Has China peaked? – by Michael Auslin (National Post – November 20, 2015)

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The annual Halifax International Security Forum will convene on Nov. 20, bringing together some of the finest military and strategic thinkers in the Western world for a three-day conference. In the run-up to the event, the National Post is presenting four essays that describe the challenges, and opportunities, facing the West today.

At a dinner at the Halifax International Security Forum in 2013, a table of experts and interested participants, including former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, had a spirited discussion on an unconventional theme: “Peaking China.”

Even two years ago, the idea that China would not be forever rising was a fringe concept. It cut against the grain of thinking of both those who assumed China was the new economic superpower and those who saw its rise as a threat to continued peace and stability in Asia.

As with Japan during the heyday of its bubble in the 1980s, Western observers were all too eager to look past the looming problems facing China, and thus have been caught by surprise as it suddenly seems that the Chinese miracle is at risk, if not already ended.

China’s achievements since the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in 1979 are undeniable. From an impoverished nation with a per capita GDP of barely U.S. $300 in that year, China by 2014 was the world’s second-largest economy in real terms, and the first in purchasing power parity terms, while its per capita GDP had skyrocketed to U.S.$7,600 (U.S. $12,700 in PPP). It has become an export juggernaut, and its major cities are as modern as their European counterparts.

Yet the days of China’s high-flying growth are over, and the world is now catching on to what the Halifax attendees discussed at that dinner: we may have witnessed “peak China,” and the future likely will hold far more challenges for Beijing.

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