My greatest concern about the South China Seas

October 18, 2016

Q: What is the sum of your fears when it comes to the South China Seas?

A: It is conceivable that the happy days are well and truly over for China. Consider this virtually all the low hanging fruits have already been plucked. By this I mean China can no longer rely on those drivers that once fueled it’s spectacular economic growth such as cost competitive greenfield site, lax environmental protection laws and cheap and plentiful labor – the cost structures that once conferred China competitive advantage is fast diminishing.

For the China to reliably fuel their economic growth from this point onwards. They have to figure out a way to migrate up the value chain – which will leverage directly on fifth generation Chinese leadership. And this brings us to the topic of my greatest fears.

China in the past has largely been helmed by a cadre of Soviet era technocrats. The era is fast giving way to fifth generation leaders who are very different from the previous crop of leaders. For one most of them were educated in the West. These are the Isroku Yamamoto generation – who have always harbored a deep mistrust of being able to power the Chinese with Communist precepts which they rightly perceive to be an unnatural alliance between capitalism and Marxism or Maoism, which ever way you want to see it.

This is also incidentally the generation that once witnessed the unthinkable or to put it plainly across in communist parlance – the end of the known world – when the Berlin Wall was brought down in the 80’s.

I don’t think many people can really appreciate how traumatic that event was when in probably the same people who have never experienced war or racial riots usually talk about those episodes with detachment that can only come from terminal ignorance. But such a precipitous event, the overnight collapse of the Soviet Union viewed thru the eyes of an impressionable Chinese undergraduate studying in the UK in the 80’s. Will in my opinion continue till this day to exert a preponderant influence on the thinking processes of fifth generation Chinese leaders.

I remembered one scene when all these Communist Chinese students were all gathered in the halls of residence kitchen watching the events unfold live on TV. There was this moment when Mikhail Gorbachev was addressing the entire Politburo. He was talking about how the Soviet Union will never die…how it will continue to grow from strength to strength despite the many setbacks with the Solidarity movement headed by Leck Walinski in Poland. Suddenly Boris Yeltsin stood up and walked to the podium grabbed the mike from Gorbachev and told him, it’s finished! Suddenly all the verve drained out of Gorbachev, he reminded me of a school boy who had been told his mother had died.

I speak fluent Russian and that was what I understood it to be – it’s finished. There was no translation. No sub titles. The commentator rambled on and on about something else.

They all turned to me with a pleading look to ask. What is happening – and I told them, it’s finished.

Some students began to shout and curse. Others began to wail quite openly in despair. One of them even stood on the table and hit his head with a wooden spoon. But the serious men amongst them grit their teeth as if they were lost in some uncharted dimension of time and space.

I saw all this in my lifetime. Later on, (to be continued, I need to supervise some work in the field then return back to the safe house).

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