The Ham­mer, Sickle, and a Love for Money

Text and Photos Zigor Aldama

Asian Geographic - - In Focus -

They en­tered in hordes to ex­plore a cheap man­u­fac­tur­ing base and to pi­o­neer their busi­ness given the huge po­ten­tial mar­ket for their prod­ucts. In ex­change, China got every­thing its lead­ers wanted: Pro­tect­ing core sec­tors and en­act­ing laws that re­quired for­eign com­pa­nies to es­tab­lish them­selves in the coun­try with joint ven­tures was a per­fect means of achiev­ing the trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy.

Al­most four decades later, this strat­egy has paid off. China is the sec­ond-largest econ­omy in the world – the first if pur­chas­ing power par­ity (PPP) is used; it is the main trade power with the big­gest sur­plus in his­tory, and the fac­tory of the world. More­over, with the help of the gov­ern­ment, China has cre­ated a group of huge com­pa­nies with the am­bi­tion of go­ing global, shak­ing up the world or­der.

In­di­vid­u­al­ism and con­sumerism have given the boot to old-fash­ioned fra­ter­nity and col­lec­tivism

Pe­dro Nueno, pres­i­dent of CEIBS and pro­fes­sor at Spain’s IESE Busi­ness School, agrees: “Chi­nese peo­ple live much bet­ter now than they did 20 years ago. The fact that labour is much more ex­pen­sive may de­ter some busi­nesses from set­ting up camp in China, but it’s a huge vic­tory for a coun­try where do­mes­tic de­mand is driv­ing the econ­omy, rather than ex­ports and for­eign in­vest­ment. Some say China is in trou­ble be­cause it has grown at its slow­est pace in the last quar­ter of a cen­tury, but I say a well dis­trib­uted growth of five per­cent is much bet­ter than a con­cen­trated eight per­cent.”

Nueno be­lieves that Chi­nese lead­ers are among the smartest in the world. He de­fends the claim by ex­plain­ing how they use an­other char­ac­ter­is­tic of com­mu­nist states: gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion. “The Com­mu­nist Party has reigned over dif­fer­ent prob­lems of the mar­ket econ­omy – the real es­tate bub­ble, for ex­am­ple. It has set rules to make it more dif­fi­cult for spec­u­la­tors to ma­nip­u­late the mar­ket. The same goes for stocks, where the real value and mar­ket value of com­pa­nies were a world apart. The sit­u­a­tion re­quired an ad­just­ment, and Bei­jing didn’t hes­i­tate. Their wis­dom is pre­vent­ing a crash like the one in the US a decade ago.”

But not ev­ery­body likes this. Asked about the pro­tec­tion­ism that the Amer­i­can and Euro­pean Cham­bers of Com­merce crit­i­cise in their an­nual re­ports, Xu says: “It’s not some­thing ex­clu­sive to China. The US – es­pe­cially with Donald Trump in charge – and the Euro­pean Union sub­sidise their com­pa­nies, con­tra­ven­ing World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion reg­u­la­tions. They’re right to de­mand more eco­nomic re­forms, but they should also ac­knowl­edge the mar­ket econ­omy, and the pro­found re­forms of China.”

Macroe­co­nomics aside, Chi­nese mil­len­ni­als – born long af­ter the Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion – are the most con­fused about the mean­ing of com­mu­nism. “They teach us a the­ory that has noth­ing to do with re­al­ity.

key events

The Mao we love the most is the one printed on 100 yuan bills,” jokes Chen Qing, a 25-year-old salon stylist. “We have an en­tre­pre­neur­ial heart, but shar­ing is not one of our strong fea­tures.”

Zhu Liya, a 26-year-old owner of a pearl trad­ing com­pany, adds: “Com­mu­nism as imag­ined by Marx or Mao doesn’t fit Chi­nese peo­ple.”

Ding Chen, a pur­chase man­ager at a for­eignowned engi­neer­ing com­pany, doesn’t see China as a com­mu­nist coun­try ei­ther. “It’s just an au­thor­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ment with a cap­i­tal­ist econ­omy where laws pro­tect lead­ers’ busi­nesses,” the 30-year-old says. “That ex­plains why the gap be­tween the rich and the

Their mis­sion is guided by a set of ques­tions: Why – and how – did the mam­moth dis­ap­pear some the mam­moth dis­ap­pear some the

The Com­mu­nist Party of China with Xi at its helm feels stronger than ever. Those in­ter­viewed agreed that al­though its fall has been pre­dicted in the West many times since the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic in 1949, a change of po­lit­i­cal rule is highly un­likely. The re­spon­dents also felt that there will be a faster shift to­wards cap­i­tal­ism and, thanks to Donald Trump’s poli­cies, a huge in­crease of Chi­nese in­flu­ence glob­ally.

“We must op­pose pro­tec­tion­ism and fa­cil­i­tate both free trade and in­vest­ment,” said Xi at this year’s World Eco­nomic Fo­rum. His words left many speech­less.

But, it makes sense. China needs to ex­pand. The state is flex­ing its mus­cles, ex­ert­ing its in­flu­ence in the de­vel­op­ing world with new ini­tia­tives and agree­ments – such as the BRICS (the as­so­ci­a­tion of five emerg­ing eco­nomic pow­ers: Brazil, Russia, In­dia, China and South Africa) and One Belt, One Road (a huge in­fra­struc­ture pro­gramme, ini­ti­ated by Xi Jin­ping, link­ing China with Africa, Asia and Europe via roads, rail­ways and ports) – in which the US don’t take part. China has also set up in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions, such as the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank (AIIB) which will help fund Bei­jing’s in­ter­na­tional agenda. As Xu Bin puts it: “China is just re­gain­ing the place it de­serves on the world stage.” ag

Sul­tanate of Oman

POP­U­LA­TION: 2.9 milio n SUL­TAN: Qa­boo s Bin Sai d Al Sai d Oman is the old­est in­de­pen­dent state in the Arab world. The cur­rent sul­tan (and prime min­is­ter) claimed power from his fa­ther, Said Bin Taimur, in 1970. His poli­cies have mostly been met with favour

A Shen Jin­dong oil paint­ing at the Bei­jing Art Gallery shows an in­fan­tilised vi­sion of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary, por­tray­ing China’s “soft power”

Above The price of real es­tate has become one of the main con­cerns for fam­i­lies in China. Prices soar and peo­ple don’t have ac­cess to homes

Above A woman rides past hun­dreds of “share bikes”, China’s lat­est trend for sus­tain­able mo­bil­ity in Shang­hai be­low A Mao im­per­son­ator in front of an in­ter­na­tional fash­ion brand’s shop in Taiyuan

Top A Mus­lim fam­ily out­side the tomb of Kusam ibn Ab­bas, a cousin of the Prophet Muham­mad above A Mus­lim fam­ily out­side the tomb of Kusam ibn Ab­bas, a cousin of the Prophet Muham­mad

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