Another déjà vu moment for me here at the GBPC CEO Retreat is hearing the topic of “China end game” as one the top X factors for 2015 and beyond.
I still remember the days immediately following Tiananmen, when my family and I parachuted into Hong Kong as yet more expats chasing the Marco Polo dream (and at the very bottom of that China investment cycle). The global whispers at the time: Give it time. This will be the number-one growth economy for eternity. Riches beyond compare. Great opportunities lurking just behind the curtain of inscrutability. It will all work out, regardless of inflation, skills gap, forex flexibility, one party rule, etc.
Fast forward to today, 25 years later (dating myself here!), and the realities and choices are exactly the same: Can we trust China on the liberalization journey? Can we work better with our private and public partners? Do we collaborate or compete with them, globally? Can we afford to take big stakes in China? Can we afford not to? What about the infrastructure? How can we upgrade our talent pool? When can we take our cash out (never)? What about social liberties? Finally, when will China make the transition from being investment- to consumption-led, creating the world’s largest middle class and resulting in even more strident bottom-up movements and democratic stirrings? Same questions, emerging answers, but even broader implications than 25 years ago. Wow.
But then again, China probably thinks of time iin terms of 100+ year dynastic cycles to let it play out—shouldn’t we?