China is thriving.
Canada is surviving.
It has been demonstrated to me lately very clearly the difference between the two economies.
One of the first people I visited in Beijing when we moved there was a letterpress printer I had met online on the letpress list.
He had taken a couple of presses with him from the U.S. and was growing his business one customer at a time. I visited him recently again and he was talking of expanding into Chinese character printing – a move which would involve a substantial investment in equipment and advertising. This seems to be typical of what is happening in China.
The people that own my wife’s Montessori training institute are constantly building new facilities to their development in Shunyi just outside of Beijing. To my western eyes the development is under utilized at best. The Chinese see the opportunity and are spending their savings to over build depending upon the future to make their fortune.
The Canadian business person, on the other hand, is intent on spending less and hunkering down to wait out the down turn. I am in the process of selling my hand bookbinding business in Canada and time after time I will talk to people who need the equipment I have but who do not want to spend the money right now. “But we will interested when the economy turns around”, say most of them. What they don’t see is that now is the time to buy. Like any business person I will want more money for the equipment in a booming economy. Now is the time to buy, while prices are low.
With this in mind I have reluctantly decided to follow the Chinese and hang unto my equipment until the economy turns around in Canada. Beijing is full of half empty apartment buildings, owned but not occupied by those holding them as investments. This decision to hold will not stop me, however, from putting out feelers in China to see if anyone would want to put everything in a container and ship it over there to use.
Perhaps I am a dreamer. I founded the business in a downturn as an alternative to continuing in the internet business which had peaked as a profit maker and was descending into a commodity. While there is money to be made in commodities, it is not my skill set. I prefer the excitement of unique products and “different” industries rather than what everyone else is doing.
Perhaps I am influenced by the timing of my birth in this. If you look at the curve that describes the baby boom I was born on the bleeding edge of that curve.
As an early boomer we were expected as children to be different than previous groups. We were expected to fulfil our dreams. After all we had better food, better education, and the threat of nuclear holocaust hanging over our heads if we did not find a better way to run the world and achieve a lasting peace. So we became incredibly ambitious because we could and did achieve so much more than many of our previous generation. In Canada at least the class barriers tended to be let down and those that were not were hammered down by sit ins and protests. We constantly had our dreams fulfilled. We broke the glass ceiling to a large extent, the working classes among us attained degrees that previous generations could only have yearned for. Any experienced rewarded leads to new behaviour, hence we became dreamers.
How the dream got corrupted and became evil when competition turned up made us into “too many rats in a cage” scrabbling to get the crumbs left during economic downturns is a story we hate to admit.
Right now China is at the stage of dream fulfilment that the 60’s were but the enlightenment or disillusionment of the 90’s is nipping at the heels of the economic leaders in China. Let’s hope they keep their socialistic dreams alive by learning to share their wealth with the rest of their nation. I know the Chinese government is enacting change to help that happen because they fear the other natural tendency of socialism, revolution.
China is thriving.