A Wake-up Call: China Passing Us By

An article by Knowledge @ Wharton cited David G. Marshall, a real estate guru and CEO of Amerimar Realty, about his experience of visiting China recently:

“In the last 10 years, not the last 22 years, Shanghai has built 2,000 high-rise buildings between 20 and 108 stories high — one more spectacular than the next. We stayed on the fifty-ninth floor of the JW Marriott, which was the headquarters for our Wharton Fellows Conference. You can look in four directions as far as the eye can see and you see nothing but spectacular high-rises. At night it looks like Las Vegas: All the buildings are lit up, they look like rocket ships going off. It looks like the Fourth of July. It is absolutely incredible what they have accomplished.

And we, on the other hand, are arguing over Sarbanes-Oxley, stem cell research, an archaic tax code, social security and health care — and I could go on and on. They’re all very important issues, but we are paralyzed by these issues and we are not growing. It is reminiscent to me of what probably took place with Great Britain not watching the United States — when the United States went flying by Great Britain. [China is] going to go flying by us and we’re going to wake up one day and say, “Oh my God, look what we missed.” That was my take away from China.”

I think Mr. Marshall’s observation and his sense of urgency are very valid. China is growing at a breathtaking speed. Things change in a matter of days. Yet people here are still rumbling about “human rights,” “Internet censorship,” “intellectual property,” when it comes to China. It’s not that these issues are not important, they are just so out of sync with the reality of China these days; or at minimum, they account for a small percentage of what’s going on there. As Mr. Marshall said: “Their goals are to get one billion, 300-500 million people educated, clothed, housed and fed. Intellectual property rights are not on their radar screen and [won’t] be.”

I also think Mr. Marshall’s comments are brilliant: “We’re trying to play a basketball game with a basketball, and they’re trying to play a basketball game with a football. It’s a different set of rules. We better realize that it’s a different set of rules and that they’re not going to play by our set of rules.”

It is a wake-up call for Americans, as Marshall further pointed out: “I think that it’s very na├»ve for us to have our congressmen arguing about how we’re going to punish China for not letting the Yuan float; and how we’re going to punish China for intellectual property rights. When [China is] sitting there with $1.3 trillion of our Treasury bonds, you’re not going to punish anybody.” Perhaps America has been in dominance in the world for too long. I hope Americans won’t learn the British lessons the hard way.