It has been been a few years since we looked at the rising east with China Mercantilism and New Global Economic Order article. Forgive that article for a certain tone of Western geopolitical chauvinism (that will be explained below).
Time to refresh.
The new Politburo Standing Committee is a leaner 7 member group with an average age of 63.4. I guess the red "princelings" in China are more in Prince Charles style. Whereas the average age in legislatures and highest committee bodies has been falling in the wider Western world (with an exception of United States), the new Chinese leadership will be prone to gerontocracy along with its tied at the hip American tango partner.
Xi Jinping, one of the youngest at 59 is a trained chemical engineer (which is serious business much like Angela Merkel's doctorate on quantum chemistry and people with such backgrounds are often benefit to the public). Another old member, 67 year old Yu Zhengsheng, has missile and electronics engineering training. Two engineers and the rest of the 7 member group are economists, statisticians, and propagandists. All very wealthy of course. This is going to be a very cautious status quo bunch and the generation that will finally start making major mistakes. It is irrelevant whether mistakes will stem from general generational/class divide, overconfidence, above mentioned gerontocracy and cautiousness, or having to make the first major uncertain step into the darkness as a regional hegemon. No country has gone longer than 30 years on such a breakneck pace and on such scale without a major misstep or at least slide into some stagnation. Even with Washington DC and Moscow "reorienting" towards the far east, a vacuum will still be opened in the region due weakness of both powers in the area (US navy is currently being gradually strategically pressured/forced out of Western pacific with Chinese "carrier killer" and "satellite killer" missiles).
1) The ruling center finally effectively centralizing after warlordism chaos period of the 1920s-1940s which is reminiscent of unification of large pieces of feudal France under 18th century monarchic absolutism. Thus effective first time creation of a modern nation state for China.
2) The current rapid Chinese industrialization and neo-mercantilist rise reminiscent of rapid rise of Germany within a multipolar world of the 1870s-1914 period. With current Anglo-American empire of today naturally playing the role of a deindustrializing British Empire hegemon of yesteryear.
3) The neo-mercantilist practices from Beijing attempting and aiming to be futuristic, evolving, and cutting edge (Deng Xiaoping was mentored by Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew [who is still alive!!] on Asian illiberal capitalism of the future). Thus Beijing aims to borrow and improve on the best of evolving neo-mercantilism of pre-1990s stagnation Japan, Kaiser's Germany of old, and of course smaller neighboring modernizers like Taiwan, South Korea and survivalist dictatorial city state of Singapore. Mercantilism, state sponsored industrialization, and protectionism have been observed to work again and again historically and so the previous article saw most of the world being pulled into the Chinese system and orbit.
[Sidenote: we may even add a new analogy of China partially learning from desires of Hamilton and Quinsy Adams in terms of development and rapid achievement of autonomy from a global hegemon. In any case, Beijing learns and absorbs from all corners much like Moscow does. This is a sign of health. The mass scale chaos and butchery from mid 19th century lasting into the 1960s taught them to never repeat such a time of troubles at any cost.]
The window of opportunity refers to time period from the present to when China moves up the value product chain and begins to effectively compete with Siemens, IBM, GE, Boeing, and EADS when it comes to manufacture of advanced value added complex products like transatlantic super heavy passenger jets, high speed electric cars, high speed train wagons (and not just construction of amazing rail lines with Western assistance), super computers, rocket engines, small next generation fission reactors, tanks, robotics, stealth jetplanes, genetic medicine, etc. Even if a second wave of the financial crisis in the Western world triggers an American 1930s depression style event in China, such harsh transition and taking advantage of Chinese window of opportunity for West to unite remain relevant suggestions. Regional, semi-global, and global unification and globalization (taking new forms) remains inevitable but it would be nice for various unifications to have more individual and human friendly political ideology. Current Chinese state capitalist illiberal dictatorship model must be resisted and much of humanity should have access to alternatives. It is up to large swaths of the Northern Hemisphere (even totally stagnant regions) to develop such alternatives.
automation, third industrial revolution, and very slow paradigm shift to post-scarcity, it was and still is very important to keep one continent as a fortress of civilizational safety with a dynamic cluster of elites overseeing it.
Now of course that was before the beggar thy neighbor currency wars between US and EU and the rest of the world, before the perpetual debt crisises born from private debts being socialized, and before it became clear of the sheer paralysis within American and European politics (although much less so in Brussels than in DC). China has moved along swiftly since then, bypassing Japan as #2 economy, humiliating Western powers at Copenhagen conference, and beginning to compete in high end products like solar panel technology with dramatic increase in subsidies. In global conditions where Western leaders decided to kick the can down the road, it is not surprising that China decided to do the same with election of the current Politburo Standing Committee. It appears Western elites don't yet fully appreciate the historical magnitude and paradigm shifting nature of the financial crisis they are facing and will not make major moves for another few years allowing China to bypass US by 2015 (the most recent estimate). Then we may see history repeat itself as a farce with Westerners asking to be financially bailed out (it has already been indirectly happening at G20 meetings) by the Chinese development and foreign investment banking organs. A Politburo with a lower average age might have stirred some worry in Brussels, DC, and Moscow.
The average age of the new politburo doesn't help with bringing potential flexibility and finesse when it comes to reacting to major issues. The accumulated wealth buffer (to be readily dumped on the problem as in 2009) is being relied upon instead of having rapid reaction flexible human leadership tools. Although most of the members of the new Politburo were not born directly in coastal provinces, their upbringing and the great power trajectory of the country will still push them to favor more resource expenditures on coastal integration than Western provincial development. The focus on the Chinese coast may allow China to play a civilizational role within trans-Pacific space that America played in trans-Atlantic space in later half of the 20th century (and that China could have played as far back as 500 years ago if it chose to). However, it will be very important for them to not forget infrastructural links with Central Asia, not forget to increasingly allocate resources to the Western provinces to create a societal shape more like Japan's than Brazil's or America's (olive shaped as one Politburo member said), and to push forward with high speed rail towards Europe.
We will return to China and look deeper after observing some of the moves this new bunch makes.