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Subject: Chinese Nuclear Arsenal
Roman    2/22/2004 10:52:18 PM
Whenever I read anything about the Chinese nuclear arsenal, I see it stated that China has only 20 ICBMs capable of reaching the US and 450 nuclear warheads in total. Can someone please enlighten me how these numbers are obtained? To me they simply lack any credibility. China had 20 ICBMs that could reach the U.S. 20 years ago and the same applies to the number of 450 nuclear warheads. I find it hard to believe they would not have built more (in fact, many more) in the meantime. It is not as if they could not afford it - Chinese economy now is far larger than the Soviet economy ever was. In fact, Chinese economy (in PPP terms) now is larger than US economy was in 1990 when the Cold War ended, so it would have no economic problems at all building more ICBMs and nuclear warheads. Of course, unlike the U.S. and Russia, they do not release information on the number of their nuclear weapons, so my theory is that the press and academia follows an inertia - someone stated those numbers sometime around 1980 and nobody has said anything different since then, so they have become 'unchanging conventional wisdom'. It would be interesting to read some new studies (without these not credible numbers being regurgicated without any explanation) on the matter, but if any exist they are surely classified.
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Roman    RE:Chinese Nuclear Arsenal   3/8/2004 2:51:56 AM
I just noticed that the Federation of American Scientists' Report on Chinese Nuclear Forces has been updated. Where it previously stated that China has 400 nuclear warheads, it now states that estimates of China's nuclear forces are difficult and may be up to 2,000 warheads. In my opinion this number makes much more sense.
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Big Bad Pariah    Chinese Economy   3/10/2004 11:10:30 PM
There is no way that China's economy is bigger than the former Soviet Union's. The USSR was a superpower, China is not. Yes, the Soviet economy was in big trouble in the 1980s but its national GDP was still bigger than China's today. China's economy has a large growth rate but its GDP is only about 5 trillion at the moment. Considering China's huge population, it's not that impressive. No doubt the growth rate will sort these problems out in the future. The Chinese economy is emerging as a huge power but it isn't there yet.
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Roman    RE:Chinese Economy   3/11/2004 2:37:05 AM
Big Bad Pariah, your info is a little old. The Chinese economy (the second largest in the world) now amounts to about $7 trillion in PPP terms not including Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macau). The US economy, the biggest in the world, comes at about $10 trillion. Already the Chinese GDP is about 70% of the US GDP. In the 1980s, Soviet PPP GDP was between 40% and 60% of the US GDP, depending on the method of measurement (whether the initial comparison basket of goods was based on the Soviet or the US economy). By the end of the 1980s US GDP was about $5-6 trillion, so 50% of that (taking the mean of the two PPP baskets which give 40% and 60% respecively) gives a Soviet GDP of about $2.5-3 trillion at that time. In fact, if you look up statistics from that time, this turns out to be correct. As a point of comparison, the Japan (with the third largest economy in the world) has a PPP GDP of about $3 trillion. Therefore, we can safely conclude that the Chinese economy is 2.5-3.5 times the size of the economy of the USSR during the 1980s. In fact, it is larger than the US economy was in 1990. In relative terms also, Chinese economy is closer to the size of the US economy than the Soviet economy ever was. Looking into the future, if current growth rates continue (and they are expected to do so), the Chinese economy will overtake the US as the world's largest between 2010 and 2015.
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Doz44    RE:Chinese Economy   3/11/2004 3:07:27 AM
According to The Economist and the CIA, this year, America's GDP is actually more than $11 Trillion. Chinese GDP is measured at a little less than $6 Trillion. That is an impressive figure but considering the size of their population it is not that great. I cannot believe that during the height of the Cold War the USSR had a much lower GDP than China's right now and their population was/ and still is much smaller. The growth of China's economy will not continue at its current rate for 20 years. As all economies develop their growth slows and as China's becomes ever more closely linked to the World economy the effects of global downturn etc will be felt more strongly. China will never achieve the internal markets that America has either, no country ever will.
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bsl    RE:Chinese Economy   3/11/2004 4:32:00 PM
"There is no way that China's economy is bigger than the former Soviet Union's." You're way behind the curve. China is a hugely productive economy. It's manufacturing base is already very large, and growing. And, it's not all low tech, either. An amazing amount of the world computer industry uses parts made in China. Not Taiwan. China. Russia, otoh, today, survives mostly on oil exports.
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Worcester    RE:Chinese Roman   3/11/2004 4:41:32 PM
Chinese economy is huge and modernising but still not large of 1 bilion people - remeber, it is the surplus of production that provides the measure of power. China's economy is $3tillion; please do not use PPP it is a completely rubbish measurement used by developing nations to make themselves feel good..
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Roman    RE:Chinese Economy - Doz44   3/12/2004 11:39:59 AM
Doz44 - you are using old numbers for the Chinese economy. Check the CIA and check the year it gives for the $6 trillion Chinese economy. Then take into account growth over the years since and you will arrive at a number of $7+ trillion, not including Hong Kong and Macau. Add these and the number will be higher still.
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Roman    Measuring Economies - Worcester   3/12/2004 12:30:54 PM
"please do not use PPP it is a completely rubbish measurement used by developing nations to make themselves feel good.. " PPP is not a rubbish measurement designed to make developing nations feel good. As a student of political science and economics, let me say a little about measuring economies. Measuring and comparing economies is a difficult task. What measure of the economy's size is the most appropriate depends on what you are trying to find out about the country. Nominal GDP - This measures the total value of goods and services produced in the given country at their market prices and is often converted to US dollars based on the current exchange rate. This is useful, for example, for determining foreign buying power of the country. For estimating the productive capacity of a country, however, it is completely useless. Consider this: Over the past 2 years the US dollar has fallen in value by over 30 percent as compared to the Euro. Therefore the nominal GDP of the US has shrunk by over 30 percent compared to the European nominal GDP over the last two years! Of course, the real US economy has grown (albeit not much) over this time, but nominal GDP (if designated in euros) has seen a greater fall than during the Great Depression! Alternatively, if you designate nominal GDPs in dollars, you could say that the European economy has grown by well over 30% over the past two years. Clearly, this is completely absurd. Or consider China: The Chinese government keeps the Yuan at an artificially low exchange rate to the dollar in order to promote Chinese exports. If China allowed the Yuan to flow freely, economists predict it would change from about 8 Yuan per dollar to perhaps 4 Yuan per dollar within a year. Effectively, Chinese nominal GDP would double within 1 year! If nominal GDP is so good a measure, why does the Chinese government not do this? The answer: because nominal GDP is a very bad measure of the economy for most purposes, and having a low exchange rate helps Chinese exports. Clearly, we have established that for measuring the productive capacity of the economy, nominal GDP is rather useless. PPP GDP also measures the total value of goods and services produced within the given country in one year, but it uses a different system to convert them to dollars. Rather than taking the current exchange rate, which can fluctuate wildly from day to day not to mention from year to year, this method looks at prices and equalizes them accross countries. Essentially (though, of course, in reality it is somewhat more complicated), it asks what would the exchange rate be to make prices the same in the two countries being compared. Care must be taken that prices of exactly the same goods and services are compared. This makes a lot of sense, because fluctuations in the exchange rate do not effect the PPP GDP and it trully measures the productive capacity of the economy rather than the vagaries of the exchange rate market. Even the PPP GDP, however, is not a perfect measure of the economy. Two related important parts of the economy are still left out: 1) Non-monetised or non-monitored transactions 2) Household production In the West these generally refers to the Shadow economy, which can be up to 15% the size of the GDP and to... well, household production. In developing countries, however, these refer to the same thing as in the West, but also refer to the sector that is sanctioned but unmonitored by the government and it tends to be much larger compared to the GDP than in the West. Hence, far from PPP GDP overestimating the economies of developing countries compared to the West, it actually still udnerestimates them, because the informal sector and household production are proportionatelly much greater in developing countries than in developed ones! Of course, the government by definition cannot extract any surpluss from the informal sector and household production, but it is still important - I will later point out why. "remeber, it is the surplus of production that provides the measure of power" You are correct that it is surpluss production that provides the measure of power. You are incorrect, however, in assuming that developed countries can extract more surpluss from their GDP than very well-organized developing countries such as China. First of all, your assumption is not born out by history: In WWII, for example, the relatively poor Soviet Union succeeded in spending about 55%-60% of its GDP on the war effort, while the much richer USA 'only' succeeded in spending approximately 40% of the American GDP (of course, since the US GDP was so large, it was still a lot in absolute terms). It is true that the Soviet Union was subsidized by the UK and the US, which helped it in its endeavor, but the subsidies 'only' ammounted to about 5% of the Soviet GDP (which is actually a huge subsidy, but it does not invalidate my point). Take away those subsidies and the Soviet Union could
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bsl    RE:Chinese Roman   3/12/2004 10:32:02 PM
"Chinese economy is huge and modernising but still not large of 1 bilion people - remeber, it is the surplus of production that provides the measure of power." It's dangerous to use the Western standard- of-the-moment as an econometric yardstick. It's tricky even *within* Western societies. If we were to look at Western European military budgets as a percentage of GDP and try to use that as a model, we'd risk concluding that the US can't possibly have a military budget as large as we do, since it's clearly a markedly greater percentage of American GDP than the Euro-equivalent. The real problems, however, come when we try to generalize *outside* the model society, to a different society. For instance, there's a semi-famous story from the...mmm...1950s, IIRC, concerning a famous writer who was an Annapolis graduate, who used some intelligence information concerning the rail and road links between Moscow and the rest of the USSR to "prove" that the Soviet capital couldn't possibly have the population claimed. Problem was that he was using assumptions of the amount of transport needed based on American and Western European standards. Soviets got by with much less. Wrong assumptions led to wrong conclusion. During the Korean War, we tended to underestimate the size and mobility of forces the Chinese could move to Korea and sustain because we tended to use various assumptions about how much transport was needed to sustain a given military based on contemporaneous Western standards. The Chinese made do with much less. We learned better the hard way. It certainly is relevant to cite the population of China when trying to decide how many resource they can devote to military spending. But, it's well not to try too hard to match Chinese society to Western society. The Chinese get by devoting much less a percentage of GDP to "social spending" than any Western society does. (They are, otoh, moving **towards** the Western model, and away from the Maoist model.) Thus, they can, if they are so inclined, more easily devote much larger percentages of their total economy to the military than any European country, and America, can. And, so, the absolute size of their economy is the more important guide to resources. Thus, there is good reason to compare GDPs and to take the raw increase in Chinese GDP very seriously.
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HunterSThompson    RE:Chinese Roman   3/18/2004 8:47:14 AM
So how about those Nukes?
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