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From The Editor
James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

Will They Be A Better Us Than We Are?

James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

S tep back a minute and think about China. Not about trade law and currency issues, or how your business is being challenged — rather, what’s your take on the big picture?

China’s economy shares all the hallmarks of a young athlete — the discipline from a good coach and the direction gained from strict authority. The economy is growing by leaps and bounds, devouring monumental foreign direct investments, and building, building, building.

Textile World staff, on a recent trip to Beijing, noticed an editorial in China Daily regarding air pollution. The piece cited one cause of the problem as the 4,300 or so open construction sites in the city. Members of the group who had been in Beijing just two years earlier were amazed by the changes.

In China, there is an overarching sense of national focus regarding all phases of development and policy, which must be good for China first — an arguably necessary approach for a country undergoing not just change, but complete transformation. There appears to be an awkwardly effective mix of the Wild Wild West of capitalism, tempered by real authoritarian control and the pressing stewardship of 1.3 billion people. But, it is at the beginning — so much so that China’s story can’t yet be told.

Don’t take it lightly — during a conversation with an Italian machinery builder, he pointed out there are cities in China undergoing incredible development, building the necessary infrastructure to support modern society — cities that you may have never even heard of with 30 million people — equivalent to nearly half the population of Italy!

And on balance, the United States seems foolish. In China’s eyes, you need to look no further than the lack of a long-term US-first policy. Instead, US policies encourage imported products without regard for a strong domestic industrial policy. The US economy is more akin to a middle-aged male facing a mid-life crisis.

As the United States focuses on relinquishing all domestic manufacturing of scale, and grasps at developing a “new” economy, you have to wonder about the future. Is it too alarmist to think US economic sovereignty is dead? Import oil, import manufactured goods, import services if you can, and buy cheap. Consume rather than save, deserve rather than earn, think short-term profit — until, like oil prices, everything changes. Then what? The Chinese aren’t debating building new bridges — they are building new cities.

As it becomes easier to do business in China, as transportation and logistics improve, as basic infrastructure such as power systems come on-line — the horizon is not yet visible for this scope of economic development — and global political power.

So the question is: Will they be a better us than we are? As multinationals fixate on transferring technology for short-term gains, as enhanced globalism becomes the mantra of US trade policy and China harnesses the commitment, control and power of 1.3 billion people — What’s your bet?

December 2004