The almighty Yuan is a hungry giant


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A Laos’ Hmong hill tribe woman and her daughter walk down a street in front of a hotel under construction in border town of Boten, a special economic zone land hired by China, in the Northern province of Luang Namtha.

We all know, or at least we have been told, that China is going to dominate the world’s economy in the future; the forecasters don’t when, but none doubt it will happen. I don’t have enough of an imagination to take me there, still I wonder what that will look like and try to picture what will it mean to people living in Reno, Nevada or Vientiane, Laos when the yuan becomes god almighty?   A decade or two ago, Americans became concerned over the yen and Japanese investment; almost daily our fears were fed with new purchases.  At that time, it seemed the Japanese might end up owning all of the major sports franchises, the country’s most iconic buildings and may be even the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park or the Mississippi River.  Japan ran into is own major economic meltdown and Japanese investment retreated to the homeland – leaving our sovereignty safe for the time being.

Japan does not have billions of people, but it does have the same population problem that China has or will have, too many people for the size of the country and the country’s natural resources.  Both countries are going to have to go outside of their boundaries more and more often in the future to find land, resources and markets.  It is the same problem that faced Europe a century or two ago; it is the story of “Manifest Destiny” and the settling of the American west.  Now it is China that is looking for markets and resources and is finding them everywhere.  We now buy as many things made in China as we once did with Japanese products, which does not mean we are not still buying Japanese products, it does, however, mean we are buying less American products.

With over a billion people, the pressure from China for expansion is going to be greater than it ever was on Japan; we hope that does not lead to wars of expansion, it has not yet, but it might.  It has led to Chinese expansion in all of Africa and the Middle East – China in very quiet and unobtrusive ways is constantly negotiating trading agreements in both regions; all the while remaining equally quiet over any and all political turmoil.  The Chinese don’t try to shape political affairs and so far, changes in governments have not meant ending any treaties or agreements with China. China is conservative and very patient –  that strategy appears to be working.

There is one country that might be a test for another kind of Chinese policy – colonization, 21 century style – Laos.  According to several recent stories in the Macau Daily Times, Chinese businessmen, Chinese money and even Chinese citizens are moving into Laos in alarming numbers.  When the Japanese were buying the United States it was investment only; no large scale Japanese colonies or Japanese projects to exploit American resources were part of the trend.  The Chinese involvement has more to it than the ever-more powerful yuan. [http://www.macaudailytimes.com.mo/features/25379-Laos-swamped-foreign-investment.html]

I am thinking we should pay close attention – it just might be the face of future.  The Chinese could start with small poor countries like Laos, it would take years, maybe centuries before anything really significant had taken place.  But the oldest culture on earth is better prepared for that kind of colonization of the planet more than any country or culture has ever been,  don’t you think?  No wars necessary, no vast armies (and consequently no defeats) and no dramatic changes in dynasties or rulers that derail the process as has happened throughout history; just a slow, gradual and insidious expansion driven not by power hungry leaders but by the nameless, faceless pressure of billions of people in need of space, resources and markets.   It is the way the human species ended up populating the entire world and replacing whatever species had existed before.  I am closing my eyes visualizing a giant powerful yuan walking slowly across the face of the earth and eating everything its path.

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