Wednesday, May 18, 2011

China and industrial policy

From this post at Naked Capitalism, about a paper (pdf) by Andrew Haldane and Richard Davies of the Bank of England. They find that myopic short-term investing is worsening, with "excessive discounting" over longer time frames. Yves Smith notes, "The result is that projects with long-term payback, beyond the 30 to 35 year timeframe, are treated as having no value. No wonder we don’t fund basic science, infrastructure, or climate change related projects."

Then she adds this point about China:
The irony is that China, with its command economy, is more willing to make long-term investments than capitalist economics which rely on the supposedly superior wisdom of having the capital markets play a dominant role in the pricing of risk funding. Now I’m of the school that China will likely have a bad stumble; there’s ample evidence that its unprecedented level of investment, which is fueled by lending, is scoring lower and lower returns. But the West’s short-sightedness increases the odds that this massive gamble might work out pretty well by moving into the type of projects that myopic capitalists are unwilling to take on.

Don't have much to say about this but found it interesting. Presumably the cold war prevented this dynamic from coming into being back when the Soviets were running a massive command economy; China also amasses western capital for command-directed investment from having a sector that caters to short-termism in the west by offering cheap labor (at least I suspect those are connected, but I lack the time and knowledge to articulate it right now). Western consumerism undermines Chinese infrastructure, while Chinese consumerism is deliberately restrained by policy and ideology. Politician in the US already regard Chinese prosperity as inherently threatening to American interests. How long can this go on before a Cold War dynamic re-emerges in earnest?

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