作者:John Lee,2010年8月31日

Now that China has officially overtaken Japan as the world’s second-largest economy, there is growing speculation by influential Chinese and U.S. economists, such as Wu Jinglian and John Makin, that China will soon endure its own “lost decade” as it suffers a Japanese-style malaise. The idea that contemporary Japan offers a glimpse of China’s economic future is credible, given similarities in the two growth models. But Japan’s economic decline has at least been a gradual and comfortable one for the Japanese people and government. For the Chinese Communist Party and the nation’s people, following in Japan’s footsteps would likely be much more traumatic.

目前,中国已正式超过日本成为世界第二大经济体,但诸如吴敬琏、John Makin等中美知名经济学家却纷纷推测,中国可能要经历与当年日本极为相似的经济低迷期——“十年萧条”。鉴于中日两国的经济增长模式非常相似,所以当年日本的情况对于未来的中国经济还是非常有参考价值的。不过日本的经济衰退对与人民和政府来说是个“循序渐退”的过程,而对于中国共产党和中国人民来说,重蹈日本覆辙将会带来更多的痛苦

Before there was conclusive proof that Japan was in an extended period of stagnation, some economists were warning about the dangers of over-reliance on exports and fixed investment to drive growth. Common wisdom counseled that Japan held advantages intrinsic to contemporary East Asian systems. For example, unlike the myopic policies pursued by constantly changing governments in Western systems, the dominance of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (which ruled nearly without interruption from 1955 to 2009) allowed long-term policy thinking and implementation to occur in Tokyo. In combination with a populace of clever, responsible, hard-working people, Japan was well-placed to manage the necessary transition toward a more sustainable growth model.


Although “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” does not seek to replicate any particular model, its similarities to the Japanese approach are striking. Like Japan in the 1970s and ’80s, China is nearing the end of its reliance on exports and fixed investment to drive growth—and looking to shift toward policies that can enhance domestic consumption. To achieve this, it is seemingly blessed with an authoritarian government that can concentrate on policies that need not sacrifice the country’s long-term interests for short-term political expediency.




Yet, as Beijing’s response to the global financial crisis reveals (bank lending jumped, from $750 billion in 2008, to $1.4 trillion in 2009), China is becoming more—rather than less—dependent on an unsustainable model to drive economic growth. Domestic consumption as a proportion of gross domestic product is actually declining. At just over 30 percent, it is the lowest of any major country in modern economic history. The figure has declined, from more than 50 percent in the 1980s, to 40 percent at the turn of this century. It was around 36 percent prior to the global downturn in 2008.

但是,和北京政府当初应对“全球金融危机”时采取的方式一样(银行贷款从08年的7500亿美元飙升至09年的1.4万亿美元,), 中国正在用一种不可持续的方式来拉动经济的增长。“国内消费”在GDP中所占的比例实际上是下降的,目前刚刚超过30%,这是近代经济史上所有主流国家中最低的。其实这个数据一直在不断下降,从上世纪80年代的50%强降至世纪之交的40%,08年全球经济下滑之前约为36%。

Similar models tend to lead to similar problems, as do the demographic problems in China, which will soon resemble Japan’s. Worse, differences between the two political economies may bode ill for China. When the Japanese economic malaise began, the country had built solid institutions: rule of law, property rights, and a stable political system. The latter was clearly evident when the LDP lost power last year and initiated a handover without turmoil or bloodshed. Even though the Japanese development model is frequently described as a state-led approach, the private sector generally received around three quarters of the country’s capital. This meant that prosperity was broadly distributed during the growth years. Even in structural decline, most Japanese are living the “good life”—and have grown rich before getting old.


In contrast, these institutions in China are relatively undeveloped, even after three decades of reform. Moreover, the Chinese model of development has taken the state’s role to unprecedented levels. Even though state-controlled enterprises (SOEs) produce between one-fourth and one-third of all output, they receive over 75 percent of the country’s capital. During the flood of lending from 2008 to 2009, state-controlled enterprises received over 90 percent of all capital; private industry received less than 5 percent.


Heavy bias toward the state-controlled sector reversed what had occurred during the first 10 years of reform (1979-1989) and was the direct result of the Chinese Communist Party having retaken control of the levers of economic power following the Tiananmen protests in 1989.

国企所拥有的巨大“偏向性优势”(在引起民众不满后)导致第一个 “十年改革(1979到1989年)”的发生,但中国共产党在1989年又通过种种手段(译者注:和谐起见,此处省略——你懂的)重新夺回对经济权力的把持。



Focusing on China’s unmatched bias toward its state-controlled sector is not merely about the inefficient use of capital, although that is putting serious strains on the sustainability of its economic model. Since so much of the country’s wealth is concentrated in approximately 120,000 SOEs (and their countless subsidiaries), a relatively small group of well-placed, well-connected insiders benefit, while opportunities to prosper are denied to the vast majority.


For example, household incomes have increased by around 2 percent to 3 percent a year since 2000, while the coffers of the state-controlled sector enjoyed double-digit increases. Despite impressive GDP growth, about 400 million people have seen their net incomes stagnate or decline over the past decade. According to official data, the number of illiterate Chinese adults increased, from 85 million in 2000, to 114 million in 2005. From 2001, a 2006 World Bank study indicates, the income of China’s poorest 10 percent was declining by 2.4 percent every year, suggesting that absolute poverty increased when national GDP was growing by double digits every year. It is no wonder that within one generation, China has gone from being the most equal (albeit from a low base) to the most unequal country in Asia, in terms of income distribution, according to World Bank calculations.


The fact that the vast majority of Chinese have missed out on the fruits of economic growth has serious ramifications for social and ultimately, political stability. Instances of mass unrest—124,000 in 2008 according to official figures—are increasing at more than twice the pace of GDP growth. Beijing now spends more on internal security than it does on the People’s Liberation Army. By the CCP’s own calculations, the country needs 8 percent GDP growth per annum for the Party to remain in power. Unlike Japan, the vast majority of Chinese people will grow old and never be rich. This suggests that we are witnessing the rise of a profoundly fragile power.


It would be better for China if it were a lot more like Japan. Economic malaise eventually led to a peaceful change of government in Tokyo. If the same were to occur in China, the transition might not be as smooth.


John Lee is a foreign policy research fellow at the Center for Independent Studies and a Visiting Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington. He is the author of Will China Fail? (CIS: 2009).

作者简介:John Lee,“独立研究中心”外交政策研究员;华盛顿“哈德森研究所”交换学者;著有《中国会失败么?》一书。