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China’s three-body problem

Niall Ferguson
 

By Niall Ferguson (Original source Boston Glob)

“The 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China was not a birthday I felt like celebrating. As Dutch historian Frank Dikötter has shown in his searing three-volume history of the Mao Zedong era, the Communist regime claimed the lives of tens of millions of people: 2 million in the revolution between 1949 and 1951, another 3 million by the end of the 1950s, up to 45 million in the man-made famine known as the “Great Leap Forward,” and yet more in the mayhem of the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s campaign against the intelligentsia, which escalated into a civil war.

Hitler’s Third Reich was obliterated by massive military force in 1945. It lasted just 12 years. Stalin’s Soviet Union bore the brunt of beating Hitler, but later succumbed to economic sclerosis. It fell apart in 1991, after 68 years. The mystery of the People’s Republic of China is that it is still with us.

Two weeks ago, I bet the Chinese economist Justin Yifu Lin 20,000 yuan that China’s economy — defined as gross domestic product in current US dollars—will never overtake that of the United States. Most informed people would expect me to lose that bet.”

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