If you live in the Western world, you tend to associate the rise of consumer markets with homes and cars. In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, consumerism involves building larger homes filled with beautiful stuff and driving a big car that commutes to work and back.
The rise of the Asian consumer is going to be more urban, less suburban, with smaller square footages per person and per household, with attention focused on products that take up little space. Education and entertainment are two of them. That is one reason to watch the competition between Hollywood, Bollywood (the Indian equivalent of Hollywood), and the Chinese movie-making market.
One thing that you see in the Asian consumer, of course, is that women do most of the shopping. It’s one of the same reasons why you see such an enormous push in the West for promoting women. If you look at the economics, if you look at the U.S. consumer plus women worldwide, the combination is bigger than the population of China.
U.S. corporations have played this game locally for many decades. The pitch was to come into a local market designed to pick off the women and minorities: “Oh, you can trust us. Don’t listen to the local guys.”
Pitching women is going to be important for business, and it’s one of the reasons you will hear the emphasis on promoting women.
The self-driving car is going to become a reality. The economics and environmental impact of creating cars and roads for this many people will drive urban living and car sharing.
Asians will travel. They are traveling now. Wherever I go around the world, when I get into the customs line, it’s amazing how many Chinese, Indian, or Asian tour groups there are.
Finally, you are going to see that growing consumer markets will generate growing service sectors. Lawyers, CPAs, and all of the different service sectors are going to grow.
How does this relate to the trillions of dollars that the Chinese and other countries are holding in U.S. debt and securities? The reality is that their manufacturing infrastructure has been financed by buying U.S. Treasury securities that finance the U.S. handing out government jobs and contracts, food stamps, welfare benefits, or disability checks, that finance American consumers going to Walmart to buy Chinese goods.
In one of the documentaries listed in the bibliography—I think it was Death by China — the author points out that if Walmart were a country, Walmart would be China’s 10th-largest trading partner.
The question is, As Asia develops its own consumer markets, what is going to happen to all of the dollars that they are holding in U.S. debt, securities, and Treasuries? That ownership is something to pressure our interest rates. As you can see, the market is raising the interest rates on our securities, and the Fed is following. There absolutely is a connection.