Why the Chinese still use characters

The history of writing began in the late fourth millennium BC in Egypt and Iraq. In Egypt, the number of hieroglyphs was never never more than two thousand (1,071 hieroglyphs are in Unicode). In Iraq, the number of signs was on a similar order of magnitude; Unicode contains 922 cuneiform signs and that number fell over the course of the third millennium BC. Cuneiform was used as the primary international script of the Middle East during the mid-to-late second millennium BC, though this state disappeared by the early first millennium BC. The alphabet was invented in Egypt on the basis of Egyptian hieratic around one and a half millennia after the invention of writing, and, though not widely adopted in Egypt until the Persian conquest, spread to the Syro-Lebanese coast by the late second millennium BC and into South Arabia by the ninth century BC, and from there into Ethiopia. Due to the Syro-Lebanese coast’s strategic location, the Phoenician alphabet quickly spread across Syria and Palestine during the tenth century BC, and, by the eighth century BC, into Greece. The Latin script emerged from the Greek in the sixth century BC, and the runic script in northern Europe emerged from Latin around the time of Augustus. After the Persian conquest of Iraq, the migration of eastern Syrians into southern Iraq resulted in the disappearance of the Akkadian language and its replacement with Aramaic, written in a spinoff of the Phoenician alphabet. The Aramaic alphabet and language were adopted by the Achaemenids as the primary administrative language of their empire, resulting in the spread of the alphabet into India and Egypt. However, the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great resulted in a switch to the Greek language for administrative purposes, which became even more sustained with the Roman conquest. Experiments at writing Egyptian using the Greek alphabet began in the first century AD and Coptic proper, a language using large amounts of Greek vocabulary, became increasingly widely used in the third. Thus, by the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic, and cuneiform had all vanished from use, Egypt was under the rule of the Romans, and Iraq was under the rule of the Persians. The alphabet continued to spread Eastward into Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Tibet during the seventh century. By the ninth century, it had spread to the Philippines. The Arab conquest resulted in the Arabic script replicating much of the earlier movements of the alphabet across Eurasia.

The situation in East Asia was very different. The Chinese script started in the late second millennium BC already with more than 4000 characters, with each character standing for the meaning of one syllable (at this time, each Chinese word had only one syllable, polysyllabic words would be developed several hundred years later) and the number simply grew over time at a rate of about one character every two weeks (not a joke). Despite modern standard Mandarin containing less than 1200 syllables (far less than Middle Chinese), the government of China promulgates a list of 8105 “general standard” characters (and this was a substantial decline from the 80,000+ characters of the eighteenth century, 47035 in the 康熙字典) -some 6.8 characters per spoken syllable. Much like the Chinese spoken language contains many homonyms, so did China develop a writing system with numerous characters, many commonly used, that look almost identical.

Unlike the case with Iraq, the Chinese language was not replaced by that of any immigrant barbarians -rather, it expanded South into southern China and North into Manchuria. And unlike the case with Egypt, attempts at alphabetization by China’s barbarian conquerors were short-lived and half-hearted. The first attempt at a comprehensive alphabetization of Chinese (and all the other languages of the Empire) was under Kublai Khan, who promoted new 国字 in 1269 designed by the Tibetan monk Phagpa. The new script was used on currency and some monuments, but never percolated to any great degree to the general Chinese population, even though it was primarily used to write Chinese, rather than Mongolian. The attempt died with the fall of the Yuan dynasty in 1368. After the Manchu conquest of China, the Qing court sponsored transliterations from Chinese into Manchu, but never attempted to promote its script and language for the use of private Chinese individuals (with the exception of some usage on currency) or add knowledge of either to the standard imperial examinations and, by the end of the nineteenth century, had largely transitioned to speaking purely in Chinese. The Qing imperial examinations were on the classics of literary Chinese, a language as foreign to any Sinitic language existing today as classical Latin is to French, and which naturally could not be detached from characters due to the loss of ancient pronunciations. Since neither the Manchu script nor the Manchu language spread widely outside the imperial court, the constituency for changing the Chinese writing system never became large. A dramatically simplified Chinese script was used by an unknown number of women in Hunan Province, but it never spread far due to lack of state support.

The Communist conquest of China did not result in any great reforms such as greatly reducing the number of Chinese characters to more closely match the number of Chinese syllables or promoting the widespread use of romanization in addition to or as a replacement for characters to domestic audiences. Rather, the government merely simplified 6247 characters into 6235 simplified characters in order to make them easier to write. This was surely an idea that would have never been thought of in the computer age; had the Cangjie keyboard been invented just thirty years earlier, it is very unlikely we would have seen mainland character simplification. The invention of the computer led to near-universal use of the alphabet to type Chinese characters, with shape-based methods such as Wubi (a keyboard with 298 components, 23 of them exclusively traditional) and Cangjie (a keyboard with 121 components) generally declining over time due to their insufficiently straightforward rules. Likewise, the invention of the computer has led to an increasing decline in Chinese people’s ability to write the characters, with Chinese ability to write the characters peaking sometime in the late 1990s. Today, though Chinese ability to recognize the characters has never been higher, so has use of the alphabet never been more prevalent. Undoubtedly the trends of the past two decades will continue into the next few.


China’s average IQ is probably around 92

The various lists of Chinese IQ by province out there tend to be unreliable. The average IQ of Taiwan, as calculated from the PISA data, is a mere 102.5 or slightly higher; it is silly to expect that of Fujian Province to be any higher than that (the 2018 PISA results for Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang, higher than Singapore, were obviously gamed, though the 2015 ones don’t seem to have been):

Where are all the Level 2 mainland Chinese performers?

Fujian is widely recognized as one of China’s three highest IQ provinces, having been severely overrepresented among imperial examination degree recipients as early as the Song Dynasty, and China is a fairly large and diverse country, so there is no chance at all China’s average IQ is above 100. Since it is best to place one’s estimates on the firmest of grounds, rather than potentially unrepresentative surveys, I have estimated the average IQ of the Chinese provinces by simply assuming a 1-to-1 relationship with provincial GDP per capita, setting the average IQ of Fujian province at 102.5 (the PISA-estimated average IQ of Taiwan), and setting the average IQ of southerly Guangxi province at 82.3 (the PISA-estimated average IQ of Indonesia). This is the most controversial assumption of my model, but there’s no obvious reason to believe it’s wrong. Recall that Guangxi province is, despite excellent infrastructure, actually poorer than Indonesia by PPP, and that the majority of Indonesian ancestry comes from Neolithic China by way of Malaysia (which has a PISA-estimated average IQ of 89.65). The Filipinos also originated from southern China at around the same time, but Guangxi has surely experienced admixture from Hunan and Guangdong since then, which is why I mark Guangxi’s average IQ as the same as that of Indonesia, rather than that of the Philippines.

The model and its results are posted here: https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/402265308770992130/817810732573786122/chinaiq.xlsx

So far as I can see, the results check out. Hong Kong’s PISA-estimated average IQ is five points higher than the modeled average for Guangdong province, hardly a severe urban-rural divide. Gansu, the lowest recorded province, has a modeled average IQ of 77.8, almost as low as the Philippines (PISA-estimated average IQ of 77.5) -but, then again, the province is almost as poor as the Philippines by PPP. Shanghai is at 111, slightly higher than Singapore (PISA-estimated average IQ 108.45). The most questionable results are those for the northern provinces, where incomes have obviously been lowered by an overly inefficient state-led economic model -but it is likely using the 2010 GDP per capita data would have placed the average IQ of the northern provinces too high. I doubt Hebei really is as low as 84 or Heilongjiang as low as 78.5.

Overall, the model estimates Chinese average IQ at 91.67, just above that of Serbia (PISA-estimated average IQ 91.35) and higher than those of Chile, Romania, and Malaysia. This estimate is hardly ridiculous – China today is still poorer by PPP than Thailand (PISA-estimated average IQ 86.92), and while there surely is a gap in efficiency between Chinese and Thai capitalism, I doubt it is severe enough to result in China’s average IQ level being similar to that of Western Europe.

World Opinion on China’s Role in Coronavirus Prevention Will Depend on its Vaccine Diplomacy

China began 2020 being widely blamed for being the origin of the novel coronavirus that proceeded to infect more than a tenth of the whole globe. Though it successfully managed to navigate around that criticism through its wildly successful response to coronavirus, this success didn’t win it too many plaudits with the world due to its failure to export that response, or even care much about taking a leading role in fighting coronavirus around the world prior to the development of its vaccines. What will ultimately decide world opinion on China’s relationship to the greatest world crisis of our time will not, however, be the origin of the virus or its successful domestic response, but its vaccine diplomacy around the world.

China has three vaccines it plans to widely export: BBIBP-CorV, made by Sinopharm, CoronaVac, made by Sinovac, and Convidicea, made by CanSino Biologics. The first two rely on the killed virus method of vaccine design, and have similar efficacy (~78%), lower than Germany’s and America’s mRNA vaccines (~90-95%), while the last relies on an adenovirus vector similar to the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines, but, unlike these latter two, is injected in only one dose. China has some of the largest vaccine production facilities anywhere in the world. Due to its containment of the coronavirus crisis at home, it can, unlike Russia, safely afford to export vaccines without worrying about this affecting its local death toll. China’s great production capacity may well be able to help its neighbor Russia satisfy its own dire vaccine needs, as well as help China’s ability to export its own domestically designed vaccines by supplying it with the German-designed Pfizer vaccine.

The Sinopharm vaccine has already been approved in China and in several Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan -hardly a core partner of China. The UAE, the second most vaccinated country on Earth, as well as Bahrain, the third, rely primarily on the Sinopharm vaccine (though the Pfizer vaccine is also used in both). Chinese vaccines will be a vital part of the coronavirus response in hard-hit Indonesia -again, hardly a core partner of China. 125.5 million doses of Sinovac have been ordered, as well as 60 million Sinopharm, 50 million AstraZeneca, 50 million Pfizer, and 20 million from CanSino Biologics, but only 3 million doses of any vaccine have arrived so far in Indonesia, and only of CoronaVac. Due to its isolation from both the West and Russia, Ukraine, too, will have to rely on Chinese vaccines for 2021, having already ordered 1.9 million doses of CoronaVac. The same goes for much of Africa, with the President of the Seychelles receiving his first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine just today, and Morocco’s coronavirus response relying primarily on 40 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine. Even Brazil, with a relatively Sinophobic leadership, has ordered 46 million doses of locally produced CoronaVac.

A country cannot oppose a country from which it buys its core response to the largest crisis facing humanity in the present time. China’s ability to export its vaccines show substantial Chinese soft power even outside the countries that have signed support for its Xinjiang policies. As is the case for the response to China’s Xinjiang policies, the results of vaccine diplomacy have created a glaring divide on the basis of national income -not a single rich democracy has currently approved or has a contract for a Chinese vaccine, while a whole host of rich autocracies and low and middle income countries have eagerly accepted them. The difference is partly due to the mechanics of storage, with the mRNA vaccines requiring more money to ship than any of the Chinese vaccines. But India, whose leadership is unusually anti-Chinese by third world standards due to border disputes, is relying on a combination of AstraZeneca and Novavax, as well as a bit of Sputnik V. If Sinophobia were a real concern to the third world, we’d be seeing a lot more demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine and a lot less demand for the Chinese vaccines.

All in all, it appears China’s aim to come out from the coronavirus pandemic with its international reputation strong is in good shape.

UPDATE: Once very mild symptomatic cases were included, the clinical efficacy of Coronavac in Brazil was found to be 50.38%. However, too much has been made of this finding by the Western press; this tweet summarizes the actual meaning of vaccines’ clinical efficacy well. So far as we know, all currently used COVID vaccines are safe and effective.

“Low Count” for Hispaniola completely vindicated

I wrote two posts back in 2014 on the population size of Hispaniola estimating its precontact population at around 250K (generously assuming 9-10% Native population decline per year since contact and Old World urban population density for the island’s largest settlements); it appears the actual population size (based on a genetic study profiled in the New York Times) was closest to Miguel de Pasamonte’s estimate of 60,000.

If China did everything right on coronavirus

The world economy would have undeniably have been less affected due to the avoidance of inefficient and ineffective lockdowns, but there would have been, if anything, more worldwide deaths due to world leaders delaying travel bans. China would have also been criticized far more for turning Wuhan into a giant prison both for citizens and foreign visitors, as well as for failing to prevent the pandemic for going global. It is known coronavirus was in northern Italy from mid-December onwards, nearly a month before the first recorded coronavirus death in Wuhan, and about the same time the Wuhan pneumonia cluster became notable. This was also two months before the north Italian outbreak made it into the world’s front pages. In order to prevent the pandemic from going global, China would not have merely had to prevent the Wuhan outbreak, it would have had to do contact tracing in northern Italy, France, and New York throughout December and January, something the leadership of these areas would likely have not permitted it to do. It would also have had to destroy the Western anti-mask consensus on its own, and to convince the Western epidemiological community (a pack of rats with the intelligence of bricks if there ever was one) that the pandemic was certain to go global simply due to its form of spread.

Of course, the real China did far from everything right. It opposed travel restrictions on its own citizens, it always verbally supported the deeply flawed and Western-dominated World Health Organization, and, crucially, it delayed travel restrictions, public gathering bans, and attempting to rigorously contact trace and quarantine all those infected as soon as it was aware of the Wuhan pneumonia cluster in December. But that, if anything, reduced the worldwide death toll by making it easy for foresighted leaders like Khaltmaagiin Battulga, Prayut Chan-Ocha, and Luis Lacalle Pou to prevent the coronavirus from ravaging their own countries. Without the terrible Wuhan death toll of January and February, the leaderships of Tunisia, Jordan, Central Europe, and Burma would all surely been much more hesitant about their own countries imposing travel restrictions on Western Europe and America that delayed their own large outbreaks by many months.

Remarks on coronavirus successes turned failures

There are a number of them, Tunisia and Burma being the most notable. Paraguay is another example, as well as Central Europe. Apparently, if a country is far enough apart from the normal airport routes and has no large-scale contact tracing regimen that it could possibly establish, keeping the virus out for many months with travel bans and remarkably strict quarantine rules is remarkably easy, but keeping it contained once community spread has appeared is next to impossible. They’re perhaps the most interesting -as well as the most tragic- countries to have experienced the pandemic to study.

Compatabilist free will: a defense

Yes, there is only one timeline, and yes, the laws of physics necessitate all our choices have all been made in advance. That does not render free will an unimportant aspect of human experience. Free will is action under conditions of uncertainty. Were man to have a book in which all his future actions are written, compatabilist free will would be impossible. Since no such book exists, it is necessary. Since many similar beasts (squirrels, for instance) are similarly unpredictable, it’s an open question to what organisms are able to act under uncertainty in the manner I have above described. Action at least requires a mental weighing of options (thus, uncertainty) before one makes a decision. Whether insects have this capability (they surely deal with uncertainty, but they may rely purely on instinct to respond to it), I know not.

Real names are poison, or, freedom is slavery

French blogger Philippe Lemoine recently wrote a Twitter thread defending the idea that those with views against the dominant faction should write under their real names. Though I cannot judge each individual case, I must lay out why widespread posting of political opinions under real names is so damaging to current discourse.

All speech not written under a pseudonym is either an expression of power or an expression of obedience to power. The question of whether real names are appropriate is thus a question of if the system of power is built to advance correct views or works along different incentives entirely. The answer to this is clear enough. Politics is not academia; academia generally seeks truth; political discourse, even in its most academized form (court opinions) has no relation to it whatsoever. Indeed, it is a truth doubted by noone that the rise of real names on social media resulted in the dominance of the current bioleninist cult, due to the ability of those writing under their real names to more quickly advance their personal power. A strict real name policy does not reduce the existing asymmetry in favor of the dominant faction, it only expands it (would the “frogposting” wave of 2014-16 been possible under a real name policy?). It is no coincidence that Econ Job Market Rumors, one of the most anonymous forums on the Internet relating to personal power, remains one of the best and free, where purity of argument rather than one’s personal reputation is decisive in persuasion.

Also, the expression of any political truths in this current climate is, without any doubt whatsoever, absolutely personally catastrophic if one is in any sort of public position subject to elite competition. Just look at Harald Uhlig, sacked from his post at the Chicago Fed for making the most banal and self-evident conservative remarks. Consider David Shor, one of the most learned of men, who was fired from his job for expressing the least objectionable (if, this time, largely wrong) of centrist opinions. Even pseudoerasmus has been forced to mouth the slogans of the cult as he has come closer to publicly revealing his identity. As Spotted Toad writes, “what produces better writing? To write under your “real name”- (your slave name!)- to staple your job, your mortgage, your college, your family photos to every word you post”? In the realm of academic publications, this is largely beneficial, as academics search for truth, and each paper either cements or destroys one’s personal reputation as a dedicated seeker of truth. But politics is not about truth, it is about power and status. Consider the multitude of ways xenocrypt, one of the greatest of men, might have suffered had his identity been more public. It is, thus, no wonder that I fully support Scott’s recent decision to shut down his Slate Star Codex blog in protest of the New York Times’ attempted use of its institutional power against him.

Power structures promoting personal accountability to power, in short, do not always create good incentives.

Thank Xi Jinping

Five years ago, I wrote my “strange utopia”, doing a bit of forecasting into America’s grim future. The situation now has become much worse than I ever expected it to be.

I was clearly right on one thing: the rise of China both in income and (relatively) in morals. Thousands of Taiwanese have moved to the mainland. Communist China has been praised by over fifty countries for its remarkable achievements in the field of human rights. Rather than supporting mass bloodshed around the world, deadly pandemics, and social anarchy within their own country, the Communist Party of China has used its traditionally blunt tactics to prove that simple methods can work, and are often superior to the toxicity of the imperialists. The jihadist problem in Xinjiang was quelled, to the consternation of every al-Qaeda supporter in America’s Congress (i.e., every member but the two Kentucky libertarians – proof that libertarians are the only anti-establishment force operating to any degree in American politics). Rather than being rapidly multiplying forces for instability in both China and the rest of the Muslim world, the Uyghurs of Xinjiang were made to become model Chinese citizens. The Hong Kongers were, instead of being coddled, forced to become involuntary members of the reality-based community. Despite being the first country to notice a mass pandemic of SARS-CoV-2, China managed to limit its fallout to less than ten thousand deaths -at least twenty times less than the United States, which itself, despite making every possible attempt at failure, fared substantially better than Western Europe, which failed to even keep even remotely believable statistics. The leadership of Chinese diplomats in the public sphere has become a model for the whole world. China is now attempting (though far too late) to restore its total fertility rate to a respectable level, and will likely succeed in this task by 2035. The next step must be reunification with homosexualist Taiwan, before sclerosis sets in its own system.

America, in contrast, is fundamentally a bad country run by bad people. It is a nation of orange pigs, with its president not being its occupier, but its apotheosis. It has been Number One at causing so much blood and death over the past two decades -in Venezuela, Bolivia, Syria, Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya by war and in its own country due to the virus. It is its two great failures in the first half of this year that convinced me of this most fully: the coronavirus and the riots.

The reaction of the Republicans to the coronavirus problem was so well-documented as to need no elaboration. The outbreak of a newly discovered and rapidly spreading virus in China’s most important transportation center was treated as a non-issue until it already hit pandemic levels in both Western Europe and the United States. The Republicans then proceeded to say the president did nothing wrong and everything was the fault of China, the only country in the world to go so far to hurt itself to protect the rest of the world from the virus as to bar outbound travel from a strategic city of over eleven million people, and even unto this day be so thoroughly concerned with combating the spread of the virus both within its country and without as to mandate quarantine for anyone attempting to travel between provinces. The reaction on the Democratic side was yet more amazing. Rather than doing the obvious things -calling for an expropriation of Trump’s wealth and using it to compensate COVID victims and championing their only half-decent administrator (Steve Bullock)- they proceeded to praise their own party’s biggest killers, create tremendous and lengthy economic damage for no justifiable reason other than to help Amazon, and not directly attack Trump at all for killing over a fifth of a million Americans -something which in most countries is called a “crime against humanity”. And yet, the polling evidence clearly indicates that Americans are as oblivious to their leaders’ failures as ever, Republicans more so than others, but don’t doubt for even a tenth of a second that Democrats would be enthusiastically supporting the exact same response were Joe Biden in office instead. Regardless of all evidence, Americans still think other nations are their subjects and that the metropole has nothing to learn from its colonies. This, combined with an almost early 19th century Chinese sense of their superiority, turned crisis into catastrophe, while Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Tunisia, Korea, Thailand, and the vast majority of China combined experienced barely more deaths than a year’s worth of American mass shootings. Of all the nations of Southeast Asia, only lackadaisical Indonesia and Albophilic Singapore experienced any real trouble with the virus.

As the virus was continuing to rage and unemployment spiked to the highest level since the Great Depression, the accidental police killing of a negro criminal, newsworthy precisely due to its extreme rarity, sparked massive outbursts of concern in this country not for the people victimized by him… but demands for the arrest of the police officer who restrained him! Rather than accepting and loudly promoting the simple fact destructive and violent riots complaining about an altogether imaginary problem have no legitimate grievances whatsoever, that appeasement invariably breeds aggression, and that random acts of violence by a totalitarian establishment against people’s livelihoods might, in fact, be bad, what rotten chunk of flesh that passes for the right in this country demanded “Those responsible for George Floyd’s death must be brought to justice“. Indeed, rather than learning from the events of Ferguson that rioters complaining about imaginary disproportionate police killings of unarmed negroes do not have even the slightest shred of a legitimate grievance and must never be given the slightest inch, the so-called “right” in America didn’t even so much as advocate for even the most basic measures of self-defense before Donald Trump -an orange conman as useless as he is malicious. Xi Jinping, at least, learned from China’s 2014 protests and their escalation in 2019. The leadership of Thailand learned from the protests against its regime, and that of Burma certainly has no sympathy to its own minority terrorists. On the Democratic (or cultural ruling party) side, a great many, though far from all, politicians as well as all America’s social media companies and much of its media class enthusiastically supported the rioters and their destruction of their very own congressional districts, a move supported unanimously by the falsely called “anti-establishment” left. This support for arson, looting, and vandalism was something that we never saw at all except among the fringes of the fringe during the Ferguson riots. Say what you will about the Romans, but they never possessed the stupidity to support its Vandals or their cause. No wonder I so enthusiastically supported the riots from the start. They are laser-targeted to hit exactly the individuals who most deserve experiencing some life and property damage from them. Anybody who didn’t learn from Ferguson that police are useless and that relaxing around Blacks is never a good idea deserves every last thing he or she gets.

I do not sympathize with these orange pigs. Any Sinophobe or Ameriphile deserves not a shred of respect from anyone. From now on, the death of every American will fill me with joy, from whatever the cause, in whatever the context. They deserve it, and much more. They support Cuomo, they support Trump, they support the spread of ghetto crime, they support the virus. Their desire for their own deaths, as well as the deaths of those who support them, should not be opposed. To all leaders of foreign countries, I beg of you: Americans are pigs. Expunge them from your realm. Block their propaganda. Save yourselves from this plague. Liberate yourselves from your slavery.

It is no wonder, then, that I changed my avatar from Michelangelo’s David to Prayut chan-o-cha. He is the man of the time we need. His government, as well as those of Xi Jinping and Moon Jae-In remind us, the inhabitants of the White countries, that a better world is still possible. And that is a powerful insight everyone should embrace. The world has a lot of potential, despite its occasional collapses. The vision of progressive improvement should never be abandoned.

The China shock did hurt the American economy, but not in the way most explain

There is a common meme, true but misstated, that the rise of China 2003-2011 reduced the consumption of Americans. Behind it, though never explicitly stated, can only be the idea that newly rich Chinese consumed goods and services that would otherwise have been consumed by Americans.

The much more common statement of the view that the rise of China reduced the consumption of Americans is that the exchange of Chinese manufactured goods for American assets resulting from the U.S. capital account surplus with China transferred wealth from U.S. manufacturing workers and domestic industrial capitalists to U.S. construction workers, governments, and landlords. This is true enough. However, it does not constitute an overall consumption transfer from Chinese to Americans. Rather, it constitutes consumption transfer within the United States, e.g., from Michigan to Florida. Even the increasingly high price of U.S. assets (e.g., housing) resulting from the American capital account surplus with China could not have possibly decreased overall U.S. consumption on net. It would simply have been another within-country consumption transfer, that is, a transfer from domestic asset buyers to domestic asset owners. In a two-country model, anything other than perfectly free trade between the U.S. and China would only make economic sense by making tariff incidence fall on the producer, something only possible given very high importer levels of monopsony power (cf. economists’ optimal tariff theory).

However, the two country model does not apply for the 2003-2011 period. The rise of China did transfer overall consumption from Americans to Chinese, as well as to Russians, Saudis, and Brazilians. This was the case because the rise of China reduced U.S. export prices and increased its import prices.

Imagine three countries, the U.S., China, and Saudi Arabia. There are two commodities, oil and manufactured goods. Both the U.S. and China export manufactured goods and import oil, while Saudi Arabia imports manufactured goods from both and exports oil to both. An increase in Chinese exports increases the price of oil, thus hurting Americans by increasing import prices and helping Saudis by increasing export prices. It also decreases the price of manufactured goods, thus hurting Americans by decreasing U.S. export prices and helping Saudis by decreasing Saudi import prices. This is, more or less, what happened to the U.S. during the 2003-2011 period, though I will not try to quantify the effect here. Between 2003 and 2011, the U.S., Portugal, and Italy all experienced unusually slow economic growth, while Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. and, of course, the engine of this entire movement, China, all experienced unusually fast economic growth. Developing countries in South and Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe also experienced unusually fast economic growth due to greater credit supply during this process (Greece and Spain experienced this before 2009, but not after).

American protectionism against China in the period 2003-2011 would have worked to increase its consumption only insofar as it decreased U.S. import prices and (less plausibly) increased U.S. export prices. For this to be true, it would require a substantial amount of American monopsony power over Chinese manufactured goods, as well as smaller U.S. consumption gains from cheaper domestic prices of manufactured goods than U.S. consumption losses from more expensive imported commodities.

After 2011, the U.S. increasingly began to remedy its heavy reliance on imported oil while U.S.-China trade as a percentage of U.S. GDP stagnated, thus bringing an end to (though obviously not a full reversal of) the China shock. If the U.S. becomes a net commodities exporter, it will definitely economically benefit, on net, from the rise of China, and protectionism would be indisputably economically counterproductive.