In short, yesterday China’s trade mostly took place with developed markets, was comprised of low-valued-added goods, and was priced in dollars. Tomorrow, China’s trade will be oriented towards emerging markets, focused on higher value-added goods, and priced in RMB.
This would mark a profound change from China’s old development model: keeping its currency undervalued, inviting foreign factories to relocate to the mainland, transforming 10-20mn farmers into factory workers each year, and triggering massive labor productivity gains—gains which the government captures through financial repression and redeploys into large-scale infrastructure projects…
But the coming years may prove more challenging for unskilled workers as robotics and automation continue to gather pace. Over the coming decade, cheap labor may not be the comparative advantage it was in the previous decade, simply because the cost of automation is now falling fast (see The Robots Are Coming)… For decades we have had machines that could perform simple repetitive tasks; now we have machines that can be reprogrammed easily to perform a wide range of more complicated functions…
One consequence of cheaper and more flexible automation is that some manufacturing that fled the developed world for cheap-labor destinations like China may return to the US, Japan and Europe, as firms decide that the benefits of low-cost labor no longer outweigh the advantage of better logistics and proximity to customers.
The three big events of 2001 were:
The terrorist attacks of 9/11. This unleashed a decade of bi-partisan “guns and butter”policies in the US and produced a structurally weaker dollar.
China joined the WTO in December 2001. China’s full entry into the global trading system signaled a re-organization of global production lines and China’s emergence as a major exporter…
The introduction of euro banknotes. The introduction of the common currency unleashed a decade of excess consumption in southern Europe, financed unwittingly by northern Europe through large bank and insurance purchases of government debt.
But today, all three trends have stalled—and this perhaps accounts for the discomfort and uncertainty we find in most meetings with clients. Indeed:
US guns and butter spending is over. For the first time since 1970, real growth in US government spending is in negative territory:
Chinese capital spending is slowing. China still needs to invest a lot more, but future growth rates will be in the single digits.
Excess consumption in southern Europe is done. Money is clearly flowing out to seek refuge in northern Europe.
The Illusion of Choice: The Reality of Media Consolidation
German cartographer produces world map with first recorded use of ‘America’
Mongolia is at a crossroads both geographically and metaphorically. Landlocked between China and Russia, this once sleepy post-socialist country has been described as “the wolf of Asia” for its fast-growing economy (due mainly to a mining boom). An increasing number of countries and companies are trying to improve trade ties, contracts, roads and rail links to and within the land where Genghis Khan was born.
In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, gleaming Hummers growl in the traffic jams, passing new hotels, European style restaurants and even a Louis Vuitton near Sukhbaatar Square, site of massive democratic protests two decades ago to end one-party Communist rule. Just a few blocks north of Sukhbaatar Square are narrow dirt roads crisscrossing passed wooden fences guarding yurts or houses where people live without running water.
Outside of Ulaanbaatar in the countryside, nomadic herders live in yurts much the way they have lived for centuries. Yet they text and talk on cell phones as they watch horses, cows, yaks, sheep, goats and camels grazing free on open-range land, rugged land without title deeds.
Pre-modernism, modernism and post-modernism co-exist and clash in this land dominated by the revered “Blue Sky.” On mountain tops people worship nature deities and Buddha as they circle sacred cairns of rock. In the valleys below lay 20th century Soviet architecture, where a workers’ paradise was never realized. In these modern square uniform buildings, some seek new spiritualties as they also seek to get rich. People may seek the guidance of an Indian guru or feng shui, or they may see what new gadgets they can buy from home shopping on TV.
The sudden transition two decades ago from communism to democracy hit many Mongolians hard. But Gerelmaa and her husband, nomadic herders who had lived in a herders collective, fared well. The new freedoms allowed them to increase their livestock and they became rich. Then Gerelmaa’s husband suddenly left her. Distraught, Gerelmaa was walking on the open steppe by herself when she heard a voice saying “I will save you.” She turned around to see who was talking to her, but nobody was there. Scared, she thought she was going crazy. Then she heard the voice again: “I will save you.” She did not know what to think.
Later she moved to a town and a friend invited her to a Christian church. She did not know what to expect, but she went. In the church she discerned that there was a connection between the God she was hearing about and the voice she had heard before. She put her faith in Jesus.
Miraculous stories in the beginnings of Mongolian Christianity were common, with healings, sudden rains in response to Christians praying in drought-stricken regions or other supernatural encounters, like Gerelmaa’s. Today, those stories are fewer. Some might say that Mongolian Christians’ faith or passion is diminishing. Or perhaps God in his sovereignty performed miracles in frontier, pioneer situations, where Christ was unknown, to get people’s attention.
Indeed, the present-day church of Mongolia is rapidly maturing. In 1990 there were fewer than 10 known Christians in Mongolia. Today there are more than 50,000. Childlike faith that once embraced miracles is deepening through trials. Along with their Buddhist, Shamanist, agnostic or Muslim neighbors, Christians in Mongolia face health problems, the death of children and other disappointments and temptations.
Baatar recently walked into church drunk. He was apologetic, however, and asked for forgiveness from God and the people. Years ago, Baatar had been a heavy drinker, but he gave up drinking after Christians prayed for him after a serious work accident in which the doctor told his family to prepare for his death. Baatar recovered—astonishing the hospital staff—and he found new life in Christ. Later, he married a Christian wife, and the two of them have served as short-term missionaries in a restrictive Asian country.
Recently, however, Baatar’s brother died. Looking for a scapegoat, the family blamed Bataar and disowned him for being a Christian. In his despair, Baatar briefly took numbing comfort from vodka. The following week he was praising God in church with a clear mind. The vibrant, growing faith in Mongolia is not without its heart-wrenching hardships, backslidings and uncertainties in relating to the wider society.
OMF International workers, aiming to see indigenous, biblical church movements throughout East Asia, serve with Joint Christian Services (JCS International) in Mongolia, a consortium of more than a dozen agencies “to see Mongolians building and restoring families, churches and communities.” JCS members witness through and outside of work, teaching English, running sports programs, teaching in medical colleges, working with agricultural projects or helping with business start-ups. JCS members partner with Mongolian government and non-government agencies and churches so that Mongolians can find the way in a changing land.
People ask if missionaries are needed for Mongolia. What is needed are men and women willing to walk alongside Mongolian Christians, growing along with them as we seek to love our neighbors here and proclaim the gospel there in regions beyond. As the Lord is raising up Mongolian Christian leaders, what is needed is men and women willing with servant hearts.
The Pamela Yates documentary, State Of Fear, about the twenty year reign of terror in Peru, is a devastating look back at those tortures and massacres under the now disgraced presidency of Alberto Fujimori. But there are also troubling questions about what is seen and not seen in this film.
Most notably, the role of the US in covertly funding tyrannical leaders like Fujimori, the better to expedite the economic infiltration of those countries by the multinational corporations. Then, whenever they start to ignore US interests, turning around and villainizing those leaders, and getting rid of them. Suddenly, the focus shifted to ‘freedom,’ not profits. We’ve seen this all before, and all too often…
Primarily there’s an extensive focus on Peru’s investigative body, the Truth And Reconciliation Commission, which is placed at the heart of this narration, and on Sendero Luminoso, the now discredited Maoist peasant-centered rebellion that swept the country…
Missing from State Of Peru most glaringly, is the role of the US and the multinational corporations in what befell that country. In particular, the US militarizing and arming of Peru in connection with their alleged war on drugs in Colombia; the pressure to privative everything by the IMF and the World Bank; and the aggressive telecommunications economic invasion by multinationals like BellSouth and FirstCom. Also absent is any mention of the progressive political movements currently sweeping the continent leftward: Chavez in Venezuela, Kirchner in Argentina, Lula in Brazil, Vasquez in Uraguay, and now Morales in Bolivia.
…the promotion of democracy through their grants, but not economic equality or social change.
In conclusion, State Of Fear is a humane portrait of a deeply scarred country. But to limit itself to the guidelines apparently set down by the Truth Commission and not look into the role the United States played in helping establish terror in Peru, is a little like talking about lung disease without mentioning the tobacco industry, or corporations that pollute the air.
The Arab Spring Has Given Way to a Long, Hot Summer (July 6, 2011)
Looked at more broadly, the stalling of the Arab spring has both revealed and widened the breach between the US and Saudi Arabia. Saudi leaders were alienated by what they saw as the US abandoning the regime in Egypt after three decades of close cooperation. The Americans, for their part, were unhappy with the Saudi decision to intervene militarily in Bahrain. But such independent, uncoordinated policies are now likely to become more frequent, especially if international efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program come up short…
Relations between Israelis and Palestinians are increasingly strained. Israelis are more reluctant than ever to make concessions in light of the disarray on their borders, while the new voice for Arab publics emerging from the upheavals makes it more difficult for Arab governments to compromise. And while terrorist groups had nothing to do with the upheavals, they are in a position to benefit as governments with strong anti-terrorist records are weakened or ousted. Signs of exactly this are popping up in Yemen, and it only a matter of time before they do so in Libya.
Take all this together, and you see a series of developments that are beginning to produce a region that is less tolerant, less prosperous, and less stable that what existed. To be sure, the authoritarian old guard that still dominates much of the Middle East could yet be forced or eased out and replaced with something relatively democratic and open. Unfortunately, the odds now seem against this happening.
What, then, can outsiders do to affect the course of events? The honest answer is not all that much. Interests are greater than influence. There is little in foreign policy more difficult than trying to steer the course of reform in another country…
Yet the most important lessons from the Arab spring are also the simplest. Military intervention should, as a rule, be avoided. It is easier to oust a regime than it is to help put something clearly better in its place. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya all stand as warnings. Islamists who eschew violence should be talked to, not written off.