Monday, March 28, 2016

This Is Not a Major Economy

Chinese Internet, even without Great Firewall issues, is terrible. Like, 1994-dial-up terrible sometimes. But the Internet of 1994 was designed for everyone having terrible Internet: websites were mostly text, with a few pictures and maybe some GIFs. Definitely no streaming video. Imagine trying to use today's Internet with your 1994 connection speed. Or if imagining that is too difficult, you can just come to China and experience it.

Don't worry, though: China is implementing plans to make the Internet even better. If by "better" you mean "insulated and controlled." Earlier this year, China banned foreign firms from "online publishing," and there's now a government proposal to block every website not registered in China. At which point, the Internet is just an intranet. In my experience, nothing cool is on an intranet. It's just project data and archived e-mails.

If I were an economic consultant for American firms, when they asked for my China advice, I'd say "pass." Ten years ago, maybe it was worth the hassle and the intellectual property theft to make 10% return for a while, but now that the growth rate has slowed dramatically (How much? Well, like all the other truly-developed economies, China's economic statistics are byzantine and opaque.), maybe give India a second look, instead.

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