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"Week we have. Chris Boden Associate Professor Fulbright University Vietnam. He breaks down the many opaque aspects of the Chinese economy and as a former professor in China. He is a really unique perspective. He says that things in China aren't exactly he has reported and he gets into all of that and more with Michael Green from -til macro. I hope you enjoy it for real vision. I'm drew beset migraine. I'm here for Real Vision in Los Angeles and I'm sitting down with Chris Balding who most people that watch real vision lesion probably have heard something about you either twitter or in the news but you and I came into contact over twitter and your background is as a economics professor who was based in China and started talking very openly about it. I how did you end up in China. The the first time I ended up in China was one of the greatest stories. My wife had a job here in. La Doing homes for rockstars and she had a very bad job she wanted me to get out of and so I actually pretended to be her sending out her resume and she got a head us-based head-hunter that offered her a job on Wednesday and she had to be in Beijing to start Monday morning and so I still remember the conversation telling her honey. I might have found you a job. It's in Beijing and in that conversation did not go super well the first but we ended up going to China for nine years and had a great time and so when you went over initially really you went over as a bit of a China file actually no I actually went over really knowing even then after a couple of months in China knowing very very little about out China and as a as a junior professor I was focused on doing the very standard turn out journal articles in academic books and things like that and that's really what I did for the first I probably almost five years of my career there at peak so what started change at Peking University what led you to start speaking out and in writing about some of the concerns that you had in terms of whether it was China accounting issues or whether it was China's behavior on a national account basis. What was the trigger so the first couple years? I would say really three to five years that I was there. I really felt like I knew so little that I was just really learning and asking questions and everything like that yeah and I remember and I don't mean to pick on this guy but I remember Joe Biden coming to China and writing an article in The Washington Post Your New York Times about how China is the future in the US needed emulate them and at that point having lived there for I forget the exact time line four to five years. I was like well you know this is what's being written the US press and this just isn't matching what you're seeing on the ground whether it was inflation data or whether it was all the underlying problems that weren't being addressed and so oh that was really the first time I started to start just blogging and at that point I think it was just my mom and a couple of friends that were reading what I wrote and your mom. Obviously they liked it. You kept writing. Did you encounter blowback in China immediately or did that build over time honestly without any hesitation Asian. I can say I never had the school. really push back on anything. I wrote about China. I'm sure that you know people at my school. Got Got Phone calls about what I wrote. I can honestly say I never got any any pushback. the only time that I know of that. I got pushed back about things that I wrote about China. was really involving. China only tangentially and that was when there was a case where there was a gentleman in Singapore that hung himself and he and there was some question as to whether or not it was potentially Chinese military that might have been involved in his his death. We still don't really really not this day and he had accused he had told friends that he was being pressured to work for Chinese military in high-grade Microelectronics Onyx work and I had written about Singapore and I knew some of the cast of characters that he was involved with and they were Chinese military industrial companies that are their armor. Their weaponry is really involved in really almost any hotspot in the world and so I'm mentioned in passing about with this Singapore deaf other than that honestly nothing I wrote in China. Did I get any real official or unofficial request to take anything down and when you ultimately decided to leave leave China so you were peaking university until late twenty seventeen early twenty eighteen and then you came back here briefly what what was the decision process in terms of the the decision to leave Peking University. The decision went like this. I was in the late summer of two thousand seventeen. I had started a a petition about Cambridge University press censoring some of their articles on China and I had created petition for foreign universities and academics to read just reevaluate their relationship with with China I was scheduled to start teaching in November two thousand seventeen and the way it worked at our school was they would open up the registration system for students register for classes about a week to ten days before him and so I had been in touch with the school in the spring in summer and early fall about my class and I started when they opened up the registration system I started getting emails from students is going to take your class professor troubling but it's not listed. I emailed the school and they said Oh well. We'll check into that and mind you. This was roughly a week to two weeks after she chairman. She was reelected for life and the next day after e mailing the school. The school informed me that I was no longer. Teaching in all of two thousand seventeen eighteen and my contract would not be renewed at the end of the year I suspect I don't know that that was for lack of a better term a decision that was taken in outside of the school to terminate my contract the school and I had had like any normal working relationship. There'd been issues over the years I don't I think there was anything there that had been outside significantly outside of ordinary or anything that was unresolvable well and to the extent that you and I have talked over the years. Here's about some of these dynamics I mean one of the sources for a lot of your information on a lot of the questions that you delve into Were your students. I mean you had it sounds like you had a very good relationship with most of your students and were well respected certainly as a teacher and I looked up your reviews Peking University. I'm joking but it did feel like this was a fairly southern acceleration in terms of your relationship with China more broadly yeah and I think one one of the things that you know even for me. I think it was very informative. You really begin to feel China change in two thousand twelve when I first arrived arrived in two thousand six and two thousand nine in relative terms. China seems you know looking back now. Almost open in in freewheeling back in things really began to change in two thousand twelve when she was there and I think those changes really began their accelerate in. Let's say two thousand fourteen fifteen eighteen and I remember some of the incidents I had a journalist. Call me up some time. I want to say it was two thousand sixteen or so saying hey I need. I need a pro-china commentary on this specific issue so this was something that would have been you know pro party. Pro Beijing. This wasn't looking for an activist position and I called up a couple of colleagues saying hey this journalist. Would you mind doing this and all the colleagues that I called up said No. I'm not gonNA comment. You can't comment in China Today. Don't ask me again and it was very interesting to me that there was such even in this was a couple years. This was probably two years before I left the of how how much the environment in China had changed. People didn't even want to say pro party things publicly well. I'm one of the things that you and I have discussed. You know someone Ad Nauseam Thomas the dynamic that began to emerge was she's ascension I would phrase as in particular there seems was to be an obsession with the decline of the Soviet Union and the advent destroyed and the opening up that occurred in the Soviet Union prior to its dissolution roughly roughly nine thousand nine hundred eighty right from what I understand from what we've talked about that seems to be very key focus in terms of this EP and in particular G. is that consistent consistent with how you think about it. Absolutely I think that is probably one of the biggest things it is missed in and everything that's being discussed about. China is she is almost almost in my estimation singularly focused on not just the collapse of China but the accompanying numerology that is there right now and one of the one of the ones is an and I might be wrong on the name of the plan but I believe it was the Soviet Union was on. It's Thirteenth Five Year Plan and China is in the middle or near the end of its thirteenth five year plan right now and the Soviet Union did not see a fourteenth and she is singularly focused on not just having a fourteenth but on making sure that he does not replicate what he sees as the the era of the Soviet Union that led to its demise specifically opening and liberalisation and that's consistent with the discussion. We've also had which is my contention is that this is also very true that she is very focused on this dynamic of thirteenth fourteenth the plan The mistakes of one thousand nine hundred nine and the way I look at it is that if you were working assiduously to avoid the mistakes six of nineteen eighty nine you're almost guaranteed to remit repeat the mistakes of nineteen thirty six thirty seven right which was when Stalin was made read emperor for life or appointed for life as both head of the Party and head of Paulo Bureau and you know the equivalent equivalent cultural reformation that accompanied the the time period in which the Soviet Union withdrew from the West and thirty six thirty seven ultimately culminating in the ribbentrop. Do you see similarly or do you. Do you think there's a different dynamic at work. You know I I think that's I think you're seeing very similar dynamic. Play Out one of the things is you know the people I continue to talk to in China as you hear things about how much sentiment there is to retake Taiwan when you hear about Hong Kong should be grateful to China. you hear all of these types of things well. You know we're just we're just a turning. Xinjiang into into China we we have to do this. There's this there's this cultural imperative to make China great again for for lack of a better term uh so I think there's a very similar dynamic. I don't think when we talk about you know the US or other countries working with China China. I think there's a very static understanding of how China views itself domestically and how China views itself in reasserting itself Alf and taking its place as an equal or looking down upon the United States and part of that is this like almost cultural cleansing. They seem to be going through right now to elevate China again. I mean unfortunately I see these dynamics playing out very very similarly and one of the one of the alternate takes and so there's kind of could argue to primary narratives three one is is China's the future as Joe Biden articulation which is difficult to square with many of the facts on the ground but certainly remains. I would argue kind of consensus view. the second one is no. China's not the future but it's going to manage it similarly to Japan Dan right that it's going to have a step down and growth that it's going to age and therefore have deflationary pressures and probably ably in appreciation of the Juan as they seek financial power and global power in in terms of the financial sphere is compared to the manufacturing or or outright growth and then the third one is kind of the China collapsed model right. What do you think about that Middle One. The idea that China can gracefully go the route of Japan so I was talking to someone a couple of years ago in Beijing and I and I was talking about the debt pressures that China China was facing and I was unconvinced that Beijing even understood the severity of the debt problems and I asked the person I said do you think the damn the severity and said absolutely understand the severity but you're looking at it as if there's a problem there to be reformed and I was like what do you mean they of course they have to reform and they said no their goal is to just become Japan not Thailand so I think internally in the bureaucrats Kratz minds debt is not a problem as long as they can essentially always stay one step ahead of plate that might fall off okay however that is becoming even Japan model more and more difficult and not to say that they're going to become Thailand but the greater raider the debt pressures become both on domestic debt and on foreign debt you have to elevate it one step above Japan if you're going to make sure that you don't become Thailand the land and what that requires is almost going the DPRK model of financial repression and I think more and more that is what you you are seeing is that level of financial repression just as an example where seeing you know. We're seeing a lot of evidence that there are essentially price mandates on real estate prices just this week we're seeing just over the past couple of weeks we're seeing evidence of financial repression with regards to pork sales and subsidies and you need identity cards to purchase pork."
Adventures in Finance: A Real Vision Podcast
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