Anyone who underestimates the economic power of China is foolhardy, and should be ignored. In the olden days, when the power of America had no rival, a phrase was coined by economists that ran true at the time, which said: ‘When America sneezes the world catches a cold,’ reflecting the importance of the US to the global economy.
Now it is China which has taken over that role, for a sneezing America does not account for much these days. It is China who calls the shots and gives the world a debilitating cold whenever its economy, viewed by the West, gives the rest of us the jitters.
Having been to China on many occasions when its economy was in the process of being vitalised to gain ground after a somnolence of many wasted years, I could see the emergence of a super power in the making. Even when it sniffles, the world’s immune system becomes more sensitive than previously thought.
There is, in my view, no substitute for visiting a country to find out what goes on there and to understand why things happen. During my youth I had read most of Pearl S Buck, the daughter of an American missionary to China in the early 1920s, who wrote about the country and every aspect of its people’s lives.
I was intrigued and determined to visit China if I ever could. In my working career my dream was to be fulfilled. I found the Chinese rather friendly, diligent, hard-working and potentially destined to become a great nation, once the rigidity of the Communist regime mellowed to give the individual the freedom to manifest his or her own talent without the state crippling their efforts.
This is happening gradually and China’s emergence as a powerful economy with more millionaires than in the US proves my point. As China is experiencing an oscillating growth at the moment, it is only part of its economic consolidation. China will certainly bounce back and continue to drive global growth for decades to come. There is no need to panic on this front in the long term.
Funnily enough, if we watch China very carefully, there are many lessons we can learn in the process, and for our long term benefit.