away from us and has a heavy-handed approach to achieve that objective. On the liberal end, President Obama has more gracefully made some of the same implications; talking about China’s progress and trying to counter it by increasing manufacturing in the US. Even some libertarians such as hedge fund manager Jim Rogers extoll the virtues of China’s economic policies, while condemning the futility of the US economy.
These claims seem very bizarre to me. In terms of GDP per capita, the United States is 15th in the world at $48,000. China is ranked 90th in the world at $5,200. Therefore, the average American makes about 9 times as much as the average Chinese citizen. China’s GDP per capita puts it right behind Jamaica and Thailand; and right above Angola, Tunisia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Yet, few people talk about the vitality of the Tunisian or Bosnian economy. Even amongst East Asian nations, China is eclipsed by Singapore (11th), Japan (18th), South Korea (31st).
More importantly, China has some major economic problems of its own: