Eight Questions: Living in China’s Shadow

The Wall Street Journal interviews Arvind Subramanian of the Peterson Institute for International Economics about his new book, “Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance.” The report says about the book:

“Parts of ‘Eclipse’ read like a wonky version of ‘Rising Sun,’ Michael Crichton’s 1992 novel of Japanese dominance over the U.S. when Tokyo was seen as speeding toward number one. But Mr. Subramanian is a first-class economist who uses his book to discuss provocatively U.S.-Chinese relations and the nature of economic power.”

From the interview:

You also say that China will be a far larger economic power than the U.S. by 2020 or certainly 2030, even if China’s growth rate falls significantly or the U.S’s rises significantly. Why is that?

The way economic convergence between the U.S. and China is evolving, the fact that China will catch up is inevitable. At end of 20 years, China will have a GDP per capita of only 40-50% of the U.S. But China has four times the population of the U.S., so the Chinese economy will be much larger overall. The arithmetic is undeniable.

China will have an economic crisis over the next 20 years, no doubt. But it will recover and return to some decent level of growth.

If China has a big economic shock, it has the policy space [including the ability to broadly stimulate the economy] to prevent one or two years of negative growth from translating into many years of slow growth.

What’s the significance of China as number one?

Potentially, China has the ability to exercise its power in slightly unbenign ways. Look at what’s happening today on exchange rate. [By keeping its currency undervalued] China is pursuing a beggar–they- neighbor policy and nobody can stop them. That’s sign of dominance.

The U.S. is totally powerless to stop China because U.S. companies have so much at stake in China that China can call the shots. Asia won’t do it because Asian economies are part of a value-added chain with China. Africa won’t do it because China has made so much investment there..

Imagine what happens when the numbers [denoting the size of the economy] diverge even more between China and the U.S.


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