Jim Rogers. Photo: Courtesy of Jim Rogers
At a forum held by China's Quantum University in Hangzhou - a platform for spreading knowledge to entrepreneurs, legendary investor Jim Rogers (R) shared his insight on global uncertainties and ties between the US and China with Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wei in an exclusive interview on February 17.
GT: The world seems to be entering an era of uncertainty. What suggestions would you give Chinese investors in dealing with the unknown?
R: There's always a way and it's always unknown. Pick any year in history. Ten, 15 years later, everything we thought has changed. Everything people had thought in 1900 was false by 1915, it's always changing. Whatever you think now is not true because it's going to change. What you have to do is to figure out how it's going to change and that's how you find opportunities.
GT: While there have been warm responses to the Belt and Road initiative, some people have voiced that China is looking for new markets to dissolve its excess industrial capacity. What's your opinion on this?
R: It's not often that geography changes. Both the Spanish and Portuguese changed geography when they started sailing around the world. The railroad changed geography, and everything we knew changed dramatically. This is a very historic time in world history because China is now changing geography. Again, the Belt and Road initiative is perhaps the most exciting thing happening so far in the 21st century. It changes everything we know. Some people are going to become extremely rich because of changes from the Belt and Road initiative, and some people will go bankrupt because their whole life is going to disappear as geography and transportation changes. This is very exciting for the world.
GT: What's your secret to getting rich?
R: Get out a map, and see where the railroads and shipping lines are going to be… people and companies that are on the new railroads and new shipping routes will become rich.
GT: You've mentioned that Trump "very much wants a trade war." Since the leaders of China and the US have had a phone call, what message do you think this sends to the world?
R: Mr Trump said before that he promised on his first day that he would have a 45 percent tariff on China, well, he didn't. It's been more than four weeks now, so there's no trade war yet. But he did have that conversation, which sounds like maybe he's trying to be more understanding of how the world works. Trade wars have always been a disaster for everybody, and nobody ever wants a trade war. I hope somebody has explained to Mr Trump so that maybe he is calming down. Trade wars will not be good for anybody. The US cannot win, China cannot win.
GT: So do you think Donald Trump may be bluffing?
R: Mr Trump probably says he's bluffing, some people might say he doesn't know what he's talking about. So maybe Mr Trump just doesn't know.
GT: If a trade war happens who will suffer more?
R: I repeat, no one ever wants a trade war, no one will benefit, and no one will come out ahead. That's the kind of talk which leads to a trade war and real wars, too, by the way. People say "don't worry, we will win." But they will suffer more. America has a lot to suffer. The whole American agriculture industry will suffer dramatically if there's a trade war. Many industries of America will suffer very badly.
GT: If there is a trade war, what's the best strategy China can adopt?
R: If there's a trade war, it will lead to economic problems and some bankruptcies so as to avoid debt. If there's a trade war, people in China should only be involved with things that will not be affected, like pollution clean-up. For people who clean up China, it won't matter if there's a trade war. But for most of us, it will matter a great deal.
GT: Financial deregulation is expected in the US. What's your opinion on Trump's move toward financial relief and what will be the impact on China?
R: Mr Trump certainly is going to remove some of the regulations. The Dodd-Frank Act is about finance, that's going to change a lot. That doesn't have that much effect on China. China, by the way, is also trying to develop and invigorate its financial industry and will have a huge financial industry again.
Before World War II, Shanghai was the largest financial center between New York and London, it will be again and people in the government in China are doing everything they can to develop and encourage its financial industry again. It's going to be very exciting. I'm not optimistic about finance in most parts of the world, but I am very optimistic about the finance industry in China.
There will obviously be some problems along the way, but it has the best future of any country in the world.
GT: The Chinese population is aging increasingly. What do you think of people's concern over their future?
R: What I suggest you do is to watch Japan and Singapore where the populations in these places are aging faster than in China, so you will see what to do and how to become rich.
GT: So people could choose to invest in the area?
R: Of course. It's going to be a big business because China is aging and other countries are aging worse. The Chinese word "wei ji," means crises and opportunities at the same time. We don't have the word in English, but China has been around for thousands of years, so you know when there is a crisis, there's an opportunity.
GT: What are the major differences between Chinese entrepreneurs and US entrepreneurs?
R: There's no difference between Chinese and US entrepreneurs, except that some speak Chinese, some speak English, some have black hair and some don't. Other than that, entrepreneurs all over the world throughout history have been the same.
They are people who are dedicated, focused, doing what they love and doing what they think is going to be right, and how they see they can change things for the future.
GT: If there is a possibility that Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba was able to compete with Donald Trump in a presidential election, who would you support?
R: I don't think Mr. Ma is allowed to run for president in the US; you have to be an American citizen. Nor do I think Mr Trump is allowed to run here. But of course I will support Jack Ma. He is much smarter than Mr Trump.
GT: If you have an opportunity to raise a question to Chinese Premier, what would that be?
R: I have only one question: What are the areas you will emphasize? That's all I need to know.