Updated: Apr 25, 2020
After reading this article, you will understand why it is crucial to pay more attention to China and why it is necessary to get a basic idea about the country.
一 They are everywhere
The days where you see a Chinese person once in a while on the street are over. Today, Chinese form one of the largest groups of overseas students and tourists on this planet. Around 60 million ethnic Chinese live as so-called overseas Chinese (including those who have changed their nationalities) all around the globe. In other words, China is somewhat omnipresent, and there is no way for you to escape them. I claim that this situation is good for the most part. It brings diversity, innovation, purchase power, and usually some pretty tasty food, to mention a few. Some people, until today, focus on out-dated stereotypes defining Chinese as rude, reckless, or annoying. Of course, among such a large-sized population, you will find a bunch of bad-mannered people, but in general, the bias of Chinese acting rude is a very unfortunate misconception. People who spend time with Chinese or even go to China mostly confirm that the Chinese are very accommodating and respectful people. My personal opinion is that the advantages that the Chinese bring along far outweigh the disadvantages. Chinese are hardworking folks who do not suck up the wealth in foreign countries or live there at the expense of others. Through investments and their strong labor force, the Chinese helped many economies to grow to the stage where they are right now and still support them today. As the Chinese keep contributing to our wealth and become more present in our daily life (at school, work, maybe even in your family), a basic understanding might not be a bad idea.
Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures – Cesar Chavez
二 China's data is leading the next GPT
In the past two centuries, China missed all of the three industrial revolutions so far. This absence was mainly due to arrogance and missing economic reforms. As a consequence, China failed to get in on the ground floor of these revolutions, but China will certainly not miss out on the fourth one. 1. Mechanization 2. Electrification 3. Automation 4. Digitalization China used to lag distinctly behind other global powers, but recently, you and I became witnesses of a radical change. After the opening up and subsequent overall growth, China nowadays is a pioneer in the fields of internet and digitalization. As the largest owner of the most valuable resource of this century (data), China is going to become a leader of the next so-called general-purpose technology (GPT). This GPT is also known as artificial intelligence. Its early adaption in China due to venture capital and an ideal ecosystem is a significant competitive advantage and will gradually increase China's global influence. China is not the copy cat anymore that it used to be back in the day. In terms of innovation and technology the Chinese tech hubs in Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing overtook Europe already and in some years most likely the U.S. In Beijing, there is an avenue of entrepreneurs called 中关村街道 (Zhōngguāncūnjiēdào), which is comparable to California's Silicon Valley. I assume that 95% of the readers of this article have never heard of the name, yet it will be a place where people make history and change the world.
There is no data like more data – Unknown
三 China triggers the largest collaboration in history
The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project, later renamed to Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a Chinese mega campaign that seeks to increase Chinese investments around the world. Its vastness reaches from the largest seaport in the world in Shanghai to the largest port of Europe in Rotterdam, covering countries that together account for approximately half of the world's population and at least one-third of global GDP. Eventually, it can be called a revival of the old Silk Road following a similar purpose to increase global trade and wealth. The small difference: this time, it is not about camels and scarfs, but railways, container ships, and pipelines. Such campaigns like globalization are never a zero-sum-game and don't come without issues. To me, there is no doubt that China is on the winning side in the long-term. All other nations will benefit based on their capability to exploit the economic potential. Whether you like it or not, the story will continue and will change the overall economic equilibrium. Many people still underestimate this initiative, which will boost global GDP, speed up trade, and create jobs and stability. We should, however, also keep in mind that the BRI is more than just a commercial project. It is, at the same time, an excellent opportunity for political, cultural, and educational improvement among many countries. Looking at current tensions in the world, none of these positive developments is needed less than the others.
Collaboration is not about gluing together existing egos. It’s about the ideas that never existed until everyone entered the room – Unknown.
四 China will safe the planet rather than industries
Let's not open a discussion on the causes and consequences of global warming here. What you and I both might agree on, though, is that environmental protection is increasingly important, and things must change. Global changes are often forced through joint decisions. However, as history has proved reliably, the only thing you can be sure of is that somebody will break such kind of agreements. And that's because people, institutions, and countries only sustainably change once they have serious incentives. Earlier, China never had such incentives or any other reason to focus on what we in the West call green movements. Other nations had the same attitude not long ago and did not care about the environment at all – this is why they care now. Many refer to this as the Environmental Kuznets Curve: first, you are poor, then you damage, then you clean up. Not long ago, China's economic progress had a clear priority over the environment, but this changed when people realized that pollution is hurting both their health and economic development. This perception shift and consequent measures, already make China a global leader in a lot of green technology fields today. In the West, you hardly hear about it, but since 2013, China is the world's top investor in clean energy leading in almost every area such as wind power, solar energy, and electric vehicles. In the end, environmental protection is a mindset issue that every person, company, and the country has responsibility for, including finding its own ways and making individual decisions. China found its way and is well aware that it is not just about reaching targets but also a market opportunity. While lobbyism in Western countries has successfully prevented the development in many green technology areas, China took a big step forward. Through this, the country will be a crucial factor in preventing what is maybe the most substantial threat for humanity in the next decades for all of us.
Plans to protect air and water, wilderness, and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man – Stewart Udall.
五 China keeps buying
Whether at home or abroad, Chinese people like to purchase all sorts of assets. This includes personal goods as well as investments in real estate, commodities, and businesses. Consequently, Chinese handwriting continues spreading literally all over the world and increases the country's influence. Interestingly enough, Westerners are, on the one hand, very excited about the in-flowing cash, but on the other hand, fear that China buys up the entire planet and becomes too powerful. When Chinese invest in foreign markets, it is, first of all, fairly legitimate following the law of supply and demand. Chinese investments often stimulate economies and lead to positive effects such as increasing collaboration, expansion of infrastructure, boosting GDP, and job creation. What drives people in the West anxious, though, is that China might be plundering resources and stealing knowledge. Undeniably that happened in the past and still happens today. Yet, the West has also been investing heavily in China. A lot of this money is now flowing back and confidently reinvested in Europe and America. And that is precisely what makes people feeling uncomfortable, especially since China, until today, is restricting foreign investments in some industries. In the future, China will be less dependent on us than the other way round. If China one day stops buying our products and stops investing in our economies, we better wrap up ourselves warmly, because a cold winter might be ahead. What people often totally miss out is that we can invest in China, too. Almost everyone can do it (I show how to do that successfully for several years already). China invests in us, so why shouldn't we invest in them, especially since the potential there is so promising in the long-run.
You are not rich until you have something money can't buy – Unknown.
Still hard to catch
With the five elements from above (human resources, artificial intelligence, economic expansion, environmental protection, and investments), there no doubt that China is changing the world, and hence, to some extent, also your life. However, its culture often remains mysterious, its economic impact unpredictable, its investment motivation scary, and its ecological willingness doubtful for us. China is not just geographically far away from the West, but also in many other fields, making it often so hard to empathize with Chinese.
As China's overall influence keeps increasing, it is more important than ever, though, to understand what drives the country. This is why, in the scope of Dragonfolio China, I show you how you can be prepared for the future and cope with China and how you can benefit from the country's rise.