China may soon catch up and even overtake the United States as a world economic power due to three factors working in the Asian giant’s favor, Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, said.
In a speech at a forum in Shanghai, Ma said the ever-rising middle-income population of China, the ability of its leader to make long-term plans and its aggressive infrastructure investments give China an edge over the United States in “this new era.”
Given the gloomy outlook for the global economy this year, Ma added companies should rely more on their internal strengths and in working hard or “they become part of the storm clouds gathering in the external environment.”
He pointed out that China has a nearly 1.4 billion population with 300 million belonging to the middle class.
China also accounts for one-fifth of the world’s population and has four times as many people as the United States.
Though the size of China’s middle class varies, depending on the definition, and it still has a relatively small share of the total population, the group is huge and growing, creating enormous opportunities for multinational companies, he explained.
He said China is among few countries in the world capable of making long-term plans.
China has set several major goals to realize the great rejuvenation of the nation, Ma said.
He added the country will achieve a moderately prosperous society, “in all respect,” by 2020; see that socialist modernization is basically realized by 2035 and develop itself as a great modern socialist country by 2050. These long-term goals allow the nation to focus intently on development and to move forward with confidence in its chosen path.
Free from internal strife
“Many countries do not dare to create long-term plans, because their governments are too unstable to think and to act in a long-term way for the benefit of the whole nation,” he said.
After Donald Trump took office in 2016, the US President and his administration set out to rebuild the country’s aging infrastructure as part of his “Make America Great Again” agenda.
However, the ambitious investment plan has failed to materialize. “Fast forward to today and we instead see serious internal disagreements on how to fund the US government in the short term which has brought the state functions to a screeching halt,” he explained.
“Whereas China can sit down and make ambitious and long-term plans, and even more importantly, carry them through, many other countries, such as the US, are stuck in endless internal battles that hamper long-term development,” he said.
Largest, longest, highest
China’s investment in infrastructure over the past 20 years had also exceeded those of Europe and the United States, according to Ma.
“Almost everywhere you look, you can find incredible infrastructure in the country; infrastructure that you can only see in China. China has the largest, longest, highest or fastest of just about anything you can imagine,” he said.
From the world’s largest high-speed railway network to the world’s longest cross-sea bridge, the world’s highest power supply pylons to, until recently, the world’s fastest supercomputer, the nation has made extraordinary progress over the past four decades, thanks to a well-tuned system that is suitable for China’s development.
Railway in 9 hrs
Last year, in response to a report about Chinese workers building a railway station in just nine hours, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “China’s progress in advanced infrastructure is more than 100 times faster than the US.”
“China Speed” — as this is called — is why China can do things like erect a 57-story skyscraper in just 19 days or replace a huge bridge in only 43 hours. As Musk pointed out, China is way ahead of the West in terms of things like infrastructure.
Traditionally, the thinking has been that the grass is always greener in Western countries. However, it is obvious that countries in Europe and the United States lack specific strengths that are necessary for this new era, namely, a massive growing middle-income group, a political system that is able to make long-term development plans (and the ability to see these plans through) and great infrastructure.
High tech hub
Just recently, US electric-vehicle maker Tesla broke ground on a $5 billion factory in China. According to Musk, initial construction of the company’s Shanghai Gigafactory should finish this summer and will start producing the Model 3 before the end of this year and reach high volume production next year, producing up to 500,000 vehicles a year.
The fastest-growing US car maker sees China — the world’s largest auto market — as the new land of opportunity and the key to future growth.
When meeting Premier Li Keqiang and displaying his electric car at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese government leadership compound in Beijing, the Tesla CEO said China’s development speed and efficiency are impressive and it is hard to imagine that the process of opening a car factory could be done in such a short period of time.
Musk’s comments indicated that while some people like to describe the United States as a “shining city on the hill” where many dreams come true, such a distinction is being assumed by China.
The crisis of confidence that is plaguing the West, however, is not only rattling governments and markets across the Western world but also threatens global stability.
On the other hand, China’s system has clear advantages and the Chinese people, as well as many others around the world, especially in light of the turmoil in the West, have gained greater confidence in China’s development path.