Harvard Business Review – In Line Behind a Billion People

During a Harvard Business Review Webinar today China experts Damien Ma and Bill Adams discuss excerpts from their book “In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade.  According to the authors, China’s growth outlook is becoming less of a concern in 2013 and 2014.  Combining unparalleled size with crushing density, China is a major consumer of energy eating up half of the world’s coal while exacting huge environmental costs.  Labor, too, has gone from surplus to scarcity mostly in blue collar jobs, while higher education has exploded thereby putting unprecedented strains on colleges and universities.  Education opportunities are unequally distributed with preference going to students living in Tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Housing bubble aside, affordable housing is scarce to the average Chinese person.  Rebuilding the social safety net in healthcare will be a primary concern to Chinese leaders as the overall population continues to age….which begs the question “What exactly is the Chinese Dream?”  From the author’s perspective, the Chinese Dream is beginning to sound a lot like the American Dream or at least part of it (i.e. the pursuit of Happiness).  In addition, implications for U.S .and China remain positive using the following logic based on the Third Plenum.  Chinese reforms benefit the United States creating complementary economies, new opportunities, and new interdependencies.  There is more to fear from a vulnerable China than an economically vibrant and politically stable China, increasingly dynamic, but also fairer competition.