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Ever since the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the ensuing recession shifted global growth into a much slower gear, the world’s business and economic policy establishment has identified at least one likely silver lining: Sluggish demand in its major foreign markets would force China to speed up its transition from an export-led to a domestic demand-led economy. In the process, the massive, U.S.-China-centered worldwide trade and investment imbalances that resulted in unsustainable international growth patterns and set the stage for the crisis would start to moderate, and the foundation for healthier global growth would be laid.

This scenario was especially appealing to the economic and business powers-that-be because it held that changes in global trade and investment flows would take place without governments resorting to tariffs and other interventions that history supposedly taught would set all countries back further.

Today, however, Reuters reported on data showing that these claims have indeed been too good to be true. As I have predicted, for the closely related reasons that its consumers as a whole remain far too poor to generate satisfactory Chinese growth on their own, and that an import- and offshoring-friendly U.S. government would preserve the export-led approach as Beijing’s easy way out, China has confounded the rosy post-crisis scenario. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), although the world economy and trade flows remain weak, China has coped by boosting its market share.

In fact, UNCTAD contends, not only did China’s share of world exports rise from 12.3 to 13.8 percent between 2014 and 2015 alone. That 13.8 percent represents the highest global export share any country has enjoyed since the United States in 1968. Revealingly, at that time, the world economy was much more vigorous (even though major inflationary and related pressures on the gold standard were mounting), and America’s predominance was still near its zenith.

Moreover, China’s global trade surplus hit a new record last year, too: $595.4 billion. So could we also drop the widely expressed idea that the PRC is an important engine of global growth on net – or is generating any global growth on net? To the contrary: Countries with surging worldwide trade surpluses mathematically must be subtracting from global growth, and in a slow-recovery world, they are nothing less than parasitic.

Discouragingly, however, the official global rhetorical consensus – as expressed in the communique issued by the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors last week – remains focused on using “all policy tools – monetary, fiscal and structural” to foster growth, and resisting “all forms of protectionism.” Leading academics who claim to understand the threats posed by beggar-thy-neighbor currency policies also still appear convinced that more government deficit spending in particular will raise all global boats enough to end the current stagnation even if trade flows are free to stay as lopsided as ever – or worse.

So next year, the safest economic bets seem to be continued sluggish growth, more Chinese trade gains at the rest of the world’s expense, mounting international imbalances, a consequently greater threat of Financial Crisis 2.0 – and repeated insistence that interference with trade must be avoided at all costs. Unless American voters get angry enough?

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