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I've gone freestyle again, in China's Wild West

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Paul Mason | 14:27 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

I am in the West of China, in Nangxia Province, on the Yellow River, to try and get my head around the "other half" of China's economic story. It is a long way from the glamour of the port cities but in a way those cities exist in order to pull China out of the kind of life they lived here, in the interior, for decades. I'll be finding out where the migrant workers have gone back to, and tracing some of China's export routes - atrophied as they are by the year-on-year decline of 22%; and asking the $2 trillion question: can China rebalance its economy to leave behind its dependence on export led growth, boosting the spending power of the working and peasant classes. Avid readers of Idle Scrawl know that its Chinese name is Xian Ren San Ji - "freestyle writing by a leisure author". Well, for now, Xian Ren San Ji rides again...maybe literally: this is the home of China's cowboy class. Giddyup!


  • Comment number 1.

    Not that anyone will care much, but there seems to be a duplicate of this on my browser.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ah well, I thought I'd give it a wee while before posting and lose one to the doubtless unacknowledged deletion.

    So I guess I'll cut 'n paste:)

    In the absence of a thread on any other topics that may still hold our interest today beyond the vastly critical music extravaganza holding the country in thrall (I believe the press has now noticed, if not perhaps in the way one might have hoped), I was pondering the fact that "Two Peers found to have abused their positon"

    I am a little intrigued that in the news broadcast during the Jeremy 'let's stir the country into a rabid froth over nothing by getting on two loons to discuss a stupid PR punt, and then let the dogs of the switchbaord loose' Vine Show how the two Lords' punishment was viewed by the house and hence reported.

    Let me get this straight... you take a bung to rig the law and you get suspended for 6 months... and then what? Welcome back to the House Partay! (on ex's no doubt).

    Yes there was an inappropriately forgetful Conservative couple, a distraught Labout ex-Cabinet Minister as well to distract, but two Lords a rigging don't even get fired on the spot????! Without the odd comment getting made on that odd discrepancy?

    Mind you, on the Steve Wright Show it has just been mentioned someone bought Kevin Spacey a Lordship, so the exchange of cash in this arena is certainly thriving.

  • Comment number 3.

    Class. Will be good to hear something from outside the expenses maelstrom. Get involved in the green tea.

  • Comment number 4.

    Yeah its not good timing and I think your second visit, still, like to see some pix of your little trip up on here - just point and shoot and it will be just fine. You last reports from China were, for me, v good BTW.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hope you're still going to get back in time for Saturday morning as I'm looking forward to hearing you speak!

    Reading Meltdown, I was intrigued by the idea that there would need to be huge redistribution of income in China to successfully rebalance towards consumer spending. But I wasn't entirely sure whether you thought that it was likely to happen. Are you getting a clearer picture now that you're out there again?

    (in case readers are interested in my - not really review, but essay inspired by Meltdown, here it is:

  • Comment number 6.

    I have, for some considerable time, been asking how long we could go on paying ourselves more to stack products on the shelves in shops than the Chinese people are paid to make them in the first place. At some point, surely, the money will gravitate to the point where the most value is added?

    If this is correct, then the talk about "rebalancing the global economy" really means the Chinese paying their people more as they move through an industrial and then a social revolution.

    This will not be a comfortable process for us, in the West, because for the last generation we have been living like "global aristocrats" of the labour of a working class on the other side of the World.

    If our history teaches us anything (and it may not) then the education and economic liberation of people ultimately leads to their emancipation. This is the big question that the powers-that-be in China must be grappling with. Can they make the switch to domestic consumption (prima facie, a "good thing" and perhaps inevitable) without fueling the political pressures that were seem briefly in Tianenman Square?

    You might ask while you're there.

  • Comment number 7.


    You're in the wrong place at the wrong time!

    (or maybe far from the madding crowd!)

  • Comment number 8.

    ask them why they are artificially holding their currency, that should be the strongest in the world, down at levels weaker than the pound? is it to give them an advantage and so leach manufacturing away from other countries where the currencies float? not very harmonious? more very aggressive? if not imperialistic?

    will you run a migrant song contest?

    p.s beware of honey traps of pretty 20 somethings, trained in 'distraction', trying to get your laptop or put trojans on it that will download everything you do- perhaps to infect other machines when you get back. Remember what happened to the no10 team.

  • Comment number 9.

    Freestyle ok . just dont go bearback, you may find your BBC laptop has also been compromised and unknown to you you will be logging onto the secure BBC network via Beijing for the next 10 years thanks to a 'leng loi'.

    China re-balancing its economy will prove to be irrelevent I reckon, they joined the party way too late and should use their cash to head off in a different path before people realise that cash is well...just bits of paper or even worse a few atomic level indentations on a hard drive somewhere.

    I really dont think people realise how fragile it all is now.


  • Comment number 10.

    If you are going to do it, lets do it properly, taking account of the whole underground of Chinese export. The Gomorrah exposee is a good start, what comes in through Naples to spew out across the EU, and the parallel universe of rip off.

    Just talking official exports is a bit lazy

  • Comment number 11.

    Dear all I greatly appreciate all this: I will neither go bareback, nor fall for a "honeytrap" whatever that might be. I am here to report and reporting means a 13 hour day on jetlag with no breakfast and only something frankly inedible for lunch. I know I am far from the expenses story but glad to be so. My own expenses on this trip are currently - since there the best hotel I could find has cigarette burns in both mattress and curtains - quite low. I have seen the Great Wall today though: the real great wall made of clay with slumdwelling farmers living more or less inside it.

  • Comment number 12.

    11. At 3:11pm on 15 May 2009, paulmason-newsnight wrote: nor fall for a "honeytrap" whatever that might be.

    With tongue equally in cheek, I think it might be best for any international globe-trotting journalist writing on behalf of a national broadcaster to beware of what a honey trap is in advance, such that they might be better able not to fall for it. Logically.


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