中国又要崩溃?

2001年,美籍华裔律师章家敦因《中国即将崩溃》一举成为畅销书作家。他在书中预言 ,中国经济最晚将在2011年崩溃。到了2011年,在预言落空后,他又将中国崩溃的时间推迟到2012年,结果使得《外交政策》杂志2012年将章的观点列为当年十大最不靠谱预言之一。2013年12月,章家敦再度预测,中国将在2014年崩溃。

在2001年,支持章氏观点的人应该不少,因为那时中国看上去还是百事不如人。可到了2011年,相信他的人就不多了。2001年,中国政府财政收入为16386亿元,2011年达到103740亿元,10年间增长了5.3倍多。中国在2011年的工业产值首次排名世界第一,并且坐稳2010年得到的GDP世界第二的位置,拉大与了第三名日本的差距。这样一种发展趋势,难道是为了走向崩溃?

但章氏继续坚持他的观点,这次他还是认为中国的金融系统肯定会出问题。中国的影子银行有多严重,我不清楚,但章家敦也未必清楚,他的文章充斥“可能”、“估计”这类字眼。他认为官方提供的数据都是骗人的,转而相信坊间流传的数字。这也让人怀疑他的结论的可靠性。

在网上的讨论中,除了影子银行,被认为能让中国崩溃的问题还有不少,比如银行坏账、地方政府债务和社保基金巨额亏空等。银行坏账是章氏2001年版中国崩溃的主要依据,但近年来说得不多,因为坏账似乎在这10多年对银行影响有限。其他两个问题要么没有外界宣称的那样严重,要么根本不是问题。地方债就被人为的夸大了(某媒体9月份报道“地方债务翻番”,后被证明不实),社保基金并没有出现亏空(据人社部11月26日发布,社保基金累计结余年均增长33%)。可这些观点误场了一些网民。其实,中国的经济支柱是加工制造业,金融系统纵使发生一些问题,也不可能动摇中国经济的根基。

当然,有人对现实不满意,他们喜欢把当前的中国比作明末、清末、民国末、苏联末,总之是日薄西山的各种末。我倒觉得,它其实更像1870年代至20世初的美国。那时候蒸汽技术已经发展到极致,电气革命也没有到来。可穷人需要就业,富人需要投资,该如何继续保持经济繁荣?美国人的办法是大修铁路,在那20多年修了20多万公里,美国现有的铁路基本都是那时候修的。这是因为,铁路的产业链在当时最为复杂,能吸收的资金和创造的工作机会也最多。

中国面临的情况类似,但在规模上大了一个数量级。虽然已经是第一工业大国,但中国仍有接近一半人口游离在工业体系之外,为了保持就业和经济增长,中国需要向一切工业领域推进,把越来越多的工业品销售到世界各地。在出现新的技术革命之前,中国会极力发展它的最先进、最复杂的产业,比如高铁、航天、军工等。中国南车12月底签下了数项合同,总金额相当公司去年全年收入的9.7%,就很能说明问题。

但是,与1870年代至20世初的美国不同,今天中国在很多工业领域并不领先,还需要相当长的时间去追赶。航空系统的一位朋友曾对我说,中国在航空发动机上与先进国家仍存在代差,需要20年才能赶上。这样看来,中国的发展空间还很广阔,章家敦的“崩溃论”至少还可以再讲20年。


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