From the desk of Rupert Wright: Made in China and Europe

Focus: China's assistance does not come for free, and while what it wants for helping the eurozone may look harmless, it is not.
China wants greater access to western markets for its products. AFP
China wants greater access to western markets for its products. AFP

Back in the past century, when my eldest son was a mere ankle-biter, he turned to me one day and said: "Is everything made in China?" I laughed indulgently and cuffed him around the head, but from a child's perspective, everything was made in China.

All the presents lavished on him by his doting parents and grandparents were engraved with that moniker on the bottom. He had noticed before me and even The Economist that China was quietly taking over the world. Must be a profitable business making plastic toys. China is now the only place in the world with any money apart from the Gulf.

First they bailed out the US and now, one by one like penniless dominoes, Europe's peripheral countries are falling over themselves to ask the Chinese if they would be awfully kind and buy some of their bonds that any day soon could be worthless.

Bloomberg News reports that Chinese officials at the World Economic Forum in Dalian say they are willing to pick up some of this paper. Being canny traders, what the Chinese want is something in return. From the US they would like greater access to its markets and the ability to make further investments there, as well as the lifting of restrictions on its access to technology.

What it wants from Europe is altogether more strange, not to say sinister.

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, said it would like Europe to grant it "market economy" status. No big deal surely? After all, it's just a label, like Made in China.

Unfortunately it isn't. While China will get what it craves in a couple of years anyway under rules laid down by the World Trade Organization, for the time being the lack of such status means that the country cannot dump goods without suffering comparison with other producers. Besides, China clearly isn't a "market economy". It may no longer be a command economy, but it's hardly a free economy.

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Am I alone in getting terribly bored with the euro? I can't recall which US president said that the problem with Europe was that he didn't know who to call if he wanted to speak to it, but this is the nub of the crisis. A French finance minister says one thing then is corrected by the German chancellor. This is seconded by a Dutch minister, only for it all to be contradicted by an Italian prime minister.

Somebody should say: "That's it boys, you've got a week to sort this euro nonsense out or I'm pulling the plug on it." Trouble is, who says it and who do they say it to? Another thing I would like to hear is a European economist or politician say, even sotto voce: "Maybe this euro business was a mistake."

But they won't. Politicians never make mistakes, they are just undone by events. I say, hang the euro for everyone in the siesta belt, ie Portugal, Spain, the Midi of France, Italy's Mezzogiorno and all of Greece, possibly Ireland too.

Because while it's not so hot in the Emerald Isle that you need to sleep, it is certainly cold enough to warrant a crafty afternoon kip. Write off their debts, reintroduce the old currencies, then set the population to work making toys.

rwright@thenational.ae

Published: September 16, 2011 04:00 AM

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