Undoubtedly, China’s economical success is phenomenal. Some are challenged by it; some intimidated. And some feel threatened. I fall in the category of those challenged by it, and it fueled my curiosity to know how China achieved its present economic status. Several sources have analysed the transformation of the Chinese economy, but I laid my hands on a book titled: THE CHINA STRATEGY by Edwards Tse which attempts to narrate the enterprise side of the coin.
It is important to quickly mention that different people have their perception of the Chinese experience. While some condemn some of the approaches to building their national wealth with international prominence, there is one that even though condemned, should never be ignored by any country aspiring to develop its economy: it is Aggressive Enterprise.
Edwards Tse started the first chapter of his book by stating Li Ning as one of China’s most recognizable faces. He shot to fame in 1984, winning six medals in gymnastics competitions at the Los Angeles Olympics, three of them gold. Since then, he has remained in the spotlight by becoming one of the country’s most successful businessmen as the owner of China’s largest sportswear company. The eponymous Li Ning brand has more than 7,550 retail outlets across the country and annual sales of more than $980 million.
The Li Ning Company Limited is still tiny compared with Nike and Adidas, whose global revenues in 2008 were $18.6 billion and $15.9 billion respectively. But Li Ning’s growth is faster; its global marketing, still in the beginning stages, includes sponsorships of major leagues in the United States, Argentina and Spain.
Then the 2008 Olympics went to Beijing. Li Ning was chosen to light the torch at the opening ceremonies in Beijing’s Bird Nest stadium, in front of a television audience of more than a billion viewers. The moment must have been particularly difficult for Adidas, which has spent a quarter billion dollars on Olympic sponsorship and marketing during the run-up of the games. Suddenly, here was not just one of China’s most famous Olympic gold medalist, but one of their leading business rivals- and a living symbol of the intent, ambition and competitive spirit of Chinese enterprise. In a handful of seconds, he stole the show from his western competitors.
More captivating to me is the next paragraph- “China has hundreds of thousands of Li Nings: entrepreneurs who have driven one of the fastest sustained national economic growth rates of any country in the world history. They may not all be as successful as Li. But after decades of being held back by their country’s adoption of socialism, they and the rest of the Chinese population are moving forward with the force of water gushing from a broken dam. The intensity of their aspirations, joined with the plans of the government and the presence of the country’s hundreds of millions of ordinary people, suggests that future developments in China will over-shadow even the momentous change in recent past- and in a way that affects the strategy, and even the identity of companies around the world (Italics mine).
From the foregoing, I like to stress …but one of their leading business rivals- and a living symbol of intent, ambition and competitive spirit of Chinese enterprise. An average Chinese has the spirit of enterprise and competition in the global economy. Another word that best describe the Chinese spirit of entrepreneurship is Aggression. This remains a truism.
While I join many others, particularly Development Economists who have pontificated the harm of globalisation and free trade economic policy by the world economic rules dictators, I must say that China has rather turned globalisation and free trade to its advantage. China has actually proved right the preaching of the proponents of free trade that openness is a veritable tool to economic prosperity.
As mentioned in a previous article, “A cursory look at the China’s approach with that of Nigeria reveals the Nigeria is also adopting Foreign Investment (through direct and portfolio investment) and the Local Content recipe.” Factually, one of the harm of free trade policy is such that a well industrialised country can freely export her goods (subject to duties) into a developing country which local market is struggling for survival. One should also bear in mind that a product processed with machine will produce more quantity and make consumer cost more affordable. This is one of the reasons why it is challenging for an average shirt maker in a country like Nigeria to compete with a global brand like TM Lewin. But China understands the fact that it takes aggression to be a player in the global economy and will settle for nothing in achieving this. Thus, the statement “tough times don’t last but tough people do” points to China and the result is quite obvious.
An average Nigerian shares this spirit of enterprise. Irrespective of the environmental frustrations, few still grow successful enterprises while major part of the population struggle to sustain their ventures. For millions of those who are unemployed, the spirit is also there but the challenge is where to engage the spirit. It is rather unfortunate that in the midst of so much economic potentials in the country, the youth who make up about 70 percent of the population (the core of the country) are substantially inactive.
Furthermore, Tse mentioned in his book that there are hundreds of thousands of Li Nings, entrepreneurs who have driven one of the fastest economic growth rate in the world. What readily came to mind is the imagination of hundreds of thousands of the likes of Aliko Dangote, Oba Otudeko, Mike Adenuga permeating every area of economic potential in Nigeria and their likes across the continent of Africa with huge turn-overs in their companies. Not only will the people never struggle with poverty, but the standard of living will greatly appreciate.
Nigeria should be able to focus on major field(s) for economic dominance, say I.T, Healthcare or tourism — a la the Indians. While I do not totally displace this kind of reasoning, I will say Nigeria is far blessed than that. Nigeria prior to the discovery of oil had earned so much from Agriculture and Mining. The advent of oil ran other sectors aground. If Nigeria has been so serious about becoming economically vibrant, adding the oil boom to the already thriving Agricultural, Mining and real sector would have quadrupled the nation’s GDP and Per Capita Income today with proof of good standard of living of the population. The use of technological advancement to facilitate production would have made a phenomenal impact in being a dominant player in the global economy.
According to Tse, after thirty years of opening and liberalizing its economy, nowhere else, not even among the mature markets of Japan, Europe, and the United States, offers the same extraordinary range of brands and products as China. For every drink, Chinese companies make their own versions of every international flavor- and many flavours that are not produced elsewhere. For magazines, there are Chinese editions of such familiar global titles as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Elle. Driving on the streets are locally manufactured vehicles from almost every global brand car maker General Motors (GM) and Ford, Toyota and Honda, Volkswagen (VW) and its subsidiary Audi, BMW and Mercedes, Citroen and Hyundai- plus a host of local auto brands, including Chery, Geely, Brilliance, and Great Wall.
Tse stated further that over the next decade to two, the presence of Chinese companies and expected to make restructuring more likely in a wide range of other industries- among them automotive, shipbuilding, chemicals, energy, information technology and, possibly aerospace. This is the aggressive spirit of enterprise: this is the China spirit! A country like Nigeria is and will continue to seriously shortchange itself by ignoring every other area of economic potential and remaining unimaginative, so to speak.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to consider the role of the government in the cause of economic prosperity of the nation. While some people have severally stressed the fact that the people can prosper in their ventures without waiting for the government, I have consistently maintained the fact that the people will prosper more in their ventures when the government vigorously play a pivotal role in the cause. The role of the government starts with a dynamic vision. Nations around the world that we so much admire and love to identify with had the emergence of economic prosperity with visionary leadership and planning. This is the story of Singapore, South Korea, China, Japan, UAE and even Indonesia.
It is never enough to have a vision without an action plan and drive to realise it. Having visionary leadership and the drive of accomplishment is most vital. The vision in context is not a generic one but to initiate and enforce all factors necessary to propel aggressive entrepreneurship to achieve national wealth. That is the kind of vision that transformed the nations listed earlier. This action plan may be contained in a National Development Plan. I refer to this article where I dealt with the subject of National Development Plan extensively.
Budget, laws, policies and decisions are made on strict compliance to the vision and action plan. This should include provision of infrastructural facilities, access to cheap credit, regulation of product standard, enforcement of local content law, review of impeding laws and policies that tend to frustrate development process among others. By these, the government would have successfully created an enabling environment that will help ventures to succeed. Beyond that, more people will be open to new ideas in untapped areas and resources.
Furthermore, the Government will be living up to the spirit of its constitutional responsibility as contained in Section 16 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) viz: Section 16 (1) provides that the State shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this Constitution:
(a) harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity;
(b) control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity;
(c) without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy, manage and operate the major sectors of the economy;
(d) Without prejudice to the rights of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy.
Subsection (2) of Section 16 states that the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring:
(a) the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development;
(b) that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good;
(c) that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group; and
(d) that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.
To balance the responsibility in the cause of national economic prosperity, I should mention that we have a generation of people (young and old) who are not ready to go through the process, do the right thing the right way to get wealth. If we ask the government to re-organise its priority to building the nation’s economy, we should also be fair enough to re-organise our priorities and get ready to pay the required price to achieve sustained national development.
Conclusively, popular sayings; Nigeria is blessed by God, Nigeria is rich in resources, Nigeria has the brains and muscle to be a major player in the international community will remain lip service if we fail to notice that the time has come to take full responsibility and dedicate our all to realise our God-given potentials, and that the economic prosperity we crave will only follow suit after strategic implementation of developmental policies and full participation from citizens and government alike.