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Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org.
quinta-feira, 24 de fevereiro de 2011
China: o longo começo de uma queda inevitavel - David Pilling
Paulo Roberto de Almeida
What could bring down China’s rulers?
By David Pilling
Financial Times, February 24 2011
Sooner or later, all dynasties, even Chinese ones, come to an end. The Qin dynasty, which marked the start of imperial China in 221BC, lasted but 15 years. The Han, Tang, Song, Ming and Qing dynasties were far more enduring. But even they came and went. The same will happen to the latest dynastic incarnation – the People’s Republic of China, which has held for 62 years.
No one knows when, or how, the Communist party will lose power. China’s burgeoning wealth and growing international clout contain little obvious portent of imminent crisis. By the standards of its tumultuous and tragic history, China is having its best run in hundreds of years. But the Communist party itself – forever jumping at shadows – remains ultra-vigilant to the slightest hint of opposition. Its jitteriness was on full display this week in its heavy-handed crackdown on human rights lawyers and on last Saturday’s sub-Tahrir “Jasmine revolution”. In a previous column, I argued that the events in Egypt – and now Libya – did not resonate much in China. That was partially borne out by the scant response to an online call for a protest in cities across China. My colleague said the gathering outside a McDonald’s in Beijing – of all the places to start a Mickey Mouse revolution – was more like a meeting of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, so heavily did journalists outnumber protesters.
But the state’s reaction – thuggish and out-of-proportion – makes me wonder. If there is really no appetite for rebellion in China, what is there to be so afraid of? More than 100 lawyers and activists have had their freedom curtailed, according to human rights groups. Jason Ng, a Beijing-based blogger, compared the authorities to “ants in a hot wok”. He reported that Renren.com, a social networking site, designated the word “tomorrow” sensitive the day before the aborted “revolution”. On the big day itself, “today” was treated as suspect. Now the call has gone up for weekly protests.
What could go wrong for the Communist party? Its legitimacy, at least in the past 30 years, stems almost entirely from its spectacular economic performance. That makes a faltering economy, and the social unrest that might follow, by far its biggest concern. With 10 per cent growth, you would have thought it could relax. But there are underlying concerns. One is inflation. The consumer price index, which rose 4.9 per cent in January, has stayed stubbornly above its 4 per cent target. Although the pace moderated last month, a persistent rise in food prices is a big concern in a country where food makes up 30 per cent of an average household’s spending.
The government has brought inflation under control before. It is taking aggressive action again, raising interest rates three times since October. But inflation could be stubborn. Labour shortages, partly due to demographics, threaten accelerated wage rises. The head of one company complained, with a touch of hyperbole, that “workers are God now”.
Another inflationary threat comes from ballooning money supply. Despite recent efforts to rein in lending, M2, which includes money in circulation and bank deposits, has risen more than 50 per cent in two years. Banks have been shovelling out credit, increasing off-balance sheet lending as a way around tighter controls. A slowing economy could expose non-performing loans. The building binge has moved decisively inland. Like dozens of other cities, Zhengzhou, capital of the poor inland province of Henan, is alive with cranes. A recent elevator ride inside one of its sleekest towers revealed a near-total absence of occupants. On most floors, the elevator shaft was blocked with wooden boards.
Much credit is going to infrastructure. A high-speed rail link has opened between Zhengzhou and Xi’an, in Shaanxi province, cutting the six-hour journey to two. But the sleek train ejects its passengers 18km outside Xi’an itself. The assumption is that Xi’an will spread out towards the station. If it does, China’s planners will be hailed as geniuses. But if growth slows, such Pharaonic projects might look a tad ambitious. The dismissal of the railway minister on suspicion of “severe disciplinary violations” does not look good.
The Communist party is hypersensitive to the problems that could arise if credit-fuelled growth stalled. The so-called “Wen Jiabao put” – the assumption that the government will ensure high growth until the political transition in 2012 – is likely to hold. Growth at 10 per cent covers numerous sins. But even at this pace, it cannot hide the concomitant social ills: land confiscations that are vital to state finances, corruption and a yawning wealth gap.
One woman in Chongqing complained that the ideal of taxation – “kill the rich, nurture the poor” – had been abandoned by a state that was spoiling its wealthy progeny. An academic said: “I believe more and more people realise this economic success cannot be sustained.” If that is true – even with the economy growing at full pelt – imagine what might happen in a slowdown.