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Post China as Hegemon of 21st Century? From Ric Mauricio
Created by John Eipper on 01/10/19 7:24 AM

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China as Hegemon of 21st Century? From Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA, 01/10/19 7:24 am)

Ric Mauricio writes:

This is why I read my daily WAIS. A lot of interesting discourse. From Tor, Eugenio, Istvan, Brian, Henry, and of course, John E. I believe it was JE that brought the idea that China may be the hegemon of the 21st century, not Tor. Lots of interesting theories and predictions from all different perspectives.

As a global investor, I am a student of global economics and history. I find it interesting that history repeats itself over and over again. Empires and dynasties rise, then internally, self-destruct as their citizens grow complacent with the status quo. The leaders of these empires and dynasties seem to make the same mistake over and over again. They grow their empires, then find that governing their far-flung conquests and their cultures become unwieldy. Over and over again, we see Genghis Khan, Caesar, Alexander, the Ottomans, the Persians, the British Empire (the reason most of the world speaks English in addition to their native languages), the Russian Empire, and today (as Eugenio would aptly point out), the American empire, overextend their power beyond their original borders.

The PRC will make the same mistake, but how long it will play out in the future is anyone's guess. Are the Chinese smarter because they are utilizing economic power rather than military power? Perhaps so, perhaps not. There is always the temptation to utilize totalitarian power (via military power) to extend their economic (capitalistic) power. People tend to call the PRC a communist nation. In reality, when I visited Beijing and Hong Kong in the last 10 years, I tend to see the PRC as more capitalistic but still totalitarian than we (the US) are. But I am seeing, with the current administration, a move towards a more totalitarian system. So, looking forward, it is quite possible that a bird's-eye view will reveal that the PRC and the USA will be quite similar in makeup.

As for the saber rattling between Taiwan and the PRC, I have to laugh. Taiwan is the conduit of venture capital funds between the West (US and Europe) and the PRC. The saber rattling is just for show. Like a magician, you look at this, while I am doing that.

So what do I do when my country becomes less democratic and more totalitarian? I adapt, as the billionaires in China have done. Are there wealthy South and Central Americans who have come out of Argentina and Venezuela? You bet there are. How is that when most Argentinians and Venezuelans are suffering with their rapidly depreciating currencies, there are those who retain their wealth or even become wealthier? I can make you an instant millionaire, I promise people. Give me a dollar (US) and I will give you a million bolivars. Voila, instant millionaire. Don't like bolivars. Then give me 10,000 US dollars and I will give you give you a million Japanese yen. I used to have lots of fun with the Italian lira. One must invest accordingly. One must think. I find most people don't think. Just too hard to think.

As we start our new year, it reminds me of people and their insanity of making the same resolutions and doing the same workouts year after year and expecting different results. Insane. And really, if they just stop and think, apply smarter ways of working out, they can stop the insanity. (Yeah, as a personal trainer, I teach people the principles of exercise sequencing, muscle confusion, and metabolic finishers and not overtraining; more exercise is not better; marathon runners have a lower life expectancy than average). Ditto for investing. More trading is not better. Investing is better than speculating.

JE comments:  A joyous 2019 to you, Ric!  Can you tell us more about the symbiotic "love-hate" financial relationship between Taiwan and the PRC?

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  • China's "Long Game" and a Zhou Enlai Quote (John Heelan, UK 01/11/19 4:32 AM)
    Ric Mauricio (10 January) writes an interesting view of the future global hegemon. However, I suspect he ignores the different concept of time held in Chinese philosophy. I have often argued in WAIS that the Chinese play the "long game," and after 2000+ years of quasi-civilisation who can blame them?  (See link below.) Not only does the philosophy recognise "linear time" (as does the West) but also "cyclical time" (which might support Ric's comments).

    About the impact of the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai said it was "too early to say."  Given that the French Revolution of 1789 had occurred nearly 200 years before, Zhou was expressing the long view of history in a very witty and Oscar Wildean way.

    News of this quote flew quickly around the chattering classes in the West, and it was soon used as evidence that the Chinese (especially Chinese intellectuals and leaders) took the long view of things, that they were a patient civilization, and that, when they thought about the future, it was hundreds of years distant. Although critics suggest that Zhou was referring to the 1968 student revolutions that France suffered rather than the original 1789 one.


    JE comments:  "Professor Buzzkill" argues that the question was mistranslated for Zhou, but it's one of those countless quotes that should have been.  (When I watched TV news as a child, I always wondered why the Chinese would have a leader named JoAnn.)

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  • On Hegemony and Imperial Decay (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 01/10/19 4:00 PM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    Ric Mauricio (January 10), in his observations on imperial decay, might find
    a supporting voice in Toynbee, whose whole deal was that the consolidation
    of the greatest extent of an empire, in itself, is a sign that its decay is already
    well begun.

    Well, okay. And the earth will be a cold cinder someday. Who could
    argue with that? The difficulty is in Ric's own specialty, numbers. If the "decay,"
    as seen in thousand-year hindsight, started at, say, the beginning of the Augustan
    consolidation, then for any given individual there, or their children, or grandchildren,
    or grandchildren's children, the earth was unlikely to become a cinder that they noticed.
    Technology makes the world an ever-new riddle--and the speed now makes any assumptions
    seem old. Three hundred years hence, I'm going to be checking sharply on Ric's impression
    of a possible rise and fall of China. Speed? In an age that is collapsing even such cultural icons
    as homophobia, smoking, and mere language translation, might even the word "hegemony"
    become somehow a musty over-simplification? Probably not. So don't hold me to this,
    three hundred years hence.

    Coming soon: analysis of Trump's Tuesday night (January 8th) wall speech. Short answer: too dismal
    for words--because not just Trump but all of them, on both sides, are distorting the facts.
    Should we apply for membership in some more logical species, like the tapeworms or botflies?
    The slow, fragmentary, painful, illogic-strewn continental rapprochement of Spanish-speaking
    North America with English-speaking North America may be a historic imperative that will
    continue to produce surprises. Who would have thought, as recently as 2014, that a wall could
    even be proposed? In the Mexican Revolution a century ago, as a catastrophically convulsing
    nation's population dropped by a million, people on the US side of the border sat on rooftops
    and watched, as an entertaining but contained spectacle, the disastrous battles just over on
    the Mexican side; there was already some kind of wall, not a material one but dramatically
    sealing off the chaos (Pancho Villa's saddlebag jerry cans of kerosene at Columbus, New Mexico,
    only proving the rule). The deeply mystical-seeming differences have now produced another
    landmark, a few nights ago.

    JE comments:  In the long term we're all dead, but you and I are going to revisit this topic in three centuries, Gary!

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  • Taiwanese Investment in PRC; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 01/16/19 3:36 AM)

    Ric Mauricio writes:

    John E asked about Taiwanese investment in the PRC.  I found this:  "Since the 1980s, Taiwanese companies have been investing heavily into China (the PRC), primarily through Hong Kong. The large flows of Taiwanese capital into the PRC and Southeast Asia reshaped the economic and political ties amongst these countries in Asia Pacific, with significant regional and global consequences. While the investment in China is well documented, there is relatively little literature in English on recent Taiwanese investments in Southeast Asia." (Asian Survey © 1996, University of California Press)

    The best-known Taiwanese company in the PRC is Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, maker of the Apple iPhones.

    On the discussion of totalitarianism vs. democracy, capitalism vs communism/socialism, if one were to study the history of China, one would see a common thread of capitalism governed by totalitarianism. Only during Sun Yat Sen's Republic of China in the early 1900s did we have a semblance of democracy in China. The issue is our cultural perspective. We see things not through the eyes of a Chinese person in China or an African person in Africa or a person in Mideast. So when we say we prefer democracy, it is because we have grown up in a democracy and been taught democratic principles.

    Can capitalism and totalitarianism coexist? One need only look at Singapore to answer that question in the affirmative. But it takes a different culture and a benevolent leader to make it work. That my friend, is the crux of the discussion. Even in companies that I have had to consult with here in Silicon Valley, you will find very few benevolent managers. Don't even get me started on the personalities of a Steve Jobs or a Carly Fiorina. There are so many pointy-haired managers that I lost count. Fortunately, they do create problems and as "The Fixer," I am well paid to come in and "fix" or "clean up," as in Pulp Fiction.

    JE comments:  Newer WAISers may not remember one of Ric Mauricio's classic posts, the 2014 "I made Carly Fiorina mad."  Ric gives us a textbook example of "pluck."  Note that Ric prophetically references another prickly CEO, Donald J. Trump:


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