So, has the CCP jumped the shark yet?


China’s ‘one-time adjustment’ to its currency turns into a ‘two-time adjustment’ and today maybe it will become a three-time one, or simply morph into a ‘too-busy-panicking-to-keep-count adjustment’. As if life’s not hard enough having to micromanage and stall the collapse of an inflated stock market, Beijing must now simultaneously attempt to fine-tune the correction of its overvalued currency.

Unlike in the old days, there’s a lot of Yuan circulating overseas where people freely decide what they think the unit is worth. The Chinese government is discovering the concept of other people’s ‘expectations’ and even being forced to let foreigners help determine the currency’s exchange rate. It must be a very uncomfortable feeling for paranoids accustomed to a Leninist one-party state that can snap its fingers and miraculously limit TianjinExplothe death toll from this blast in Tianjin to (at the time of writing) a mere 17. Chinese leaders are having a hard time accepting that markets have a life of their own (see here for more theory about the devaluation).

In Western, or at least English-speaking, democracies, politicians tend to be lawyers. We like to mock – for example, calculating how many of them at the bottom of the harbour constitute ‘a start’. But their dominance in politics reflects our whole philosophy of society and life. With the community’s blessing they devise rules, regulations and enforcement, within which all people are free to do as they please. Individual liberty and free markets are a sort of ordered anarchy, and running the system is a rough-and-ready behavioural science.

In Communist countries, including China, politicians tend to be engineers. The idea of sitting back and seeing what happens is alien. To them, society and the economy are like machinery. The self-appointed elite experts who control it can make it perfect if they adjust a valve here, use more lubricant there, increase the voltage on that bit, reduce the pressure in another part and so on. Everything can be controlled exactly using mechanics and the laws of physics.

It has been fashionable in some quarters to see China as the system that works and will own the future. The country’s rise in just a few decades from nowhere to global number-two is astounding, while Western-style capitalism and money-politics are failing. But looking at China today, we have to wonder if the Communist Party’s miracle is reaching its limits. The leaders see enemies everywhere, from crucifixes on church roofs to geeky students in Hong Kong. They are putting themselves into desperate contortions in their attempts to tame and control markets. They are showing possible/apparent/real signs of preparing for a regional military adventure to divert their population’s attention if and when the economy gets really bad.

In the West people make jokes about lawyers but let them run the government; in China, the government fears the people and arrests the lawyers. Neither is ideal, and maybe China’s system will muddle through this time – but right now it really isn’t looking like a model that will last centuries.

Yikes – the Bohai Gulf from satellite.

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14 Responses to So, has the CCP jumped the shark yet?

  1. pie-chucker says:

    The Daily Telegraph today goes with your ‘engineer’ thinking…

    *The Communist Party… clearly deploying the state banking system to engineer yet another mini-cycle right now. One day China will pull the lever and nothing will happen. We are not there yet.*

  2. Nimby says:

    China’s government and large corporations have a lot in common, they hate external transparency, ever more so when things go wrong.

    Hence what you see is probably very little to do with real “engineers”. Engineers is an abused term anyway, when did trashmen sanitation engineers sit PE license boards. Any competent engineer knows nature, life, doesn’t give a damn what a faulty model says. Rather that mentality of not wanting to hear or face that their mistakes, of shooting, arresting or otherwise killing the messenger is the sort of anti-science that we see in many corporations’ top management, semi-government institutions and political office — the places that attract psychopaths. ie: Psychopaths hate engineering because nature is indifferent, you can’t lie you way past it.

    Of the top 100 USA corporations in 1900, all but 3 have gone away, usually thanks to bullheaded accountants & business majors (and banksters who put the ego-maniac psychopaths in place so they can pick over the remains). Predicting the future away from any “laws” of nature is so fraught to attempt it takes either a fraud or someone demented enough to earn degrees in economics.

    Thankfully when corporations go away, it’s mostly just money changing hands, the poor getting poorer. When governments go away, it use to be they took a large % of the population with them. This is the real genius of “democratic” systems (which are hardly ever democratic); they much reduced the bloodshed that usually results from re-distributing the wealth. Many pray for the downfall of China, but since China doesn’t have a democratic system, I don’t want to be around when the bill comes due.

  3. Nimby says:

    Having seem pie-chucker’s post, calling an economist an economic engineer is just compounding the Stalinist fraud. But then, look at who owns the Telegraph, an anti-science fraud who benefits from his friendship with political psychopaths.

  4. inspired says:

    slightly dated but still interesting reading

    I used to take my psychopathic coworker rock climbing and laugh at the spectacle of someone trying to argue with gravity. The CCP could use some lessons

  5. Citizen says:

    Nimby’s rants just prove Hemlock’s points about the dangers of ‘self-appointed elite experts’.

    Who says psychopaths hate engineers? They’re control freaks too.

  6. Nimby says:

    @Citizen: That’s engineering, not engineers. Engineers are humans, and those who can be manipulated are perhaps most favored by successful psychopaths. Failed psychopaths certainly share your distaste for engineers, and probably many other aspects.

    BTW, I answered your mistake/query on when is starch no longer organic.

  7. PCC says:

    Why is there no wailing and gnashing of teeth at the news that the Eldon Online blog shall trumpet no more? I think we should be told.

  8. Boo says:

    Engineers: “The idea of sitting back and seeing what happens is alien. ”

    Clearly, you don’t know a lot of engineers…

  9. Wecreate says:

    Nice posts, thanks for sharing it helps me thinks things through..

  10. Citizen says:

    Nimby – Engineering is what psychopaths do.

    There’s a good discussion of this here:

    …with a strong argument that Engineering Degrees (or the PE license boards that are your yardstick) are a version of the Imperial Examination System, identifying a knowledge elite who know best and are therefore the most suitable rulers.


  11. Nimby says:

    There are no PE boards in mainland China nor does China recognize any overseas certification board. What certification there is is done by the individual Dan Wei单位 party secretary. Your source is crock.

    Stalin and the Soviet Union, including crackpot school that “Economics is Engineering” is what shaped CCP “intelligentsia.” Deng and after him every party chairman studied in Moscow. What Deng promoted was educated party people replacing the “uneducated” members in areas where education aught to matter. In all cases no position above 2nd tier floor supervisor in any SOC is given to any non-party member. Hence the most important education was and is the latest flavor of Marxist theory, which an “educated” human should know is philosophy, not science. You are forgiven for not knowing that, because you can’t be educated if you make statement that “Engineering is what psychopaths do.” You probably have a PhD in Economics instead.

  12. No idea how far it is from reality, but the official death toll in Tianjin has now risen to 44 as at noon, according to the BBC. From the photos of the damage, I suspect the final figure will be much higher. Xinhua certainly isn’t rushing to provide an update.

  13. Chinese Netizen says:

    SO where does this put CCP leaders that got economics degrees from North Korea?

  14. Headache says:

    Their “law degrees” are two-thirds Mao Zedong Thought and the CCP’s customarily warped versions of history, philosophy and sociology, too.

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