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Where there is a will, there is a way.

 
 
 

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年过半百,经历坎坷.少年遇"文革",下乡八载,虽历经磨难,唯斗志不减,农耕间隙自学不辍,终守得云开日出,考进大学.大学毕业后先后经历了中学执教,国企管理,外企高管,最后回归重执教鞭.目前在家精心培养有志掌握英语的中小学生. 我最大的愿望就是看到孩子学有所成,桃李天下.

我新发表的文章《底特律给中国敲响警钟》  

2013-08-12 09:12:39|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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前言:按照底特律破产的标准,中国恐怕有许多城市已经或即将破产。中国需要冷静下来!

Detroit, a warning call

 

Wu Guangqiang

DETROIT, once the richest city per capita in America, has filed for bankruptcy, the largest American city so far to do so. What made this once-mighty industrial giant, which put the world on wheels, decay and fail in the end? What lessons can China learn from Detroit’s bankruptcy?

A look at the popular analytical theory on the causes of Detroit’s downfall is of great importance for China, where some cities are experiencing similar problems to those that once blighted Detroit.

First, some researchers believe that Detroit’s tragedy dates back to what is known as “white flight,” when the population of Detroit started declining rapidly through the 1970s until the 90s. The term “white flight” applies to the migration of white people from the suburbs to rural areas, as well as from the U.S. Northeast and Midwest to the U.S. Southeast and Southwest. Two main reasons for white flight were federal legislation on desegregation and the high unemployment rates in cities such as Detroit.

Second, the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is also widely blamed for the decline of Detroit. When it was first signed in 1994, proponents said it would eventually create jobs for the U.S. economy. Today, however, we can see that it actually cost the U.S. manufacturing jobs. According to a report by economist Robert Scott, an estimated 682,900 U.S. net jobs have been “lost or displaced,” because of the NAFTA agreement and the resulting trade deficit. Detroit’s auto manufacturing industry has been in a steep decline ever since.

Third, economic historians trace the onset of the “Rust Belt” to the year 1970. This was the year the Occupational Health and Safety Act was passed and the Environmental Protection Agency was created. The unintended economic consequences which followed devastated industrial cities from Detroit to Flint, Toledo to Pittsburgh.

One thing stands out as alarming when reviewing the circumstances leading to Detroit’s bankruptcy: some well-intended policies or measures may actually have been responsible for bringing it about.

This is exactly what is happening in China. Ambitious local governments across the country are competing to build ultra-modern mega cities and mammoth industrial complexes, mostly on borrowed money and without real necessity. In Guiyang, capital city of Guizhou Province, four immense residential projects are under construction, with each one covering an area of 10 million square meters. Meanwhile, three other huge, though slightly lesser, projects are also underway. When completed, these dwelling districts are capable of accommodating 5 million people, whilst the city’s population is predicted to grow to only 3.2 million by 2020, causing some to quip “another ghost city is about to be born.”

Actually, crazy, blind investment is producing numerous “ghost cities” and “rust belts” across the country.

The chief culprit is China’s faulty investment system: Local governments have a strong desire to borrow money to do “big things” while they don’t have to answer for investment failures because the Central Government is the final guarantor.

Surveys done in some towns and cities in Guangdong Province show that local governments have such heavy debt burdens that it will take them 400 years, without spending any money, to pay off the debt. Such debt-mired cities or towns would certainly go bankrupt in the U.S., but local officials think it will be “all right” in China.

It’s estimated that the balance of China’s local government debt has exceeded 10 trillion yuan (about US$1.6 trillion) but some analysts put the figure at 20 trillion yuan.

The bottom line is that a house of cards will fall apart sooner or later, and the longer it is propped up the more disastrous the end will be. In view of the mounting danger posed by this escalating debt, the National Audit Office has announced, at the order of the State Council, it will conduct an audit of all local government debt.

Hopefully, the measure is not too late and comes before China sees its own “Detroit,” which would dwarf Detroit’s decline in terms of size and severity of consequences.

 

(The author is an English tutor and a freelance writer.)

 

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