When: 28 January 2021, 3:30-5:00pm US Pacific Time (GMT-8)
Speaker: Andrew Batson, Gavekal Dragonomics, Beijing, China
Moderator: Calla Wiemer (email@example.com)
Co-authors: Fushu Luan; Ming He; and Donghyun Park
This post draws on a paper presented at the Allied Social Science Association Annual Meeting in a session sponsored by the American Committee on Asian Economic Studies on "Economics of Innovation in Asia", 3 January 2021, 3:45-5:45pm US EST (GMT-5).
In the book Capitalism and Inclusion under Weak Institutions, reviewed in a previous post, author Raul Fabella points to a lack of social coherence in the Philippines as undermining economic progress and contrasts this with the Chinese case where "a strong sense of identity and mission" has propelled phenomenal economic growth. Judging by differences in receptivity to the statement "most people can be trusted", Fabella may be onto something. Survey results presented in Figure 1 show 62.7% of Chinese agreeing with this statement versus just 2.8% of Filipinos. Personally, I am mystified by these results having spent many years in both countries and not finding Filipinos any less trustworthy than Chinese. Yet the results do lend credence to Fabella's thesis.
Oxford University Press, May 2020.
As much as China's crash has been predicted, someone needed to explain why it hasn't happened. And no one could be more credible in doing so than Tom Orlik who has reported insightfully on China since 2011, first with the Wall Street Journal, then with Bloomberg where he is now Chief Economist.
This post follows up on my review of Tom Orlik's wonderful book "China: The Bubble that Never Pops". The book explains why constant predictions of China's economic collapse due to mounting debt and financial risk have not been borne out, and the explanation is altogether compelling. My one quibble with the book regards Orlik's view of the underlying driver of the saving/consumption imbalances that motivated debt driven stimulus. Orlik emphasizes China's one-child policy as the source of the imbalances, going so far as to call it China's original sin in an interview. The argument is that with China's weak social welfare system, having only one child makes for insecurity about old age that induces parents to save more during their working years. I'm not convinced that this holds up as a reason for China's imbalances. Let me hasten to add that, regardless, the book's original contribution in explaining why no crash has occurred holds up very well. The source of the imbalances is a separate issue, but one worth pursuing in its own right.
There is a sense in which I agree that the one-child policy has been a factor in China's high saving. The exceptionally sharp decline in the birth rate in China's case accentuated the demographic transition that is common among countries during economic development. A couple of decades on, the drop in the birth rate brings a bulging labor force relative to a shrinking share of old and young age dependents in the population. Per the life cycle hypothesis of Modigliani (1970), saving is done by those in their working years who generate income whereas the young and old consume without producing any income from which to save. The decline in China's dependent share was particularly steep in the 2000-aughts and relatedly, so was the rise in the saving rate, as shown by Bonham and Wiemer (2013). So while the one-child policy mattered, it did not matter until two decades after it was introduced and not because it prompted precautionary saving to provide security in old age but because of the long-run demographic forces it intensified.
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