Go Local: The Asian Invasion

Let’s look at the impact on local communities, or what I call the Asian Invasion.

I talk about the rise of the Asian consumer as though it is something happening in Asia. But it’s not just happening in Asia. Asians are on the move. Wealthy Asians have now made a tremendous amount of money on the development of their countries and region. They are traveling, living, and investing around the world. Wherever you go, you see and feel it. It literally is an Asian invasion.

Overseas Chinese are now over 50 million people globally. Throughout the developed world, the Indian diaspora is 31 million people. In 1960, the vast majority of immigrants to the United States came from Europe and Canada. By 2000, the largest source of immigrants was Mexico. As of 2015, the largest single source of immigrants to the U.S. was South and East Asia.

Earlier this year when I was in Silicon Valley, I estimated that there were 10%-15% more Asians on the roads and in the stores and restaurants than I had seen a year before in the same areas around Stanford University. I expect that the repatriation of manufacturing and capital is also going to come with a significant immigration of engineering and IT talent from Asia.

Read Guanxi (The Art of Relationships): Microsoft, China, and Bill Gates’s Plan to Win the Road Ahead by Robert Buderi and Gregory T. Huang. It describes Bill Gates’s creation of the equivalent of Microsoft’s “Bell Labs” in China. Microsoft’s investment in China was not to get cheap labor. Gates wanted a large pool of high-IQ labor. If shifting globalization means that Microsoft and Silicon Valley must shift significant operations back to the United States, expect that shift to come with significant immigration of this talent from Asia. That talent will also move into the heartland as insourcing proceeds. Look for explosive growth in Asian immigration of the high-IQ kind.

I just got an email from a subscriber who is a long-time resident of San Francisco:

We have a steady influx of new arrivals from China and Russia. I read that money laundering has greatly contributed to the steady increase of property values. My insurance agent told me recently that he hasn’t written a new policy for anyone who isn’t mainland Chinese in over two years. From what I’ve been told by someone who works in the San Francisco Welfare office, they all immediately sign up—usually on the day of their arrival. This has also changed the nature of our neighborhoods.

Yes, this is not a politically correct observation, but most of the new arrivals are not warm and friendly; most look right through you and seldom respond to a neighborly greeting. English, that is a foreign language. Assimilation isn’t on their radar. How many neighbors have told me recently that they feel like they are living in a foreign country? More than I can count.

You hear this when you talk to people at colleges and universities. I remember several years ago, being invited to have lunch with a professor from a large state university. He asked me to drop by, and then in very hushed tones he explained how all of the positions, scholarships, and teaching fellowships in the engineering school, in information technology and computer science, and in many of the technical graduate areas in the state university financed by state taxpayers were all being reserved for Asian students—from India, China, Korea, and Taiwan.

He was sure it was a systematic plan and program. He was shocked and literally worried for his own safety as he briefed me about this. State citizens were paying, but their kids had no chance of getting any of the scholarships or positions.

Right now, the United States has one million foreign students. China, which is a big source of foreign students, brings in more than it ships out. It exports about 300,000 Chinese students and has almost 500,000 foreign students coming in. All throughout the G7 nations, you see significant Asian populations in the colleges and the universities. Their focus is primarily business and management, engineering, mathematics, computer sciences, medicine and medical research, science, and technology.

Let me give you other examples of the Asian invasion.

    • In Sydney, prices in the real estate market continue to rise, pricing out the locals. Ditto in Vancouver and Toronto.

    • In Los Angeles, the real-estate-related businesses have revised all of their offerings to serve the Chinese buyers—whether it’s home renovation or furniture.

    • In New Zealand, the Indians are moving in next-door, changing the look and feel of the neighborhood and attracting a very different crowd in their businesses.

    • In Connecticut, the real estate brokers are learning Mandarin and catering entirely to foreign investors. The President’s grandchildren are learning Mandarin.

I’ll never forget being on a Swiss train in 2015, going to the top of the Alps. I was with one travel companion. Also in our train car were four very young Chinese people who were clearly from wealthy families. They had the latest smartphones, the latest ski clothes, and were quite enamored with taking pictures of the mountain and chattering away in Mandarin.

Also in the car was a Swiss couple in their 70s. They were agitated by the four young Chinese speaking Mandarin and making so much noise. You could tell that they felt overwhelmed by a language that they did not understand despite the fact that many Swiss speak or understand several different languages.

I observe the Asian invasion whenever I stand in the passport and customs lines coming into North America, Europe, or Asia. There are usually long lines of Asian tour groups bringing in Chinese, Indians, South Koreans, or some Taiwanese. When you look at these groups, you can see on their faces two things. First, how hard they have had to work. Think about the poverty that China has overcome during the last 30 years, and the number of people who have come out of poverty by working very, very hard. Second, you see that they are very proud of what they have accomplished. When you consider where they’ve come from, they have a lot to be confident about. That is one of the reasons I recommend watching Red Obsession. It shows you the power of this confidence in a compelling way.

Everywhere I go I feel the local impact of the Asian invasion. One of the things that most amazed me about researching this phenomenon is that throughout the world you hear media and discussion about the “poor immigrants”—the “poor immigrants coming into Europe” or the “poor immigrants coming across the Mexican border.” I never hear open discussion about the wealthy immigrants. Yet when I talk with people quietly one-on-one, that is most often what has had the most impact on them. That is what has them the most upset. That is what makes them feel the most threatened. With some exceptions, the Asian invasion is what challenges their sense of safety the most.

It’s almost as though the “poor immigrants” are a media air cover to allow this movement of the high-IQ professional and the wealthy in a way that almost goes unnoticed or unspoken. It’s as though one is the steam valve for the other.

Oligarchs are reordering their world. They need to move the wealthy and the high-IQ folks and do it without a political backlash that might stop it.

Unfortunately, that may even mean burning 1,000,000 acres of California land to make room for the related businesses and families.

Beware of the media game that focuses on “poor immigrants” and deflects attention away from the wealthier immigrants who may be having the greatest impact on the feelings associated with self, place, and community for yourself and those around you.

Next Chapter: Wildcards & Unanswered Questions