What a difference a day makes

Welcome to the latest version of Global Gab. First, just a few points:

  1. We all realise that the column is time-sensitive and every effort is being made to get it into your mailbox as fast as possible. We expect to make great strides in this aspect within the next few weeks. Thanks for your understanding and patience.
  2. There is absolutely no fake news – every fact is exactly that, a fact, and any questions as to the provenance thereof, should there ever be any, will be immediately and completely answered.
  3. All the views expressed herein (this column and every column) are strictly mine.

Global Gab #4 was datelined October 30th/18…….whether that saying, “Oh what a difference a day makes”, holds true or not, there’s no question that the last almost 2 weeks have been, being polite, tempestuous. The purported Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times” is actually not Chinese in origin at all, but rather was a comment developed by a returning British civil service mandarin in the early 1900’s; but it sounded so ‘right’ that it caught on as eminently Chinese – but I digress; we certainly have had an ‘interesting’ time of it.

The Chinese and American navies came within 45 yards of an incident at sea and, less than a week later, the Chinese navy actually welcomed a Japanese navy ship in the same area – this is like something out of Kafka, if he could dream up something this unreal. The Chinese welcoming a Japanese vessel after harassing an American one – surely even the Trumpster must have an inkling of the mianzi issues involved (one would hope).

Speaking of the Trumpster, he can’t be having a ‘good’ day these days, never mind a huge one….prior to the election, he addressed a rally for a candidate by saying that the accuser of Justice Kavanagh “admitted under oath that she never even met him”(even Kavanagh didn’t say that)……in his first year of office (this according to the Washington Post), he made 2140 “false or  misleading statements”; according to the same source, as reported on September 13th/18, he has made “more than 5000” in 601 days in office…..so, doing the simple arithmetic, in the first 365 days, he gave free rein to his innermost mendacity of 5.863 per day, every day! Using the bottom figure of 5000 over the 601 days reviewed, that bumps up to the minimum average of 8.319, or a 41.88% increase as he apparently got comfortable in his role s “liar-in-chief”. However, if you just figure the last 236 days (601 total less the first 365), he managed a whopping 12.119 per day. That’s over a 100% increase over the first year – Americans are sure getting a bang for their buck! HUGE!! “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace”, said Napoleon, but he could and did back it up with more than hot air and bullying; if we were writing the DT version of The Three Musketeers, they would have been named, “Maliciousness, Mendaciousness, and Muckiness”….but, then again, he’d probably misspell them and mispronounce them (and then deny that he ever did it!).

But I don’t want anyone to think that all my disapprobation is reserved for “Mr. T”. Let’s look at Modi in India – according to the latest BusinessWeek, India loses over 6% of yearly GDP  (some US$166 billion out of a total of US$2.57 trillion) due to intestinal problems caused by inadequate plumbing facilities  (ie. let’s get real, almost no plumbing facilities). Gandhi stated that proper toilet facilities were more important than independence yet even now, over 71 years later, and several years into Mr. Modi’s plan to spend a whole US$20 billion in total over 5 years to bring ‘toilets to the people’, there are still hundreds of millions of people without access to a private functioning toilet (never mind access to clean water). So, again doing the simple math, 5 years at $166 billion/year is US$830 billion in losses due to shit – shit piles, shit balls, shit storms, whatever, wherever, and everywhere! And this guy, this self-styled “man of the people” as he purported to be, magnanimously budgeted a whole $20 billion over 5 years (ie. a littleover 6 tenths of 1% of the total losses) to build 110 million rudimentary toilet facilities…..and the problem is still with them, very much so. In this last roughly 4 years, according to Quora, only 75 million of the toilets have been built – in other words, again simple math, they have to build another 46.7% in what is generously calculated at 30% of the time remaining. And no one has counted (sic) the toilets that have already fallen apart so soon after being built due to improper construction.  Dorothy, you aren’t in Kansas and that bucket at the end of the rainbow ain’t filled with gold. China had the same problem and Zhu Rong-ji had it fixed in a few years – and China has a far bigger landmass, a larger population and, at the time, had far less money. Modi seems to be living down to the low bar set by previous Indian leaders – festering, feckless, foundering fulminators of feces…both the verbal and the actual.

And what do we have behind Door #3, Ted? Oh, look, it’s China. Poor China – the wretched foreigners now have the audacity to demand that the Chinese Government actually honor the promises that they have made innumerable times in countless different ways about safeguarding Intellectual Property (IP) and opening their markets as mandated by WTO – just as an aside, China has not been shy about claiming its rights under the WTO Agreement that it signed, but it has proven quite adroit at side-stepping any of its responsibilities if and when it feels like it. So the deck has been unfairly stacked (and we won’t even address the massive state-fostered spying and thefts) for years and people are right to finally demand an accounting and a cessation. Yes, Donald, you are right – too bad that you can’t express it coherently or properly, much less diplomatically. And the Chinese Government seems to be taking umbrage at the upset more because they got away with it for so long that they now actually feel it is almost a right.

So, to offset legitimate criticism, the Government of China does what it always does – deflect on a huge scale. This time they threw an Import Expo in Shanghai – and the #1 guy does know how to throw a party. The problem is, almost no one was in a party mood and the opening speech went over like a cement cloud. Promises of as much as US$40 trillion in imports by 2040 – sounded nice, forrrty trilllllliiooonnn, but everyone had heard similar promises before…even this ‘commitment’ (sic) was reported at different times as being US$30 trillion – hey, what’s a few trillion between friends? People are tired of the pandering – it’s like the girl in the KTV – “you show me the money, honey”. Plus a bunch more frequently regurgitated promises and platitudes made the scene – didn’t exactly fill anyone with much hope or confidence, and that includes the Chinese.

Yes, as he said, and I paraphrase loosely, “China has 5000 years of history and its economy is like the sea and a storm cannot destroy it” – the problem is that a nice turn of the phrase doesn’t do it anymore, not when so many past nice turns of phrases turned out to be just words. People making their living in a sea also know that they can just as easily drown in it. We are living in uncertain times and have even more uncertain futures – the Shanghai index, the Hang Seng Index, The Dow Jones, the ____(fill in all the blanks you want) are down, way down (most are in or skirting bear territory) and property markets are following. People want to know, and have a right to know, if they are going to be treated as promised, as partners and old friends, or as the suckers like they increasingly feel.

Here’s the thing – and, make no mistake, this is not a subject for a single column – until recently, it was declared by everyone in a position of economic power in China that, variously, “China could have no hard landing”, or, “China would never have a recession”, or, “a recession was not possible in China”. Xi Jinping, in 2015, declared that economic uncertainty wasn’t a prelude to a hard landing but the “new normal”. Li Keqiang, the Premier declared in 2017 that the talk of a hard landing should end now. Are they right? I hope to follow up with some ‘interesting’ insights. And BoA …it no longer stands for Bank of America –Beware of Alligators!



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