President Harry Truman once remarked that he would prefer one-armed economists because they could not give him the on the one hand and on the other hand rigmarole.
Truman would have undoubtedly admired China specialist Gordon G. Chang as a person willing to stick his neck out. The end of 2011 brought embarrassment to Chang, who had predicted in 2001 that the Chinese communist regime would collapse within 10 years. It didn't happen.
Give Chang some credit as he is back in Foreign Policy Magazine to ask for another year. He is certain that his prophecy will be borne out in 2012. This recalls the book by Andrei Amalrik entitled "Will the Soviet Union Survive to 1984?" The Soviet Union did survive 1984 and Amalrik himself but was gone less than 10 years from that date.
Chang argues that China prospered under a combination of conditions that are now in the process of evaporating.
Thanks to the reforms of Deng Xiao Ping, who guided China in the post-Mao era, China was open to foreign visitors and investments. Now this trend has reversed itself and China has created barriers by insisting on "indigenous innovation" and preferring national champions. Privatization is giving way to renationalization.
China benefited from the willingness of her economic partners to look the other way while China adopted a mercantilist party that discouraged imports and bolstered exports. Following the 2008 crash, those nations take a less benign view and want to export in order to maintain jobs and profits.
The depressed demand for Chinese products and trade friction will blunt China's economic advance. China has tapped all the cheap labor that it could move from the countryside to the industrial plants and that advantage has exhausted itself.
Soon the one child policy that the regime imposed on the citizens will begin to take its toll on the workforce as that workforce grows progressively greyer. The Chinese economy will soon begin to contract.
The economic downturn comes at the same time as an upsurge in social unrest. The Communist Party has no answer to this unrest except for beefing up the police and troop presence and exercising severe censorship in all forms of the media.
To paraphrase Lenin, all that is needed for a general conflagration in China is a spark and "an incident can get out of control and spread fast. Because people across the country share the same thoughts, we should not be surprised they will act the same way."
If the collapse he predicts does not materialize, Chang can always reappear next year and ask for another extension.