Australia’s ignorant China bet

I have confessed before that my judgements about China are largely second hand. That is, they are based upon the interpretations of others. Sure, some of those others are very well placed but this circumstance still makes me very uncomfortable. In other areas I consider myself to have expertise – the US and Australian economies, business cycle management and global macro – I also read other’s views, but can form  my own judgements because I have access to the raw data in each case. This enables me to see the holes in others views, even those I respect, and sometimes discern the future before they do.

Not so with China. With our great northern benefactor I get no reliable data. This leaves me with well argued opinion and economic principle as my sole guide to the future.

For me this circumstance is personally unsatisfactory but for a country to do the same it’s preposterous.

Yet that is where we are. MacroBusiness hosts myriad expert debates on any number of economic issues, sometimes revealing world leading analysis. But yesterday’s debate around the Credeit Suisse report that argued that the commodities super cycle is ended was painfully ignorant; defined by supposition, evidence free and emotive.  Of course, I’m not for a moment suggesting an MB debate is the ‘be all and end all’ of national wisdom. But yesterday’s vacuous debate at MB is symbolic of Australia’s incredible China ignorance, which is made all the more epochal by our complete economic dependence upon same.

In my own area, media, this ignorance remains in plain sight. You can count on one hand the number of China correspondents we have and the quality of most is poor. Let’s recall the jottings of one good one, John Garnaut, (who sadly remains on sabatical writing a book) some eighteen months ago:

Some Australian companies that depend on China are improving their analytical capability, although most are yet to acknowledge that they have a problem.

There is not a single Australia-based scholar with up-to-the minute knowledge on either Chinese elite politics or macro-economics.

Last year Stephen Joske, previously the Australian Government’s top China economist, said “there’s no one in Treasury who can tell up from down on China, beyond what they read in the newspapers”.

The four China-based journalists with Australian media houses, myself included, are hopelessly outnumbered by the range and complexity of events and trends that readers expect to be informed about.

The Reserve Bank is throwing its formidable resources at understanding how China’s economic statistics work and has set up a China research team but, unlike Treasury, still has no permanent representative here.

The Office of National Assessments and Defence Intelligence Organisation have a core group of China specialists, but would no doubt love to increase their numbers.

Even the Department of Foreign Affairs pulls up short – nobody can think of an obvious candidate to fill the shoes of the ambassador, Geoff Raby, when his term expires this year.

This ignorance was highlighted again in today’s AFR in a submission by former Ambassador to China, Geoff Raby, to the White Paper on Australia in the Asia Century:

Mr Raby says Australia has not sought to keep up with what competitor countries are doing with China.

“It is difficult to think of one major international issue of interest to Australia where either China’s support or at least acquiescence is not central to us achieving our objectives,” he says.

“It cannot be emphasised too much that the complexity and what is at stake – both commercially and in foreign policy – means the Australia-China relationship is simply like no other the Australian government has to manage.

“For Australia to still have just three diplomatic missions to China . . . would be akin to us trying to service our interest in all of Europe and Russia just from London, Brussels and Berlin.

“The difference is that our commercial interests in China are very much greater than that area combined.”

Mr Raby urges the explicit recognition of “the singular importance” of China to Australia; the establishment of an annual high-level strategic and economic dialogue led by the Australian prime minister; a substantial increase in resources to expand diplomatic posts; increased cultural diplomacy; and the re-instatement of a bilateral aid program concentrated on China’s poorer provinces”.

I couldn’t agree more or with greater enthusiasm. But the problem is here too, where we have let our base of Chinese expertise dwindle alarmingly. From the Asian Studies Association submission to the same White Paper:

Yet today the base of specialist knowledge and serious research that has been so enabling for our country in the past is imperilled. Observers working in education and research for some 40 years describe current circumstances as ‗in crisis‘. They judge that teaching and learning about Asia have withered still further from the situation described in the ASAA‘s 2002 report, Maximizing Australia’s Asia Knowledge. Our Association argued with a weight of evidence in 2005 that the national ability to understand and communicate with our neighbours in Asia had stalled at an ―illogically low level. The imperative to address this national need to embrace Asian studies at this historical moment early in the Asian century‘ is even greater now.

…Professor Anne McLaren‘s 2011 report on Asian Languages Enrolments in Australian Higher Education 2008–9 illustrates the gravity of the present falloff. Of the 24 tertiary education institutions surveyed, 20 offered Chinese language courses and reported that enrolments increased 35 per cent since 2001. But international students and students from a Chinese background were the source of much of this growth. At La Trobe University, for example, while Chinese language course enrolments rose by 65 per cent, 62 per cent of students were native speakers from China. As Professor McLaren observed, if this trend continues, Chinese could be perceived as a ‘ghetto’ language to be taken only by students of Chinese background.

I know we are a nation of punters, but even if you like to follow the gee gees or dish-lickers, you read the form guide. Our current circumstance looks to me something like a drunken second son headed to the races, pockets stuffed full with the family inheritance, and carrying a ouija board.

Comments

  1. We have a 100% faith based policy. If you question the China-will-grow-forever religion you’re dismissed as some kind of fruit loop, and lectured on your stupidity by the likes of Pascoe and Gittins!

    While I agree, we should be investing a lot more in Chinese intel, what makes you think anyone has a good handle on what’s going on over there, least of all the Chinese authorities?

    • Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

      Mandarin is barely being taught in our schools. My children are learning it but at their school French is much more popular (which makes me want to scream). I read somewhere that there are more Japanese students than Mandarin students in Australia, I hope that is wrong.

      I am also learning Mandarin (1 year to date) it is a fascinating language. For example the Chinese word for economy – jingji经济 means the “achievements of government.” That right there encapsulates why we need more Chinese speakers and experts.

    • Any one expecting growth forever is the fruitloop.
      We don’t ‘get’ China. v doubtful that we ever will.
      The ethnicity of the place weirds me out.
      85% of the populace identifies as Han going back for centuries. Unlike any where else.
      If you don’t savvy Han cultural practices you have buckleys.
      The nearly universal practice of guanxi to promote a relationship is so fraught for a westerner.
      Have no doubt if I attempted guanxi then its a gulag for me somewhere, charged with bribery and corruption.
      etc etc the issues are manifold.

    • HnH the problem is even if you get the raw data can you trust it from the Chinese officials. They are very well known for fudging numbers. Even if you get this data is it correct.

    • H&H you stated; “defined by supposition, evidence free and emotive. ” Well I apologise for my lack of research rigour, my view is based on a personal opinion and an opinion that I believe and act on. Another analogy, because I like analogy,s, word pictures that get straight to the heart of the matter, the USA has 15 Carrier groups (each with around 50 odd ships and over a 100 planes) Australia has about 15 ships and no air craft capabilities……..the USA could send a squadron from 1 Carrier and sink all of the Australian Navy – such is the power differential. It is the same with China – the power differential is the absolute massive difference in China’s population to Australia……so I stick to what I have said……this Resource Boom is not going away any time soon!

      • Mate there’s this thing called google where you can look up topics of interest and get some actual facts to support your opinion rather than make stuff up.

        For instance a quick search finds you the wiki entry on the US carrier fleet which shows you don’t know what you are talking about.

        “The Navy maintains 11 carrier strike groups, 10 of which are based in the United States and one that is forward deployed in Japan. CSG or CVBG normally consist of 1 Aircraft Carrier, 2 Guided Missile Cruisers, 2 Anti Aircraft Warships, and 1-2 Anti Submarine Destroyers or Frigates.”

      • What can I say OC, facts are my weakness – apologies,(Although the USA at one stage did have 15 Aircraft carriers) I was painting a ‘big picture’ and the big picture still remains true and this you have not commented on – that China is not going anywhere soon and Australia will ride on it’s coat tails for decades to come. Opinion does not have to be backed by ‘methodical research’ as it is subjective and believed by me personally. Most here have a differing opinion.

      • OC – looks like we both got our facts wrong (11 Big Ships; 9 Light carriers) Those light Carriers are fleet carriers, heli carriers e.t.c Most of those ‘small’ US Carriers are larger than Britain’s former 3 Carriers (they only have 1 now) and they had some serious muscle!
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_carrier
        I do not wish to quibble with facts/web pages – it was mainly the picture analogy that is my opinion.

      • Neil,

        Whilst I agree that the US could blow our Naval vessels out of the water at any one time, you will find, despite the wording of our Maritime strategy that we will “fight and win at sea”, our vessels are at this time limited to convoy support, border protection duties and limited humanitarian relief missions. Not something that any Navy would be worried about attacking. Our Navy and Defence Officials plan for the risks that face us in our region and plan accordingly.

        I feel that it would be prudent of China to do so as well. To believe that they will continue to have to use our minerals would be a risky proposition. Any rational person would draw up contingency plans or diversify their supply chain. So to expect that we can continue to rely on China and high commodity prices opens us up to huge risk.

        China may continue to provide such demand and that would be good for the mining sector but it is not the point here. What is more pertinent is that we have to maintain a diverse economy so as to not rely on a single customer. So in understanding our relationship with our largest customer and the risks associated with it objectivity is power. It will keep our eyes open to the risks and allow us to properly plan contingencies; something that IMHO is not occurring enough, if at all.

      • Mining Bogan – I think the Vikings have fallen by the wayside. American Naval Power is not going anywhere too soon.

    • Alex Heyworth

      Power corrupts

      Corruption is a crime

      Crime doesn’t pay

      Therefore, the more I know, the poorer I get.

    • Alex Heyworth

      On a more serious note, H&H, the psychology literature is full of studies showing that too much information impedes effective decision making. It is easy to get lost in the detail. That was President Carter’s problem. Probably Rudd’s as well.

  2. The problem is even if you get first-rate raw data on China that is NOT manipulated, the likes of Pascoemeter and various clones will lecture that you are looking at the data FROM A WESTERN PERSPECTIVE.

    Evidently, the western rules/stats/history/theory on economics don’t hold true for China.

    • Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

      Sorry Mav that last sentence is not correct. Experience of booms and busts (Austria style theory) does hold through space and time and it will also occur in China (which is simply going to be a bigger boom bust than we have seen before).

  3. Just curious, a lot of people even myself say that the raw data is not always trustworthy. Does anyone have any proof of the Chinese fudging numbers or is this notion that the numbers are fudged based purely on China being a communist society so their numbers will never be 100% trustworthy.

    • Well, the guy who is supposed to be the next leader said that he didn’t trust GDP figures because they’re too easy to manipulate…

      If you look at Chinas history and in particular the Great Leap Forward, you can only conclude than in a communist beauracracy of that size there is rampant manipulation of figures, or at least there are many sub-optimal decisions made in order to hit targets. It cant be any other way.

    • All stats out of China are completely and utterly worthless, and especially the growth stats.

  4. The intelligence situation is highly asymetric. China has tens of thousands of their English speaking citizens on the ground in Australia some of whom are here to spy on our business, politicians and military. Due to Australia being an open and democratic country their task of collecting information is much easier than ours. The Chinese know very well that our economy is heavily dependent on theirs. It seems almost certain that at some point in time when their demand for resources is lower and they have alternative supply lines they will use it against us. The relationship between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus is a good model how to play this game.

    • Which is why we should not allow the hollowing out of our economy and should maintain strategic capacity for local manufacture in most industries, particulalry heavy industries with long lead times to production.

      Suffering discomfort from the Dutch disease is one thing, the Dutch disease stopping either because of resource depletion or strategic realignment of supply by China and then realising you have no means of support is the real problem.

      MRRT to rebuild/modernise public and private infrastructure is good public policy as would some degree of protection for a level of strategic capacity and slowing of resource depletion.

  5. SweeperMEMBER

    A lot of Australian journalist commentary on China seems to be rehashing the Treasury line. I think this is partly why there isn’t that much independent thinking.

    Since 2003 the Treasury’s China analysis has been highly politicised IMO. This is sort of by necessity. If the government has a stupid policy to spend and hand out tax cuts whenever the suplus is greater than 1% of GDP – even though the ToT are at record highs and the interest rate is well above the world rate – the Treasury has to come come out with an excuse which sounds like a credible economic theory. Thus the standard line that Chinese growth will permanently underpin the ToT.

    The best China analysis comes from the US. Nouriel Roubini’s articles last year after the 5 year plan was probably the best analysis I’ve seen.

  6. Some of these comments are already making me uncomfortable, given the latent racism and unwillingness to critically examine our own system. Do all who have commented thus far seriously believe that no other country, particularly those that are large and complex nations emerging from a poverty, have problems gathering data? Are we not aware of any Anglo Saxon countries spin data to the best advantage of those in power on a daily basis, even if the data collecting agencies have a degree of day to day independence?

    The issues is not the data by the analysis by a broad range of people, so that different views can contend with each other, to draw out a clearer picture.

    I lived and worked in China for seven years and can confirm that there are thousands of Australians living in China who are very well placed to understand, as well as most, what is happening in China and where it is heading. Sadly the Australian government seems to do a particularly poor job of drawing information from them. That I was invited to lunch on a regular basis by the British, so that their operatives could gain another set of views, is indicative of the more engaged approach the Brits take.

    • You’re correct to highlight the cozy and ignorant assumptions made by Developed countries against Developing ones… and the GFC showed how badly we can botch things…

      However, IMO a Communist centrally-run gigantic system MUST be inherently more prone to manipulation and error than the freer systems we have which themselves are far from perfect of course.

      This is simply because there are fewer checks and balances and everyone gains if GDP is higher from localities up to nationally.

    • Oveja,

      I can’t really comment on the intelligence gathering capabilities of other nations.

      It appears from your comments that there is a rather apathetic view on the importance of understanding China. Whilst I am sure there are people who work and live in China and understand it, we have a majority who are Eurocentric in their views. Be it through racism, culture, history or a mixture of them all, I feel that it is going to be hard for the majority of Australians there are significant barriers to understanding foreign cultures that are not of an Anglo Saxon bent.

      The comments on this blog I don’t feel are racially motivated. They are more motivated by economic reality and an analysis of Australia’s position.

      IMHO the Australian government and too a large degree it’s people don’t ever try and understand why something is going well, it just basks in the glory, gloats and when it ends it really can’t understand why. Instead we should have a more informed debate and investigate why it is occurring and how we can mitigate the downside risks and thus maintain our economic position. We are not the only country that is failing to do this. Brasil is a prime example of exuberance gone mad without thinking about tomorrow. However that is not important we have to think about ourselves and ensure there is a more stable future for us.

      I’d be keen to better understand how you feel we could better understand China culturally. For I feel that is the most important part that we lack.

  7. I agree, but things are never as they seem in China having worked there recently. You can know a lot about China, but will it help? Business deals, and conditions of the deal change under your feet even before the ink is dry; well it did for us. In the end you really don’t know what’s going on.

    Given company tax revenue in Australia is starting to tank, we better hope the resource industry thanks to China continues. CAD forever if the current trend plays out and the politicians borrow and spend like they are.

    • In the end you really don’t know what’s going on.

      Precisely so. You have to deduce China’s stats from the state of its clients, since there is no way at all that the impecunious Chinese serf is going to replace his fat cat, burger-bloated Euro-American counterpart in this century, or the next.

  8. Reliance of Australia on China seems to be on the verge of taking over RE as the hot potato discussion. Anyone doubting China growth story is almost labelled as unpatriotic. Yet someone who states that they “want China to do well for Australia to prosper” fails to realise that it’s not about want or even hope. It’s about how those who run this country manage the resources boom, and even more to the point, how DID they manage it in the past decade because that probably determines what happens here in the next 5 years. If the bet really has been for a century of Asian growth providing never ending prosperity to Australia, then we might be up for major trouble. The natural resources Australia has are a great gift, and luckily there is great science and innovation in this country as well. I for one hope that the future relies on a combination of resources being sold somewhere and productive innovations being developed while not betting the house on those resources alone and Asian growth. Maybe I read the wrong analysts and fail to see the glory ahead.

    Perhaps a stupid analogy but think of a neighbour you’d be friends with, trusting their financial future on your business, and how it would end if your family faced trouble where you’d have to make decisions that harmed the neighbour. Who’d you be looking after?
    China needs to remodel and the type of remodelling -towards domestic consumption- is likely to hurt Australian exports, IMHO.

    • Thats a good analogy. China’s interests currently coincide with Australia’s – but this won’t always be the case.

      Some people (eg. Martin Parkinson) seem to have equated the “Asian Century” with the “high Aus ToT century”, when the two could be completely unrelated. What if the Asian century is also the “low carbon economy” century?

      • Some people seem to have assumed that this will be the Asian Century. This is an assumption of ENORMOUS proportions and very probably completely wrong (in that it seems to assume Asian growth will be strong for the whole century).

      • Jim Rogers says 1800’s Britain/Europe, 1900’s US, 2000’s Asia.

        It’s the most feasible viewpoint based on current knowledge of the world, human nature and an economic and political stocktake.

        That doesn’t make it correct, but it’s the current big picture view and more obviously rational than any competing scenario for global trends regarding regional growth.

      • And it has to be remembered that during those centuries (and likely to come in this one) there were regular depressions (what we used to call recessions) monetary crisis, bank busts, and other problems along the way.

        China/Asia will experience these cyclical events – however, what we are trying to point out – just to be clear – is can Australia ride these down cycles?

        The actual long running megatrend is not in question…the only likely dark clouds on the horizon are running out of cheap commodities and conflict…IMO.

      • Conflict over commodities within the Region is a definite issue. Something that is taking up a lot of military planner’s time at the moment. South China Sea is getting a lot of attention.

      • more like:
        <BC (?) – 1700's Asia/Middle East, 1800's Britain/Europe, 1900's US, 2000's Asia…
        so we're back to where it used to be?

      • Wouldnt totally disagree with that perspective, maybe I’m just reflecting that the term “Asian Century” appears to have become shorthand for “neverending growth”…

        However, I’d suggest that the 2000s will be US also. And it wont just be Chinindia that grows a lot, so will other countries such as Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and Japan (yes). So its really a bit of a misleading story that is portrayed a lot of the time.

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        Iceland all the way.

        They let their banks crash, taken their ex-PM to court for letting it happen, put in place a gay PM and come from good viking stock. These people are fearless.

        They frighten me.

      • Salient point about China creating a low carbon economy; put shale gas into the mix and I would think that either way China is in a good a position to achieve substantive long-term shifts away from coal fired energy. Not clear to me how we are addressing that from a policy or investment perspective.

      • China is in a good a position to achieve substantive long-term shifts away from coal fired energy.

        Betchya they won’t.

        Short of a catastrophic economic implosion (here’s hoping :)) there’s Buckley’s chance of China using less coal in 20 years than its using today.

        Now its possible China will be producing a lot more GDP for each tonne of CO2 emitted in 2030, but the atmosphere doesn’t care about economic efficiencies, it only cares about absolutes.

      • Alex Heyworth

        Depends on whether you think 20 years is long term or 50 years. In 20 years time China would have to be using a lot more steaming coal than at present, although probably quite a bit less coking coal.

      • Short of a catastrophic economic implosion (here’s hoping 🙂 ) there’s Buckley’s chance of China using less coal in 20 years than its using today

        That’s a horrifically myopic comment that betrays a profound ignorance of global warming and its increasing importance to the very survival of China. Not interested in an argument, just mark my words.

    • Goldilocks – where then would you bet the house on? Not Europe or the USA surely? We are geographically tied to the Asian region and we are so heavily invested in China that it is not going for decades – 100’s of billions of $$$ of new projects coming online in WA, NT and north Queensland.

      • Over the past decade I would have liked higher interest rates for residential mortgages and negative gearing halved, and certainly no FHB grant as the last ones in the housing bubble will be the most badly burnt. I would provide cheaper business credit. I would try to make sure that good productive businesses with positive long term prospects do not go bust unnecessarily. However, I do realise that controlling the currency and interest rates is a very difficult task. I still think the AUD can tank quickly and create new problems then. I would not be blinded by Asia alone but would look closely into US because eventially they will start growing properly again once they’ve dealt with the housing bust first. I believe the manufactoring sector in the US will grow significantly. I think local manufacturing will grow in many countries -even in Europe- which will be trying to employ their youth. US has decent demographics and if they get their politics out of the current gridlock, I think they will rise again.
        I see all this happening over the next 5- 10 years but I present my thoughts with utmost humbleness as I do realise this may sound ridiculous.

      • It sounds plausible Goldilocks – I for one do hope you are right about the USA and that they bounce back big time economically. I’m glad they are our no.1 allies. I think the resources boom is a once in a lifetime deal and it does not employ that many people and public opinion is that the wealth should be shared more from mining; I’m just dubious about how that would/could happen.

      • But the 100’s of billions of $$$ projects have relatively little Australian content.

        Steel from China and often partially fabricated there for local assembly only, earthmoving equipment from US with little Australian content, debt funds from foreign banks, equity from OS,

        How many man years of employment in the construction phase? ( All this talk about creating jobs is so misleading) How many during the operation phase? And both compared to total whole of Australia expected man years of employment over the say 40 year life of the projects? Now deduct the jobs lost as a result of the high currency. And look forward 50 years to substantial resource depletion. The Pilbara is estimated by experts to only have 50 years left.

        According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, that resource is being used up at a rate of 324 million tonnes a year, with rates expected to increase over coming years. Experts Dr Gavin Mudd (Monash University) and Jonathon Law (CSIRO) expect it to be gone within 30 to 50 years (Mudd) and 56 years (Law).
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilbara#Iron_ore

      • True Explorer – the mining industry does not have that great amount of employment either (although the demand is growing with new projects), it is capital intensive. But what are the alternatives? We do not not sell to the Chinese, as they would go elsewhere, I just hope we can manage this boom for the benefit of future generations.

  9. Global “Money” (in the true definition), that is wealth available and looking for sound investments – I do not mean speculative and innovative credit – has begun to shift to the time line between Perth and Vladivostok and all points in between – whilst blind and obedient Oz Bogan Policy see only its masters in the US and the UK (both long term dead meat).

    WA will profit and grow while the rest of Australia will whither but demand to retain its strangle hold on “leadership”, such as it is. Let them be; just ignore them for we there is always secession.

    There is a massive shift coming to Australia which is driving the West forward while that which we call “leadership” is determined to destroy all else; call it the Great Bifurcation.

    The prime reason for this is that most Australians believe in the nanny system of the Fabian handouts and the nonsense that the MSM impose daily.

    China is just starting to ‘drink the wind’ in the face of Australia’s Policy of ‘waiting to die’.

    Too bad.

  10. GunnamattaMEMBER

    Interesting thread everyone,

    I am based in Russia and can tell you that the same would be true here (nobody has much insight into the decision making processes in China), I have moved extensively through central Asia (Kazakhstan etc – where they are also increasingly dependent on offloading commodities to China) and know the same would apply there.

    The Russians seem to find it generally impossible to do large scale deal with the Chinese (it is really noticeable with Russia’s energy exports) and I have had a few very senior business types express complete mystification at China’s national decisionmaking processes, and the administrative and business processes that hang off them.

    With the bigger question (for Australians – and I am moving home soon, mainly to educate my son at home) about whether this is particularly intelligent, I find myself increasingly wondering what happens in Australia AFTER the boom (no matter if it goes on for ten years or ten months) and what sort of world my son will grow up in. At the moment I see an Australia which seems intent on exporting its value adding/more intelligent development/complex servicing capacities in order to surf the mining boom (and I find myself comparing this with Russia’s obsession with retaining parts of its technology sectors and strong sciences [nuclear energy, aircraft design in particular] no matter how inefficient they are).

    But for all the talk about economic adjustment which needs to be made now (when lots of cash is coming in) it is the economic adjustment to be made down the track which I wonder about.

    Australia seems like a man who has had a good day at the races and decided to ditch the job and become a punter – it could all end in tears.

    • I agree with your statement however, I have spent many years in China rubbing shoulders at the upper levels and I have experienced the dedication to “governance” at the higher levels which I cannot even find in Australia. Of course, China has over 1 Billion people and Australia 20+ million so the China machinery is far more complex.

      As the World knows there is no governance in Australia only 4 levels of ever growing Taxation and an US cum UK (both losers) blindly obedient cabel of propaganda’ists.

  11. “For me this circumstance is personally unsatisfactory but for a country to do the same it’s preposterous.”

    In fairness, our ‘ignorance’ has served us very well! At least thus far.

    We were never going to do anything other than run with the boom, punters all. But we have not lucked out yet.

    (slightly off topic, but recently heard a pundit double stress the AUD was NOT driven by commodity prices, AUD a CT play)

  12. “There are a thousand Chinas” is as true today as ever. Happily, there are a thousand experts making their expertise freely available on the Internet and, rarely, in the mainstream media (John Garnaut is not one of them).

    Start where China started, with its staggering, well-documented, wild-and-wooly history. As an enjoyable intro, listen to Montgomery’s ‘China History Podcast’. Most of what we see in China today, including its governmental system, is completely familiar to every Chinese historian, so such stidy is anything but ‘dry’.

    Perhaps more importantly, dvelop a symapthy for China. Eschew the cynical, ever-critical , Cold War attitudes. The Chinese government is the most successful, most admired, most trusted government on earth (see Pew; Edelman; UofM surveys). They must be doing somethihg right! So let’s be humble and learn from them.

    Finally, try to see the Chinese government as its people see it: “A neutral government shaping national consensus.” Because that’s what it is and that’s what it does.