Covid: the greatest threat to China’s economic growth
Paul Hodges’ piece on China’s potential downturn in economic growth (The end of peak China, February 2022) provided a helpful guide to the immediate risks that could destabilise China’s economy.
One of the most evident risks is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected every country’s economy. Although last year China managed to still deliver high annual economic growth of 8%, the highly transmissible Omicron variant has severely disrupted supply chains and transport hubs. Indeed, the diminishing returns of China’s strict ‘Zero-Covid’ policy could further depress industry production and retail sales. Yet, even as China has kept its borders closed, foreign direct investment and portfolio capital has continued to flow in and exports have flowed out. It is difficult to predict whether this might lead to China’s economic downfall but a plateau on growth is to be expected.
Furthermore, as Hodges points out in his piece, there is considerable risk associated with the downturn in China’s property market. Whilst China’s real estate sector has been a major stimulant to the growth of the domestic economy, house prices keep on escalating. Young people struggle to get on the property ladder and worries surrounding property are starting to dampen consumer spending.
China plays a prominent role in today’s global economy as it remains a key trading partner with numerous developing countries. I remain optimistic that China will develop long-term solutions to its current challenges. It will be important for Asian Affairs to continue to report on the future of China’s economic growth as we potentially enter a period of uncharted waters.
China and Russia’s shared authoritarian approach
In a recent editorial (Nuance in the New World Order, Jan 2022) Asian Affairs made the insightful point that Washington should realise there are potential benefits for Russia and India to have stronger ties. After all, it would potentially counterbalance rising expansionism by the Chinese regime and the network of proxies they are trying to establish through the Belt and Road Initiative. Since US sanctions were placed on Russia after the 2014 Crimean annexation, it became clearer that Moscow had no choice but to seek an improved partnership with Beijing. Despite their historical grievances, China and Russia share similar authoritarian politics.
But this should come as no surprise to Americans. Before he passed away in 2017, former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski warned that Moscow was pivoting to Beijing because of the US sanctions, leading to a closer strategic partnership with China. Now that the international system has become more multipolar, western leaders will need to adapt to new strategic realities.
Setting aside regional grievances
In your report on Afghanistan, (A global predicament, February 2022) you touched upon the conundrum of how to aid the Afghan people without abetting the Taliban. It is indeed important not to flood the country with money which may be stolen by warlords and prolong the suffering.
In the Democracy Forum webinar, Christine Fair, Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University, said that Pakistan always refused India overland transit of food products destined for Afghans through Pakistani territory. Yet it is encouraging that recently, a shipment of food aid from India was allowed to cross the land border into Pakistan on its way to Afghanistan, a rare gesture of cooperation between the two countries. Given that the World Food Programme estimates that 8.7 million Afghans face ‘emergency-level food insecurity’ and more than half of the country faces acute food shortage, it is crucial that regional grievances are set aside to assist people facing a dire situation.