It was about 15 years ago that I told my madam that the Peoples Republic of China would soon become the dominant country in the world. She sneered at me. At that point, China was not rated third, fourth or fifth in terms of GDP or productivity. Indeed, China was referred to by some as a developing nation!
Why was I so sure? The facts have been there to see for anyone who makes predictions based on facts. There is the unmatched population. This is not a large population of lazy people waiting for someone to provide food for them or give them “social security”. The Chinese have an unparalleled work ethic. They get things done faster and cheaper than anyone else.
The Chinese fascination with technology was another factor. They gathered everything made everywhere else, tore them apart and studied them carefully. While the world shouted about Intellectual Property theft, the Chinese were on a crash course on how things are designed and built. At the time I had the discussion with my wife, half of the toys and wrist watches sold on the streets of New York carried the label, “Made in China”. Unusually shiny and colourful, they made no pretentions to being quality goods. A lot of them fell apart after a few weeks but they were made in China.
We have all been taught in school about capitalism and socialism or the extreme version called communism. If you went to a school that was western oriented, you were indoctrinated with the idea that communism is evil and had no redeeming features. Capitalism and the market economy have been established as the only way for the progress of mankind. This was underscored when on Christmas Day, December 25, 1991, the powerful Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) the bastion of communism fell apart overnight, like a pack of cards. Before then, the struggle between nations, the war between the east and the west, was the battle between communism and capitalism. When the Soviet Union imploded, it provided hard evidence to capitalist scholars that Communism is unworkable. Around the world, capitalists celebrated. “Capitalism has defeated Communism!”, everyone shouted and the Berlin wall fell.
What the world may not have considered is that there might indeed be a third way, a subtle combination of the market economy, the heart of capitalism with a command leadership structure, the soul of communism. That might sound mutually exclusive and unworkable. Not so, say the Chinese.
The proof is all over the place. The superpower USA is owing China over one trillion dollars in treasury bills and bonds. The Chinese Huawei 5G technology is today the most sophisticated network communication technology in the world causing a lot of fear in America and Europe. When the Coronavirus emerged, the Chinese understood the problem, went aggressively to deal with it and the report is that most of China is back to work churning out products for everyone everywhere. Meanwhile, America is in confusion. Not even a 2 trillion-dollar war chest has quelled the tremor in the American stock market. Last week, Donald Trump was toying with the idea of asking some Americans to go back to work by Easter because of re-election fears. He was shouted down by frightened Americans who see the death tole continue to rise.
Who would have ever thought that America will be begging China for ventilators and other critical medical supplies to keep America citizens alive? It is now such a mad scramble for American state governors and mayors. Nobody is worried about superpower status anymore. Critical life is at stake and China is ahead of the curve and has all the cards. Did you hear that Chinese medical supplies headed for Germany were two days ago hijacked and diverted to America? That is how crazy things have become.
Donald J. Trump’s “America First” swagger has revealed its frightening limitations and shown that it is all talk and bluster. Its soft under belly and lack of a long-term strategy have become very clear. The divisions in the population that Mr. Trump’s “take no prisoner” style has created, has robbed America of the aggregation of enduring energy and trust required by any nation to do historic things.
In America, the reaction to or appreciation of the dangers of the Coronavirus is in the main, a factor of whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. When some people started calling for the United States Government to prepare the nation to wage a war against the oncoming virus, the reaction of the President and his supporters was that it was a “hoax” and that alarmists Democrats wanted to rubbish him in an election year. Not until the Dow Jones went on a free fall and businesses started to shut down left, right and center did it dawn on the Twitter President that there was trouble of immense proportions in the country and in the world. Sadly, the result is that thousands of Americans, in both blue and red states, will die who may have stayed alive if their government had its eyes on the ball.
While Donald Trump was busy picking a fight with every Democrat he could find, the power equation in the world may have been re-written. The big bang has occurred! The Coronavirus has revealed the strong limitations of a superpower status founded on nuclear weapons, inter-continental ballistic missiles and other forms of weapons of mass destruction. In the time that Donald Trump has been threatening and shouting at Iran, Xi Jinping has been building roads, rail lines and Airport Terminals across Africa and Latin America. Please tell me who has made the better investment.
People also looked down on Japan until Toyotas, Nissans and Mitsubishis took over roads across the world and Sony, TDK, Hitachi, JVC and co, took over our living rooms. Watch out for Chinese cars and consumer electronics. They are on the way!
Believe me or not, the wind has blown exposing the American bum-bum. The way things are going, the entire world may be on the way to becoming one big Chinatown.
See you next week.
– Okoroji is the Chairman of COSON