Marshall Plans and Their Rationales

Have heard some variation of this somewhat xenophobic theory about a Chinese Marshall Plan before, but am not cynical enough to have imagined the U.S. Marshall Plan in the 1940s was primarily about creating markets for a postwar over-capacity of American goods, sorry:

What’s interesting to see in this story [about Chinese input into US bailout plans last fall], especially the top where the Chinese leaders give American institutions a well-deserved tongue lashing, is the way the Chinese fail to see that they’ve already had the benefit of their investment in American mortgage-backed securities. In fact, the recycling of Chinese profits into American mortgage debt is beginning to look like a 21st Century Marshall plan gone awry.

By investing in the US, the Chinese primed a consumption pump that created demand for their goods. That demand absorbed the huge number of workers coming to the cities over the last decade and accelerated China’s growth. In other words, the Chinese encouraged and enabled the irresponsibility of American households because it created demand for their goods.

After World War 2, the US faced a crisis of productive over-capacity. The solution was to send a lot of money to Europe that would then be used to buy American goods. In the case of the original Marshall plan, the sorry state of post-war Europe gave the plan a humanitarian glint. But that shouldn’t mask the real value of the Marshall plan or its intent.

Flash forward fifty years and you have China eager to raise the standard of living at home. Only this time, North Americans are tapped out, not because of a devastating war but because of devasting dotcom bubble bursting. There’s no way to dress this one up as the good guys coming to the aid of their fallen cousins.

That’s a shame. I don’t know what the final accounting was on the Marshall plan loans. I’d be curious to know. But in reading these stories, I’m beginning to think the Chinese are being a little disingenuous when they keep demanding that their investment in US securities be safeguarded.