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Decline of great powers - late Qing dinasty and today's France [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-4-25 12:43:19 |Display all floors
I just watch a political commentary program in PhoenixTV, anchored by Chen Wen Qian.

The topic is the decline of former imperialist power, France.

She compared today's comparably rich-sufficient lifestyle in France to the last days of China's imperial Qing dinasty.

Once, an envoy from UK asked permission from Qing emperor to open up trade, he brought a lot of gift for the Qing emperor. But the Qing emperor arrogantly refused, considering China was the richest country on the world at the time. This arrogance led to China's seclusionism and the lack of development from the interaction with the west, especially the industrial revolution that already transforming the western hemisphere at the time.

The result was, a weaken China couldn't defend herself, became victim of imperialist's gunboat diplomacy and fall into second class nation, being raped by colonialists. Expansionists loot and plunder China with their new technology invented during industrial revolution.

Ms. Chen then compare it to today's France. The French worker always busy asking for less working hours (35 hours a week now) and more benefit. Populist politicians can't do more to persuade workers to improve France's productivity. French workers now complain and express anger toward Chinese cheap labor, for 'stealing' their job. The most renowned export from France now are Airbus and some sophisticated weapons, the lot other things lost their competitiveness.

There's also outcry when McDonalds started its business in Paris most renowned street, but it's a huge success then. She also mentioned France's hotel that got ADSL broadband connection is among the lowest within industrialised west.

Her conclusion, no matter who got elected in current French election, she or he has enormous task to reform the nation's productivity and labor regulation. Whether this is possible, hard to say, France has very powerful labor union.

Do you agree? That rich and sufficient lifestyle will in the end turn individuals to be less concerned about productivity, less eager to learn about new things and in macro perspectives, speed up a nation's decline?

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Post time 2007-4-25 12:48:28 |Display all floors,,-6558625,00.html

France Wrestles With Its Own Decline

Sunday April 15, 2007 3:46 AM

PARIS (AP) - Wars and weather have left few scars on Paris' Arc de Triomphe. Commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his victories, the 15-story tower of bone-white stone stands as an eternal monument to French glory, a time when Europe trembled before this nation's might.

The national mood now, as France enters the final week before Sunday's presidential election, is far less exultant. To Roland Perrossier, whose great-great grandfather fought for Napoleon, the arch has become a symbol of decline.

``It's a feeling of lost glory,'' said Perrossier, sheltering under the arch from a spring squall. ``The French have lost the aura they once had, and France - barring a few small exceptions - no longer occupies the place it used to internationally.''

Philippe Souleau, a history teacher shepherding a party of schoolchildren, was gloomier still: ``France no longer has military strength worth speaking of. It is no longer economically competitive, and all this means is that it has become a second-tier nation internationally and diplomatically. Its voice is no longer heard by all.''

It seems a strange verdict on a nation that has just demonstrated the world's fastest train on rails (357.2 mph) and has co-produced the world's biggest airliner (up to 853 passengers). France has a nuclear arsenal and a veto on the U.N. Security Council. Its military still sees action in the African corners of its former empire, and plays a critical role in the war on terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

From baguettes to Airbuses, French taste and ingenuity are global commodities. And viewed from the flat top of the Arc de Triomphe, the tree-lined, dead-straight boulevards and elegant buildings of Paris are still an inspiring vista.

Yet for the French, no word seems too dark to describe their funk.

This malaise has translated into a volatile and unsettled election campaign, with surprises and suspense, and led by candidates promising change but none of the shock therapy that may be necessary to revive French fortunes.

Incumbent Jacques Chirac's decision, at 74, not to seek re-election ensures that the two-round vote April 22 and May 6 will usher in a new era, no matter who wins. That prospect has energized the electorate: Voter registration is up by percentages not seen in at least three decades.

After 12 years of Chirac, France almost certainly will get its first leader born after World War II. It might, in another first, be a woman: the Socialists' motherly, ever-smiling Segolene Royal. Or it may be the right's Nicolas Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant. Or farmer's son Francois Bayrou, who bills himself as the centrist between the two main candidates.

With the vote splitting three or more ways in polls, and many voters making their mind up late, no one can confidently predict the winner.

But while the face will be new, the problems he or she inherits are not, and have defied solutions before:

-The large national debt, proportionately almost the same as the United States', which will limit the new president's room to spend France back into economic and mental health.

-An economy that has stagnated at around 1.5 percent annual average growth since Chirac's 2002 re-election while Germany's is recovering and China's and Britain's have leapfrogged ahead.

-Unemployment that remains stubbornly above 8 percent and topping 20 percent among the under-25s. That age group led three weeks of riots in 2005 in depressed housing projects.

The riots confronted the French with a reality they had long chosen to overlook: of a vast, angry underclass consisting largely of Africans and Arabs distanced from ancestral family values but shut out of the French cultural and economic mainstream.

Nor is much comfort taken from looking overseas. Even though French multinationals are thriving, 64 percent of the French - the highest percentage in the European Union - see globalization as a threat to businesses and jobs, according to a survey last year by Eurobarometer. They worry about losing ground to China and other emerging powers that are active notably in Africa - a region the French have long seen as their own back yard.

Chirac sparked a brief uptick in French confidence by going toe-to-toe with President Bush against the war in Iraq. ``It was a moment when France looked at itself in the mirror and found itself beautiful,'' says Emmanuel Riviere of the TNS-Sofres polling agency.

But the war went ahead, anyway, and some believe that the strain in relations with Washington was too great. Within the European Union, the French also sidelined themselves by voting against closer integration in 2005. In TNS-Sofres' monthly poll of 1,000 respondents, generally two-thirds say that France's role in the world is weakening.

France is hardly alone in struggling to redefine itself in the globalized, post-Cold War world. Britain, too, has had to digest the end of an empire. But French nostalgia for bygone glory and growth seems to hamstring its ability to face the future with confidence.

``In France, there is a particular strain of melancholy,'' political philosopher Chantal Delsol said in an interview. ``The British tell themselves, 'We are no longer a great power, so we will live as a middling one.' But the French don't say that. They say, 'We are intrinsically a great power, so why isn't it working in reality?' For a while we try to shut our eyes, but that doesn't work for long. When reality truly dawns, then the first phase is extreme sadness, and that is the phase we are in now.''

That means voters are in a rebellious mood. That's nothing new - Gen. Charles de Gaulle, the architect of modern France after World War II, once quipped, ``How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?'' But the desire to protest through the ballot box is strong, and could create shocks come election day.

Royal also has played the patriotic card too, having her supporters at her rallies sing the national anthem, ``La Marseillaise,'' and calling for a French flag in every home. That has unsettled some on the left, as has her call for boot camps for young delinquents.

French malaise also partly explains the biggest surprise of the race so far - the rise of Bayrou. The former education minister in conservative governments has repackaged himself as a middle-of-the-road alternative to France's traditional left-right divide. Polls place him third but his endorsement in a Sarkozy-Royal runoff could swing the outcome.

Should Bayrou himself confound pollsters and make the runoff, many soundings suggest he would win. Bayrou has said he would form a unity government like that in Germany, whose export-driven economic recovery is the envy of France.

Whoever wins will have a short honeymoon, followed by legislative elections in June that will determine whether the new president gets a parliamentary majority to implement change.

``Because we have put them off for so long, all reforms are going to be difficult,'' said Delsol. ``It's a pressure-cooker lid: If you let out even a little steam, the whole thing risks exploding.''

Some say, however, that the French depression is overblown and that tweaks, not radical surgery, can turn the situation around. Outgoing Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who avoided major labor reforms but managed to at least trim unemployment, fulminated against ``declinologists'' whose books on France's demise fill stores' shelves.

Sarkozy talks of a ``France that is suffering,'' but also insists - and that record-breaking train may be a case in point - that the country ``is never more ready to startle than when one believes it is in decline.''

Optimists take heart from the fact that, while most French tell pollsters their children will grow up worse off than they did, they also make more babies than most other Europeans. And although the French work fewer hours than many, their productivity is on par with America's. France's health services are so good that the British cross the English Channel for treatment.

``The country has suffered psychologically but it would not take much to get it back on its feet,'' Alain Minc, an author, consultant and friend of Sarkozy, said in an interview. ``Come autumn, the mood will be as pink, perhaps excessively so, as it is now excessively black.''

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Post time 2007-4-25 12:52:33 |Display all floors
Problem is not France. France itself... The problem is Europe. Germany is not doing that so good either. The rest of Europe is only catching back. Northern countries are doing good too, but can hardly be seen as powerful countries. The key is Europe, with a political strength.
(Keep It Simple, Stupid)

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Post time 2007-4-25 12:53:21 |Display all floors
I have no bad feelings toward France, it's a great civilizations and have deep impact in world's art, political movement, ideas and thinking and its passion on how to enjoy life.

But recent development is worrying, much of the typically French's things already lost its original taste.

I like red wine, but now they said some other places produce red wine better than France... Australia for example *sigh*.

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Post time 2007-4-25 12:56:52 |Display all floors
Originally posted by wertynest at 2007-4-25 12:52
Problem is not France. France itself... The problem is Europe. Germany is not doing that so good either. The rest of Europe is only catching back. Northern countries are doing good too, but can har ...

?! ... 1518,479149,00.html

German Economic Boom Creates Job Machine
By Christian Reiermann

Experts in the government and academia are astonished over the strength of Germany's economic recovery. Unemployment is declining more rapidly and the government coffers are filling more quickly than during any other economic recovery in postwar German history. What's causing the powerful economic upswing?

Construction of a new shopping center in Hanover: A boom unlike any seen in Germany in years
The town of Friedrichsdorf in the Taunus Mountains north of Frankfurt is experiencing a boom of China-like proportions -- at least on a 50,000-square-foot industrial site on Max Planck Strasse. Here, pharmaceutical company Axicorp is producing low-cost drugs and registering impressive growth rates.

Holger Gehlhar, Axicorp's founder and owner, expects sales to jump from last year's figure of ?0 million ($68 million) to ?0 million this year, and he also plans to boost the workforce by 50 percent -- translating into 70 new jobs. "This year was the best in the five years since we have been in business," says Gehlhar.

Friedrichsdorf isn't the only place where the local economy is booming. In the southern Bavarian town of Kempten, Dachser, a logistics firm, plans to hire 1,000 new employees, including 400 in Germany alone. According to Bernhard Simon, the company's CEO, Dachser increased its staff by the same levels last year. By the end of this year, the family owned company will employ 8,600 in its domestic operations, and increase of more than 10 percent over 2005. "Our business is doing so well because our customers' businesses are doing well," says Simon.

Find out how you can reprint this DER SPIEGEL article in your publication. Dachser is in the business of transporting the products of automotive suppliers, machine tool makers and electronics companies on trucks, ships and trains. As a logistics company, it deals with almost all sectors of the economy.

"Back on their feet again"

Similar stories of vibrant success can be heard all over Germany, which is experiencing the kind of surge in economic energy it hasn't seen in a long time. "German companies are simply squarely back on their feet again," says Simon.

His words could apply to just about any place in Germany. The recovery has developed a strength that exceeds even the most daring expectations. From one end of the country to another, companies large and small are beefing up their workforces.

The hiring wave has made a clear dent in labor market statistics. From March 2006 to March 2007, the number of people seeking employment declined by close to 900,000, the strongest drop in postwar German history. And it's expected to continue.

Graphic: Germany's economic turnaround
In their spring report, released last Thursday, Germany's five leading economic research institutes predicted that this year will bring 450,000 new jobs. Each day, 1,200 people find new jobs. And the German job machine is expected to continue running at similarly high levels in 2008.

The economic researchers also predict that the economy will grow by 2.4 percent annually both this year and in 2008.

The German government plans to use these estimates in its own forecast, possibly taking a slightly more conservative approach with a 1.7 percent forecast of economic growth, for 2007. In doing so Berlin will finally be sounding an optimistic note.

German growth is now approaching the level of economic growth in the United States. The US economy has experienced between three and 4 percent annual growth in recent years, but coupled with strong population growth; whereas population growth in Germany has stagnated. When the two countries are compared using the more meaningful statistic of per capita growth, Germany and the United States are growing at about the same rate.

Declining joblessness

And if predictions are true, American conditions are also beginning to take hold in the German labor market. Government experts estimate that the number of jobless will fall to close to the 3-million mark next year.

The labor market isn't the only area where improvement is on the horizon. Germans interested in perusing the state of Minister of Finance Peer Steinbrück's federal budget can find themselves witnessing something akin to a miracle recovery. Tax revenues are growing from month to month, and growth rates compared to the previous year are in the double digits. The national deficit -- that is, the amount of money federal, state and local governments, together with social security programs, owe -- is shrinking. According to the economic research institutes, the federal budget will be balanced by next year. To put that figure into perspective, only two years ago Germany was bumping up against the 3-percent limit for new debt stipulated under the European Union pact that ensures the stability of its common currency, the euro.

The new German dynamism under Chancellor Angela Merkel is attracting attention abroad, too. The London-based Financial Times, notoriously critical of Germany, writes admiringly of a "new economic miracle" -- and even suggests that less dynamic economies, such as France or Italy, might be well-advised to look to Germany as a model.

What's driving the recovery?

But what's driving this recovery? Why are the labor market and tax revenues responding so rapidly and forcefully this time? Experts are also examining the hypothesis that an additional percentage point of growth now generates more taxes and more new jobs than it would have in the past. And if this is the case, they want to know why.

Economic experts agree that when it comes to tax revenues, it is still too early to answer this question unequivocally. The accepted rule of thumb 10 years ago was that an additional percentage point of growth translates into the same increase -- 1 percent -- in government tax revenues.

Tim Wegner
Axicom founder Holger Gehlhar: 1,200 people are getting new jobs everyday in Germany right now.
"This relationship actually became weaker in past years," says Michael Thöne, director of the University of Cologne's Center for Public Economics. For years, the rule of thumb was that 1 percent growth led to revenue increases of only 0.6 percent, a discrepancy partly attributed to tax cuts put in place at the beginning of the decade. But recently, researchers began noticing a shift in the trend.

"Taxes on profits, in particular, are increasing to a greater extent than we would have expected," says Heinz Gebhardt, a tax expert with the RWI Essen economic research institute. The reason is that in past years, when growth and profits were fluctuating, companies were only required to remit smaller estimated tax payments to the tax authorities. But profits have jumped in the last two years, and retrospective taxation is now being applied.

More jobs, greater consumerism

At the same time, the tax authorities are requiring higher estimated payments. "This sort of two or three-year lag is normal during a recovery, but not to this extent," says Gebhardt.

Income tax revenues have also increased, and for a very simple reason: Hundreds of thousands of the previously jobless have found new jobs and are paying taxes again. Another beneficial effect for the federal and state tax authorities is that sales tax (VAT) revenues are increasing because people with new jobs tend to consume more readily than those receiving unemployment benefits.

The effect has been even stronger on the labor market. The number of jobs being created in the current upswing far exceeds the new job growth experienced during earlier recoveries. Experts at the Economics Ministry have analyzed the problem and come up with some numbers to describe it. Between 1992 and 2000, at least 1.5 percent annual growth was necessary to create new jobs. However, this employment threshold has declined considerably to a current level of 1 percent. The result is that the job buildup begins earlier and is stronger during times of increased growth now than it was in the past. The trigger for this new mobility in the German employment market, once decried as decrepit, was a series of reforms, that were criticized individually but brought improvements as a whole.

Peter Schinzler
Bernhard Simon of logisitcs firm Dachser: Success stories all across Germany.
Temporary employment companies experienced the first wave of new employment. These businesses only began to flourish when the German government lifted almost all restrictions on the industry, thereby circumventing the barriers to employment caused by job protection.

Meanwhile, companies are once again hiring full-time employees. A large number of so-called "alliances for jobs," under which employees waive certain rights to employers in return for job guarantees. These programs take place at the company, rather than federal level, and they have eliminated barriers to hiring blue-collar workers. As a result, working hours were extended in many places, bonuses were eliminated and salaries were even reduced. Although all of this was painful for employees, the end result is that companies are now creating more jobs than are being cut or outsourced overseas.

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Post time 2007-4-25 13:49:19 |Display all floors
Originally posted by northwest at 2007-4-25 12:56

?! ... 1518,479149,00.html

German Economic Boom Creates Job Machine
By Christian Reierm ...

Take me for granted, they haven't solved all their structural problems either.
They sell their industrial product, then the tool-machines, then their maintenance, then their industrial know-how, then what?
In France too GDP's growth is fast, as it was in 1998. Not the problem. It's a powerful political Europe or death within 30 years.

All France knows is quick-fixing over-patched issues, reform is a taboo word.

[ Last edited by wertynest at 2007-4-25 01:51 PM ]
(Keep It Simple, Stupid)

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Post time 2007-4-25 14:04:30 |Display all floors
Originally posted by wertynest at 2007-4-25 13:49
It's a powerful political Europe or death within 30 years.

What is this mean? that France should be out or within EU before 'death'?

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