Featured Writer: George Vong
George Vong is an entrepreneur, writer and former professional poker player.
When the BW team received his book about China moving its capital city, we decided to challenge him on his theory through an interview.
He happily accepted and was a great sport.
Read the interview and decide if you agree with his theory.
By: PP Wong
B is for...book. What is your favourite childhood book?
I never liked reading books as a child. So I don’t really have a childhood favourite.
A is for… animal. If you could transform into one animal for one week, what would you be?
A panda, because they are adored and protected by the public. Not to mention they are very cute.
N is for… necessary. If you were banished to a desert island and could only bring two items, what would they be?
A big warm jacket as I don’t want to be cold. And a knife. I think a knife can always be handy when you are in the wild.
A is for… authentic. How would you describe yourself in three words?
British born Chinese.
N is for… novelist. Which writer do you most admire?
Lao Tzu. He lived some 2700 years ago in ancient China and was a great Philosopher. He wrote the ‘’Dao De Jing’’, which was the inspiration of Taoism.
A is for… appetite. Would you like a Banana milkshake? Banana fritter? Banana cake? Or just a plain banana?
I’d pick a banana fritter if I must pick from the list, but I’d much rather have a Banana split.
What inspired you to write your book Leaving Beijing?
From a young age I watched a lot of kung fu movies. This exposed me to a great deal of Chinese history and philosophy. As I grew older I became more and more interested in Chinese culture. After dropping out of university I went travelling around Southeast Asia, and while being there I met some very interesting people (since I spent a lot of time on the poker table earning my expenses). This allowed me to learn and think about history and philosophy on a much deeper level than before.
So, I guess it was being on the poker table that inspired me to write this book.
Why should we care whether China moves the capital city or not?
If China plays its cards right, they will become the richest nation on earth in a decade or two. Their currency will likely become the global currency of the world within that timeframe. The culture will spread throughout the world like never before as more and more Chinese people travel on vacation, study, do business and invest on a global scale to protect their wealth. So, everyone should be interested in China to some extent, especially the people of my generation and younger.
So, why should they move capital city? And why should we care? Because whatever they do will affect us. Their economy is so big, and it is the fastest growing major economy. They have the biggest population (and middle class); therefore they can affect world markets very fast and very easily. They have the world’s wealthiest government with over US$3.5 trillion in foreign exchange reserves.
Therefore, should there be any hiccups or market crashes in China, the world will be affected. For example, when I used to live in Macau, the slightest restriction or loosening of visas from the mainland to Macau had a major impact on Macau’s economy. The island’s economy is completely dependent on the mainland. Last week, I read an article online from Market Watch that Australia’s stocks has slumped due to news that China exports have dropped. China is now currently Africa’s biggest trading partner and this relationship doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. The US dollars value depends on Asian’s countries like China, Japan etc. to keep buying. From here, we can see how important a global player China has become over the years. As we speak, Beijing's population is 20 million and counting. This number is growing by the day. The infrastructure, in terms of roads, public transport, drinking water, housing etc. was not designed for and was not suitable for such a population. As China’s economy continues to grow, so will Beijing’s population. Relocating to a city that will allow for a much bigger population than Beijing’s will allow the new capital to function much more effectively. More talent from around Asia and the world will be able to relocate. Public transport will be more efficient, more investment will be generated, Beijing’s population and house prices will fall back to a more suitable level. All this will ultimately mean a much healthier and sustainable economy for China, and thus the world’s.
Do you think the West is secretly fearful of China and do they have reason to do so?
I think the answer to the question really depends on how we look at China in the first place. If we look at them as an enemy and start treating them as an enemy then, they will quickly become an enemy. If we treat them as a friend, they will become our friend. At the end of the day, their economy is quickly modernising and its people are becoming more and more aware what’s going on. It is not like the USSR where the dictatorship was a single person. In China, the dictatorship is under the authority of the party. And their core interests lies within the economy and their consolidation of power within China.
An example I can give is the Korean War. The Korean War started off being a war between the North and South Koreans. At the start the South was gaining the upper hand. The Allies joined in because they feared a domino effect of Communism spreading all over the world. Later, the Chinese joined in, because they feared if North Korea was to fall, the Northeast of China will eventually be captured by America and the Allies. Both sides were fighting to protect what they had. If they had understood each other more, millions of lives would have been saved.
This example may sound a little over the top, but what I am trying to illustrate is the importance of understanding each other. If the West and China was to view each other as business partners, the world would be a better place and our economies would grow to complement each other.
I feel that we in the West have viewed the world as a lot more dangerous place than it actually is. In fact, I think China itself is a very peaceful country. Their government have complete if not, a high level of control of everything within its borders. It has not need to disturb the peace of other nations. It is interested mainly in their economy.
We in the West, tend to be affected by the media too much and view the world as a dangerous place. But we forget that the media in the West are privately owned and the focus for any privately owned business is to drive sales and profit. I think it is human nature to be attracted to bad news than good news as negative senses have a bigger impact on us physically. Therefore, making things sound worse or negative than they actually are, is purely business.
In your book, you say, “I will happily place a substantial bet with whichever firm can offer me the best odds, that China’s capital will be relocated within twenty years. Any takers?”
Isn’t this a bit cocky?
Beijing’s population growth is faster than most cities in China. I have recently read an article on Want China Times on Beijing’s population growth, which states that Beijing's population increased by 6 million over the past 10 years. As China’s economy continues to expand and Beijing is the capital of China, the trend is likely to continue.
The resources of Beijing are already stretched very thin. If Beijing remains the capital, the population could likely grow another 6 million over the next 10 years. People from the countryside will travel to the capital in search for work and a better life over the next decade or so. Of course there are many ways to combat this, but relocating the capital city will be a very big help.
If we look at economies like America, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong to a lesser extent, the success of these economies in the past have one thing in common. Attracting talent from all over the world to live and work. Beijing is becoming too small for expansion and too cold for many talented people from overseas. When China first opened its doors to the West, only the cities in the south and along the coast had growing economies and had jobs created. Now China is effectively a much bigger nation economically, and the capital city must reflect this. For the nation to mature into a stronger and complex economy, foreign talent is vital. I feel that a good location would be in the centre of the nation where it is easily accessible to the south, with reasonable travelling time to the coastal areas and not too far to the western regions of the nation. Because for China to maintain a competitive edge in manufacturing, the western regions can play a key role, as wages will be cheaper than the coastal provinces.
Another point I’d like to point out is that China’s economy has experienced very high growth for the past 30 years. This, to the West does not seem sustainable. This is because wages will climb and workers will demand more and costs will have to go up. As a result, factories across China will lose its competitive edge as they cannot produce as cheaply as many other economies around the world, such as Vietnam and India etc. However, the efficient infrastructure and low wage advantage can be preserved for an extra 20 years if the western regions of China were put to good use. These regions hold two thirds of China’s land mass with less than one third of its population. They have vast resources with wages significantly lower than the eastern areas of China. Therefore, developing the Western regions of China will be a very big job and will keep the economy going for more than one generation. A capital city closer to the west would be very convenient .
You mention that the next capital city for China could be Chongqing. It is not even a Tier 1 city, why do you think China will move the capital there?
The reason why I suggest a city that is not already developed is simple. If it is already a Tier 1 city, there would be less room for development. If we take a city like Hong Kong, London or Singapore we would find it extremely difficult to improve and build on them. Because they are already very developed.
Chongqing is a very big city. The municipality’s population now stand at 30 million plus. The size of the municipality at 82,000 square km, is big enough to be a country of its own. The infrastructure is fairly developed, giving the new capital a foundation to build on. There is plenty of land within Chongqing to build or develop on.
The location of the city is situated within the centre of the nation, making it an ideal location to be a transport hub. Once it becomes the capital of China, surrounding areas will develop much faster.
The city was promoted to municipality in 1997, which suggests the government sees more in Chongqing than many other cities in central or western China.Being a municipality means the central government has direct control over the city, which means changes can be implemented at a relatively fast rate.
One last point I’d like to make is that the climate of Chongqing is very similar to Southeast Asia. This climate will be very welcoming to talented people travelling to the city to work, as I believe the future of a nation’s economy depends on talent.
In terms of your research for the book, have you spoken to any Chinese governmental officials or noteworthy economists who have indicated that moving the capital is even something on the agenda?
I have actually put very little time into researching for the book. I have a very deep interest in Chinese history and philosophy and love to study the subject. My knowledge on the topic comes from leisure reading and discussing on the poker table.
What makes your book different from all the other books on China?
So far, I believe I am the only person to author a book to suggest that China should relocate the capital city away from Beijing, into central China.
I believe a lot of my ideas are unique, although the concept of moving capital has been discussed by many scholars. But so far, I believe I am the only one suggesting Chongqing as a location for the capital.BW
LEAVING BEIJING is available for purchase on Amazon here