Making large things visible to the human eye

Monthly Archives: April 2011

How can hundreds of millions of something – anything – be scarce?

I sat next to Jim Rogers on a panel once (so you don’t think I’m just making this up), and he told me that right up there with all the other unstoppable so-unbelievably-massive-you-don’t-think-it’s-possible changes sweeping the world is how China’s gender imbalance will soon make young Chinese women among the world’s rarest commodities. Yes, all hundreds of millions of young Chinese women will be relatively scarce.

[Today I read about quality on top of the quantity effect. To be clear, this is a parody of Amy Chua – so this part in brackets at least is in jest).]

Hand in hand with this increase in the market’s shadow price – economic power – will be a steep escalation in the real power of women, both personal and political. This is not to deny the harrowing experiences documented in Leslie Chang’s Factory Girls but there is, at the same time, no question that there has been a dramatic upgrading of the position of women throughout Asian society, and therefore of women worldwide.

No legislation was involved. No protest movement occupied a city square. All this occurred simply through the power of economic growth, the balance between demand and supply, and the force of market equilibration. If you don’t yet see this, just come take a look at the confidence, poise, and ambition of the tens of thousands of young Mainland Chinese women studying in secondary schools, junior colleges, and universities in Singapore, elsewhere in Southeast Asia, or in the West. Come take a look at LSE, for that matter.

Perhaps once again China’s headlong rush for economic growth and the staggering power of markets adjusting to demand and supply in the hundreds of millions will quietly, brilliantly do what the rest of the world has found so difficult. China lifted over 600 million people out of extreme poverty over the last quarter of a century, when no one else was looking – and therefore when no one was giving China foreign aid or telling it how to run its schools.

This time, for elevating yet another disadvantaged community will China, once again, quietly using just growth and markets achieve more than all other efforts micro-managing around the edges of global poverty?

PS Many readers, of course, quickly link in their mind this gender imbalance to the many horrific tales one hears emerging from China’s one-child policy. If 119 boys are born for every 100 girls – as usually reported for China – then that works out to 840 girls to 1000 boys. Given China’s population of 1.3 billion, this means 24 million Chinese men of marrying age without spouses by 2020.

It is instructive if grim to note this gender bias is seen as well in the very differently-governed India where the 0-6 age group now has 914 girls to 1000 boys (down from 927/1000 in 2001), confirming how the country has become “a terrifyingly hostile place to be conceived or born a girl“, pointed out to me by Vinayak @kayaniv.


“I knew that would not work. Agent Texas [well…, she] is a bit of a badass.”

If you play Halo, you’ll get the many inside jokes in this. But regardless of the vintage on your XBox Gamertag, the martial arts choreography here is simply amazing.

(fight scene starts at 0:40).

“Oh man, forget this. I need to get a bigger weapon.”

Amy Farrah Fowler and soft power

The Wall Street Journal ran this report last week: “Fleeing the Dollar flood: The world tries to protect itself from US monetary policy .”

Time was, it was with some pride and hope that one read “When America sneezes, the world catches cold” – because US policy didn’t threaten the world; it saved the world.

So what if it was hubris? It was only the same kind of hubris you saw motivating the best MIT engineering student or Google software coder. That student coder—like any Amy Farrah Fowler—would quickly enough solve whatever problem you threw at her.

But now even the Wall Street Journal documents how much the traditional global economy has shifted in perception.

Who’s running the pool on how long before conventional soft power goes too?

Contrast this with what brains and goodwill such as those at Facebook, Paul Butler for one, achieve:

Facebook connections - December 2010

Facebook connections - December 2010

Facebook 2010 – The Social Graph. A weightless-economy world of digital connections without borders

Or, look at Jon Chiu‘s version with national boundaries drawn in:

Facebook 2010 – The Social Graph, with national boundaries. Superfluous?

Just two quick observations: First, it’s known that Facebook is, while not impossible, difficult to access in China for reasons of policy: That’s why China appears dark in these images; the competing renren.com is used enough there.

Second, as far as I can tell, both these renditions were coded by Canadians.

Not what is good for the West but for the world

The editor decided to lead with “As the economic center of gravity shifts East, the question should not be what is good for the West, but what is good for the world as a whole.”

That’s what I should have written up front in The Shifting Global Balance of Power.

The global economy’s shift. Follow-ups all over

In January 2011 Martin Wolf wrote an introduction to my article The global economy’s shifting centre of gravity in Global Policy but decided not to follow it up himself.

Recently, the article has seen some coverage in the international media.

I’m not lazy, not really. But if I divert all these writeups into just this blog, reader comments are lost as they remain on the original website. And those comments are, well, some of the most interesting things I get to read regularly.

So WSJ’s Chris Shea The pull of economic gravity 2011.03.19, CNN’s Global Public Square 2011.04.07, NYT’s Catherine Rampell 2011.03.24, FT’s Alphaville 2011.03.23, and even FT’s John Gapper 2011.03.24, who calls me “Mr Shah” (Damn you, Autocorrect), are best left in their native domains. There are items to aid teaching (econlife 2011.03.27), posts in languages I don’t completely understand (Javier Andres’s East Wind, West Wind 2011.04.14), versions souped-up into colorful alternate projections (Anders Sandberg’s 2011.04.15), interpretations from different parts of the world and therefore providing, literally, different perspectives (2.6 billion 2011.03.25), and, not least, reactions from friends like Bill Easterly, as in his Should the West get hysterical?2011.03.23.

Of the many different comments, I found particularly memorable:

By the way, it’s intriguing to find people saying that what you write are things they already know, and when you ask them how they know it, they say, Everyone has been saying these things for a while now. In my experience, just as many people say the opposite. Either way, whatever you find with hard work on real data, you can’t win.

I’m not complaining. Just saying.

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