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We need to clarify one thing from the outset. By and large and despite the seemingly learned discourse of establishment economics/economists, a firm is only as competitive as the country in which it operates/originates. Anything else is just hullabaloo/hot air! The opening up of China’s eastern regions to the workings of global market brought a lot of benefits to various companies as well as to the country at large. If the Chinese leadership had implemented the same policy in Western China the results wouldn’t have been so impressive. China’s globally competitive firms operate, almost without exception, from its eastern seaboard. This is not without a reason. Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, etc, etc are all on the main global trading routes of the main trading seas! It is hardly possible to have a Toyota Inc. emerge in places like Timbuktu. Unfortunately by talking/listening to the learned, the obvious becomes oblivious. These learned of the establishment will pontificate, parroting the master deceivers-the global banking cabal; ‘if the private sector is given enough finance and free reign, Timbuktu will become Tianjin in no time.’ Time for a reality check!
All the three hegemons (empires) of the modern world system (the global political economy since 1492) were essentially naval economies, hence naval powers. These empires were; the United Provinces (@1600-1800, Dutch), the British (@1750-1945) and the USA, the reigning hegemon. The system of accumulation based on manufacturing (unlike the Dutch-trading) had its humble beginning in an island country that currently goes by the name the United Kingdom. The global craft-production processes that were artisans based and powered by human/animal muscle gradually gave way to a system of production based on external power sources, initially steam, but later fossil fuel, hydroelectric, etc. This rational process of production led to a level of accumulation unheard/unseen in the history of humanity, outside of outright embezzlements (results of conquests, etc.) Naturally, a country/region with such high level of accumulation will ultimately end up dominating all aspects of global coexistence.
‘The sun never sets on the British Empire’ was not unsubstantiated brag. Just like the empires before it the British Empire’s all round competitiveness declined and was soon replaced by the USA, a more populous and continent sized country with immense resources. This manufacturing juggernaut became the new hegemon of the modern world system. The only country that could have potentially displaced it (by becoming an even more efficient accumulator, based on its massive human/natural resources, potentially new social arrangements) imploded as it tried to force ahistorical societal processes on a good portion of humanity (Stalinism vs. Trotskyism)! Of course here we are talking about the former giant, the USSR (United Soviets Socialist Republic.) Be that as it may, the modern world system (resource wasting, environment polluting, belligerent, non-egalitarian, undemocratic, etc.,) is now unraveling fast. Soon there will emerge another world system, whether the new one will be better or worse, is not for us to foretell!
About half a century ago, Japan in its own wisdom rearranged global manufacturing by facilitating cheap/easy/efficient transport systems to enable it access global raw material from all over and ship out its massive products all over. It is the Japanese that introduced the likes of the supertankers. Today, besides the BRICS we also have Korea, Taiwan, etc., vying for all sorts of market shares in the global manufacturing business. China seems to be in the lead in this department, mostly because of its massive workforce, (hence large domestic market) and a more pro-people policy than previous major accumulators. However, holding on to the helm of manufacturing is a very arduous task. Just ask the Americans, the Japanese, etc! That is why all previous hegemons tried to preserve their acquired capital (some of it criminally) by moving it towards the sphere of rent, mostly in the domain of finance. Today, almost all global economic activities, including manufacturing, is being propped up from the back by the silent predator-finance.
Just like the previous hegemons in their twilights, the current one is in a downward shift, characterized by a move towards financialization and away from innovative/diverse manufacturing. Even its built-in financial might (global reserve currency) is being abused by its entrenched interests, who reside in the make believe world of phony money, crony capitalism and all sorts of manipulative schema. Again akin to previous empires, the US military strength will outlive its economic prowess, which of course is a grave concern to all humanity. Unlike before, the self-obsessed animal with a very limited foresight, (Homo sapiens) today has access to ‘God’s Fire’ (nuclear energy) and so far it has proved utterly incompetent in handling it.
To put the long story short, the challenge of manufacturing isn’t a topic that should be left to glib talkers of the development economics genre or pedestrian commentators or connected businesses, etc. Ethiopia’s finance motivated/initiated (not entrepreneurship) infant/uncompetitive manufacturing industry needs serious and honest reappraisal (by neutral parties, not entrenched interests) if it is to survive, let alone flourish! One thing must be clear; without the broader manufacturing industry, there is no industrialization (for whatever it is worth). Hence we repeat, the challenge of the manufacturing industry is strictly adult material not to be tampered by half baked intellectuals or other imbeciles. If the Korean experience is anything to go by, we probably don’t need economists in our planning boards. The architect of South Korea’s industrialization, the Economic Planning Board, was not open to economists for the first eighteen years and probably for good reason. It was initially manned only by mathematicians, scientists, engineers, statisticians, etc., without a single economist amongst them! Maybe there is a lesson for us here! Here is another lesson worth remembering: “When everybody is thinking the same way/thing, then nobody is thinking.” Good Day!