During the next decade we will experience the technological, political and military rise and transformation of China to a real super-power. And most probably also its first major economic crisis. Constitutional changes in China will enable its current leader Xi Jinping to stay longer in power than the currently foreseen maximum of two Presidential terms. We reflect on the current situation and potential in China, the reasons why a prolonged reign of Xi Jinping is a blessing for China and the World, and the reasons, why the Western world has difficulties to accept this.
Even after 30 years of an incredible economic boom, we still tend to underestimate the power and energy of the Chinese dragon. We take for granted that China is a giant workbench for cheap mass products, not reaching the technological level, design optics, and reliability of Western, i.e. US and European products and services. Just recently, being in Romania, a senior banker told me, they are not interested in leasing offers for Chinese investment goods – because of the risk, that they would have to take these goods to their balance sheet later. Guess what, now the Chinese arrive with their own leasing offers, at much better rates than any Romanian player can offer, of course cross-subsidized by Chinese producers and export-financing agencies. China is slowly, but steadily conquering key markets, through clever and orchestrated market entries and selective acquisitions. Together with the clear path of China to technology leadership in many areas, this entrenchment in other markets will also make China much more resilient for any future domestic downturn. For the fatal under-estimation of the Dragon’s firepower, the next generations of the Western World will pay dearly, some food for thought:
Economic Situation and Development Potential
- Chinese Universities are graduating more engineers than any other nation, on top more than 300.000 Chinese students are attending leading international universities, concentrating on the subjects that will shape the World of tomorrow. Chinese technical universities, mere underdogs twenty years ago, are counted among the leading academic institutions today.
- This week, it was announced, that Geely has bought an important stake into the leading luxury car manufacturer Mercedes/Germany, which is one of the innovation powerhouses in the automotive industry. This is only the highly visible tip of the iceberg. Every day transactions take place, that secure critical knowhow and technologies, strategic market shares and key resources. And services are following. Chinese commercial and investment banks are starting to expand rapidly outside of China.
- WeChat, Tencent, Alibaba and others are transforming the Chinese business and consumer world into themost mobile society in the World, with an unprecedented innovation power in applications.
- The World’s fastest super-computers are today located in China, built entirely from Chinese components, in stark contrast to a decade ago.
- While in the US and the EU infrastructure is rotting away, China is building new infrastructure at the speed of light (or nearly) and connecting itself to the World (New Silk Road): With more than 12.000 miles of existing high-speed train tracks, China has more tracks than the rest of the World combined. And it will add a further 16.000 miles over the next decade. Meanwhile California is struggling to put 600 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles into operation, over a period of 20 years.
- The challenges for China are well-known to its leadership and they are discussed: transformation of society, countryside vs. cities, pollution and ecological balance, social services, fight against corruption. Better count on these challenges being addressed and solved within Xi’s reign.
- The managed growth of a tightly interwoven political and business network for the key industries has proven to be very successful and efficient – enabling much faster economic evolution and transformation than traditional free market social economies with a tendency to over-protect minority interests, especially given the size and complexity of the country. This model will be further developed and professionalized under Xi and be a cornerstone of the next level transformation of China into a global super power.
Xi Jinping is the leader of a new global super-power
- China is rapidly developing into a global super power, the only credible contestant to the US. Following specs:
economic powerhouse with huge home market, technology leadership, educational excellence, clear political vision and ambition, build-up of economic and financial dependencies, strategic bridgeheads in other countries.
- Some challenges are so big and important, that they can only be solved by one. China is in front of many internal and external challenges. It will help to have a proven, stable and experienced leader like Xi in charge, who will not have to look at an end-date of his term, but who can embark on the next level evolution of the country. Xi has demonstrated a determined but calm and thoughtful hand in dealing with all sorts of unexpected problems. Although being one of the prime bashing targets during the US election, he was one of the first to build a personal relationship with Donald Trump; and was not following other politicians’ examples to enter into a useless counter-bashing exercise. He used the alienation of Trump with continental Europe to step in as the best friend in town.
- China is blessed by an absence of raw materials. This is forcing China to promote an open and peaceful world order to keep the country and its economy running, and it is not a miracle that China today is recognized as main promoter of free trade and liberalization of markets (just watch again Xi’s speech in Davos this year). China also has a clear anti-interventionist political and military doctrine, which kept it out of global military conflicts in the past.
- China does not have any dominating religion or radical evangelist movements that want to act as missionaries or jihadists. It does not want to make the World copy its own model – but concentrates on the maximum success of itself.
- We should not be naïve: Xi is by far the most strong and powerful leader of China since Mao, and he leads an economic powerhouse. China will use this power to push its agenda selfishly and with enormous self-confidence and work on its global objectives with a clear direction and strong perseverance, but cool-headed. As any nation would in a similar situation.
The envy of Western leaders
- Western media, commentators and politicians were fast to criticize the additional power for Xi, not taking into account the differences between China and Western democracies.
- At the same time, it looks like Western democracies are much more on the verge of losing their societal balance: social and generational contracts are no more working, regulatory frameworks are much too complicated for the needs of fast transformation in a tech world, all major countries are experiencing and welcoming authoritarian tendencies with strong leaders.
- Parliamentary democracies reach their limits in today’s fast changing environments, opinions are easily influenced and pushed into certain directions. Movements replace parties and lead to partially bizarre results. Just watch the current UK tragedy.
- The US as a guiding torch for human rights, liberal rights and democratic values is awfully missing on the World stage. This void will have long-term implications for the World order and benefit China’s rise.
- Strong leaders in secret envy the power and possibilities of Xi to follow through on his vision and transformation plans. They struggle with media, unions, minorities in their countries. And while they criticize China and Xi, they slowly try to copy parts of this model to their own countries, results open.
So, despite wide-spread criticism: The signal that the reign of XI Jinping will go beyond the current Government cycle is good news for China – and for the World, at least for all who believe in the sake of a multi-polar World. China will be a stabilizing factor in today’s epic of Twitterman and Rocketman and a strong contributor to global growth and technological progress: The World needs a strong dragon rider.