英国《旁观者》:中国成不了超级大国


张雨辰(译音)先生,一名中共党员,北京建委的一位前官员,最近在首都北京的市郊,为自己造了一座宅邸;它是塞纳河上一座17世纪法国古堡的翻版,其侧翼的原形,则是枫丹白露和凡尔塞宫的花园。它的造价为5000万美元,为清出建宅的场地,他毁了800个农民的家。
  
   柳传志先生,西安某军事院校的一名毕业生,联想-中国最大的电脑企业-的创建者,最近以12.5亿美元的价格,购并了IBM的PC分支-这信息划时代的象征物。距我家不远的地方,一家商号在今年圣诞节里,出售着来自上海的丝巾,漂亮,又便宜;如果你想买部数码相机送人,它也可能来自于上海。
  
    中国人,中国的币,中国的产品,如今是触目皆是了。故找寻新年之主题的学究们,便洋洋万言,预测今后的中国,将成为全球的霸主。伟大的威廉 .里兹.莫格,这做预言从不怕闪舌头的《泰晤士报》前编辑,称这眼前的世纪,“似将成为中国的世纪”。前外交官耶利米 .格仑斯妥克爵士,则在《今天》节目里断言说:“中国这庞然大物,正日渐出现于我们的地平线上。”说这话的口吻,令人想起电影《独立日》中的巨怪。
  
   这“人民的共和国”,有人不断提醒我们在外资的涌入下,一直保持着每年9%的增速。到如今,它已是仅次于美国的第二大“国民经济体”(以“购买力评价标准”测算),不久将超过整个欧盟。它有一个繁荣的“中产”人数达一亿人,其中多数挂在网上,而像张雨辰、柳传志这样的阔小子,又至少有一千万个,每人的家产,都在一千万美金以上。今每个中国人发大财的企业,无不摧毁着美国与欧盟人的饭碗;而中国赚来的美钞,又投资于美国的国债,这使中国在全球的经济事务中,有了一张“王牌”。因此这个十年,或下个十年,中国必是世界的霸主。
  
   噢,是的?记得80年代,我曾往来于大陆、台湾和日本。东京旅馆的书摊上,摆满了美国“半仙”们的大部头预言,称以日本这神话般的工业,这无敌的金融,下世纪的日本,必将是全球的巨人。但日本股市塌了之后-89年底,并且一塌不再起了-,这些书就被艚不拉唧地撤了书架,这一类预言,也不再闻之。
  
   因此中国的“强”,恐也非“挡不住的趋势”。首先,它目前的增长率,还远不是“可持久的”;因为它依赖的,是象征性的工资,腐败,近于乌有的环保措施,和一个往最好处说是危险的,往最坏处讲是已崩溃(按西方的标准)的金融体系。其次,如比尔 .埃蒙特2003年写的,今日的中国,至多是一个“中等国家”,其国民人均产值与它的邻居如南韩比,则只是小巫,仅与乌克兰相当而已。
  
    虽然以人口论,中国倒远不是“中等的国家”,但人口与之有一比的印度,在技术、武器等方面,却已称雄于全球了,20年内超过中国,在印度恐不是难事。
  
   再说中国还有十亿人,并未成为这经济奇迹的一部分。他们和被张雨辰赶出家园的人一样,是些失业的、或低就业的农民。他们改善生活的唯一希望,是透过张家豪宅的篱笆,偷窥一眼里面的生活,然后坐等进城出卖血汗的儿女寄钱来,支付赡养的费用。这贫富分裂的鸿沟,是不可以持久的。
  
    最后我要说的是,钱并不能解决一切。张先生或有能力买一所豪宅,但在世界的第一张圆桌边上,钱却不易买到一个位置。如60年代,当戴高乐总统第一次见到身材如“三寸钉”的日本总理时,便不屑地问:“那个晶体管推销员是谁?”
  
    说实话,超级大国的地位,固然为经济有关,但也与文化、教育、科学、军事、和政治格局有关。
  
    “超级大国”之为物也,是迫使或劝说别的国家愿意和你一样,-这一点,英国,法国,苏联,和美国在其各自称雄的时代,在各自的势力范围内,已基本上做到了。但你听说过有哪个国家的亿万富翁,愿意在巴黎市郊造一所中国式的古亭吗?中国培养了一大批取法西洋传统的乐师,比如畅销的郎郎。但有几个欧洲乐师取法别人的传统呢?本杂志的读者中,可有几个爱听京戏的?你可能爱吃中国菜,甚至蹩进电影院里,看那异国情调的《英雄》,但据本周的调查,英国人最不愿意去的五个国家里,中国居其一。从更宽泛的文化意义上讲,是中国愿意效法西方,而不是相反。
  
    再以诺贝尔奖论,受大陆教育而获奖的,人数是零。而自1980年以来,单单是加州大学,就出了15位诺贝尔奖得主。古代中国是一伟大而灿烂的文明,今天则不是。
  
   再从国际政治说,这次印度洋海啸,中国政府拨的援助款为三千一百万美圆,仅为英国公众之捐款的一半,为日本的一个零头。假如中国是这一地区的领袖,那中国这时就应走到前台,而实际走到前台的,这回又是小布什。以至中国对继续中的伊拉克战争的态度如何,人们都懒得过问了。
  
    其他方面如健康、医疗、教育,如铲除贫苦的战争。三亿人富了,十亿人成了失败者。在全球变暖的问题上,中国签署了东京议定书,如今却仍然是最冒犯地球的国家之一。随着其工业能力的增长,这一点越来越坏。
  
    它如今其实已是一个巨大的环境灾区了,这是每一个最近去过中国的人有目共睹的。援引中央情报局本年度的报告,这些灾难有“大气污染;水源短缺;水污染;沙漠化”等等。
  
    我还有许多理由敢打这个恶赌:中国经济的腾飞是有限度的,过此即难以为继。我们愿张先生和柳先生过一个富有的春节,但我们不要混淆暴发户的热线与世界领袖的地位。
22 January 2005: Spectator: This link is to a subscription-only website
  
  By Martin Vandeer Wylder
  
    Mr Zhang Yuchen, a Communist party member and former official of Beijing’s municipal construction bureau, has just built himself a new house in the suburbs of the Chinese capital: it is a replica of the 17th-century Château Maisons-Lafitte on the Seine, enhanced with wings copied from Fontainebleau and gardens based on Versailles. It cost him $50 million, and he displaced 800 peasant farmers to clear the site.
  
    Meanwhile, Mr Liu Chuanzhi - a graduate of Xian military college, a former nominee for Time magazine’s ‘25 Most Influential Global Executives’, and the founder of Lenovo, China’s biggest computer business - has just acquired for $1.25 billion the division of IBM which makes PCs, an iconic product of the technology age. Closer to home, my Christmas shopping this year consisted largely of bargain-priced but beautiful silk scarves from Shanghai; if I had bought anyone a digital camera it would probably have come from there too, and if I had fulfilled my secret urge and bought myself a Hornby ‘Hogwarts Express’ train set, it would have come from a factory in Guangdong.
  
    The Chinese, their money and their manufactured goods are everywhere, and pundits in search of New Year themes have been full of predictions about China as the coming global power. The great William Rees-Mogg, never one to hold back from a bold forecast, says this ‘is beginning to look like the Chinese century’. The former diplomat Sir Jeremy Greenstock, on the Today programme, spoke of China as ‘an increasingly large presence on our horizon’, conjuring the image of those huge alien spaceships that loomed over the world in the film Independence Day.
  
    The People’s Republic, we are repeatedly reminded, is sustaining growth of 9 per cent a year, on the strength of massive inflows of foreign investment. It is now the second largest national economy after the US, measured in terms of ‘purchasing power parity’ (PPP), and will soon be bigger than the whole of the EU. It has a prosperous middle class of 100 million people, most of them connected to the Internet and among them at least 10,000 whizz-kids like Mr Zhang and Mr Liu, with net assets of more than $10 million each. Every factory enterprise that makes another Chinese fortune destroys jobs in the US and Europe, while a large portion of the dollars China earns is reinvested in US Treasury bills to finance America’s notorious deficit - giving China, one way and the other, a hard-to-beat hand of cards in global economic affairs. Hence superpowerdom is Beijing’s for the taking, in this decade or the next.
  
    Or is it? The time is surely ripe to rehearse the counter-arguments on this one, and let me start by declaring a bias: the last day I stood in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was 4 May 1989, which was the first day the students marched in with their banners, and were there to stay until the tanks crushed them a month later. Before and after that traumatic moment, I made many visits to Taiwan, a country which achieved prosperity and democratic progress by refusing to be part of China. In the same era I was often in Tokyo, where hotel bookstalls were full of tomes by American gurus predicting the rise of Japan as the global giant of the 21st century on the strength of its fabulous industrial and financial supremacy; after the Tokyo stock market collapsed - never to recover - at the end of 1989, the books were pulped and the arguments never heard again.
  
    So it is worth reminding ourselves why China is not necessarily destined for greatness, and certainly does not deserve our unmixed admiration. First, its present growth rate is very far from sustainable, dependent as it is on slave wage rates, corrupt bureaucracy, near total absence of environmental controls and a financial system which is at best rickety and at worst, by Western standards, insolvent. Second, as Bill Emmott wrote in 2003 in 20:21 Vision, China today is in fact only ‘a modest country at best’, whose gross domestic product per capita, even on a PPP basis, is still only a fraction of that of neighbours such as South Korea, and on a par with Ukraine.
  
    And although China is obviously far from modest in population, at 1.3 billion, it could be overtaken on that front within a couple of decades by India, which also has claims to superpower status in terms of technology, weaponry and what China most glaringly lacks, a democratic government that the world respects.
  
    Militarily, on the other hand, China is very big, at least in one sense - and it has unresolved territorial issues over Taiwan (which the US might feel obliged to defend) and the South China Sea that might one day lead to conflict. According to a helpful public website provided by the CIA, China has 208,143,352 men between the ages of 15 and 49 who are fit for conscript military service. But only 2.5 million of them are permanently in uniform, many of their senior officers are busy making fortunes in real estate, the defence budget is surprisingly small because Beijing is so bad at collecting taxes, and the national stock of long-range missiles of the sort which really make you a global player numbers only about 20, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. That would make a pretty short fireworks display compared with what America has in its armoury.
  
    Finally, then, to statesmanship. The Chinese government chipped in £31 million for the tsunami earthquake relief, half of what the British public has so far donated and a fraction of Japan’s offering, but a hundred times more than miserly South Korea. If China was in any useful sense a leader of its region, this would be the moment for Mr Hu or Mr Wen to step into the spotlight, but they have already been upstaged by President Bush. And no one even bothers to ask them what they think of the continuing war in Iraq.
  
    As for all the other fashionable issues on which statesmen like to pontificate, China scores no points at all on human rights and very few on public health: it made a hash of the Sars epidemic, and has only belatedly faced up to HIV/Aids, which according to the World Health Organisation could afflict ten million Chinese by the end of the decade. In the battle to eradicate poverty, it can claim about 300 million successes, but a billion failures. On global warming, China signed the Kyoto protocol while remaining one of the most shameless offenders on the planet, a situation which can only worsen as its manufacturing prowess increases.
  
    It is, in fact, a vast environmental hazard zone, as any recent visitor to its dustbowl provinces and smog-laden industrial towns can confirm. To quote the CIA again, ‘Air pollution (greenhouse gases, sulphur dioxide particulates) from reliance on coal produces acid rain; water shortages, particularly in the north; water pollution from untreated wastes; deforestation; estimated loss of one fifth of agricultural land since 1949 to soil erosion and economic development; desertification; trade in endangered species.’
  
    So there is no sense in which the rest of Asia or the world should, or does, seek to march to China’s drum. And there are a great many reasons to bet that China’s economic surge will not go onwards and upwards for long. Let us wish Mr Zhang and Mr Liu a prosperous New Year, but let us not confuse a fast buck with a bid for global leadership.

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