One of the most interesting aspects of any crisis is to observe how people react to it. How does the media report on it? How do politicians act? What does your company do? What are the actions of your business partners, competitors, and colleagues?
For me personally, it is most interesting to observe how friends and connections on social media react. When it’s not about business, but about personal opinions, character, and values.
Conspiracy theories on the rise
It’s hard not to notice the surging amount of conspiracy theories. Whether it’s a try to demonizing Bill Gates, or a push against China, the internet and social media are full of it. And while I wouldn’t expect anything else from Facebook (I stopped using Facebook almost 1,5 years ago), I am very surprised to see the same narratives even on a professional network such as LinkedIn.
Well, in the end, we are all just people. But let me tell you that as professionals who trust each other in business matters, it can really profoundly disturb a relationship knowing that the person I am dealing with is eager to spread misinformation, fake news, racism, and/or propaganda. In fact, this is a reason for me to seize doing business with such a person.
Controlling your emotions
As professionals and as investors, a major rule of thumb is to control our emotions. No matter what we personally think about something, throughout our careers we train to learn to follow data, to collect information from other people who are actual professionals in those fields, and then to draw conclusions based on the information we have at hand.
We can, of course, express our opinions, worries, or reasons which lead us to believe something to be otherwise. But this needs to be presented as such. And it’s needless to say that propaganda or racism is a non-negotiable and resounding no-go in any case.
So today, let me address a few points that I read about in recent days. This is to offer some additional perspective on the blame China receives:
- Wet markets. People are now eager to blame everything on the wet markets in China. Fair enough, according to the current data the virus came from there. But how certain are we that a similar outbreak could not occur in a wet market in Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia? And how about slaughterhouses in the USA, or mass animal farming and chicken breeding? How about the hygienic conditions across India? There are so many potential breeding grounds for a virus, it’s mindboggling.
My point here is that instead of generally blaming wet markets in China, we should rather try to identify general root issues and how to address those across the globe. But we can only do it in coordination and exchange with other nations. Our “artificial” borders matter nothing for a virus or any other natural disaster for that matter.
- China is lying to the world. It might be. Whether it’s deliberate lies or creative interpretations of facts and data, we know that we have to be very careful with any information that we receive. But instead of pointing fingers, the USA and Europe should use the tools at hand to push for more data, to evaluate it, and to coordinate a response. Amazingly enough, we do have a real tool and task force just for that: The World Health Organization, or WHO.
- The WHO is being controlled by the Chinese. There might be some influence. More, or less. We don’t know at this point. So we shouldn’t declare it as a fact and we shouldn’t reduce the funding to this organization just now. However, every participating and paying country has every right to analyze and evaluate an organization they pay money to.
But what would be the best way to evaluate the WHO? I would argue that it’s probably not by setting up investigative committees and withholding funding. Instead, it might be smarter to send our own trusted professionals to support the work. By actively engaging in discussions and exchange of information, by ensuring that resources and measures are being directed to where they are being needed, this approach would quickly debunk any conspiracy theories, it would eradicate the finger-pointing and blaming, and it would result in a globally coordinated effort. Unity. Something that is urgently needed to fight a pandemic.
- China will use the crisis to buy foreign companies. This idea is highly unlikely. First of all, China needs to do its own stimulus efforts to support the economy. Secondly, China needs to prepare itself for the upcoming economic disaster. What do I mean by that?
Chinas growth this year is estimated to be less than 2%. The last time it was that low was after the cultural revolution in 1977. And this is just the current estimation. The real impact of the crisis and what will follow after that is difficult to predict. But we are seeing first sentiments and actions from entities worldwide already taking shape. Companies from major economies around the globe start moving production facilities out of China or are planning to do so in the foreseeable future. China is being sued by several states in the US for damages. Diplomatic ties are strained. Hostile takeovers of companies in the US or in Europe during a pandemic would only risk an irreversible lost of trust and global backlash which I doubt the country can afford.
I am probably the last person to put China into a positive spotlight. After living and working there for a year I had really enough and I don’t see myself ever going back there. Vacations – maybe. But spreading conspiracy theories and racism based on some shady propaganda and without thinking the arguments through… we are better than that.