The PRC’s Economic Malaise

Andrew Browne had some thoughts in a recent Wall Street Journal article. PRC’s Premier, Li Keqiang, wanted to do some serious revamping of the nation’s economic structure and deemphasize a massively overbuilt industrial capacity, shifting the economy more toward consumer production and consumer spending. His words—”This is not nail-clipping; it’s like taking a knife to one’s own flesh”—were reminiscent of his predecessor’s actions. Zhu Rongji eliminated 30 million jobs in an actual overhaul attempt in the ’90s.

Thirty million jobs. That sounds like a lot, but with a workforce of roughly 800 million and roughly 95% employment (because, of course), those 30 million represent just 4% of the workers overall. That’s a sharp cut, but as job cuts go during downturns, it’s not that sharp.

But even that much was too much for Li. Or rather for PRC President Xi Jinping.

[H]igh-level economic policy-making and its practical implementation, once the preserve of the State Council headed by the premier, have increasingly fallen into the hands of Communist Party committees led by President Xi Jinping.


…Xi’s political preoccupations: to strengthen the party…to root out challenges to the régime, and to avoid social instability that could in any way threaten the party’s hold on power. If that means delaying unpopular economic adjustments, so be it.

“The party’s hold on power:” read that as Xi’s hold on power, say I. And the people of the People’s Republic can go hang.

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