Okay, I’ll admit my age; I clearly remember the ‘70s when Kissinger led the path for Nixon to open up China to the world and eventually paved the way to full-scale globalization. Reagan pronounced, "Tear down this wall,” and in 1990, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Those two events took us into the post-Cold-War era that consumed the world after WWII until the 1990s and since then.
I was fully immersed in the PCB industry, selling software to companies mostly in the U.S. (after all, we had over 2,000 PCB companies in the U.S. back in the ‘80s); then, things started to shift. China was the destination for all things manufacturing, and PCBs were right there with higher labor and environmental control costs that could be cut substantially by shifting to China. But it wasn’t just us in the U.S. The charge was initially led by companies based in Hong Kong and Taiwan as they had an edge into China (language and history). Soon, everyone followed, including the U.S., Japan, Europe, etc.
Even though many complained, the shift was unstoppable. I decided to join the crowd. Initially, I set up an office in Hong Kong and soon followed up with places in Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Suzhou. The West benefited immensely. Think about it—almost no inflation over the last 30 years through unprecedented economic growth. In fact, things didn’t go up in price—most everything at Walmart cost less.
Everyone seemed to be getting something out of this deal—low to no inflation for the West, and a global economy where it seemed like everyone was prospering. China and India—the two largest populations in the world—seemed to be coming out of poverty, which was good for the world. Healthy global economies meant we would avert WWIII and the have-nots would start having “stuff,” which again, was good for the global economy where companies like Apple could create huge new markets for their iPhone. Imagine almost three billion people between India and China buying iPhones! Let alone the markets for many other products and services, especially large export markets for U.S. farmers.
So, what happened? One of my favorite authors, Thomas L. Friedman, said in a recent New York Times article titled, “China Deserves Donald Trump: It Took a Human Wrecking Ball to Get China’s Attention.” Let’s face it: China has been taking advantage of still being a developing country. Agreed, this has to stop. But why now? Why did we just now elect a human wrecking ball? And this wave of nationalism isn’t just happening in the U.S.; it’s happening all over, including in India, the U.K., Italy, Austria, Italy, Korea, Australia, etc., and probably not so far in the future in Canada, Germany, and elsewhere. It’s global.
Personally, I think it’s human nature. People don’t want to “give up” their place in the world. Yes, cheap products and services from places like China and India are good, but giving up the top dog position doesn’t sit well with most people—especially when you have leaders around the world reminiscing about the past and wanting to make XYZ great again or something similar.
I think we’re in a critical time in the world. Forces of nationalism are fighting globalism. The globalism cat was let out of the bag over 30 years ago, and it’s not going to go back in. Unlike what we’re being told, all of the tariffs are being paid by importers. Americans are paying the tariffs, not China! I know: I’m thick in the middle of it. Once the pain trickles down to the typical MAGA person (and I mean around the world where this nationalism movement is taking hold), I have a feeling things will change.
I know a lot of people in the industry on all sides of this fence—in the U.S., China, India, Korea, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, everywhere. I intend to select a few that are in the thick of this and do some selective interviews to bring out various points of view to enlighten the reader into the multiple points of view that are all deserving of being heard on this topic.
Mehul J. Davé is CEO and chairman of Entelechy Global Inc. and chairman of Linkage Technologies Inc.