Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The other quagmire 

Rationing power supplies for industrial use [will begin] as part of efforts to avoid electricity shortages this summer.

Thousands of firms are likely to suspend production or shift output to off-peak hours...

Public areas... will also have to set air-conditioning dials to above 26C (78.8F).

Many cities across [the country] face similar problems as power supplies struggle to keep up with the booming economy.

The result is severe power shortages and widespread blackouts...

Things are particularly bad in the summer, when extra electricity is needed to power millions of air-conditioning units in the face of soaring temperatures.

It is thought that the energy problem may cut as much as 2% off nationwide economic growth each year.
Iraq? No, China - even with a reasonably good infrastructure, generally dependable supply, and no constant sabotage.

Speaking of China, Mark Steyn doesn't think the future quite belongs to the Middle Kingdom. As the title of his latest piece says, "Who can stop the rise and rise of China? The communists, of course." There is no doubt that certain parts of China are experiencing phenomenal growth and that many cities are there already with the world's best, but numerous challanges remain: among them, how to make the infrastructure and institutions keep up with the development, or how to spread prosperity to 800 million peasants largely unaffected by the rise of the new and improved Marketist-Leninist China.

I've noticed recently a revival of "the new Asian century" literature and reporting; the only difference is that today's China is all the rage, whereas in the early 1980s it was Japan and its corporatist model that were supposed to be the way of the future, as Chalmers Johnson, Clyde Prestowitz and many others made a mint trying to convince America to adopt industrial policy or else face being permanently eclipsed by the rising sun.

Whether it's Japan or China, the intellectual undercurrent remains the same. As Steyn writes, "When European analysts coo about a 'Chinese century', all they mean is 'Oh, God, please, anything other than a second American century'. But wishing won't make it so. " Steyn is right, and this phenomenon is not restricted to European analysts; both Johnson and Prestowitz also happen to be fierce critics of America's current imperial, militarist and unilateral foreign policy.

As for China, it of course bears watching for a whole range of reasons, but with eyes wide open, not clouded by wishful thinking.


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