Wednesday, December 01, 2010

It's Official: If China had an Ear, Tom Friedman Would Whisper "Sweet Nothings" Into It

In yesterday's New York Times, Friedman basically proposed

I can see the point in some of Friedman's domestic grievances, but the way he leaps from complaining about political squabbling stateside to heaping praise on the "Chinese-way" always strikes me as short sighted and rather humorous. I say always, because anyone who reads his column consistently should have noticed this pattern of rebuking U.S. political debate as slow and over-bearing while simultaneously admiring the speed of autocracy (electorates are such a drag). Safe to say, this is an over-simplification.

At The Oil and the Glory recently, Steve LeVine had a guest blogger do a pretty good job of adding some nuance to the favorable depictions of China's command economy. For instance, the fifth year of a five year plan ends this December, as in right now, and the Chinese are dead set on meeting emissions quotas put in place by the central government. Their solution? Simply shut off power. Problem is, other people also have bills to pay: "the glitch is that factories still have the same production quotas, which they have been meeting by turning to diesel generators. One result has been wanton competition for diesel. Chinese diesel demand will rise by 1 million tons over the coming month"

A black market for generators and a run on diesel fuel? Sounds like a hurricane, not a steady course of action. This example is one of many, and such detail should not be lost when we compare economic and political systems. the O and G blogger goes on to note that this uptick in diesel usage could very well scuttle achieving the emission requirements that the power-cut was intended to facilitate.

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