Lifting the bamboo curtain

There was a long-held myth that the only manmade object visible from space was the Great Wall of China. Yet astronauts have since confirmed that Chinese cities at night are easier to spot than the great barricade. But when myths turn into beliefs, to question their veracity is to risk being called a heretic. Today, to question the economic stability of a country with the largest foreign-currency reserve in the world borders on blasphemy. But when the ideological bases of the free market and export-led growth are under growing stress, it is difficult to remain sanguine about the future of the production workshop of the world.

It seems the more that is written about the Chinese miracle, the less the world actually knows about what is really happening behind the bamboo curtain. But things are not as rosy as depicted – the Asian Development Bank has predicted that the Chinese economy would grow by seven percent in 2009 – in a country almost completely dependent on export. When banks are not lending and consumers are not spending in the US, where will the Chinese sell their wares in quantities large enough to keep factories humming in Shanghai? This is a question that the mandarins in Beijing have succeeded in hiding below stacks of trade surpluses over the past two decades.

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Himal Southasian