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The New Rules: Worried by China's Rise? Watch Out for its Decline

Monday, Dec. 19, 2011

Much of what drives America’s current phobias regarding China stems from the dual -- and fantastically linear -- assumptions of America’s terminal decline and China’s perpetual ascension. We are thus led to believe that China no longer needs the United States and that America, in turn, can do nothing -- short of increasing military pressure -- to constrain the Middle Kingdom’s rise to global hegemony. On all scores, nothing could be further from the truth. China and the United States suffer a level of strategic interdependency that is vast and shows no signs of reduction. Simply put, America cannot stay rich without China, and China cannot get rich without America.

Having already sounded my own note of pessimism earlier this year regarding the rampant predictions of China’s never-ending linear growth, it is worth revisiting an excellent blog post from August by China Signpost’s Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson entitled, “China’s S-Curve Trajectory,” which argues that structural factors are likely to slow the growth of China’s economy and its “comprehensive national power.” Building off economist Michael Pettis’ prediction that China’s GDP growth rate actually needs to drop by half -- from 8-9 percent to 3-4 percent -- if its many structural problems are to be addressed, the two authors borrow political scientist Robert Gilpin’s seminal use of the S-curve theory to explain how China’s decelerating growth rate will deeply constrain its ability to project power internationally. ...

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