Having been here so long, sometimes the scale and the speed are taken for granted, not noticed in the day-to-day. But once in a while, China jumps out and smacks a surprise into the face of all, even us. Last week in Shanghai was just such a moment.
It’s not Shanghai that surprises so much, but the sight of China’s Industrial Swarm that startles. Much is written in the West of China’s trade and industrial policies, but nothing that I have seen accurately describes the scale, speed and nature of what happens. The conception seems to be that there is some small group of autocrats that make a policy and send out the orders and that the country marches to their tune. There are industrial policies, and they are made in China’s own view of what is best for China. But that is not how it works. How it really works, and what it means is what I’m going to try to describe below. Now China does use other policy sets, frequently, but the Swarm is special and deserves to be segmented out for description.