James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Is Falling America losing out to Rising China?

July 10, 2009

There was a bit of a kerfuffle about the new Fortune global 500 rankings which showed  that the number of U.S. businesses fell to lowest level ever while more Chinese entries appeared than ever before. A few thoughts:

1) While I realize what the trendlines are, remember that there were still 140 U.S. companies on the list. That is almost as many as China (37), France (40), Germany (39),  and the UK (26) combined (142). And where are the powerful Chinese global brands?

2) While the focus of the past year has been on American economic weakness, let’s not forget China has a wildly inefficient capital allocation system, a quickly aging population, and a repressive political system out  of sync with the 21st century economy it wishes to have.

3) But I think the one amazing advantage China has, in addition to all those engineers it is graduating and its lower business and investment taxes, is a sense of urgency about economic growth. That country’s leaders have to maintain a high-octane economy that will continue to pump out millions new jobs  and increase incomes every year to meet rising expectations. Here in America, the priority seems to be capping carbon emissions and universal health insurance and redistributing wealth from the top 1 or 2 or 3 ( or 4 or 5 …) percent of Americans via higher taxes. China can’t afford zero-sun thinking or policies.

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