For years, the conventional wisdom about China's GDP was this: if the country didn't meet its target of 8 percent annualized growth, political instability would result. The reasoning behind this wisdom is pretty simple: the Chinese Communist Party, having long ago forfeited its ideological legitimacy, depends solely on providing economic growth in order to stay in power. So long as enough people prosper, they'll put up with a fair amount of repression and corruption. But as soon as economic growth slows, China could be in for a rude awakening.
Has the time come? China's GDP grew by only 7.8 percent in 2012, its worst showing in over a decade, and the numbers for the first quarter of 2013 are even worse: just 7.7 percent, below the 8 percent forecasted by a Wall Street Journal survey of economists. To make matters worse, there's some question that the actual number is even lower: some economists are questioning the accuracy of China's inflation statistics, which would mean that real growth is lower still.
Should Beijing be worried about political unrest, then? Probably not, at least in the short term.
For one, China's economic slowdown is, in part, a consequence of demographic changes sweeping the country. According to Yiping Huang, a scholar at Beijing University, the downward shift in China's economy neatly mirrors the decline in the country's working-age population -- there were 3.5 million fewer people of working age in the country in 2012 than there were in 2011, a far cry from a decade ago when this figure increased annually. As a result, the economy can slow without a corresponding rise in unemployment. And unemployment, more than anything else, is what Beijing fears can trigger political unrest.
Secondly, a GDP slowdown may help Beijing tackle some of the structural problems with the economy, once described by former Premier Wen Jiabao as "unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable". Patrick Chovanec, an economist who has written extensively about the Chinese economy, says that "if China slowed for the right reasons, by being more selective with their investments, and moving toward more consumption, a slight slowdown would actually be a good thing." In other words, a slowdown can help tackle a number of issues that threaten China's long-term health -- income inequality and environmental issues being two of the bigger ones -- as well as mitigate the country's looming bad debt program.
If anything, a bigger risk to political stability in China is an economic collapse rather than a gradual slowdown. A cataclysmic financial crisis -- precipitated, perhaps, by the popping of one of China's housing bubbles -- that resulted in the depletion of investor savings could unleash far more public anger than a slight drop in GDP growth. And even then, Beijing has taken steps in the last three years to cool its housing bubbles, tightening mortgage lending requirements and placing limits on where Chinese people may buy houses. Though these issues are real concerns, Nicholas Consonery, a China analyst at Eurasia Group, says that the overall risk of an economic meltdown in China remains low.
In the long term, of course, political dissent threatens the Chinese Communist Party -- just as it does any authoritarian regime. But for now, the idea that China has to maintain 8 percent growth to survive doesn't apply. "The new benchmark figure," Consonery told me, "ought to be 7.5 percent".
In the 1970s, a new wave of post-Watergate liberals stopped fighting monopoly power. The result is an increasingly dangerous political system.
It was January 1975, and the Watergate Babies had arrived in Washington looking for blood. The Watergate Babies—as the recently elected Democratic congressmen were known—were young, idealistic liberals who had been swept into office on a promise to clean up government, end the war in Vietnam, and rid the nation’s capital of the kind of corruption and dirty politics the Nixon White House had wrought. Richard Nixon himself had resigned just a few months earlier in August. But the Watergate Babies didn’t just campaign against Nixon; they took on the Democratic establishment, too. Newly elected Representative George Miller of California, then just 29 years old, announced, “We came here to take the Bastille.”
Just why was Tom Hanks dancing in a black-and-orange suit on Saturday Night Live so funny?
This weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live offered a mini masterpiece: a gloriously silly Halloween-themed piece revolving around a “Haunted Elevator” ride and its unusual star attraction. Beck Bennett and Kate McKinnon played a couple looking for spooky thrills who instead found something far more bewildering: a pumpkin-suited man who would randomly appear alongside two cheerful skeletons and perform a dance routine. “Who are you?” asked a frustrated Bennett after the man (played by Tom Hanks) appeared for the second time. “I’m David Pumpkins!” came the reply.
McKinnon followed up: “Yeah, and David Pumpkins is … ?”
Tom Hanks’s Doug has a lot in common with “Black Jeopardy” contestants—except, of course, for politics.
SNL’s ongoing “Black Jeopardy” series has been, in part, about divisions. In each edition, black American contestants answer Kenan Thompson’s clues with in-jokes, slang, and their shared opinions while an outsider—say, Elizabeth Banks as the living incarnation of Becky, Louis C.K. as a BYU African American Studies professor, or Drake as a black Canadian—just show their cluelessness.
When Tom Hanks showed up in a “Make America Great Again” hat and bald-eagle shirt to play the contestant “Doug” this weekend, it seemed like the set-up for the ugliest culture clash yet. The 2016 election has been a reminder of the country’s profound racial fault lines, and SNL hasn’t exactly been forgiving toward the Republican nominee on that front: Its version of Trump hasn’t been able to tell black people apart, and it aired a mock ad painting his supporters as white supremacists—which, inarguably, some of them really are.
Trump supporters are convinced Democrats are using “oversampling” to stuff the polls in Hillary Clinton’s favor. But they’re just wrong about statistics.
Late last night, pro-Trump Twitter lit up with excited chatter. Donald Trump is falling fast in the polls, sliding through a month-long decline most statisticians would say is a result of him being, you know, unpopular. (And maybe this. Or this. Or this.) But one blogger had another theory: Polling organizations are deliberately interviewing more Democrats to skew the surveys toward Hillary Clinton.
This afternoon, Trump threw his support behind the idea. “When the polls are even, when they leave them alone and do them properly, I’m leading,” he said at a rally in Florida. “But you see these polls where they’re polling Democrats. How’s Trump doing? Oh, he’s down. They’re polling Democrats. The system is corrupt and it’s rigged and it’s broken.”
As I’ve written, one way some men are responding to their slipping place in the social hierarchy is by supporting Donald Trump, whose rhetoric hearkens to a less progressive, more traditional time.
But another way men react to having their masculinity threatened is stealthier. They do fewer chores, according to an analysis by Dan Cassino, a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and his wife Yasemin Besen-Cassino, from Montclair State University, which relied on the American Time Use Study. According to their findings, men especially avoid housework just when you’d think they would pick up the slack: When they make less than their wives do.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump prepare for the final sprint to Election Day.
It’s Monday, October 24—the election is now less than three weeks away. Hillary Clinton holds a lead against Donald Trump, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. We’ll bring you the latest updates from the trail as events unfold. Also see our continuing coverage:
What use is there today for one of the oldest virtues?
As many Americans go about their days, I imagine they have two little angels perched on their shoulders, whispering conflicting messages about happiness and material wealth. One angel is embodied by James Altucher, a minimalist self-help guru recently profiled by The New York Times. Altucher claims to have only 15 possessions, after having unburdened himself a few months ago of 40 garbage bags’ worth of stuff and never looking back. As I read about Altucher, I rolled the numbers 15 and 40 over in my mind, thinking about the belongings in my bedroom and the garbage bags under my kitchen sink.
The other angel is Tyler Brûlé, the editor in chief of the fantastically high-end lifestyle magazine Monocle and a columnist for the Financial Times. He is the sort of writer who tosses off such lines as “I zipped along the autostrada through the Val d’Aosta with the ever-trusty Mario (my Italian driver for the past 20 years) at the wheel” with little regard for how privileged and pretentious he sounds (especially in his superfluous parentheticals). Still, there is something, I’m a little ashamed to say, that I envy about Brûlé’s effortless cosmopolitanism—which, it’s hard to miss, is only made possible by unusual wealth.
Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.
In 1995, if you had told Toby Spribille that he’d eventually overthrow a scientific idea that’s been the stuff of textbooks for 150 years, he would have laughed at you. Back then, his life seemed constrained to a very different path. He was raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.” At a young age, he fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love. He longed to break away from his roots and get a proper education.
At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.
Late to this for family reasons, but catching up on an actually astonishing development:
Through the campaign, Donald Trump at times seemed more intent on promoting his business interests than in advancing a political campaign. He took time off this summer to fly to Scotland and tout the opening of a new Trump golf resort. He turned what was billed as a major campaign announcement into a promo for his new DC hotel. A surprisingly large share of the money he’s raised for his campaign’s expenditures has gone to his own businesses (notably Mar-a-Lago).
That is why today’s story, in Travel and Leisure, is so piquant and O. Henry-like. What Trump might have imagined would further burnish his personal brand may in fact be poisoning it. T&L reports that Trump’s new hotels will no longer carry his name!!! Instead they’ll be called “Scion.” Groan, given the actual scions, but fascinating in its own way. From T&L: