politics | May 05, 2013

What's Next For China? James Fallows Says There's More Hard Times Ahead

"There's not much debate about the scale or impressiveness of what China has achieved in the past 30+ years," James Fallows, a prominent China speaker, writes in a new post in The Atlantic. "Hundreds of millions of people moved from rural poverty to the middle class and beyond; the country regained its pride; the landscape was covered with factories and skyscrapers and shopping malls and high speed trains; and a thousand other aspects of life were changed." An expert on the Chinese economy, Fallows notes that the transition that the country has seen over the past several decades is impressive and "commands respect." The question that looms now, however, is: Now what? As the China Airborne author writes, there are two conflicting theories as to how the nation will progress going forward. Are they still on an upward tick, poised to continue to gain momentum? Or, are the hard times still yet to come?

The first viewpoint involves an extrapolation of what China has experienced thus far. On the other hand, there is a conflicting opinion which argues that the "very traits that have sped China's development over the past 30+ years may impede the next phase of growth," Fallows notes. China has been the "world's factory" because of its devil-may-care attitude about the environment, for example. However, that is now backfiring as a lack of environmental development policies puts the population at risk for health complications. Lax intellectual property laws are another issue. While it's easy to obtain pirated media material in the country, that leniency then handicaps other Chinese firms. Finally, Fallows touches on the impact that stringent government control over the internet has on the development of "real" universities, and whether it is sifting talent in a 21st century economy.

Fallows says he is more inclined to believe the latter prediction. He takes on an "anything is possible, but it's going to be a lot tougher" mindset—similar to how he presented his research in China Airborne. Fallows is a national columnist at The Atlantic, and his insightful and thought-provoking writing has earned him the National Book Award, the American Book Award and the National Magazine Award. His passionate and deeply-researched talks expand from the work he does in his writing. He paints a vivid picture of the massive changes taking place overseas in China. And, how those changes will affect us back at home.

Up Next

economics | May 02, 2013