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Thursday, August 31, 2023

Why Is China in So Much Trouble?

Why Is China in So Much Trouble?

Xi Jinping stands before a deep green landscape painting.
Pool photo by Leah Millis

“The narrative about China has changed with stunning speed, from unstoppable juggernaut to pitiful, helpless giant. How did that happen?

My sense is that much writing about China puts too much weight on recent events and policy. Yes, Xi Jinping is an erratic leader. But China’s economic problems have been building for a long time. And while Xi’s failure to address these problems adequately no doubt reflects his personal limitations, it also reflects some deep ideological biases within China’s ruling party.

Let’s start with the long-run perspective.

For three decades, after Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978 and introduced market-based reforms, China experienced an enormous surge, with real gross domestic product increasing more than sevenfold. This surge was, to be fair, only possible because China started out technologically backward and could rapidly increase productivity by adopting technologies already developed abroad. But the speed of China’s convergence was extraordinary.

Since the late 2000s, however, China seems to have lost a lot of its dynamism. The International Monetary Fund estimates that total factor productivity — a measure of the efficiency with which resources are used — has grown only half as fast since 2008 as it did in the decade before. You should take such estimates with large handfuls of salt, but there has been a clear slowdown in the rate of technological progress.

And China no longer has the demography to support torrid growth: Its working-age population topped out around 2015 and has been declining since.

Many analysts attribute China’s loss of dynamism to Xi, who took power in 2012 and has been consistently more hostile to private enterprise than his predecessors. This seems to me to be too glib. Certainly Xi’s focus on state control and arbitrariness haven’t helped. But China’s slowdown began even before Xi took power.

And in general nobody is very good at explaining long-run growth rates. The great M.I.T. economist Robert Solow famously quipped that attempts to explain why some countries grow more slowly than others always end up in “a blaze of amateur sociology.” There were probably deep reasons China couldn’t continue to grow the way it had before 2008.

In any case, China clearly can’t sustain anything like the high growth rates of the past.

However, slower growth needn’t translate into economic crisis. As I’ve pointed out, even Japan, often held up as the ultimate cautionary tale, has done fairly decently since its slowdown in the early 1990s. Why do things look so ominous in China?

At a fundamental level, China is suffering from the paradox of thrift, which says that an economy can suffer if consumers try to save too much. If businesses aren’t willing to borrow and then invest all the money consumers are trying to save, the result is an economic downturn. Such a downturn may well reduce the amount business are willing to invest, so an attempt to save more can actually reduce investment.

And China has an incredibly high national savings rate. Why? I’m not sure there’s a consensus about the causes, but an I.M.F. study argued that the biggest drivers are a low birthrate — so people don’t feel they can rely on their children to support them in retirement — and an inadequate social safety net, so they don’t feel that they can rely on public support either.

As long as the economy was able to grow extremely fast, businesses found useful ways to invest all those savings. But that kind of growth is now a thing of the past.

The result is that China has a huge quantity of savings all dressed up with no good place to go. And the story of Chinese policy has been one of increasingly desperate efforts to mask this problem. For a while China maintained demand by running huge trade surpluses, but this risked a protectionist backlash. Then China channeled excess savings into a monstrous real estate bubble, but this bubble is now bursting.

The obvious answer is to boost consumer spending. Get state-owned enterprises to share more of their profits with workers. Strengthen the safety net. And in the short run, the government could just give people money — sending out checks, the way America has done.

So why isn’t this happening? Several reports suggest that there are ideological reasons China won’t do the obvious. As best I can tell, the country’s leadership suffers from a strange mix of hostility to the private sector (just giving people the ability to spend more would dilute the party’s control); unrealistic ambition (China is supposed to be investing in the future, not enjoying life right now); and a sort of puritanical opposition to a strong social safety net, with Xi condemning “welfarism” that might erode the work ethic.

The result is policy paralysis, with China making halfhearted efforts to push the same kinds of investment-led stimulus that it used in the past.

Should we write China off? Of course not. China is a bona fide superpower, with enormous capacity to get its act together. Sooner or later it will probably get past the prejudices that are undermining its policy response.

But the next few years may be quite ugly.

Paul Krugman has been an Opinion columnist since 2000 and is also a distinguished professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He won the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on international trade and economic geography. @PaulKrugman

Trump, Under Oath, Says He Averted ‘Nuclear Holocaust’

Trump, Under Oath, Says He Averted ‘Nuclear Holocaust’

“During a deposition in his civil case, the former president offered a series of defenses, digressions and meandering explanations of his political and professional dealings.

Donald Trump standing on a runway in front of a group of journalists, with an SUV and a plane in the background.
The civil fraud case against former President Donald Trump and his company is scheduled to head to trial in early October.Doug Mills/The New York Times

Under oath and under fire, Donald J. Trump sat for a seven-hour interview with the New York attorney general’s office in April, part of the civil fraud case against him and his company.

But as lawyers from the office grilled Mr. Trump on the inner-workings of his family business, which is accused of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars, he responded with a series of meandering non sequiturs, political digressions and self-aggrandizing defenses.

Asked about his authority at the Trump Organization while he was in the White House, Mr. Trump responded that he considered the presidency “the most important job in the world, saving millions of lives.”

Understand New York State’s Civil Case Against Trump

An empire under scrutiny. Letitia James, New York State’s attorney general, has been conducting a yearslong civil investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business practices, culminating in a lawsuit that accused Trump of “staggering” fraud. Here’s what to know:

“I think you would have nuclear holocaust, if I didn’t deal with North Korea,” he explained, and then added: “And I think you might have a nuclear war now, if you want to know the truth.”

Although Mr. Trump invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination when initially questioned by the office last year, he answered questions from the attorney general, Letitia James, and her lawyers in the April deposition, a transcript of which was unsealed on Wednesday.

The transcript shows a combative Mr. Trump, who was named as a defendant in the case alongside his company and three of his children, at times barely allowing lawyers to get a word in. The former president frequently seems personally offended by the idea that his net worth is being questioned.

Mr. Trump is seeking to have the case thrown out. A judge could rule on that effort next month, but for now, the case appears headed to trial in early October.

Below are some of the highlights from the transcript of his deposition:

Mr. Trump refers to his time in the Oval Office with a notable understatement.

The former president was asked by Kevin Wallace, a senior lawyer in Ms. James’s office, about his relationship to his company. He said that he was not the final decision maker, though he later suggested he might be involved in “something major, final decisions, whatever.”

KEVIN WALLACE: Mr. Trump, are you currently the person with ultimate decision-making authority for the Trump Organization?


MR. WALLACE: Who would that be?

MR. TRUMP: My son Eric is much more involved with it than I am. I’ve been doing other things.

Mr. Trump claims to have protected the world from nuclear war while in office.

In an exchange soon after that, Mr. Trump acknowledged that those other things included having been president.

MR. TRUMP: I was very busy. I was — I considered this the most important job in the world, saving millions of lives. I think you would have nuclear holocaust, if I didn’t deal with North Korea. I think you would have a nuclear war, if I weren’t elected. And I think you might have a nuclear war now, if you want to know the truth.

Mr. Trump declines to say who has expressed interest in buying Mar-a-Lago.

During the deposition, Mr. Trump claimed to own “the greatest pieces of property in the world” and said that if he were ever to put them up for sale, the prices offered would be staggering. At one point, Mr. Wallace decided to test one of those assertions.

MR. TRUMP: I’ve had people say, if you ever sell Mar-a-Lago, please call me. That’s not for sale.

MR. WALLACE: Who, for example, has told you that?

MR. TRUMP: Well, I rather not say because I don’t want to embarrass them, and I may be putting some of these people on the stand.

Later in the session, Mr. Trump said while he didn’t know who the specific people were who had made such offers, “I know they’re very rich people.”

Mr. Trump derides his annual financial statements, saying that he never felt they would be taken seriously.

The attorney general’s case against Mr. Trump focuses on his annual financial statements, which she says overvalue his property by up to $2.2 billion each year.

Each of Mr. Trump’s financial statements includes a number of disclaimers, which acknowledge that Mr. Trump’s accountants had not reviewed or authenticated his claims. During the interview, Mr. Trump refers to those disclaimers, saying that they essentially render the statements meaningless.

MR. TRUMP: I never felt that these statements would be taken very seriously, because you open it up and right at the beginning of the statement, you read a page and a half of stuff saying, go get your own accounting, go get your own this, go get your own that.

MR. WALLACE: So why did you get these statements prepared?

MR. TRUMP: I would say more for maybe myself just to see the list of properties. I think more for myself than anything else. Sometimes an institution would like to see.

Mr. Trump then went on to say that his properties were even more valuable than was reflected in the statements themselves.

Mr. Trump attacks the case.

The former president frequently used the deposition to attack the case itself. At one point he told Mr. Wallace that the banks from which he had received loans were “shocked” at the lawsuit.

MR. TRUMP: The banks — the banks are shocked by this case. That’s my opinion, because they’ve never had anything like this. Do you know the banks were fully paid? Do you know the banks made a lot of money? Do you know I don’t believe I ever got even a default notice, and even during Covid, the banks were all paid? And yet you’re suing on behalf of banks, I guess. It’s crazy. The whole case is crazy.

Mr. Trump describes the value of his brand.

When asked during the deposition what might have been left out of his annual financial statements, Mr. Trump at first seemed to dispute the premise of the question, saying, “They list everything in the kitchen sink here.” But he then elaborated.

MR. TRUMP: The biggest thing that is not included is my brand. My lawyers never bring it up, but the brand is the biggest, and cause you can, maybe you can double or triple my statement. But my brand is — if I wanted to create a good statement, I would put — I’d start off with Sentence 1, my brand is worth billions and billions of dollars.

Mr. Trump’s friends say he is “the most honest person in the world.”

Asked about policies and procedures to ensure that the Trump Organization complies with the law, he said: “That’s why we have law firms. You know, we have law firms that do this.”

MR. TRUMP: And friends of mine have said, you are the most honest person in the world. So we’ve done a good job. Don’t get credit for it. That’s OK.

The lawyers fought.

Depositions are often contentious, and there were a few highlights from the exchanges between Mr. Wallace and lawyers for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise and Alina Habba.

CHRISTOPHER M. KISE: We’re going to be here until midnight if you keep asking questions that are all over the map.

MR. WALLACE: Chris, we’re going to be here until midnight if your client answers every question with an eight-minute speech. So let’s get down to business.

Ben Protess is an investigative reporter covering the federal government, law enforcement and various criminal investigations into former President Trump and his allies. More about Ben Protess

DeSantis slammed by FL state rep.: ‘He had a lot of audacity to come there after he lit the match’

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The racist Florida shooter’s ideology extends to ordinary people | Jason Stanley | The Guardian

The racist Florida shooter’s ideology extends to ordinary people | Jason Stanley

"On Saturday, Ryan Palmeter, a 21-year-old gunman, entered a dollar store in Jacksonville, Florida, and killed 52-year-old Angela Carr, 19-year-old AJ Laguerre Jr and 29-year-old Jerrald Gallion. All three victims were Black Americans. This shooting comes on the heels of an even larger mass shooting of Black Americans last year, in Buffalo, New York, where 18-year-old Payton Gendron murdered 10 people.

In less than two years, two young white men have committed two mass murders of Americans motivated by an explicit desire to kill Black people.

In the manifesto Gendron published online, which revealed in detail his motivations and thinking, the very first goal he listed was “kill as many blacks as possible”. None of Palmeter’s three manifestos have been revealed to the public. We have been told by police that they reveal “a disgusting ideology” that tries to justify the irrational hatred of another group, and this ideology of hate is certainly disgusting when it tries to justify the kind of mass killing Palmeter committed. Yet describing Palmeter’s ideology this way, as accurate as it may be, also incurs a risk. Few ordinary people think of themselves as sympathetic to “a disgusting ideology of hate”, even when it bears a close resemblance to a view they themselves possess.

Ideologies don’t kill people. But they do motivate people to kill. Some ideologies lend resentful and angry individuals a justification for mass killing. But ideologies have also motivated perfectly ordinary people into participation, active support or deep complicity in mass atrocity. The view that Black people are naturally subordinate to white people was once widespread in the United States. It justified a system of almost inconceivable brutality, in which whippings and rape were normalized for centuries. It was held by many ordinary people.

Gendron’s manifesto laid out his ideology clearly and consistently, in the question-and-answer style that has become a hallmark of this genre:

Are you a fascist?

Yes, fascism is one of the only political ideologies that will unite Whites against the replacers. Since that is what I seek, calling me a fascist would be accurate.

Are you a white supremacist?

Yes, I would call myself a white supremacist, after all, which race is responsible for the world we live in today? I believe the White race is superior in the brain to all other races.

Are you racist?

Yes I am racist because I believe in differences of capabilities between races.

Gendron’s ideology is white supremacy, which he believes to be under threat from higher birth rates among non-white people. Gendron also thinks that identifying as transgender is a mental illness, and that gender fluidity is a plot by Jews to subvert the west (AKA white civilization). According to Gendron, critical race theory is a (Jewish) plot “to brainwash Whites into hating themselves and their people”. We have been toldthat the Jacksonville killer also harbored anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic views.

Aside from these, something very close to Gendron and Palmeter’s ideology is held by many people today. The idea that white people face a threat of replacement by non-white people is behind the brutal treatment of immigrants in Europe and the United States, including the tolerance of mass drownings on the borders of Europe, family separations in the United States and the widespread denial of food and water to small children on borders. It emerges in the mass incarceration of Black Americans, the lack of action on the vast racial wealth gap and the militarized police force Black Americans often face. Gendron and Palmeter’s ideology is recognizable in the harshness and violence towards gender fluidity, and in the bans on critical race theory and Black history. It is, also, increasingly tied to the reemergence of antisemitism, as Jews, in racist ideology, tend to be viewed as those behind movements for racial equality, as well as intolerance of sexual minorities. As has been increasingly clear in recent years, on the individual level it also justifies murdering non-white people.

Ron DeSantis’s Florida recenters the world through the lens of an America defined by whiteness and Christianity. Through this lens, it certainly does appear that America is under threat by non-white mass immigration. Critical race theory is indeed a threat to such a perspective, as is an education that also allows a Black perspective on US history, or one that normalizes LGBTQ+ citizens. It is a politics that has justified DeSantis’s treatment of immigrants as things. More recently, DeSantis has essentially suggested shooting migrants even suspected to be drug smugglers – here, he connects immigrants to crime, and uses that connection to justify killing some of them on sight.

Payton Gendron also justified his mass killing in Buffalo by connecting Black Americans to crime. It is not unreasonable to see, in the spate of mass murders of Black Americans, an all too predictably violent echo of Florida’s own emerging ideology."

  • Jason Stanley is a professor of philosophy at Yale University, and the author, most recently, of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

The racist Florida shooter’s ideology extends to ordinary people | Jason Stanley | The Guardian

(A traitorous savage), Donald Trump vows to lock up political enemies if he returns to White House | Donald Trump | The Guardian

(A traitorous savage), Donald Trump vows to lock up political enemies if he returns to White House

"Former president tells Glenn Beck he would have ‘no choice’ but to lock up opponents ‘because they’re doing it to us’

Donald Trump
Donald Trump promised to lock up his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in 2016 but did not carry out the threat while in office. Photograph: Carlos BarrĂ­a/Reuters

Donald Trump says he will lock up his political enemies if he is president again.

In an interview on Tuesday, the rightwing broadcaster Glenn Beck raised Trump’s famous campaign-trail vow to “lock up” Hillary Clinton, his opponent in 2016, a promise Trump did not fulfill in office.

Beck said: “Do you regret not locking [Clinton] up? And if you’re president again, will you lock people up?”

Trump said: “The answer is you have no choice, because they’re doing it to us.”

Trump has encouraged the “lock her up” chant against other opponents but he remains in considerable danger of being locked up himself.

Under four indictments, he faces 91 criminal charges related to election subversion, retention of classified information and hush-money payments to a adult film star. He denies wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of political persecution. Trials are scheduled next year.

Earlier this month, Politico calculated that Trump faced a maximum of 641 years in jail. After the addition of 13 racketeering and conspiracy charges in Georgia, Forbes uppedthe total to more than 717 years.

Trump is 77.

Both sites noted, however, that if convicted, the former president was unlikely to receive maximum sentences. Nor would convictions bar Trump from running for president or being elected. On that score, Trump dominates national and key state polling regarding the Republican presidential nomination.

In his Tuesday interview on BlazeTV, Trump also said he “never hit Biden as hard as I could have” while in office.

Trump’s first impeachment concerned attempts to find dirt on rivals including Biden, related to politics and business in Ukraine. Now, in Congress, Trump’s Republican allies are threatening to impeach Biden over unsubstantiated allegations connected to his surviving son, Hunter.

Trump told Beck that Biden was behind the indictments against him. In fact, all were brought by prosecutors independent of the White House: 44 by the justice department special counsel Jack Smith, 34 by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and 13 by Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton county, Georgia.

Trump also claimed “the woman that I never met, that they accused me of rape, that’s being run by a Democrat, a Democrat operative, and paid for by the Democrat [sic] party”.

That was a reference to civil claims brought by E Jean Carroll, a writer who says Trump sexually assaulted her in New York in the 1990s. Earlier this year, Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation and fined about $5m. A second trial is due next year. The judge in the case has said Trump has been adjudicated a rapist.

Also facing investigations of his business affairs, Trump said Democrats and other opponents were “sick people … evil people”.

The twice impeached, four times indicted, 91 times charged ex-president also told Beck he “always had such great respect for the office of the president and the presidency”.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, I was hoping you would consider taking the step of supporting the Guardian’s journalism. 

From Elon Musk to Rupert Murdoch, a small number of billionaire owners have a powerful hold on so much of the information that reaches the public about what’s happening in the world. The Guardian is different. We have no billionaire owner or shareholders to consider. Our journalism is produced to serve the public interest – not profit motives.

And we avoid the trap that befalls much US media – the tendency, born of a desire to please all sides, to engage in false equivalence in the name of neutrality. While fairness guides everything we do, we know there is a right and a wrong position in the fight against racism and for reproductive justice. When we report on issues like the climate crisis, we’re not afraid to name who is responsible. And as a global news organization, we’re able to provide a fresh, outsider perspective on US politics – one so often missing from the insular American media bubble. 

Around the world, readers can access the Guardian’s paywall-free journalism because of our unique reader-supported model. That’s because of people like you. Our readers keep us independent, beholden to no outside influence and accessible to everyone – whether they can afford to pay for news, or not.

If you can, please consider supporting us just once from $1, or better yet, support us every month with a little more. Thank you."

Betsy Reed

Donald Trump vows to lock up political enemies if he returns to White House | Donald Trump | The Guardian

Opinion | Nikki Haley’s plea about Jacksonville shooting gets a big thing wrong - The Washington Post

Opinion Nikki Haley’s emotional plea about racist ‘hate’ takes a wrong turn

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley in Arlington on April 25. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post) 

As the daughter of Indian immigrants who became governor of a Deep South state, Nikki Haley appears more determined than her GOP presidential primary rivals to talk to Republican voters about racism. And that’s forcing her into some creative rhetorical straddles.

This week — two days after a White man killed three Black people in Jacksonville, Fla., with a high-powered rifle festooned with swastikas — Haley issued an emotional plea on the campaign trail, insisting there’s “no place for hate in America.” In this, Haley deserves credit for outdoing her primary foes.

But Haley’s remarks also captured the folly of one of the GOP’s defining projects of the moment: the endless quest to purge our recounting of U.S. history of things to feel bad about.

Haley experienced the horror of white-supremacist violence during her second term as South Carolina governor. In 2015, Dylann Roof murdered nine Black peoplein a church in Charleston, something that reportedly impacted Haley very deeply.

“I am not going to lie to you, it takes me back to a dark place,” Haley told a South Carolina town hall audience on Monday, speaking about the Florida shooting. Her message: Racist violence is something voters must take very seriously.

But Haley also detoured into an argument that seemed strangely out of place. “We’ve got to end the national self-loathing that has taken over our country,” she said, deriding the idea that “America is rotten, or that it’s racist.”

Though Haley noted that more racial progress is imperative, she insisted that “our kids need to know to love America” and left voters with a directive: “Don’t fall into the narrative that this is a racist country.”

Why can’t Haley just decry a horrifying white-supremacist attack and leave it at that? Why add the disclaimer that we mustn’t take this too far and succumb to the “narrative” of “self-loathing”?

There’s a charitable interpretation here. It’s that Haley knows discussion of racism might trigger a defensive response from GOP-leaning voters, leading them to tune it out. Haley often derides the notion that the country and its founding are systemically or irredeemably racist. Perhaps her goal is to clear space for someGOP voters to take white-supremacist violence seriously without feeling personally attacked or offended.

But the idea that a mass leftist movement is lurking out there to declare our country racially irredeemable is itself ridiculous. The mainstream Democratic position, and even of socialists such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), tends toward the opposite: Our country is slowly, fitfully moving toward realizing its promise of equality — even if there’s a long way to go.

2024 presidential election

What’s more, in the aftermath of such a shooting, it seems self-evidently absurd to focus so heavily on reassuring people that they needn’t feel all that bad about the nation’s past. Why do the feelings of conservative voters about their country’s history merit such weighty consideration at moments such as these in the first place?

Take GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who blamed the Florida shooting on our “racialized culture,” which he said was created by those who … call out racism. In this telling, racist violence is a backlash against those who demand that White people feel bad about the nation’s white-supremacist past — and that we do more to combat racism right now.

That’s an exceptionally crude formulation. But in subtler forms, the tendency of Republican politicians to minister to their voters’ feelings about our history at such moments has become so reflexive that we barely register it anymore. This seems designed to focus widespread anxieties about racial violence on leftists who dare to call out the deeper roots of the problem rather than on hard questions about what such shootings actually do reveal about our country.

All of this reflects the misguided GOP quest for a guilt-free account of our past. Or at least a minimally discomfiting one.

Just this week, the Miami Herald reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s controversial decision to nix an African American studies curriculum was partly driven by some officials’ apparent desire to teach morally fuzzier and less uncomfortable accounts of slavery.

That’s also the goal of many bills in GOP state legislatures that limit classroom discussion of vague concepts on race that might be “divisive” or stir discomfort. Some of them have sought to censor historical accounts that are deemed unpatriotic.

A big idea is at stake here. Political philosophers sometimes argue that the maintenance of national pride among citizens simply requires a “forgetting” of unsavory facts about their country’s past. As writer Sam Adler-Bell details, GOP laws designed toward that end have morphed into an effort to “assuage white guilt” on a mass scale.

To be clear, politicians of all ideologies encourage such “forgetting.” Liberal leaders frequently suggest our nation’s progress has followed a more uniform trajectory than it actually has. But as a group of historians argues in “Myth America,” this tendency is far more pernicious among Republicans: They have largely abandoned the goal of reckoning with our white-supremacist past, in part to play down the lingering effects of racism in the present.

Again, Haley deserves credit for talking frankly to GOP voters about the Jacksonville slaughter. But to the degree that she indulged their desire for a minimally disconcerting national legacy on race, she got one big thing very wrong."

Opinion | Nikki Haley’s plea about Jacksonville shooting gets a big thing wrong - The Washington Post