It is always great to listen to Jim McGregor who is probably one of the most erudite and experienced China journalists alive. Interestingly he is also one of China's harshest critics. Defending democracy, free markets, free entrepreneurship, he is always in conflict with a state-controlled capitalism.
So he was yesterday evening in Shanghai’s Wooden Box venue, where he said that he is now 61, but would like to live up to 100, just to see how things turn out in China. He says that he is convinced that Xi Jinping tries to turn SOEs into efficient global players without even thinking about privatization. State run enterprises succeeding on the global market! A thought, which must be a sacrilege to followers of the free market religion like McGregor, who works at APCO to counsel mostly privately owned US American MNCs: a spokesman of US MNCs speaking up against CN SOEs....
Nevertheless, he is most likely right about his premonitions, because the Chinese government would give up its power, if it would support the privatization of it’s state owned behemoths. Profitable, efficient and global SOEs will be one ingredient to turn China into a new hegemonic global power.
The other ingredient is China’s determination to change the existing international order. Apart from joining established organizations like WTO, WIPO, UN, IMF, etc. China is busy in setting up a parallel international order which reflects its own interests. McGregor says that China wants to be part of the global community, but also wants to change it. “But why change something that is as it is?”
During his talk the lyrics of a R.E.M. song come across my mind “it’s the end of the world of the world as we know it” and I even ask him: isn’t it quite natural that the existing international system has to change if an additional 1/5 of the global population becomes part of it? And shouldn’t we, as the lyrics continue, just be fine with it? On a psychological note: Aren’t we Westerners just afraid that things will change, in particular US Americans, because they have to give up the top dog position for China? McGregor answers, that China still has no system to offer, that is more appalling to the rest of the world as the values that have been established in the West. There is no time to move into a conversation, but I am tempted to add, that Xi Jinping might not care whether his doctrines are appalling to the West or not.