Here in China it’s a wretched time for Pu’er tea investors, but otherwise things aren’t necessarily as grim as the newspapers might lead you to believe. At least that’s the claim of this China business blogger who just returned from a depressing trip to angst-ridden Minnesota. He says China’s woes are being exaggerated, and the sky’s not falling over here like it is over there. Interesting perspective, especially on the factory closings.
Yes, there are thousands of factories closing down in China … but have you seen what those are like? Many of them are shoddy Taiwan- or Hong Kong-owned enterprises making commodity junk of questionable quality and pushing it into the market at dangerously narrow margins. If this is you, then yes, you are a statistic and should take immediate action to remedy this situation – I suggest quickly removing yourself from the commercial gene pool. But since junk companies are not this blog’s key demographic, I need to assume you are smarter than this.
We can all be cautiously optimistic about China in 2009. Yes, 8% GDP growth is lower than the 12% we have been experiencing in the past few years, but it is about 9% greater than what most of the rest of the world is experiencing. So find your happy place, and dig down to locate your opportunity in China. Its here. It is not going to be reaching out to grab you; you’re going to have to look for it. But I am guessing that your opportunities among the native Minnesotans – as nice as they may be – are going to be limited. They are too busy looking at their 401(K)s that are sliding quicker that a Lutheran in Sunday-go-to-meeting-shoes the morning after an ice storm.
No, your opportunities are here. And with caution aplenty and wariness radar on full blast, you will find them.
While he’s more optimistic than I am, his post definitely made me wonder whether we’re getting caught up in pack journalism when it comes to the collapse of Guangdong and China’s manufacturing backbone, and whether things are really as dire here as some are saying (or as some would like to see). I just had a conversation with a reporter who told me they’re surprised at just how stable things are here, at least thus far. They said the job market was still remarkably stable; we are not seeing the white-collar layoffs endemic to present-day America. At least not yet. And I don’t hear from people in China what I’m hearing from literally all my friends and family members back home – that their life savings have been reduced to a fraction of what they were a year ago, and that they’re rearranging their entire lives.
I know, there’s a whole lot to worry about and a whole lot of pain down the road for China. But maybe those horror stories from Shenzhen and Guangzhou only tell a part of the story? And maybe this really is the best place to be right now. I’d sure like to think so.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.