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One way to think about the recent financial turmoil that has taken place in China is to consider it a parenting dispute between "Xi Dada" and "Yang Ma" – meaning "Big Daddy Xi" (the nickname for President Xi Jinping) and "Big Mama" (a popular moniker for the People's Bank of China).Dada and Ma are the two centers of power, political and economic, in a China that is coping with a painful new period of slower economic growth. Ma defers to the Communist politicians but keeps insisting (as the Chinese central bank did recently) that China needs a truly free market – for its currency and everything else – in order to become a fully modern country.The central bank, for its part, insists that China can't cure its economic imbalances without accepting global rules for currency and capital markets.China's skillful macro-economic management, combined with Xi's strongman political tactics, have managed to coexist. But recent events remind us of the underlying tension that exists between free markets and unfree politics – and they offer a warning that China's straddling of these opposing views can't continue forever.
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