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Recently I spoke with an eager potential business exporter to China. He exhibited all the signs of the China Syndrome. This is a dangerous infection that often leads to financial ruin. The China syndrome is a collection of untested beliefs about China and the business opportunities offered.Here are five of the symptoms.
China is big and the West still has a fascination with the big data heavy industry figures coming out of China. This fascination belies the astounding growth in the services sector and new business models like O2O – Online to offline. The days when a blast furnace figured on Maoist propaganda posters have long gone. Now the more representative poster is a 30 year old Chinese tourist taking a selfie at an iconic destination in Europe or the US.
What is more important? A psychological level of US$3 trillion or the fact that President Trump has called 18 heads of State but , until late last week, not called President Xi Jinping? Many observers believe the fall in Chinas foreign currency reserves to $US2.9982 trillion is the more important story.
It is a significant story, but the relations between the US and China are more important.
Investors are beginning to realize that cherry picking US President Trumps policies is a poor strategy. Some investors were inclined to think that Trump would walk away from his election rhetoric around some of his more extreme policies. The past few days have shown this is not the case.
Trumps refusal to distance himself from Secretary of State Tillersons war-like comments on potential US action in the South China Sea tell investors that a trade war, or worse, with China is about to start. The first round, as promised, would be a declaration that China is a currency manipulator. This would be followed quickly by the imposition of a trade tariff, potentially at a punitive level of 45%.
China perspectives are philosophically different. Understanding there is a difference is the first step towards smoother relations and business. Understanding the points of difference is an essential step for long term business development. Appreciating the points of difference allows for much greater understanding of how business develops.
I was reminded of these philosophical differences in world views with a photo and commentary a friend posted on WeChat. The photo showed a partly submerged car that had driven off the street in Hangzhou. The photo narrative noted that the BMW had rushed into West lake and killed a fish. The fish never dreamed it would be killed by a car. This is fate and you can never be sure of your fate.