Sunday, December 11, 2011
Will China Rise or Fall? What Does the Future of China Look Like?
I've been bullish on China for quite sometime. So much so that I thought about and still do think about moving there. I'm not calling a near impending doom for the fastest growing economy in the world, but I am calling for caution. For an increased skepticism.
I've come to this conclusion after my latest trips to Beijing and Shanghai. I have been 5 times in the past four months and it's the first time I began to see some chinks in the seemingly impenetrable armor. First - it's no surprise that there's a huge discrepancy between the rich and poor. They have over a billion people. But it's becoming quite egregious. I was in a mall where items were more expensive than if you purchased them in the United States. Sure, some of that is tax and duty - but you wouldn't have found this 10 years ago. And stores carrying these high end and luxury products are abundant. In Beijing they're on every street corner. There cannot be that much wealth so concentrated. If there is, things aren't going to go well. Particularly when just down the street, in stark contrast, are hutongs - old dilapidated slums, without running water or plumbing.
Outside of the cities, things aren't much different - that is, if you're not too far outside of the cities. Hangzhou. It's the ame story. While Beijing looked incredibly modern right around the Olympics, it's already showing signs of decay. And not just with air quality. But windows are popping out of skyscrapers and I don't think it's just the heat (here). The buildings are nice enough, on the outside, but not so on the inside. At least not from a quality perspective. I would look around at the construction - the joints, the paint, the hardware. And lots of it was suspect. Not all of course. The bullet train accident is another example. I can go on.
My hope was that as China evolved - as they grew and competed on the global stage, that they'd begin to take seriously the issues that have plagued its reputation in recent years. Corruption. Piracy. Civil rights. Freedom. But things are only getting worse.
The reason I'm calling for skepticism and not catastrophe is because there's still a chance for China to save itself, from itself. There's a new set of leaders expected next year. Rather than continuing to crackdown and increase the wealth gap, they could possibly take the high road. Time will tell. I'm hopeful, because I am awed and fascinated with China. I want to see it succeed.