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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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China’s collapse years in the making, not an overnight event

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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China is grappling with a range of challenges, including political, economic, and demographic issues. Youth unemployment rates are rising while fertility rates are declining, and banks are predicting a slowdown in economic growth. China’s economy is also feeling the effects of tech companies relocating and product bans being imposed by other countries.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan warns that while China’s decline has been ongoing for several years, the nation’s industrial woes may soon reverberate across the globe.

An excerpt from Peter Zeihan’s Sept. 19 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

It’s time to come out from under your rock and face the music — China is collapsing. If that comes as a shock to you, I have two recommendations. First, it might be time to refresh your news feed. Second, the Chinese have concealed this fairly well, so watch this video to get up to speed.

Whether you look at it from a domestic, international, heck, or even extraterrestrial point of view, the Chinese system is riddled with issues that are becoming increasingly apparent. Between economic issues, a crumbling political system, awful demographics, and a long list of other problems, China’s collapse should no longer surprise anyone.

Now that you’ve been warned, you need to ask yourself: are you ready? Between disruptions to global supply chains and a myriad of other issues, the world better be prepared to manage the fallout.

Hey, everybody, Peter zine here coming to you from home in Colorado. And if you haven’t been blind and immune be marginally aware of international news, you know that the information out of China, these past few weeks through July and August and into September has just been atrocious. Consumer spending is down, lending is down, which should never happen in a country that is just capitally driven. The Chinese basically forced the cap on everything. And so lending should always be going up. And it’s not, we’ve had the foreign minister go missing and then be dismissed the same as now happening for the defense minister or the head of the missile forces. information that’s coming out about youth unemployment is atrocious, so they just stopped collecting the data altogether. Information on bond transactions is gone. If you’re going to try to get into a more sustainable economic structure, you obviously need a bond market. They’re not collecting information on patents anymore. So Supposedly, the moving up the value added scale that the Chinese been talking about for years is now not even part of the plan.

It feels like we’re looking at a broad scale societal and economic and political breakdown. And we are.

The shock, though, is that this is all happening at once. And after years, if not decades of the story of rising China and hearing that from Beijing, and oftentimes from political parties in the United States and around the world. For it to all of a sudden go completely inverted. Jean seems like quite a shock. But here’s the thing, it hasn’t all been happening at once. It’s just that this is when we’re noticing it. If you look back on the last few years, things have been

odd, and all things China. So first, let’s deal with this from the outside point of view. And then from the inside point of view. So outside, think of what’s gone on the last few years, we’ve got the Ukraine war, we’ve got the Iranians on the warpath, we had four years of the Trump administration, we had two years of a more internally focused situation and the Biden administration, the Europeans were dealing with the tail end of their financial crisis, the Japanese have been preoccupied with the remilitarization program, everyone has been dealing with their own stuff. And it’s only kind of now that the noise out of China has gotten so loud that we’re even noticing that it’s not good news anymore. As for the Chinese,

two big things, number one, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. For three years, it was nothing but COVID. And any sort of statistical release or news out of China was always viewed through the eyes of COVID. And even if there was bad news, you could always lay that at the altar of COVID consumption was down clearly, that’s COVID problems with supply chains. That’s clearly with COVID problems with linking their industrial production to knees in the wider world. That was because we adjusted our consumption because of COVID. And so we’re only now kind of getting our first good look after years of COVID. And that also within the Chinese system that had a significant shift. When Chairman GE he started a series of purges under the guise of an anti corruption campaign. And in his first five years, he removed every regional power center so they could never rise to national prominence. And that he went through and gutted the two factions of the previous presidents, who Jintao and Gen Z men that put them in power to make sure that they could never come back. And then he spent the last couple of years gutting the bureaucrats and the private sector of anyone who might be able to rise to national prominence. As part of that he’s removed certain sorts of data collection to make sure that they can’t assist anyone from rice and soy, for example, college dissertation, the information is not published anymore, it’s probably not even collected anymore. So no one can take the economic route to prominence, and political buyer. biographies are no longer put together by the state. So any sort of local politician or younger politician has no way to rise in a situation that might down the road generate a potential rival. So we’ve seen this ever tightening information vacuum across the Chinese space. All of these things have been going on for five and six years. And during that five and six year period, we hit an inflection point that was absolutely the high point of the Chinese system. And that’s largely demographic, we still don’t have what I would consider to be truly accurate information. But the most recent full data to be released by the Chinese in the last two three months, tell us that the birth rate has dropped in China by nearly 70% since 2017. That’s the fastest drop in the historical record of China of humanity throughout all of recorded history. And in that timeframe, if the Shanghai Academy of Sciences is right. They’ve overcrowded their population of over 100 million people all of whom would have been working age people under age 40, meaning that in the last five or six years, they’ve had that just peak workforce in the last year peak workforce.

In the earlier part of that process, and they just don’t have enough millennials to do consumption at all. And we’ve seen the cost of the workforce increased by a factor of 14, or 15, in the last one, two years. So in the last five or six years in China, if you could somehow have a crystal ball and have access to all the data, especially the supplement collecting anymore, we would see that they’ve already fallen off the cliff. And it’s only in the last few months that it’s become so obvious that it’s cut through the clutter and the noise and the preoccupations we all have with everything else in our lives. And now it’s obvious that this system is breaking down, the demographic collapse is not correctable, there are not enough people under age 40 for them to even try even if they had the macro economic structures that allowed or encouraged people to have families have the role.

And we’re seeing an ever increasing rate of decline in terms of their industrial competitiveness. On top of that, we have the issues with the Ukraine where with China’s starting to come into the crosshairs of sanctions, we have China being more and more exposed to energy and food insecurity, because the Europeans have taken everything else that is proximate to them, so they don’t have to use Russia. And the infrastructure between Russia and China is so thin, that stuff has to go out west past Europe, through the Suez War around Africa and around India and around Vietnam before getting in there making it the most exposed supply lines in the world. So we’re going to see more disruptions moving forward based on what’s going on in China with demographics and political ossification. And we’re all certainly going to see disruptions in their ability to access the wider world for trade and merchandise exports. And that’s before you consider that the Biden administration is the most protectionist administration, the United States has had, at least in a century, far more so than Donald Trump. So the Chinese are getting hit from every single angle. And Chairman xi is so perched the system that it’s an open question whether he can even become aware in a reasonable amount of time, that something needs to be done much less have the capability to come up with a coherent policy, to deal with whatever the issue is, as it arises. So

Demographically speaking, we know that this is China’s final decade as a coherent economic power. But now we see exposure and political failure that absolutely can bring that date forward. And that assumes that no one in Washington or London or Japan, or the rest,

put their fingers on the scale and push this forward.

This has been coming for a long time. But because of all the noise, we missed a lot of the signals in the last five years of just how quickly it was coming.

And now let’s hear the biggest risk. And all of this is whether or not we have enough time to adapt to things like construction standing for industrial projects in the United States have risen to a level we didn’t even see in World War Two, the pace of the industrial expansion in the reshoring trend really is huge should hopefully it started five years earlier, but better late a mother. The biggest concern I have now is that the information vacuum out of China is so complete, and the decision making capacity in China has so collapsed. And the pace of decline is now so steep. And the fact that we’re coming so late to the understanding of all of these things, means that we might not all realize that China really it is broken until the product simply stops arriving. There is a lot of industrial demand for product in this country for things like transmission towers and transformers, and other industrial equipment that is necessary to build out the industrial plant here that’s still made in China that we’re still depending upon, and some of these things already have weightless that are important 36 months. But in we might now be in a situation where it’s not obvious that this stuff is never coming until the shipments simply don’t arrive. And at that point, we will be in a bit of a pickle because we will not build out our industrial plant fast enough in order to get by without the Chinese in the midterm. That’s our biggest risk. Now. Luckily, from an industrial growth point of view and an employment point of view, this is a good problem. But it does mean that the Chinese collapse is likely to cause a lot of follow on damage here because of shortage. And the only way around that is to build more and make sure that we don’t need those products in the first place. Unfortunately, we need a lot of those products in the first place in order to get the built. No really buy around that except for to start yesterday.

 

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