I’ve visited more than 30 different countries. But this is my first visit here.
For the past three days, I’ve been in a country where I can’t drink the water from the taps. The poorest people have no access to running water—or electricity.
From where I’m typing, I can see a church, but I wonder: is it a place of worship, or is capitalism the god in this foreign country labeled communist. Belching smoke spews out of factories like it would have during Europe’s industrial revolution. The air quality in most of these cities is toxic.
I arrived at my hotel on a train, from the airport, that cruised on magnets instead of wheels. We hit 300km/h, and it felt like we weren’t even moving. Rather than the smoke belching two stroke engines from tuk-tuks and motorbikes in places like Bangkok, Thailand, or Hanoi, Vietnam, many of the scooters here run on electric power—or they’re simple bicycles converted to run on the fruits of hydro.
In case you haven’t guessed it, I’m in China. Shanghai, China, to be exact.
The city is rapidly developing, and getting cleaner each year. It might represent the future for China, or it might be a symbol for something else.
Delving into the local publication, The Beijing Review, I can read about local concerns. Among them is the wealth disparity, which smacks even the most obtuse visitor in the head.
Keeping thy brother down is likely very important here, whether people will admit it or not. When one country can build a modern skyscraper, using its own citizens who are paid only a couple of dollars an hour, you get two things: an increased wealth disparity, and a potential for social uprising.
Much of the money earned by the wealthy, according to the May 27, 2010 issue of The Beijing Review isn’t going towards social programs. Last year it was estimated by China’s National Economic Research Institute that more than $705.8 billion U.S. dollars (4.8 trillion yuan) went undeclared as income. So much for the possibility of soon being able to drink water out of the tap.
Historically, wide income gaps such as China’s has led to revolt by the poor. We know that there are enough of them here to significantly affect the bubble the wealthy live in.
If you’re interested in investing in China, my feelings on that are even stronger than before. Their highest income earners are getting rich. But those same people are holding their brothers down.
To capitalize on China’s growing wealth, buy the stocks of name-brand western products. That’s what they want. They want Porsche, BMW, Audi, Rolex, Cartier jewelry, Starbucks, McDonalds. We might buy “cheap stuff made in China” at Wal Mart. But the biggest spenders over here are like most Asians: Enamored by the high-status western products.
Buy those stocks if you want to grow wealth, but keep your money out of here.
You never know what can happen when you hold your brother down too long.