The main issue between America & China is the trade imbalance and alleged currency manipulation by the latter. This matter has cast its long shadow on internal politics in America. While many are naturally put-off by the developments, China has not only issues of unemployment, if they become uncompetitive by increasing the value of its currency, but also the prestige factor or national honor! Any sudden increase in its currency value against the dollar will be construed as bowing to American pressure. Why should the fire-spitting dragon act on others’ orders? After all, they have proved to be outright winners in many sectors, while America is losing its luster in others’ eyes.
Each generation is different; in a way, some make mid-course corrections even on basic values! The generation that ran away with the spoils in China, after its opening-up, seems to have run its course. The same spark and hunger cannot be replicated; like in family lives, the success of one generation mostly ends with the next. After being bottled-up during the Mao era, China could not afford to relapse into further self-defeating experiments. Earlier wealth was already distributed along with anarchy. The communist party could survive only by showing results at any cost. Labor rights hardly mattered and no union activities were allowed. Wealth creation was the heart and soul, with rule of law and suppressing individual and political rights.
The turning point for the opening-up of economy, and joining WTO later, happened through Deng Xiaoping, a giant of a man, who stood less than five feet! He saw the real resourcefulness of Chinese, who fled their motherland during Mao era to escape poverty and persecution. With nothing except the clothes on their back, many found great success & wealth even in hostile environments in other countries. He worked the dyed-in-the-wool comrades to see reason and the bare facts – no virtue in being poor! Results are all that mattered – whether a cat is black or white does not matter, it has to catch mice! And horror of horrors – to get rich is glorious; some communist ideal indeed!
Now past is history. With trillions of dollars in reserves, and millions having the time of their lives, the whole social structure and attitudes are changing. The generation that left their farms for cities are on the way out and a more assertive one, more aware of their rights, is getting entrenched. It is no more business as usual; the days of cheap labor are past! The trickle will become a flood soon, in a matter of years. No more millions willing to slog it out for a pittance! That is just what America & Europe were clamoring for!
There are signs of loosening in the political arena and on union issues. The labor is sure to become assertive by the day. But as in every other case, these cut both ways! The increase in costs of production will mean shift in production bases, even out of China itself! Maybe, moving it back eventually to advanced countries; when the push becomes a shove! How prepared will America and others be, to go back to basics to mass-produce what they need? And even export to meet the increasing Chinese demand? Just what the doctor ordered or even prescribed as the panacea to solve the ills!
The pendulum is already retracing the swing! The dark days are getting cleared, and soon the sun will start shining again, maybe too much for our comfort! The unraveling of the trillion dollar reserves from China and even Japan will have a profound effect; but will the generation to come be prepared to sweat it out? Even in India, civil engineering courses are getting canned, as many feel the jobs are dirty and sweaty! Why bother when air-conditioned environment beckons anytime?
One thing is sure, the world is changing fast and people have similar tastes for comfort, and ideologies will get blurred. China will enforce one-party rule as long as they can hang on to it; but the advanced countries will have to change its ways of working to keep up with emerging and hungrier hoards, out to get even. Any imbalance in trade figures and currency valuations will get rebalanced over time and we should all be prepared to get back to our earlier ways of working; which could prove a challenge even! Our mettle will be tested and retested over time!