Niall Ferguson: The West and the Rest – The Changing Global Balance of Power

Niall Ferguson is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University.

I would love to see Ferguson re-visit this 2011 talk every five years. One certainty about the future: it isn’t what we think it’s going to be. China’s economic rise seems to be slowing far more rapidly than was expected. Foreign reserves have declined by $800 billion in the last two years (from a peak of $4 trillion) through PBOC efforts to prevent the collapse of the Yuan in the face of rising interest rates from the Fed. China’s growth-through-infrastructure-investment model seems to have run its course and is now facing diminishing returns. Transition to a consumer society is not going to be easy. And China’s property bubble has created an extremely fragile banking system with massive bad debts.

On the plus side, Ferguson seems to have been right about rising Chinese nationalism — to deflect the population’s attention from enormous inequality in the distribution of wealth — and the CCP’s ability to maintain tight political control. Let’s hope that he is also right about China’s inability to suppress personal and political freedom in the long-term if it wants to maintain stable growth.

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