Monday, March 7, 2011

Chinese Take-Out?

The National People's Congress - China's "parliament" - opened in Beijing this week (amid great pomp and circumstance) to rubber stamp decisions and programs hatched by the ruling clique.  Given what's going on across northern Africa and the Middle East, cliquers also announced that they would brook no protests in the streets this year (especially during the confab), and followed up with what has been called "unprecedented" police presence everywhere including Tiananmen Square and major shopping areas.  Now as I've said before in this space, I don't trust China (and I don't invest in China).  And it's quite apparent this week that China trusts its own people even less than it trusts foreigners.  The budget passed by the NPC this week has China spending more on internal security than on external defense this year.  And it spends a lot on external defense; the Chinese Navy recently eclipsing the U.S. Navy in size (and, no doubt, enthusiasm for patrolling Taiwan's waters.)  Inflation - particularly food inflation - is only one cause of the massive chafing of the populace, but a highly important one.  If the gap between middle class urban/coastal Chinese and those hardscrabble farmers/dispossessed laborers in the interior can't be narrowed, watch out.  Many a revolution has hinged on the ability of an autocracy to feed the masses.  And don't forget that China's one-child policy means the country has millions of poor young men who can't find a girl to take to McDonald's.  Will that be eat in, or take-out?