China's Spider Man Complex

by Patrick Appel

Damien Ma explains it:

It is simultaneously extremely poor and ostentatiously rich, depending on the evidence that's selected for emphasis. Which country will China put forward to face the future? It is afraid of assuming outsized responsibility that comes with greater power, or what I call the "Spider Man complex" ("with great power comes great responsibility, Peter"). And just as Spider Man, China too gripes about being misunderstood and occasionally being cast as a villain rather than a hero (ok, that's enough indulgence of comic book analogies). 

He has some questions for China now that it is the second largest economy:

1. Can China manage to transform itself from a producer-oriented economy to one driven more by organic, domestic consumption--or what economists call "rebalancing"? If not, would it just muddle through and eventually become a Japan that's beset by a dose of complacency, as Fallows recently found by returning to his former suburban home outside of Tokyo. 

2. Can China address the energy, environmental, and social/demographic burdens that are necessary to propel growth? Much of this could hinge on what China has in store for the next five-year plan through 2015. Some of the Chinese commentariat have repeatedly invoked FDR's New Deal in arguing for the kind of social policies that are necessary to sustain China's growth and heal social cleavages. 

3. Will China actually practice what its leaders preach on relying more on qualitative, rather than quantitative, growth?