This week China emerged as the world’s No. 2 economy, second only to the United States. And, that’s not all. China is within striking distance of surpassing the United States and bypassing Japan which has held the number 2 post for 40 years. As confirmed by the Chinese government this week, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose to $US1.335 trillion for the second quarter, compared to that of Japan $1.286 trillion. A report out this weekend from the Canadian Global Institute, there is more growth in the economic forecast for China. China’s growth rate for the quarter was 10.3 percent, as against just 0.4 percent for Japan.
When it comes to statistics, showing China’s economic might, there are many. The number is countless. Since it overran Germany last year as the world’s number one exporter, China appears unstoppable. This year, for the first time in history, China beats the United States as the world’s largest market for automobile. Listen to this, in steel output, no country has managed to surpass China. Thanks to its population growth, China is now the world’s largest consumer of energy, ahead of the United States as confirmed last month by the International Energy Agency.
If this trend continues, some experts have already predicted that China will definitely surpass the US to sit on its throne as the world’s largest economy by 2030. Others think it may happen sooner. “China’s future course, however, will neither be inexorably upward nor peaceful. Its rise is fundamentally altering the global balance of forces and foreshadows a new period of confrontation and conflict among the major powers,” asserts Peter Symon, editorialist for the World Socialist website.
A bittersweet scenario
China’s rosy scenario is something that must be critically acclaimed for just few decades ago, the country was nothing but an economic quagmire, investing substantially in agriculture. But the country’s industrial development, which is still ongoing, has come with a devastating price for the working poor, estimated to be around 400 million, creating an almost insurmountable gulf between the nouveaux riches, the new petite bourgeoisie, and the still-vast majority that wallows daily in abject poverty. While China’s economic dominance is here to stay, and it will certainly spearhead a new paradigm for imperial dictates over the third world countries, one cannot overlook this vexing paradox. As the world is applauding the country’s growing strength in GDP—for having been crown as the world’s second largest economy—its per capita GDP is only $3,600, putting it in the 98th position in the IMF’s 2009 rankings, between impoverished Albania and economically deprived El Salvador.
The Chinese new bourgeois have been able to amass such vast fortune thanks to raw exploitation over hundreds of millions of its inhabitants, forcing them into cheap labor, flatly contradicting the dialectic materialism or the proletarian dictatorship they claim to represent as “socialists.” Only the United States is ahead of China in billionaires in US dollars. Millions of young desperate peasants have descended on big cities, where they were hired as sweatshop workers, where they are being paid next to nothing in a society that is becoming more and more saturated with western capitalist goods. This sharp divine will undoubtedly create new social tensions and by extension exposing class antagonisms in a country where its leadership swore to not only uphold the socialist dogma, but also to make its dictates the cornerstone of its domestic policy. Quite an irony!
In response to the growing social tensions and in an attempt to stave off future escalations, especially after the strikes in auto plants and other factories in June and July which sent shockwaves to the nouveaux riches, the Chinese government was quick to roll out huge stimulus packages and expand credit. But many experts believe these measures will only work in a temporary basis. The global economic meltdown will definitely exasperate the country’s internal contradictions. The nouveaux riches may now be dancing inside their framed velvet garments, but their steps, however sophisticated they may be, are simply being used unknowingly, to stamp out the mouth of a volcano that will someday erupt without notice. But as China continues to flex its muscles, one can rest assured that new regional if not global tensions will arise between the imperial powers. That’s another story.