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Inside Asia


Nov 6, 2018

In the wake of deteriorating relations between China and the United States, I decided it was time to give our old friend Jim McGregor a call. He needs no introduction to regular listeners. Author of "No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers” and “One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China,” Jim is a regular commentator on China business trends and advises some of the world’s leading multinationals.

I had questions—beginning with asking Jim what he really thought about the current standoff. Is this a matter of routine diplomatic brinksmanship, or is there more to it? Is the real agenda of the Trump’s aggression toward China an attempt to destabilize it in the wake of its growth and increasingly central position in the world?

Will the Trump doctrine be remembered as: “Rant loudly and swing to kill?” And should China’s economy begin to falter – as some observers say it has – will Xi Jinping fold, restore order if only to preserve power?

It took me back to the Cold War. And that made me wonder if maybe this story is about more than a stand-off between two authoritarian figures. During the last Cold War—the US-Russia standoff—the two systems were diametrically opposed. Soviets were cast as the Great Enemy and in the absence of high-speed data networks that link one nation to the next, all we could do was believe it.

China is different.

The country embraced capitalism and showed what ingenuity and grit could do to catapult a nation from poverty to wealth.

There’s also very tight integration between China and the U.S.. Consider the 350,000 Chinese students studying in American Universities, the tens of thousands of Chinese graduates working in Silicon Valley, and the legions of Chinese executives working in U.S. cities?  

All have a vested interest in a peaceful outcome. It could be that is going be what makes the difference.