The Mandarin word for “crisis” is weiqi. But weiqi is actually two words – the first, “wei,” meaning disaster and the second, “qi,” meaning opportunity.
For thousands of years, the Chinese people have understood that disaster and opportunity come in the same package. Whenever a period of dramatic change is unfolding, the Chinese people recognise that change, in addition to potentially bringing disaster, also presents opportunity.
To the western mind, crisis is a negative condition only, and as people wish to escape negativity as quickly as possible, westerners tend to support whatever leaders promise to make the problem go away quickly.
Of course, what this really leads to is a society in which those leaders who are the most trusted will be those who promise the easiest solution, regardless of how unrealistic it may be. So we have a culture of people who support the papering-over of problems.
The catch is that, whilst we can get away with papering-over as a temporary fix, when systemic problems have developed, papering-over only puts off the inevitable, as well as ensuring that, when the problem is finally addressed, it will be far greater.
For decades, westerners, particularly in the US, have voted for those candidates who promise “Hope and Change” and “Make America Great Again.”
Of course, these are paper-thin slogans that do not in any way bear scrutiny. In them, there is not even a suggestion of an actual plan.
All that’s really being provided is a new face on the government, whilst the same people remain in charge behind the scenes.
Somehow, American voters seem to be more interested in the latest cardboard-cutout of a leader than in those who actually rule, and whether there is an actual plan.
But once the election party is over and all the bunting has been taken down, it would be hoped that the leaders would dedicate themselves to problem-solving.
However, in the West, this is rarely the case.
What we tend to see instead is endless posturing, which accompanies four years of continued papering-over.
Of course, this can’t continue forever. At some point, the flimsy structure topples and the crisis must be dealt with. We have recently entered one such crisis.
And so, in the West, we can count on the political class to do the one thing they know how to do: keep papering.
They will create far greater deficits, debt and entitlements, and on the other side of the leger, far greater taxation and, eventually, confiscation.
Until now, what we have been seeing is a fragile edifice that has been papered-over countless times and will soon collapse. Once the dust has settled on that collapse, we can expect the political class to busy themselves applying paper to the rubble that remains.
Historically, this is the way empires die.
And to be fair to the US, they are not the only structure that will topple.
The EU, UK, Canada and quite a few others that have, until now, been regarded as the First World have, over the last seventy-five years, thrown in their lot with the US.
They too have used the same philosophy as to crisis and will experience the same outcome.
So, is that it? The whole world will collapse?
Well, no, not at all. Historically, whenever one empire has hit the skids, there have always been others in the wings, ready to rise, and that is just as true today.
The political world abhors a vacuum, and whenever one country falls, there is always another ready to fill the gap.
And of course, westerners do fear the rise of China, which has achieved perhaps the greatest growth of any country in history. From impoverished nation to world leader in just a few decades.
But then, the Chinese do live by the principle that, in crisis, both disaster and opportunity are equally possible.
And in discussions with Chinese businesspeople, this is evident. Many are eager to get on with the crisis, as it means the opportunity to create new businesses, new markets and a whole new approach to prosperity.
But in focusing on China as the great threat to Western hegemony, westerners almost invariably fail to understand that weiqi is not solely a Chinese concept; it’s a guiding principle for Asians in general.
In Korea, the concept is called “gihoe” and in Japan, it’s “kikai.”
But the underlying principle is the same. And in one Asian country after another, we can see the effects of this perception of opportunity as an integral part of any crisis.
In each country in Asia, we can take a drive and see hundreds of large, completed apartment blocks, as yet unused. If we ask our Asian companions why this anomaly exists, they seem surprised. They explain that, over the next five to ten years, even these won’t be enough to house the many people who will be moving to the city to handle the increase in production that’s anticipated, as Asia takes over the supply of goods to other parts of the world.
Surely, westerners understand that such preparation is necessary if progress is to be swift?
Even those Asian locales that westerners tend to regard as war-torn casualties are in preparation mode. If we sit down for dinner with an industrialist in Viet Nam, he may talk of his present small portion of the market as perhaps being $100,000,000 per annum, but he is presently reinvesting his profits into expansion programmes so that, in the next decade, his company will cease to be such a small player.
Even the DMZ – the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a location that the West remembers as an impenetrable minefield - is presently being carpeted with countless pre-engineered steel warehouses – a free-trade zone in which the two Koreas can expand their respective prospects, in preparation for reunification in 2045.
It’s been said that the twenty-first century will be the Asian century, and that is quite so.
If we examine an IQ map of the world, we find that the Asian IQ tends to be higher than on any of the other continents.
Whilst we may not like to admit it, they have an intellectual edge, and more to the point, they are clearly using it. Whilst those in the West are seeing the wei – the disaster – Asians are also seeing the qi.
They understand that they are entering a period of great opportunity. And the future will be primarily theirs to command.