China; we will be back in 2020, but a bit later.....
To get a better insight in present developments we were happy to have had Douwe van den Oever with us from Zurich, specialized in Sino-European corporate development.
For over two thousand years, Douwe told us, China was the undisputed superpower in East Asia, and the world’s oldest continued civilization. Around 1800, it housed 30% of the world’s population, and produced over 30% of its GDP. This explains why China is, historically, acutely aware of its identity and power, and why the British and European, and Japanese, invasions of the 19th century have been so deeply traumatic. Now China gradually is regaining its natural role of economic dominance in Asia. Douwe explained how the agricultural and geographically constrained culture of China took shape, this from one dynasty to another, a worldview which is still prevalent today. Different from other countries in the world, China basically did not change over centuries as Europe has been - and still is – changing constantly. He mentioned as an example that when the presidency in Russia or in the US changes, the whole political entourage and direction changes. In China hardly anything would change if Xi Jinping were to be replaced. It is all about stability, stability and stability. This also clarifies the strong reaction to instability in 1989, in Tibet, in Xinjiang and the determination that one day Taiwan and Hong Kong will be brought back to the motherland.
He took us into the creation of the new Silk Road and explained that this initiative is primarily driven from a defensive perspective, in order to protect China with buffer states as it has always done by surrounding herself with tributary states in the past, and in order to protect its trade routes. The people outside the country, isolated by the sea, mountain ranges and deserts, were traditionally seen as being outside of the civilized world.
From the Great Wall to the Great Leap Forward, from Mao Zedong to Xi Jingping, we learned why communism in China is an adapted form of Marxism, with an emphasis on the collective, to which all is subordinated.
And last but not least he explained that the present trade war is in fact a war about technological dominance and independence. Warfare in the West implies military intervention, whereas “warfare” in China is more subtle, and multi-dimensional. In fact, this “warfare” is happening right under our noses and Douwe is convinced that China is on the winning hand with endless big data, tremendous computational capabilities and a determination according to plan that it will have achieved this technological leadership by 2025. It is a centrally guided state where the overall goals that are currently being pursued date back to the 1950s. The post-colonial West, slowly coming to a realization that its value system is not universal, strongly reacts, especially so the United States.