The Coming Collapse of China by Gordon G. Chang

Wednesday, September 08 2004 @ 04:02 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

The Coming Collapse of China by Gordon G. Chang, Random House Inc., 2001

When I read Gordon G. Chang's "The Coming Collapse of China", one of the greatest books in this decade, I was struck by the resemblance between Japan and China. At every page dealing with widespread corruption, the way they are passing problems around between SOEs (state-owned enterprises) and financial institutions, including AMCs (asset management companies), pervasive self-deception and ubiquitous human rights abuse, I was under the illusion that the author was addressing the issue with the possible collapse of Japan, not China. At least I am certain I was looking at the mirror reflection of Japan in China as scrutinized by Gordon G. Chang, minutely and boldly.

When this book was published here in Japanese translation, many people felt gratified and hailed it as a groundbreaking work on China (actually that's what it is) because they had been fed up with the subservient way their government and the media deal with the big brother. But to tell the truth I don't care too much about the fate of China. Essentially it's a matter of when, not whether, that we see the self-deceptive regime tumbling. Besides it's totally up to the 1.3 billion people to decide when to say, "Enough is enough".

I was more concerned about the likelihood of Japan's collapse. You may ask what a baloney I am talking about. But do not assume a priori it's totally unlikely or inconceivable that someday we see Japan collapsing although it depends on how you define the word "collapse". In my definition of the word, we will be seeing the collapse of Japan when the entire 1955 System crumbles. (Let us discuss the 1955 System more in detail in our Forum on "Polity and System"). Given that definition, the collapse probability for Japan is not that far apart from that for China. On the other hand, as is true with China or any other nation, it's all up to us, the 127 million people, to decide whether/when to say, "We can't take it anymore". And as a matter of fact there are little signs that someone will soon stand up and come forward to say, "We've had enough".

In the past Japan has proven totally unable to change, or even collapse, on its own. Whenever this nation faced a crisis, its leaders invariably showed their total inability to act decisively and quickly, and let things drift until the problem solved itself. In 1274 and 1281 it was a blow of kamikaze, or divine wind, that thwarted the Mongolian attempts to invade Japan. Seven centuries later the Pacific War started and ended the way it did because of this wait-and-see attitude on the part of its leadership. From the 1970s through early 1990s, Japan could abandon its unfair trade practices just because of the incessant gaiatsu, or external pressure, mostly from the U.S. Let us be reminded how the Reagan administration could force Japan, through his U.S.-Japan Strategic Impediments Initiative (SII), to abide by the international or bilateral obligations. Given this leadership's inability to act, rather than react, that perhaps dates back as far as to the 13th century, Japan will never be able to collapse from within, for better or for worse, let alone change.

And when taking into consideration the downside of globalization, no one, but al-Qaida or other international terrorist groups, could afford to see Japan go belly up because every nation has too much at stake in the world's second largest economy.

Obviously the author of "The Coming Collapse of China" is by far better off than I am to foretell what's going to happen in China within this decade. But my hunch is that the rotten regime will survive for a certain period of time because this nation, like Japan, has by now developed state-of-the-art skills for procrastination. Just like Japan could further solidify its self-deceptive 1955 System after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and eternalize the LDP's monopoly of power, Hu Jintao and his successor(s) will be able to have the CCP's monopoly of power artificially prolonged, or even solidified, beyond 2008. And all along the two nations will keep festering all over.

Here's before/after of my reading of Gordon G. Chang's book:
Before: I assumed that Japan was a going concern.
After: I've realized nothing should be taken for granted.

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