Chinese economic policies and motivations since 2008 not only emphasize growth and sustainability of state-owned enterprises but, a critical but much less well-appreciated dimension is the Chinese government’s emphasis on stability. No economic policy in China will ignore this, and the high value placed on stability pervades all the current trade talks with the United States.
While it may seem tempting to target attractive market sectors and provide government-backed capital and direction, this typically does not end well. The efficient allocation of capital, demanding an appropriate return for given risks, is something private markets do extremely well. A handful of bureaucrats cannot match the collective wisdom of the capital markets, no matter how attractive the target.
WeChat has become the ubiquitous, full-service platform for communication and commerce in China. Essentially, the company has taken the mobile Internet and made it their own. The WeChat internet has a lot to admire — and emulate. While the United States sees big tech as a colossus that needs to be knocked down, the Chinese government saw tech companies as economic engines to be harnessed. They were right.
High growth companies competing for large total addressable markets may not be creating long-term value. Cheap capital has created a vicious circle of unproductive investment. Markets will correct this overvaluation and misappropriation with a rather unpleasant bang.
While the current trade war commands our immediate attention and thoughts about its impact on the global economy, there are deeper and perhaps more troubling issues regarding globalization and its future.