When Greece fell into shambles a few years ago, many economists looked to their ‘debt to GDP’ ratio for an explanation. At over 100 percent, it seemed to be an obvious cause (now at around 150 percent). However, when looking around the world, many nations have far more than this. In fact, it seems that the larger and more important a nation is to the global economy, the more debt it can take on before it faces economic collapse. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen, only that it’s going to take longer for some of these behemoth economies to fall apart.
This week it was revealed that China, now the second largest economy on Earth, has a debt burden that is over 250 percent of its GDP. This is an explosive increase from 147 percent in 2009. Thus far, this massive amount of debt has been accompanied by slower economic growth. While the country still appears to be booming, yearly GDP growth has dropped to 7.7 percent in 2013, down from 10.4 percent in 2010, and 14.2 percent in 2007. While credit and debt played a large role in jump starting China’s impressive economic comeback over the past 30 years, it’s beginning to take exponentially higher levels of debt to maintain the same amount of growth that China has been used to.
I suspect this will continue for much longer than most nations, because very little of this debt is from foreign countries. Their system is pretty much identical to the way our debt is bought by the Federal Reserve. There isn’t as much outside pressure to pay it off, so they’ll be able keep this going for quite a while. And China is facing the same situation as the United States. Our politicians keep packing on the debt, year after year, desperate to keep the party going. While I reported on China’s rising influence in the world, make no mistake, this may be a temporary advance.
Nations rise and fall throughout their history, and China’s rise was likely facilitated by their population explosion in the 20th century, combined with their partial adoption of capitalist principles. They had hundreds of millions of people willing to work for practically nothing, so of course capital and investments rushed into the country. But as the incomes and demands of the labor pool grows, investing in China will become less attractive, and growth will slow. Hence China’s growing debts, inflation, and global purchases of real estate all over the world. They’re hoping that if they spend and invest enough money, even if that money amounts to an outrageous amount of debt, it will be enough to put the fire back in their economy. I have my doubts that it will work, and even if it did, that isn’t even the most unstable aspect of China’s future. While China considers its 1.3 billion citizens to be a major problem, their efforts to reduce the population may prove to be disastrous.
Their one child policy has created a lopsided population, where there will soon be many more older retirees than younger workers who can support them. While many developed countries are struggling with the financial burdens of supporting their large aging population, at least they didn’t spend a whole generation forcing people out of having children.
Plus, China’s cultural desire for males over females, has caused most female children to be aborted or otherwise killed after birth. As you can imagine, having significantly more men than women is going to cause their population to bottleneck even further. The weight of their oldest generation is going to be resting on the head of a pin, financially speaking. If China’s huge population of young desperate farmers fueled her growth in the past, then the next generation of ambitious urban kids, severely outnumbered by their parents, will be her downfall in the next century.
If our country is facing such a mind boggling amount of unfunded liabilities from our aging population, you can imagine how bad it will be in China. All of the factors that may cause an economic collapse of the United States, will be considerably worst in China. Along with China’s many economic issues, the country is also a police state with a population severely lacking in morality, and a huge wealth disparity between a small number of elite and the impoverished masses (sound familiar America?). And like many multi-ethnic nations these days, China is bursting at the seams with separatist movements that consist of Tibetans, Mongolians, Uyghurs, and Hong Kongens.
If history is any lesson, a collapse of China will make that land into Hell on Earth. Throughout history, anytime China wasn’t united behind a strong centralized government, they were embroiled in bloodshed and chaos. Look at this list of the most devastating wars in human history. Among the ten listings below World War 2, five are Chinese rebellions and civil wars. Between 1850 and 1949, around 37 million Chinese died (lowest estimate) in domestic wars that left the country open to foreign occupation for many years. This culminated in a further 20 million dying during the last Japanese invasion of mainland China in 1937.
Simply put, a stable united China is not the norm of human history. The Chinese “Nation” has usually existed as a series of squabbling states bent on controlling the region. If anything, China’s current situation is more of an anomaly in recent times.
I do believe that China will soon surpass the United States as the preeminent economic and military power on earth. However, China’s global dominion will be short lived. The numbers simply aren’t there. The current debt explosion is the first definitive indication that China is on an unsustainable course (if those ghost cities weren’t a big tipoff). And when their bubble finally bursts, it will probably end in one of the most devastating civil wars in human history.
Who will surpass China as a global superpower after that, I can’t even begin to guess. For the sake of humanity though, hopefully, nobody will.
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Contributed by Joshua Krause of The Daily Sheeple.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger .