Delphi “Secret Speaker” Salon: Japan versus China – who will emerge stronger from Covid 19?

Posted By on Aug 20, 2020 in Events | 0 comments


Speaker: To enable the speaker to discuss his ideas freely, his/her identity will be kept secret until the event. S/he is a sophisticated macro-economist who speaks fluent Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English. He is familiar with the business, cultures, politics and economics of the key Asian economies. The event will be run according to Chatham House Rules.

Fee: 2,000 yen for members; 5,000 for non members.

“If you want to invest in a country where you know a pandemic will be crushed regardless of the human cost, choose China,” was the advice from a leading Chinese economist at a recent Brussels think-tank meeting.

He was responding to a question from the audience about foreign companies diversifying their supply chains outside of a country whose international reputation has collapsed in the wake of its incessant harassment of Uighurs; militarism in the East China Sea; and its clamp-down on the aspirations (whether economic or democratic) of a sizeable number of Hong Kongers.

The response is, of course, grotesque. Yet it nicely captures the mixture of pragmatism, amorality and arrogance which the current Chinese leadership displays.

The economist added that foreign threats to leave China are unrealistic: nowhere else do automakers, for example, have such a dense, skilled and efficient manufacturing network. Rising wages, at this point in the game, are irrelevant. Here he is probably right, although it would still require investors with a strong stomach.

Across the Sea of Japan, meanwhile, Japan just saw economic growth plunge by 8% in the second quarter of 2020 – even worse than in Q1 2009. The cancellation of the Olympics and the furore over the poor treatment of long-term, tax-paying and generally happy foreign residents has dented its cuddly image, and raised questions over the ‘street smarts’ and empathy of its officials and politicians.

Overlaying both countries’ domestic concerns are their relations with the world’s essential hyper-power, the US. China appears to think she can thrive by decoupling, relying on a new story of economic growth: personal consumption fuelled by rocketing wages and huge asset appreciation built over the last 30 years.

Japan has no such optimistic narrative. Japan is no longer an exporting superpower, and its auto industry is mediocre, with the exception of Toyota. Japan is still wealthy, but it is old wealth. The country is more service oriented than China, but these services are less than world class in almost every category (eg education, consulting, finance, software, innovation, banking etc) with the exception of food and possibly tourism. Japan’s domestic economy is so sluggish that only exports can make a difference, while China is confidently reducing its reliance on exports and looking for growth within its borders.

Join us as our speaker picks his way through the complicated issues of which ‘System’ is future-proofing itself best!

3pm Friday August 21 on Zoom