汤姆·福迪:西方走向新的衰退,却期望中国崩溃

来源:观察者网

2022-06-12 08:57

汤姆·福迪

汤姆·福迪作者

英国作家、国际关系分析人士

【导读】 中国的有利形势再次被一些新闻媒体不惜一切代价地寻找负面因素所低估,即使他们本国的情况趋于崩溃了。中国将从这种混乱中复苏,但西方通过他们自己考虑错误的政策,将再次面临衰退。

【文/汤姆·福迪 译/李碧琪】

西方媒体痴迷于对中国经济进行负面报道。原因既有政治上的,也有意识形态上的。看到中国过去 40 年的经济飞速崛起,人们长期以来一直期待和预设这个国家最终“一定”会失败。当代新闻文章喜欢谈论“中国奇迹的终结”,这是一个更广泛的主题。这些过度负面的报道夸大了中国面临的每一个潜在挑战的潜在影响,然后将其推向关于与美国的地缘政治斗争的零和结果。

然而,这种现象远远早于这一点。根植于冷战中的自由主义优越论或“历史终结论”,中国的衰落长期以来一直被标榜为不可避免,并且通过章家敦2001 年的著作《中国即将崩溃》得到了最好的描述,并且现在经常被模仿。但尽管他个人被证明是错误的,但对于那些出于政治偏见、经常对中国前景不屑一顾的报纸来说,它仍然是一个持久的主题。最近最值得一提的是《金融时报》,它最近几周发表了大量的负面报道,无情地为中国在疫情之下的经济困境喝彩。

当然,现实是中国在奥密克戎疫情暴发导致上海严格封锁的情况下遭受了损失,但可以预见的是,这种情况被西方主流无情地渲染,以引发对整个经济的悲观情绪。在做出这种批评时,各种媒体故意将其与西方的政策对比——其中许多国家完全放弃了对新冠病毒的控制措施,尽管他们继续发生大量死亡事件(美国超过1百万),仍然认为西方的模式是优越的,而且他们的经济前景显然比中国好。动态清零政策不好,让病毒肆无忌惮地传播则是绝妙的。

但这些论点一点都没有过时,特别是因为它们是基于短视主义的(就像西方整体的做法一样),到5月,西方国家已经出现了不好的征兆。随着全球不确定性增加,多个国家正走向新的衰退,西方经济从新冠疫情中复苏的欢呼声非常短暂。最近,美国GDP意外下降1.4%。然后,随着美联储被迫收紧货币政策以遏制通胀,美国股市崩盘。在大西洋彼岸,一场类似的通胀危机迫使英格兰银行将利率提高至 13 年来的最高水平,并明确告诉公众经济衰退正在逼近。这恰逢乌克兰冲突引发的能源价格飙升。货币供应正在紧缩。

尽管必须考虑战争加剧的不确定性,但这场迫在眉睫的经济危机的根源在于西方对新冠疫情灾难性的短视主义处理,他们因为考虑到经济发展问题,经常试图避免清零策略。这却反过来导致大规模暴发,而且并不一贯地实施长期封锁(非常不受欢迎且实施无效),然后试图通过注入价值数万亿美元的刺激支付和过度的货币政策来强行促进经济。这是由于需求不足和商业环境恶化,而后造成了通货膨胀的浪潮,给供应链带来了负担。

美国纽约抗议通胀下房租上涨的游行(来源:美联社)

尽管这一战略让西方国家在 2021 年开始复苏,但鉴于此前一些国家经历了GDP的大幅下滑,这种复苏的经济优势被夸大了,而几乎没有考虑到这些国家很快就会“回归现实”,面临前所未有的额外挑战。即使到 2022年5月,很明显大多数国家的年度GDP增长预测都被夸大了。这一波通胀的规模和持续时间是前所未有的,而美国政府多次将其称为“暂时性”,这一误判被证明是一个错误,并迫使政府收紧了他们没有预料到的财政紧缩,造成了意想不到的不利经济后果。换句话说,复苏甚至在完成之前就已经步履蹒跚。

但中国不在这条船上,尽管西方自信必胜。由于中国实行严格、长期和一贯的动态清零政策,旨在通过先发制人地阻止疫情暴发(从2020年到2022年)来维持经济稳定,因此能够不依赖极端的刺激性利率或不得不降低的利率,而维持自然的增长。中国在2020年和2021年分别增长2.2%和8.1%。在没有中断的情况下,它的目标是在2022年达到5.5%。尽管这些政策导致的消费增长相对疲软,但这也抵消了通胀陷阱。因此来看中国的经济前景,是不必制定产生极端风险的经济政策,以牺牲长期增长选择为代价寻求短期复苏的。所以,即使奥密克戎是一个挑战,中国也不必采取极端政策来摆脱这种阻碍其未来增长的局面,而中国银行似乎已经避免了这种情况。

因此,在中国经历动荡的同时,西方相对而言正在进入一场新的灾难。事实证明,2022年是比任何人预期的都要惨淡的一年,但西方对中国自身经济的悲观情绪仍然持续,因为被政治偏见和对中国“不可避免的失败”的痴迷所蒙蔽,未能看到全局。如果中国能够在2022年继续增长,而西方国家采取不稳定的、紧缩与刺激性交替的财政政策,在新的衰退边缘摇摇欲坠,那么这显然是对优势而非弱点的展现和证明。

中国的有利形势再次被一些新闻媒体不惜一切代价地寻找负面因素所低估,即使他们本国的情况趋于崩溃了。中国将从这种混乱中复苏,但西方通过他们自己考虑错误的政策,将再次面临衰退。

(本文系作者赐稿,英文原文见下页。)

Looming Western Recessions Reminds us That China is Still in A Better Position

By Tom Fowdy

The western media are obsessed with negative coverage of China’s economy. The causes are both political and ideological. Upon seeing China’s dramatic economic rise across the past 40 years, there has been a longstanding anticipation and assumption that the country “must” fail eventually. Contemporary news articles enjoy talking about “the end of the Chinese miracle” so to speak, a broader theme of excessively negative coverage of which overinflates the potential impact of every potential challenge the country faces, which is then whipped up into a zero-sum conclusion regarding a framed geopolitical struggle with the United States.

Yet the phenomenon far pre-dates that. Rooted in Cold war liberal exceptionalism, or the “end of history” thesis, the potential demise or decline of China has long been touted as an inevitability, and is best depicted and now often parodied through Gordon Chang’s 2001 book “the coming collapse of China”, but despite him being personally proven wrong, continues to be a persistent theme for newspapers who out of political bias, dismiss China’s prospects routinely, most notably of late being the Financial Times, who in recent weeks has produced an insufferable amount of negative stories relentlessly cheerleading China’s perceived economic woes over covid.

Whilst of course the reality is true that China has suffered amidst an outbreak of the omicron variant that led to a strict lockdown in Shanghai, predictably the situation has been targeted relentlessly by the western mainstream to ferment pessimism on the economy as a whole. In making this criticism, various outlets have drawn a deliberate contrast to policies in the west, many of who have abandoned covid restrictions altogether, arguing that the west’s model is superior despite the large number of deaths they continue to occur (with the US surpassing 1 million) and that their economic outlook is apparently better for it than China’s. Zero covid is bad, letting covid spread untamed is brilliant.

But these arguments have not aged well at all, particularly because they have been based on short-termism (as has the west’s approach as a whole) and by May, things are looking ominous for western countries. The cheerleading of western economic recovery from covid has been remarkably short lived as global uncertainties have changed for the worse and multiple nations head for renewed recessions. Last week, US GDP unexpectedly declined by 1.4%. Then as the US federal reserve has been forced to tighten monetary policy to reel in inflation, US stock markets have crashed. Across the Atlantic, a similar inflation crisis has forced the Bank of England to raise interest rates up to the highest in 13 years, explicitly telling the public a recession is looming. This coincides with surging energy prices stemming from the conflict in Ukraine. The money supply is being crunched.

Although uncertainties aggravated by the war have to be taken into account, this looming economic crisis is rooted in the west’s disastrously short-termist handling of the covid-19 pandemic, of which frequently sought to avoid zero-covid strategies in consideration of the economy, leading in turn to massive outbreaks, inconsistently applied long lockdowns (which were deeply unpopular and implemented ineffectively) and then attempts to forcibly kickstart the economy by injecting trillions worth of stimulus payments and excessive monetary policies, which due to suppressed demand and deteriorating business conditions, then created a tidal wave of inflation and placed burdens on supply chains.

Whilst this strategy allowed western countries to bounce back initially in 2021, the economic merits of such recoveries were exaggerated given the sheer size of GDP slumps some countries had endured, with little consideration given that soon these countries would “come back down to earth” and face additional challenges they had not previously. Even by May 2022, it is quite evident that annual GDP forecasts for most countries were overstated. In particular, the size and duration of the inflation wave was not anticipated, which the US government for one repeatedly wrote off as “transitory”, a miscalculation which proved to be a big mistake, and has forced governments towards fiscal tightening they were not anticipating, posing adverse economic consequences that were not anticipated. In other words, the recovery has faltered before it was even completed.

But China is not in this boat, despite the western triumphalism. Because China has consistently applied a strict, long term and consistent zero-covid policy, which sought to maintain economic stability by pre-emptively quashing outbreaks (from 2020 to 2022), the country was able to maintain natural growth without relying on extreme amounts of stimulus or rolling back interest rates. China grew 2.2% in 2020 and 8.1% in 2021. Without disruption, it was aiming for 5.5% in 2022.  Although consumer growth because of these policies was relatively soft, this has also offset the inflation trap and has produced an economic picture whereby China did not have to make economic policies which produced extreme risk, seeking short term recovery at the expense of long term growth options. Therefore, even though Omicron is a challenge, China does not have to resort to extreme policies to get out of this situation which will hamper its future growth, and the Bank of China has seemingly avoided such.

Therefore, whilst China has experienced turbulence, the west has in relative comparison is entering a new  catastrophe. 2022 is proving all around to be a much bleaker year than anyone expected, yet the western pessimism against China’s own economy aged poorly yet again because blinded by political bias and an obsession with China’s “inevitable failure” it has failed to see the bigger picture. If China can continue to grow in 2022 whilst western countries teeter on the brink of new recessions through unstable and bipolar fiscal policies, then that is a clear display of strength and a vindication, not weakness.

China’s advantageous situation has been underplayed yet again by the obsession of some news outlets to look for the negatives at all costs, even as things started to crumble around them back home. China will recover from this disruption, but the west through their own ill thought policies, will face recession yet again.

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