August 10, 2008

China to emulate Japan in bid for global domination

Posted in International Economy · 22 comments ·
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Shanghai has turned from a paddy field into a bustling megalopolis in just two decades, and the growth won’t stop there.

The Olympic Games have always been as much about politics as sport. Last Thursday, US president George W Bush’s predictable swipe at the Chinese for their human rights record was par for the course. Notice he said nothing about cutting trade links, or investment plans for that matter.

Talk is cheap and the Chinese know it. The US needs China and, while going to some Protestant Church this morning (which Bush will do) might be a sop to those who believe that religious freedom is crucial, it won’t interfere with the ongoing deepening of Sino-US economic relations.

This is the crucial financial battlefield over the coming years, because, like Japan before it, China is playing a ‘long-game’ with the US. It’s only a matter of time before China overtakes the US as the world’s largest economy. According to the IMF, this will probably occur by 2030.

The Beijing Olympics are simply a punctuation mark in an inevitable shift in world power. The parallels with Japan are striking. Clearly there are enormous cultural differences between both countries, but anyone who has watched both can see that China will do what Japan did after World War II – only bigger and quicker.

For example, my father has nail clippers in the shape of a fish. Or more accurately, a fish lure. It is an intricate little thing, the gills are emerald green and the eyes and mouth reasonably realistic. It is extraordinarily resilient. Someone must have spent a bit of time and effort in getting everything right in this minute piece of technology.

I can remember playing with this fish as a very young boy. Despite the fact that it looks like something he got in a lucky bag in the 1950s, it still works and it is certainly close to 40 years old, if not older. My father and mother are from the hoarding generation – unlike the current generation, their generation bought things to last, saved money and never threw anything out.

An interesting thing about the clippers is if you flip it over it has ‘Made in Japan’ written on it. This is interesting because it must have been the last low-tech item ever made in Japan. Japan is now the world’s centre of technological excellence.

When did Japan make this type of basic stuff? Or more interestingly, when did Japan stop making these bog-standard, cheap, pile-’em-high, flog-’em-cheap trinket things? When did Japan move up the value chain from toys to computers, from computers to videogames, from hardware to software, from the Mazda 323 to the Lexus and the Prius?

If you ask our parents they will tell you that, in the 1960s, the image of Japan was of a cheap manufacturer churning out bargain basement pots and pans, second rate cars, transistor radios and nail clippers. It was a byword for cheapness.

But over time, to use the vernacular of the business world, Japan moved up the value chain. The Japanese realised that they could only pay themselves well by investing in technology and increasing the productivity of every worker.

The country did this with extraordinary breakthroughs in innovation. Japan went from a defeated country of cheap labour to a resurgent country with the best paid workers in the world. It transformed from an importer of capital to the world’s largest creditor.

Yes, it got burned in its Kamikaze Capitalism phase of the late 1980s and early 1990s, as we’ve noted before, when it became infected with the ‘Irish disease’- an infatuation with property. It got over that. Today, Japan is the high end of the high end, the most sophisticated economy in the world.

It has passed the low-tech baton over to China and now China is where Japan was 40 years ago. How long will it take China to grow out of the cheap goods phase? How long will it be before China moves up the value chain?

The answer to the first question is simple: it will not take China long and, because of its scale, China will be two or three world-beating economies at the same time. It will be a low cost producer of tat and a high-tech producer of state-of-the-art exports. Things are unlikely to move at a single pace, but rather at different speeds.

However, one thing is clear, the 21st century is likely to be China’s century. The country is on course to overtake the US by 2030 as the world’s largest economy and there doesn’t appear to be anything that can stop this process. It’s an economic juggernaut similar in scale to the US in the early 20th century.

Strolling on the Bund in Shanghai gives you a glimpse of the new China. This place was at the heart of pre-communist mercantile China when Shanghai was the centre of east Asian trade.

It was here that Mao, always aware of the nationalist symbolism of the great foreign banking building that overlooked the Huangpu River, encouraged his cultural revolutionary students to beat up members of the bourgeoisie, parading them through the street like medieval criminals.

Today, a little over 40 years later, looking out over the river to the monuments of glass and light across on the other bank, you cannot but be moved by the singular ambition of these people. The Cultural Revolution and any vestiges of communism have been erased and replaced with the most vibrant strain of capitalism on this earth.

Twenty years ago, on the far side of the Huangpu River were paddy fields. Today, it is a glittering megalopolis with a skyline that dwarfs Manhattan. Until three years ago, Times Square was the most photographed streetscape in the world. Not any more – now it’s the Bund Shanghai, testament to the emerging middle class in China, as millions of Chinese tourists visit the city.

It should be no surprise to anyone that this year’s Irish Entrepreneur of the Year – Liam Casey – runs his company, PCH, from southern China, where it outsources components for household ‘American’ names such as Apple, Dell and Logitech.

Like the Japanese makers of my fathers nail clippers it’s only a matter of time before the Chinese begin creating their own Apples and Microsofts. As Casey said in a recent interview: ‘‘It’s not that China’s cheap – it’s fast.”

Bush might heed these words. In today’s globalised economy, the quickest exposes the sluggish and wins. For America, the message being sent by China is that if you have a weakness, they will exploit it. And that’s not just in the Olympics.


  1. Johnny Dunne

    ‘‘It’s not that China’s cheap – it’s fast.”

    David, your reference to Liam Casey’s PFH is the type of company we should be developing In Ireland. Within a decade, he has developed an international business of significant scale. It would be hard to find another Irish company trading internationally which has grown so fast to sales of $200 million. Liam, an entrepreneur, through identifying an opportunity and relentless hard work built a company working with the best high-tech product manufactures in China providing full supply chain and product fulfilment services to the top ‘brands’ and tech companies in Silicon Valley. It’s similar to US MNC’s operations here, their parent develops the product/‘brand’, in Ireland we manage the supply chain.
    There are other more established large successful Irish companies such as Glen Dimplex and Glanbia with growing operations in China to compliment their Irish base and international business. Wonder why more indigenous companies are not trading with China or their MNCs operating here?

    The success of Irish exports (and economy) has been down to the US multinationals using Ireland as a ‘hub’ for trade. We are experts in supply chain, fulfilment, logistics etc. There are many established ‘brands’ looking for Chinese manufacturing and development expertise. We should be China’s gateway to Europe and beyond — Ireland ‘the marketeer’ — finding out what customers want rather than making a product and then trying to find a market (exactly what we are doing with SFI R&D)

    Here is a ‘big bang idea’ — the Taoiseach’s Trade Mission to China in October should have one priority – to attract 100’s of Chinese companies to trade with and ‘through’ Ireland. Let’s open our economy with IDA packages for ‘Chinese MNC’s’ (if they don’t exist then Irish companies in similar sectors should partner with larger Chinese companies to be their international supply chain and sale/marketing division). It’s all possible with political will and energy, effort, focus and believe like Liam Casey.
    As for funding, we spent €400 million on Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) last year, this ‘work’ won’t contribute to exports for at least another decade (if ever), currently it’s ‘output’ is less than 100 patent applications and ‘working with’ less than 100 companies. Let’s decide now for say ‘a year or so’ to divert this SFI ‘budget’ to Irish based companies ‘trading’ with China. For no net cost to the exchequer, this could play a massive part in the international trade of this economy which is already the highest per capita in the world (circa 650 US, 250 UK, 50 German, 20 Japanese MNCs and 1 or 2 from China ? ).

    This is urgent, China’s GDP is ‘just’ 13 times Ireland’s, they are the 4th biggest economy in the world and growing the fastest. They have achieved this with a population of a billion. It’s fast – Mr Cowen ?

  2. Brendan

    David, this article reminds me of an article by a economist, who I think you are a fan of, Paul Krugman. Who warns that “countries don’t compete like companies do”.

    http://www.pkarchive.org/trade/CompetitivenessDoesItMatter.html

    I think its unwise to picture China’s rise as a threat to the rest of the world. china may threaten us in other ways, but economically I don’t think this is the case.

  3. Malcolm McClure

    The key to Chinese industrial success is not only low wages but local specialization on a vast scale. (Some cities make only socks for example).
    Also an efficient rail distribution system. Their modern railways were spec’ed to rush battle tanks to all parts of the country. Thus tracks are wide enough and bridges high enough to carry containers on railcars. Its ‘Back to logistics’ again.

  4. MK

    Hi David,

    The staging of the Olympics in Beijing provides us all with an opportune time to look at China and its place in the world. The growth is indeed remarkable, but we need to look at its background and context. Note that China was not able to create its ‘economic miracle’ only for the fact that it was invited into the world club by the likes of the US, Europe, Japan and others. Indeed the cooling of the cold war allowed China and Russia “in”. It benefitted us in Europe and the US as well. And Japan. Its a two way street. Many US companies are in China, exploiting their cheaper costs and their lack of environmental restrictions, as have EU companies and Japanese ones. And lets not forget India, which until as recently as 1991 did not trade so much outside India! The BRIC phenomenon is a global one.

    China, with a population of 1.2 billion, certainly has scale. But I dont think we should have a Chinese love-fest. Its overdone. Yes, it will become the largest economy in the world for a country, but will it become the largest per capita based on PPP and is that a measure of success? What about Quality of Life? Which is better, Switzerland, Scando countries or the US or indeed the congestion of the Japanese metroplosises? Any decent study of those economies and how people interact with them will usually show that its much more comfortable to live in the Scandinavian countries or Switzerland, even Ireland. Yes, in that ‘backward’ place called Europe, the one we tend to forget about when people eulogise over China of the future, or the US. Size is not everything. Nor are shiney new buildings. And indeed, the EU is now and will most likely be the biggest economy by 2030!

    > Apples and Microsofts
    They have started already. eg: Lenovo. The state companies are huge. Its true that they will develop their businesses over time and up the scale from the Xmas trinkets market to others.

    > the ‘Irish disease’- an infatuation with property. Japan got over that.
    I dont think we should label the property bubble problems over the world as an Irish disease. Our ‘disease’ is clearly alcohol! A problem which we may get back into more if things become depressing, at least in terms of volumes if not in terms of costs. Japan had a very bad case of the property ‘bug’, long before we had, and its a problem which has been repeated across the world. So we do not have sole ownership of it. Japan are only barely over it, if that, as there are still remnant effects. Their pain is also well embedded in living memories. It was a deep cut.

    > Irish Entrepreneur of the Year

    Yes, cases like these need to be applauded. Irish entrepreneurs should be measured on the amount of jobs they can create in Ireland, and well paid jobs at that, and the amount of tax they pay. ie: how much real money they can bring into the economy. An offshore irish entepreneur who creates his own wealth is as much Irish as a wealthy Arab – ie: not at all. I have no idea of how many jobs this particular chap made or will make and how much tax he and his businesses will pay, but we wish him and others well, in whatever countries they do business in, China, Vietnam, or elsewhere.

    MK

  5. Ire_in_Exile

    The traditionally noted Chinese weakness is that they are brilliant imitators but very poor innovators- This shall be their main stumbling block in reference to this article, can they change their inherent mindset to take on Western capitalism at it’s own game?
    The Chinese are staggeringly lacking in the culture of consumerism, despite the ostentatious neon 7up signs sprawled across the bund (and curiously now displayed with more pride and prominence seemingly than their own ancient national monuments).
    “All the Tea in China” and yet they have not managed to market one single identifying brand!

    An amusement on imitation-
    I visited an Irish bar that had opened in Pudong a few years ago with an Irish and a Canadian colleague. It was a faithful reproduction of a plastic Paddy pub, road signs for Lisdoonvarna the lot.
    My Canadian friend enquired as to whether it was an authentic “Irish bar”? To which my Irish friend replied readily “Yes! it was 100% an authentic Irish bar… right down to the Chinese floorstaff!!” :-)

  6. “Distresses may help resurrect a nation” (duo nan xing bang). This was a theme repeatedly discussed in China’s ancient political writings, the first dating back to Zuo Zhuan, a book of commentary on the events in the Spring and Autumn periods (770-476 BC).
    The original meaning of the saying is a definition of leadership. According to it, in times of difficulties, a successful leadership can help people get united and work harder, and in the end help a nation grow stronger.

    This is where we are lacking today in Ireland ,within the area of leadership. Perhaps we need Charlie McCreevy or a new Charlie Haughey back in power , as we need someone with new ideas to kick start our economy . Waiting for the Americans to go back shopping is not the solution.
    While our new leader sits in his caravan writing his state of the nation address ( which I commended him for at least taking his holiday at home and keeping some revenue in the country ) . We need stronger leadership , the dances at the cross roads should be left to the pages of our recent past , like the re electing of sons of dead politicians should also be confined to days gone bye.
    China along with India are developing at a awesome rate , yet we are are still looking at America. Instead our Enterprise Boards should have Offices now opened in New Deli and Beijing offering educational courses,language schools and development opportunities to these new up coming global power houses.
    We should be marketing our Corporate tax packages to these countries and their entrepreneurs. Ireland could be their economic hub for entry to the European markets and a back door to America for when it comes out of it’s impending recession.
    Our fixation with Property is a disease but I would agree also with ‘MK’ our bigger problem is of course Alcohol. A short quick fix to our falling tax returns could be instead of confiscating these big hauls of marijuana every day would be to de criminalize it, open ‘dutch coffee shops’ and tax it.In the currency crisis of the late eighties before we devalued , the Dutch Guilder stayed up there with the German Mark! You would then have your young Americans filling the empty Atlantic Planes to come here for their vacations. Sure you’d have our conservative church goers giving out about it been a ‘gate way drug’ but while they would moan while drinking their gins and whiskeys , we’d have our budget hotels full with happy back packers. !
    And our China take aways , would be telling all their cousins to come set up shop here to feed these hungry smokers!!…..
    Since we sent Dustin to Europe and said No to Lisbon , we need to bring back the land of a thousand welcomes .

  7. Stephen Kenny

    During the 80s, I remember the awe with which we watched Japanese companies seem to take over everything. They literally looked unstoppable, literally. We were assured that Japanese corporate’s access to capital was pretty much limitless because of the brilliant Japanese banks (4 of the top 10 global banks, in 1989, were Japanese), and the new international capital markets. Their explosive growth looked almost effortless.
    There was, of course, a terrible, breathtaking, flaw, in the Japanese economic model of the 80′s, which resulted in the recession of the following 15+ years.
    The question is, is there one in the Chinese? If there is, I would think it’s deep in the books of the huge state employers and state banks.

  8. MK

    I meant to add that the iconic image I have of the Olympics in Beijing so far is in fact the olympic flame, burning at night-time over Sue Barker’s shoulder on the BBC transmission, and it adding to a very smoggy city! This a truer representative image of what China is today, ie: poor standards and poor conditions for 100′s of millions of people.

    One aspect of the Japanese story that we shouldnt forget is that in the early days, Japanese (and Hong Kong and then Taiwan) products did not have a good name due to poor quality. “Made in Hong Kong” was a badge of cheapness, and before it “Made in Japan”. It was the same with Japanese cars. But Japanese businesses turned that around by pushing quality. Similarly, China has some problems in this regard today, but as schemes in the US and EU markets have become more organised and mandatory, the lower quality cant enter into their products in the first place.

    The point about SFI is something that I agree with, as in its a big waste of money. Ireland needs to seriously assess what it is doing with its money in terms of developing indigenous business and the ‘knowledge economy’ in tandem. Ireland should be doing a lot more and at the moment we are too reliant on the MNC’s and their smarts. We cant live off that forever!

    MK

  9. Philip

    I wonder could we get the Chinese in here to build a smelter for zero cost so we can export more finished products from what must be one of the bigger Zinc/Aluminium mines in EurAsia?

  10. b

    My Ipod, iphone and all three PCs are made in China. The container and all the stuff in it you bought was made in China.

    If you pay for it the quality is there. If you pay buttons you get crap.

    We never covered ourselves in manufacturing glory either. The Cortinas, Datsuns and Rootes group cars made in Ireland rusted as they left the line. They were terrible.

    We forget very fast how backward we were and we feel free to criticize China a country that most of us have never been to nor will bother going to.

  11. Longlivetherepublics

    Germany owes its reputation as a manufacturing and industrial power house to the fact that back in
    the 19th century, before it was Germany,that particular federation of states produced toys and trinkets in mass. This process of practicing on small gimmickry things first before moving on to the more high tech products and achieving higher economy of labor at each stage, is not unique to Asia and in fact is a
    general principle by which manufacturing economies develop. The process whereby a company at first pumps out cheap things, can also be viewed as a way of funding or subsidizing companies in order to develop their high tech capability.

  12. Ed

    David, you’re spot on – I witnessed Japan change from being the world’s number one imitator to become the innovation powerhouse that it is today. When I was a young engineer, I was given a job to evaluate Japanese products for possible re-branding in the UK. It was an interesting exercise – all of the products were obviously copied and some changes were made in an attempt to disguise that fact , however, these modifications had a negative impact on performance, and so, it was blatantly obvious that they didn’t understand the technology.
    The physical build quality was very good, but performance was patchy and needless to say very few products were accepted for re-branding. One company, that begins with s and ends with y, opened an office in London – it had a staff of three, one Japanese guy, and English girl and an Irish guy who was marketing/sales. Some of their products looked great and worked very well, but had a high percentage of production faults – The Irish guy purchased these defective units at rock bottom prices, I modified them and we made a hansom sum over a year or two – if I were to enter their uk head office today, they’d probably call security. The speed at which these Japanese companies rose to the top of their game was staggering and most Europeans were in denial during that ten years. England, exported a huge numbers of machine tools to them and thought that it would last for ever, but it didn’t.
    Now it’s China’s turn and they’ll be up their in about ten years – their tech. factories are equipped with top of the range equipment – mainly from Germany and Japan. Their internal market is taking off and for some components, lead in times have gone from 6 weeks to 6 months in a space one year. They’re investing heavily in R&D – one company I know, has 2,000 working in R&D and 4,000 in production.
    As with the Japanese, their language inhibits their programming abilities – the qwerty keyboard is a big challenge and that’s one of the reasons that they’re so eager to learn English.
    The Irish are not behind the door when it comes to promoting a possible base here in Europe. At a recent tech. trade fair over there, EI had a stand and the Carlow Enterprise board were there as well – it’s time to start to learn Mandarin.

  13. Philip

    Frankly, I see many here making the usual mistake of devising a future while looking into the rearview mirror of past successes. The old IDA trick we employed to entice MNCs to this country is not repeatable – not unless we somehow reduce costs. Differentiators in terms of expertise in the manufacturing/ logistics/ knowledge space is simply not there except for the odd one or two opportunists.

    US and Japan are still struggling and the old money in Europe is still sloshing around doing nothing as the global economy slides. Wake up lads…you need consumers who wnat to buy more junk…it aint going to happen.

    Granted China does need to clean itself up and has a nice big domestic market, so some business is left there. That’s it though. US may deepen its trade links, but the voters at home may have another opinion on that. Nothing like a democratic government to throw up the barriers. As you argued eloquently a week or so ago David, Free trade is at an end.

    Getting back to Ireland, I see 2 contradictory issues in our 3rd Level education system – 1) We have more than enough spaces for IT and Manufacuring/Electronic disciplines. 2) But we are loosing people to colleges in other countries because we do not have enough places in Medicine, Law etc. Governemnt response – bring back fees. Have these clowns any idea what cost ignorance?

  14. Dan Hayes

    Yes, it is time to learn Mandarin.

    To wit, it is being taugh to affluent Caucasians in up-scale Naperville, Illinois!

  15. Philip

    Just continuing on my point on contradiction in our education system…”Getting back to Ireland, I see 2 contradictory issues in our 3rd Level education system – 1) We have more than enough spaces for IT and Manufacuring/Electronic disciplines. 2) But we are loosing people to colleges in other countries because we do not have enough places in Medicine, Law etc. Governemnt response – bring back fees. Have these clowns any idea what cost ignorance?” We are simply not gearing up for China – not by a long shot.

    Interesting comment about the affluent Caucasians learning Mardarin (which by the way is a good thing to do itself), I’d say half of them are 2nd/ 3rd generation Chinese/Americans (there’s diaspora in action for ya) and the rest run run their MNCs out of the Mid-West – Naperville, Illinois is very affluent in places.

    If you really believe China’s the next big thing…free Mandarin Lessons should be on the public agenda.

  16. MK

    There is a good article on how we should not waste money in the education sector here:
    http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2008/08/10/story35048.asp

    > bring back fees. Have these clowns any idea what cost ignorance?

    Agreed, that suggestion seems to be a step backwards (dare I say batty?) and only increases barriers and inequality. Perhaps the 3rd-level institutions do need a root-and-branch review of their finances and what they are producing/providing, as we do need better value for money, but finance and output should go hand-in-hand. Oh, I forgot, its the public sector. Dont hold your breath.

    MK

  17. Ed

    “Getting back to Ireland, I see 2 contradictory issues in our 3rd Level education system – 1) We have more than enough spaces for IT and Manufacturing/Electronic disciplines. 2) But we are loosing people to colleges in other countries because we do not have enough places in Medicine, Law etc.”

    Medicine and Law are not economy drivers, they’re indirect dependants (medieval society) – science and technology are the main engines – our problem is that we’re late into the game and we don’t have risk takers to capitalise on the investment in their education – it’s as simple as that.

  18. Ire_in_Exile

    Back to China-
    Missed out on in this article is the fact that there is already a real comparitive study for aspirational Chinese enterprise out there- that is Taiwan.
    Ethnically Chinese but having embraced Western capitalism over 60 years ago-
    “Made in Taiwan” is the real identifiable hallmark for cheap plastic toys, gimmicks and trinkets…but unlike the Japanese the Taiwanese have not made the necessary jump to higher tech. products…so why should we expect the Chinese to do so?
    Because we are looking at numbers only- the sheer weight of China as 1/4 of the Earths population must inevitably create a huge market and generate a vast economy?

    Well don’t be fooled by the garish bright neon lights on the Bund,..because that is exactly why the Chinese have placed them there, and why indeed they invested so heavily in rebuilding Shanghai- as an illusion of power and modernity and a demonstration of readiness to embrace International trade.
    But travel not far from the city and China is back in the fuedal system of the middle ages at best- where it is not unknown for poverty to be so extreme that “two farmers must share the same pair of trousers” The country is vastly underdeveloped.

    An old media standard is that all products are created fast, cheap or good, and you can have a combination of just two always- never three.
    The Chinese excel in Fast and Cheap- but it is quality that is most important in any market in the longterm, and I suspect, like their Taiwanese counterparts it may be a very long time indeed before the Chinese will get their heads away from low scale mass production and cheap imitation and become real developers and innovators of quality?

    Learn Mandarin? could easily by as good as Russian was to Eastern Europeans…

  19. Philip

    I agree fully that there is a real need for a root and branch examination of our educational system which matches the financial and competence requirements for the country. My poorly worded comments on the contraction in our education system – just to explain where I am coming from

    Bumph Jargon first:
    Value Chain=Logistics/Manufacturing/marketing/maintence etc
    Value Net=Networks requiring critical mass to work – telecoms, Airlines, internet, etc
    Value Shops= Consultancies, Football players, Law, Medical, Accountancy practices etc.and House Building!!!

    We have technical colleges in the IT/ Hi Tech arena with empty seats. These colleges feed value chain/net businesses which are being wiped out in Ireland due to poor policies

    We have the traditional safe courses in Medicine, Law etc which are over subscribed with people running abroad. These are value shop enterprises – and like your average grocers, they’ll trundle on adding little to economic development (Oddly enough, if they did add to economic developement, the Chinese would undercut them!! – which courtesy of RyanAir etc they are – get yer dental and eyes done for less in Poland)

    The proposal of introducing fees (something I think is a disasterous proposal) should be to direct/ encourage people – drag them kicking and screaming if you will – into courses that’ll help this country and work better with the outside realities. All courses relating to value chain/ value network businesses should be free and financed. Value shop deciplines should have fees – in recognition of the fact that the guys can probably pay for it more easily afterwards.

    Value chain and indeed value network businesses give you the multiplier effect by helping to suckin value chain elements from other parts of the world. We are in the business of making ourselves “the Hub” and this is only going to happen when sufficient skillsets are in place and the IDA or EI or whoever have figured out that the game has changed from cheap labour/low tax to being fast/flexible and knowledgeable. The Government would have their money back in a couple of years.

  20. JJ Tatten

    MK,

    While David McWilliams may not be overly keen on this forum discussing the writings of other economists – I feel I must disagree with your interpretation of the central message of the article to which you posted a link.

    Rather than suggesting that ‘we should not waste money in the education sector’, it suggests – in my view – that the govt’s spending strategy (assuming there is a strategy) on third and fourth level needs to be revised to ensure that the more ‘ambiguous but, potentially high yield’ research projects get their fair share of funding.

    Basically, we have too many Avery Tolars and not enough Dr. Emmet L Browns.

    In fact, through references to a Nobel-prize winning economist’s research, the article suggests that ‘investment and social and educational interventions’ should be at it’s peak during the primary years.

    However, I admit to finding some undergraduates’ desire to spend three years at university – courtesy of the tax-payer – for a BA in Knitting their own Yoghurt, or Understanding One’s Aura, a little hard to swallow. I suspect that this, perhaps mutual, dislike of the waster brigade has allowed the red mist to descend and cloud your understanding of what is an interesting article.

  21. Philip

    Let’s not forget, the reason for China and indeed most other countries success is the good old USA. The US’s knowledge of agriculture, large scale farming in 19th & 20th century coupled with their oil development has led to a development of logistics and manufacturing that has driven the world as we know it today. They got their railroads going (on public private partnerships -which had detrimental effects on the natives) not for military purposes – but for trade – and their wealth in building and making the basics work has led to a community with a lot of disposable income for hobbies. Hobbies like R&D for instance and that led to more of their success in later technologies which in turn enabled global economies.

    Europe & Japan can owe their growth and success to the US and now China is benefitting. The only snag with the latter is that the relationship is proving more parasitic than symbiotic and a lot can happen in the next 20 years – remember US still has that strong tradition of hobbyist/ in the garage type R&D.. And in Irelands case, we’d do well to understand where our real roots lie before we throw our lot wholly in with a new paradigm shift that has only recently emerged.

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