Thursday 18 August 2022

Watch China

China gave us the "Wuhan Flu", which for purposes of irritating the Woke Totalitarians must be said in a certain fashion with the requisite facial distortions and terrible hammy accent. Really. It must. It is essential to have some fun in life. Everyone gets mocked.

But for years I wasn't mocking China at all. Even though I'm a libertarian I am wise enough to know that liberty and democracy isn't for everyone, even here in the West. A lot of people hate their liberty, the next time someone responds to concerns about the increasing surveillance and statist authoritarianism with the hackneyed phrase "Well if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear." That's it. You have someone who hates liberty and would quite happily live in a totalitarian society. Because then they can follow the rules and they don't need to take responsibility for anything, those messy parts of life are taken care of.

So I was well-aware that although the libertarian half of the West hated the totalitarian Chinese government and wanted freedom for the people, probably at least half of the Chinese themselves were quite happy and thought the Social Credit System to be a good idea. Their counterparts in our society argue that there's no such thing as cancellation culture and that anyway denying people access to public services is a good idea if you choose not to be vaccinated against Covid19. Sorry. The Wuhan Flu.

For decades I heard people saying that China was going to collapse, that the economy couldn't keep growing. Because of certain investments I had, I skimmed over their arguments and decided to hold my position, a bet on further growth. Then in January 2020 I finally became concerned about the new virus, concerned enough to cash in my chips and run with the profits. Then in early February 2020 I was stocking up on canned food, because of concern about supply issues. I missed a trick though, toilet rolls weren't on my radar at all. That aside, it turned out I was right. 

Now chatter on the internet is catching my attention, I'm rather late to this party though. This also is bolstered by my work experience of arranging supplies and sub-contracting, I'm one of those managers who has to do everything. What I am seeing is a problem getting orders out of China. Something I had put down to their crazy Zero-Covid policy. But the chatter is rather more concerning and fits with the idea that things are not going at all well in China.

The crux of what I am seeing is as follows:

The mortgage boycott in response to what seems to be a bursting of China's property bubble, e.g. here. Banks failing to give depositor's their money and the state colluding by marking protestors as Covid positive, e.g. here. This is on top of economic impacts from continuing lockdowns as a result of Zero Covid.

This seems to be a reasonable, if rather hyperbolic and excited, summary of the situation.

The extension of these issues to a collapse of China, or its economy, may be a step too far. Witness the USSR and North Korea, with a totalitarian state, zombie economies can limp along for decades. But this is a double edged sword, because a totalitarian government can lock down news and continue to pretend things are fine long after a collapse has actually happened. The first indication externally that is irrefutable may be serious supply problems for customers buying parts sourced from China.

I'm not sure where this all leaves us. But here in the UK we face more than a doubling of energy prices, current inflation at 10%, strikes beginning which herald further inflationary pressure (wage price spiral). In short we face a re-run of the 1978/9 winter of discontent.

There are two British engineering 'laws'. Murphy's Law states that if it can go wrong it will. Sod's Law  states that if it can go wrong it will, and it will do so at the worst possible time. Here in the UK the last thing we need is serious economic problems from China adding to the existing problems we have. But Sod's law suggests we may need to contend with that. So I recommend that people keep an eye on this situation.

For those so-minded, this Financial Times video about the failing of Evergrande, a massive Chinese property firm is worth taking time over.

And a more recent video from The Spectator.

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