Writing ‘thank you for all the messages’ following the posts about Jamal Khashoggi and the rise of Asia, is like going back 40 years to writing post-birthday thank you notes.
I am not a very emotional person but Jamal’s story still haunts my dreams even though it has already mostly disappeared from the news agenda.
Jamal was an honest, clear thinking commentator and critic, not an enemy of the Saudi Kingdom. Jamal was murdered in the Saudi embassy. How could Saudi state power not be intimately involved in his murder, the cutting up and disposal of his body? Already the story has been buried by the US midterms and Brexit.
I find global realpolitik particularly repellent at times like this. Our government has worked hard to find a ‘proportional response’ to a ‘key partner’ in the Gulf which has taken to murdering its own citizens.
Jeremy Hunt’s response was ‘strongly worded’ – don’t watch more than the first 60 seconds of this video or you are liable to fall asleep, joining the small scattering of MPs present in the House in their catatonia.
My own feelings are closer to those of President Jed Bartlet in The West Wing on finding out about the meaningless death of a young, military doctor who had treated him as a patient.
But in the end, President Bartlet followed the initial guidance of his generals. Proportionate response won the day.
The post about the rise of Asia stimulated some very well-informed, factual emails:
“In 2005 the US economy was more than 5 times larger than that of the China. The data last year, just a dozen years later, shows that the US economy was just 60% larger than the Chinese economy in dollar terms. However bumpy the future is for China, the trend is brutally clear – China will soon be a force with more economic firepower than the US.”
“Is it a coincidence that Google and Microsoft both have CEOs who grew up in Asia? (Sundar Pichai, Google Chief Executive is Indian American and grew up in Chennai. Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft, is also Indian American and grew up in Hyderabad) They are clearly very able but I suspect these companies also understand the need for change in focus and attitudes towards Asia from the very top. I can’t think of any UK companies who have made similar moves.”
“The VC (Venture Capital) industry in China will be just as big in China as the US in a few years’ time. It is already 80% of the size. E-commerce transactions are twice the scale they are in the US. China has brave plans in AI to be a world leader in ten years’ time. It is easy to scoff because so much of China and Chinese industry does not use technology effectively and is far behind the west. But I look at how Japan’s technology industries took off in the 70s and 80s with strong state direction and a remarkable work ethic and see similar dynamics when I visit China today.”
“You have forgotten Africa. Everybody forgets Africa. The African population is growing very quickly - it will rise from 1.3 billion now to 2.5 billion in 2050 and the UN predicts 3.4 billion by 2070. Nigeria alone will have a bigger population than the United States in 25 years’ time. There is a fast-growing middle class, just as there is in Asia and they are demanding consumers. Expect many more African consumers spending their money in London and Paris just like Asian consumers and big opportunities to grow businesses and media across the African continent.”
Even when getting married a few weeks ago, it was impossible to avoid the rise of Asia. My major sartorial purchase for the event was an Hermes tie. I have never been in an Hermes store before but as a UK citizen I was in a small minority.
I waited patiently as two Asian couples paid and walked away with hefty bags before I made my more modest purchase. I asked the cashier where Hermes’ New Bond Street customers tended to come from. “Well, I think you are my first British customer today, Sir… and they are paying for me to learn basic Mandarin.”