Editorial

Some realities about China discussed at the Times Forum

THE Manila Times Business Forum on China-Philippine relations was seen by most of those who attended it as a success.

They said they felt the forum activities—speeches by experts, detailed advice from business, management and even tax experts based in China, correct definitions of geopolitical realities, and deep questions and frank answers during the Q&A periods—did what the forum’s title and theme had promised: “Business as Usual in Unusual Times—Fostering prosperous relations between Philippine and Chinese entrepreneurs.”

The forum not only helped Filipino businessmen delegates planning to expand their businesses in China. It also helped affirm the decision of those who have already been getting ready to do business in China that they will be doing the right thing.

One of the most riveting discussions was the one on the concrete reality of what it is to be doing business in China by Mr. Richard Cant. He is the director for the Yangtze River Delta Region, sitting in the Shanghai office but going on visits all over China, helping some of the more than a thousand clients of Dezan Shira & Associates set up their businesses and solve problems that come up in the course of running their companies and factories. These problems could pertain to the foreign investors’ relations with their Chinese partners or with the local government units in the places where the foreign investors’ operations are located.

A reality that seldom comes through is that China has become such a well-developed country— industrially, commercially and financially—that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of up to 100 or more regions, towns and cities are higher than or at least equal to the GDP of entire Western countries and the more prosperous and first world Asian countries and cities (like Singapore and cities in Japan).

This is important in viewing China as a place to invest in. Many wrongly see only the reality that because more than half of China’s 1.36-odd billion people are poor and not enjoying the wealth of the very rich coastal regions like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen (Amoy) and Hong Kong, the People’s Republic is really still an underdeveloped country.

Well, that is exactly what the Chinese government says when it wants to impress the government officials and people of poor countries the PRC has massive investments in. That’s because they don’t want these poor and weak countries to think of China as a dangerous superpower and super-rich country to have as partner.

The fact, however, is that very many provinces, cities and town of China are as prosperous, as dynamic economically and industrially, as Germany, Singapore and Milan (just for examples) and are richer than countries like France, not to mention Greece and the Philippines.

Another reality that is seldom talked about is that China has developed so much that it is critically short of oil, energy and labor. This is such a reality that some Chinese industrial giants are moving out of China and setting up operations in countries with more and cheaper labor and energy resources.

The labor shortage is because of China’s successful implementation of the one-child policy and its draconian enforcement of contraception and abortion. It is cursed with the “empty cradle” syndrome and an aging population almost as much as Western Europe is.

Can you imagine how many hundred thousands more Filipinos could be hired in China, if our and the Chinese government did not have this crazy current state of conflict?

The happy fact, however, is that on the people-to-people and business-to-business level, Philippine-Chinese relations are still very warm and productive.

But in things that the Chinese government has the power to dampen or restrain, it does act against the Philippines. One example of this is tourism. The PRC government has issued a strong advisory to Chinese travel agencies and tourists to avoid the Philippines. And sure enough tourists from China have markedly decreased.