To hear our future president tell it, China is the big bad wolf in the room. In fact, there is a whole meme of Donald Trump saying nothing but China. But is China really rising? Are we all doomed to speak Mandarin? Will the Statue of Liberty be relocated soon to the South China Sea? Well, not really. Though a whole heck of a lot of is happening when it comes to the Chinese and the East in general.
They’ve Got a Lot of People. I Mean a Lot of Them
The first thing to realize about China and the eastern countries in general (there are actually four countries that make up the so called BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India and China) is that they have a whole heck of a lot more people than we do here in the United States. I mean, get into a New York City subway car and you’d think the Chinese ain’t got nothing on us but you’d be wrong.
The fact is that China has 1.35 billion people compared to around 320 million here in the good old US of A. When you have that many more people available to do jobs and earn money well heck, they’re bound to have a certain amount of spending power.
I mean think about it, if you got together with four of your best buds and bought a nice little fishing boat together, you could do it easily. Doesn’t mean that you each are wealthy enough to buy a boat on your own but together, you guys all have some extra money and enough to pool your resources and buy that sweet thing where the wives won’t dare to venture…
That’s why China’s Gross Domestic Product (a fancy way of saying how much the whole country can afford to spend altogether and not an elementary school put down on China) is 1% higher than ours – because they have so many damn people that together they have a bit more purchasing power than we do.
It’s also true that there are stupendously wealthy Chinese people. There’s a desperate billionaire in Honk Kong willing to offer a billion Hong Kong Dollars (around $150 million give or take depending on the exchange rate) for any man willing to marry his daughter (she’s a lesbian so you know…). However, the average Chinese person is still usually much poorer than the average American.
I know that’s small comfort to Americans who struggle to pay the bills but the fact is that we still live in a very wealthy country with amenities many people in other parts of the world can’t even dream about having.
They Invest in their Infrastructure
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – La Guardia airport looks like a filthy dungeon. The place is simply awful compared to some of the airports I’ve visited in other parts of the world and Kennedy isn’t much better.
Yes, we now have the Second Avenue Subway going up (if we ever manage to finish a measly three stations), only around 100 years after they first started talking about it but the Chinese seem to have no trouble putting in another high speed railway every couple of years. There’s something wrong there and it’s one of the big reasons that China is beating us – they invest money in their future and we invest in Big Macs.
The fact is that investing in infrastructure and yes, investing in our companies is a way to build up our nation. The Chinese and most other eastern countries know this and that’s why money is moving to the east so rapidly.
Cities Are Growing
This one at least is not our fault. Remember how I said that China has lots and lots of people? Well the fact is that more and more of those lots and lots of people are moving to cities. Check out a list of the world’s largest cities and it turns out that 5 of the top 15 and two of the top three are in China. The fact is that Chinese people are moving to cities in droves because they are looking for work.
The fact is also that cities tend to drive economic growth. I live in what I and many others consider the greatest city on earth – New York City. Want to know what made this city so great?
Sure we have great skyscrapers and the Met and Broadway, not to mention the Yankees, even if they sucked this year. But what really makes NYC the greatest city one earth is the dynamism – people come here from all over the country and even the planet to make it big. Cities attract dreamers and big thinkers and as such, cities mean that money flows to a country.
China, with its massive population has some of the world’s largest cities and it is investing heavily in infrastructure to make those cities really livable. They don’t just build a lousy three stations on the Second Avenue Subway and then crow about how great they are. They build thousands of miles of high speed bullet trains connecting the whole dam* country.
Unfortunately though, one thing we can’t compete on is the size of our cities – we don’t have the population the Chinese do. However, one of the reasons that their cities are becoming wealthier is because they also invest money in making their cities livable and we simply don’t.
They Invest in Their Companies
A lot of people are giving Donald Trump flack for having helped Carrier to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana. He did it through a combination of a carrot and stick. He warned Carrier that they would risk losing government contracts and high taxes on their stuff if they dumped Indiana and moved to Mexico. He also handed them some sweet tax deals to get them to agree to stick around.
A lot of people are saying that sucks – how can we expect to grow the economy by giving help to private business? Well guess what folks? That’s exactly what China is doing – they regularly invest government money and help for private businesses to grow. In fact, most countries around the world do it. We’re the only ones stupid enough to think that we have to play fair with everyone else.
We Helped Them Out
The fact is that until Richard Nixon went to China in 1978, their economic growth was nothing to get excited about. Communist China was a failure just like the old Soviet Union was a failure. Oh sure, they seemed to be doing really well but their people were still really poor, unlike our people back home, who didn’t have to worry about getting in line to buy bread.
All that changed when we started opening up relations with China and did more business with them – we borrowed money from them and they were eager to lend it to us and we wasted the money on stupid stuff like toppling Sadaam Hussein while they spend money building their economy.
All Is Not Lost Though
The truth is that just because China and the East are growing their economic influence doesn’t mean we’re all doomed here in the US of A. The fact remains that we still live in greatest country on earth and we can turn things around. Not to mention that some people think that China is slipping by engaging in some bad policy ideas which is going to mean less growth for them in the long term…