As a recent article in the UK Independent, China Crisis: Threat to the Global Environment, points out, the demands that China’s economic growth can be anticipated to put on world markets, less than a generation from now, exceed the entire world’s current and anticipated production capacity. There is simply literally no possible way that they can be fulfilled. Hell, we know that, right now, TODAY, if everything froze, the world’s current levels of resource consumption are simply not sustainable.
China “has now overtaken the United States as the world’s leading consumer of four out of the five basic food, energy and industrial commodities – grain, meat, oil, coal and steel. China now lags behind the US only in consumption of oil – and it is rapidly catching up.”
What does this mean? Simple: we are living on borrowed time. I’ve been searching for a polite way to say this, but there really isn’t one… the blunt and awful truth is this: if you are reading this, the odds are quite strong that, twenty years from now, you will be significantly less well off, in terms of the material resources (energy, food, raw materials) available to sustain your standard of living, than you are now. We are talking RADICAL lifestyle adjustments, folks – Americans and Europenas are going to have to learn how to “share”, in a MAJOR fashion – right now, there are roughly 1 billion of us consuming at an unsustainable rate – and 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians working feverishly to catch up.
The catching up process is, necessarily, going to involve us moving backwards even faster than they move forwards… the Delphi workers whose $27/hr. wages are unsustainable in the face of $3/hr Chinese workers, are only the most obvious example. Crank down their wages to $10-12/hr., and suddenly the gap between the two isn’t that big… in fact, Ii’d say that, a generation from now, your typical Chinese manufacturing worker is going to be making roughly equivalent to what the U.S. worker makes. There will be no labor cost advantage to manufacturing in China.
Here’s an obvious collary: the CHINESE WORKER is NEVER going to make $27/hr. In fact, he’s never going to make even $15/hr. The $10-12/hr the post-bankruptcy Delphi workers are going to get pretty clearly puts a cap on what the Chinese worker can expect to earn in the future.
Here’s the tough part, for those of us who are parents: we are going to have to watch our children grow up, and walk out into the world on their own in the middle of this. More specifically, we are going to have to watch as our children see the implicit promises being made to them today, by our wildly materialistic and conspicuous consumption happy media culture, broken, hell, not just broken, but shattered,.