井底之蛙

8/19/2005

Nourish the people with cheap diesel

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:07 am

In the post below Jonathan asked how a Confucian China could really be in the future. One possible bit of data comes from this article (From Brad DeLong). NYT reports that there are gas shortages in Southeast China because refineries are not willing to process crude at current low (state-set) prices. I suspect that things are actually more complex than that, but what I find interesting is that people are apparently hording gas in expectation that prices will go up. In other words they think that the state will adopt a market solution. If China had a more “Confucian” government they might take a more corporatist approach, and keep prices low for the benefit of consumers and farmers or whatever. (I’m an American, so the idea of cheap gas as a civil right is familiar to me.) For Confucian economic policy think of MITI in Japan and how it developed a whole range of ways to encourage firms to behave in a way that was for the good of Japan, as MITI saw it, rather than always for profits. I don’t see China heading in that direction. In part I just don’t see it, it is not happening. In part I can’t see where that would come from. China seems to have some pretty sophisticated economic policy makers, and they seem to look more to the US than Japan for models, which makes sense in 2005.

On top of that, I don’t think you can call a pure lassie faire policy like in Hong Kong in the old days Confucian. I can think of few things less Confucian than saying that the state does not matter, and should not have a role in regulating society. Nor do I see the CCP saying something like that any time soon. Without going too far into the “is it Confucianism” thing, it sounds a lot like the Republican era, or Taiwan, with a powerful state sector with at least some corporatist urges trying to control a fairly anarchic economic system but without the willingness to develop the methods of economic control you saw in Japan.

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