Engardio, Pete, editor. CHINDIA: How China and India Are Revolutionizing Global Business. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. ISBN 13:978-0-07-14657-7. Paper. 384 pages, including Index.
“China’s growth and manufacturing dominance are two of the biggest global trends of the last ten years. India’s technology, service, and outsourcing industries make it a valued partner [to American business], as well as a formidable competitor.
“The stunning rise of China and India makes it clear: to survive and thrive in the new global market, you have to engage with China and India. This comprehensive guide is your road map to meeting this challenge. The book combines frontline reports from BusinessWeek’s awarding winning Asia staff with point-by-point commentary by the experts, including new introductions to each chapter by BusinessWeek’s Pete Engardio.” (From the back cover.)
The Preface quotes an earlier story to the effect that “Never has the world seen the simultaneous, sustained takeoffs of two nations that together account for one-third of the planet’s population.”
The editor goes on to point to one of the major strengths of this book: “Understanding the comparative strengths and internal dynamics of China, and India, therefore, is essential for the global business community and policymakers.” And, we might add, for all Christians who wish to participate in what God seems to be doing to change the world faster and more radically than at almost any time in history.
What are some of the comparative strengths and weaknesses of China and India? Both nations suffer from rampant corruption and ecological degradation with huge economic and public health consequences. “Because China still lacks a rule of law and transparent policymaking processes, resolving cases of broken contracts, embezzlement, and intellectual-property theft… can be extremely difficult.”
Furthermore, “China’s financial system is loaded down by hundreds of billions of dollars in bad debt and prone to a financial crisis.”
Its advantage over India consists in huge cash reserves, which are being spent on an infrastructure that will soon be the envy of the entire world. India, on the other hand, can mobilize an army of native English speakers who have been educated in a nation ruled (more or less) by law, freedom of speech and of the press, and a climate conducive to innovation.
This well-written, clearly-outlined book lives up to the claims quoted above. Even if one only read the sections about China, it’s well worth the price and the time.
The Table of Contents indicates its scope: The first six chapters introduce us to the rise of “Chindia”, to the point where businesses elsewhere simply must adjust to this new reality. The last five chapters outline different challenges now facing business leaders and politicians in China, India, and the rest of the world, in the areas of finance, education, social instability, ecology and energy, and – finally - a new type of global competition that could create widespread unemployment and lowered standards of living in America.
The free trade optimists still believe it will all work out for everyone’s good. Pessimists – who have the last decade’s numbers, as well as current trends, on their side - believe that America will be relegated to Third World status.
Some highlights and insights:
“The pace and breadth of China’s ascent as a manufacturing juggernaut has been astonishing.”
Some reasons for this include: “Labor practices, state subsidies, and trade rule violations that give Chinese producers and unfair advantage as well as Beijing’s policy of pegging the yuan to the U.S. dollar… Low costs of China’s immense labor force apply to first-rate engineers, managers… and office staff as well as to factory laborers.”
There’s more, however: “The mainland’s economic integration with Taiwan and Hong Kong supplies other enormous advantages… [I]t will become both the world’s biggest export base and domestic market for many industrial products. Combined with its huge engineering workforce, China is destined to also emerge as a driver of innovation and technology trends in an array of industries.”
Not all is well, of course. Endemic corruption at almost all levels of government disrupts market forces, makes labor and environment laws hard to enforce, and angers both foreigners and – more ominously – increasing numbers of citizens. In some ways, Beijing is in a race against ticking ecological, financial, and especially social time bombs.
There are growing labor shortages, especially along the coast; energy shortages threaten to impede growth; crucial markets, including real estate, seem to be approaching bubble status. The stock markets are not only immature, but wildly speculative, and the banks, despite reforms, are still hopelessly inefficient.
At home, workers are beginning to demand both fair treatment and higher wages. Overseas, the U.S. and other countries are running out of patience with flagrant violations of WTO rules and an obvious national strategy to target, dominate, and eventually destroy key industries while muscling competitors out of all-important energy sources. How long sheer economic power, a will to rule, and everyone else’s fear of missing out on China’s huge domestic market will allow current practices is anyone’s guess.
What does this mean for Christians of all nations? In one word: Opportunity.
More and more educated Chinese are returning home to take part in this new gold rush, reversing the brain drain of recent decades. More and more foreigners will make the obligatory pilgrimage(s) to China in order not to be left out. Followers of Christ among them will have myriads of open doors for living out, and even sharing, the Good News of Christ. More and more money will be available for Gospel use in China and wherever the Chinese go to make their fortune.
Who will be the “winners” in this new global market? Those with not only advanced education but also people skills, especially in management and team leadership. Education, health care, ecological cleanup will be in high demand in China. Honesty, integrity, and even kindness will be at a premium as people become disgusted with counterfeits, corruption, and cutthroat practices.
If the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, and if hundreds of millions of Chinese continue to fall behind, Christians who stoop to help the poor, the elderly, the infirm, and the ignorant will shine like lights of hope in a dark world of despair.
And the losers? Those Americans, including Christians, who seek prosperity and security above all else, and who care more about maintaining our current standard of living than about the growth of the kingdom of God.