China in 2009 Year of the Ox

“Economic woes and key anniversaries portend trouble.” From the Economist:

For China’s leaders, a perfect storm is brewing. Economic growth, which has helped keep the Communist Party in power, is faltering. The new middle class, hitherto a pillar of the party’s support, is plunging into despondency. The coming months are studded with politically sensitive anniversaries that will focus disaffected minds on the party’s shortcomings. Having endured a year of natural disasters, riots and the organisational nightmare of hosting the Olympics, the party sees little salve ahead.

Of all the huge uncertainties that plague attempts to predict the progress of the global financial crisis, two in particular hang over China. One is the resilience of its political structure to stress of this kind. During the last several years of economic health, it has been hard to imagine anything that could dislodge the party. David Shambaugh of George Washington University, in a book published this year entitled “China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation”, said the party had its problems and challenges, “but none present the real possibility of systemic ”.

Those challenges, however, are now mounting rapidly. The head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has predicted GDP growth could fall to as low as 5-6% next year, half the rate of 2007 and far lower than anyone would have thought possible just a few months ago.


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