China, Singapore and Finland… three giants

Most people would laugh at the above headline, but they would be fools who misunderstand what has been achieved and what can be achieved by these three. It is all to do with being pragmatic.

Sweden, Norway and Denmark share the same characteristics as Finland for this article at the macro level. They are all small economies with big export sectors, even though their economies have quite different constructions. 

But comparing China, Singapore and Finland is an interesting case. All three economies believe that education and family values are important, and more…

… all three believe in the importance of the work ethic, to succeed you need to study, you need to specialise and you need to work hard in your job. Study and learning does not start and end around the teens, it continues for a lifetime. We all recognise that whole populations must be ready for change and that us and our children need to strive for a better life, and that is not easy.

This last fact shines out from all levels of society and not just from the very wealthy. 

In all three countries, no matter how large the population or how small, we recognise the importance of inclusiveness and the importance of effective political management.

This is where the shouting starts! There are many who claim that the Chinese leadership usurps power and controls the minds and lives of that 1,3 billion. 

But anybody who has travelled to China and met with Chineses who live and work in the western world, knows this could not be further from the truth. China does have a different political system from Singapore and Finland, but from the point of view of the great majority of Chinese, that government gives them a great degree of freedom to choose what they do with their lives. 

Yes, the opposition is muted, but not crushed. Things are far more subtle, because they must be pragmatic.

Private economic activity and entrepreneurship is encouraged, as are engineering, medical as are many other classical skills.  The power of private entrepreneurs is recognised as the main economic driver along with good public management of the basic services.

Small Singapore and Finland also match their economic models on these characteristics.

Your correspondent has spent the last 6 years assiduously learning Mandarin, after spending 4 years working full time in Singapore and after dozens of visits to China.

Yes, there are clear differences in political management and in how the economies are “controlled” by the public sectors. But just recall how much our central banks and how much our governments participate in our economic activities. Another expression could be “interfere” but that would not be an appropriate word. 

Economic growth is never springing forth from the private sector alone. Regulations, controls and public guidance (legislation) are needed to stop abuses by private sector operators. There would be chaos within the economy without smart government. 

When your correspondent visited China in 1983, there was just a few hotels, and most of the land between of Beijing and the airport was surrounded by rice paddies. Now there is nothing more than skyscrapers and apartment buildings. More engineers and doctors are educated in hundreds of new universities and business is thriving – the standard of living has exploded for many and consumerism and tourism are the new norms. Progress has ben incredible for huge numbers of their massive population.

If you do not believe this, jut talk with the entrepreneurs, young students and newly graduated engineers. They are all fluent in Mandarin and Chinese characters as well as in English and possibly one other language, including the STEMs. This is no small achievement that we take for granted here today in Finland and Singapore.

Trump has accused the Chinese of industrial spying, abuses of human rights, and many other wrongs and misdemeanours. But the US and many other big western countries have spied, asserted control over foreign oil resources, abused developing countries and weaker folk in their own countries for decades and decades. Weapons of mass destruction, support for despots and dictators have all been tried and tested – these governments have created chaos in which ISIS has thrived, and they pump more emissions into the atmosphere than the rest of us together. 

China is the biggest investor in clean energy today, alongside Singapore and Finland. What is the US doing – a simple question?

Pragmatic relationships between countries are a much better way to handle diversity in government. Singapore and Finland cannot change the ebb and flow of Chinese politics but we can talk and trade together without screaming like a spoilt child for short-term gains…

… and stop to consider that China has changed from the 1980’s and has become a giant just like us Lilliput giants. They have not tried to hide what we are doing right, and that is their great strength and weakness to follow these two giants.

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