We Should Thank God For The Communists

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Mar 18, 2024 - 02:10 PM

By Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management

Thank God:

“Value investors think China is cheap, at some point it’ll turn,” said the CIO, decades spent in HK, investing globally, Asia focused. “Perhaps they’re right,” he said, a light shrug. “But markets require capitalism, and capitalism requires rule of law.” China is one of the most important wildcards to track to understand the global economy, markets, geopolitics. “Confucius believed in rule by law, with the word of a wise, moral, ethical leader being law. Mencius (Confucianism’s 2nd sage) agreed about morals and ethics but argued for rule of law.”

“Xi Jinping believes in rule by law; what he says is law,” continued the CIO. “Now that Xi has shown his hand as he tightens his grip on the Party, economy, markets, what could he possibly say going forward that would entice any thinking person to take real risk?” he asked. “For the first time in my career, the Hong Kong tycoons have accepted that it’s over,” he said. “They feel the US has it in for them, and they see China as un-investable now,” he said. “Their grandparents fled the mainland in ’49 and taught them to never trust the Communists.

“The Party hired Xi in 2012 to clean up the mess of successive governments,” said the same CIO. “Rampant corruption of Party members, excessive dependency on property and fixed asset investment, environmental degradation, wealth inequality.” Existential threats to the Communist Party. “Xi looked at this rot and took it apart. It was his chance to introduce rule of law. Had he done so, he would have created a China that could have overtaken the US. But just like in 1949 he caused China’s talent to flee. We should thank God for the Communists.”

“Xi saw the experiment with openness and wealth accumulation as dangerous to Party control,” he said. “He will subordinate everything to enhance state power in his quest to displace America as the world’s rule setter,” he said. “He’s telling you precisely what he’s going to do. Eat bitterness. And each day the surveillance state grows stronger.” AI will make it more so. “What we see as economic sickness, Xi sees a price worth paying, because at the other side of this challenge is China’s rightful place at the head of the table. That’s his objective.”

“Xi believes he can allocate capital to build China top down,” said the CIO. “He thinks he can create Nvidia by decree. But Jensen Huang’s grandparents fled China’s Communists in 1949. Jensen had a vision that accelerated compute would be the future. He suffered multiple failures, made numerous acquisitions over decades, took enormous risks.” 30yr overnight success. “TSMC likewise realized it needed to shrink the geometry to make it happen. ASML knew it needed to go beyond the current understanding of the physics of etching.”

“TSMC’s gross cash flows that they can invest back in capital expenditure eclipses the entire market cap of China’s semiconductor industry,” he said. “Taiwan has an ecosystem with engineers and suppliers who have worked together and know how to talk to each other and make things happen.” No way China catches up. Nor does Intel. “And Sam Altman wants trillions to build data centers and buy chips. Google wants the same.” Microsoft too. “They’re signaling that this is where the future value lies.”

“We’re entering a world where the value is in hard tech,” said the CIO. “Where doing important things are very difficult and capital intensive.” We have left a world of capital light opportunity - the software era is ending with the arrival of AI. “Google was built with $100mm and 1000 people. It’s the greatest business on earth,” he said. “Compare those two inputs to what Jensen had to build, it’s drastically different. And this will be more the norm for the people who build tremendous value. More dollars spent, more people, more risk, more time.”


“China’s inward turn will still allow for years of 2-4% growth,” said the CIO from HK. “Each year the Party will forecast better times ahead. They’ll say we’re weaning ourselves off bad habits.” Perpetual propaganda. “What’s interesting is that countries across Asia are now waking up to this problem and becoming more dynamic,” he said.

“Having tried everything else for 35yrs of stagnation, Japan appears willing to try capitalism. It has countless tech companies with small global market share.” Consolidation will create real global competitors. “Tokyo realizes that if you want a defense industry you must pay for it. It’s expensive and requires hard tech.” The Europeans are realizing this too.

“Seoul has too much dependence on China. And with Kim up north and US global engagement increasingly uncertain, they’re copying Japan and trying to increase corporate valuations.” Dynamic economies fund stronger militaries.

“Indonesia has been a non-aligned country and now it wants to join the OECD,” he said. “China joined the WTO at the tail end of the Asian financial crisis,” he said.  “Chinese people don’t need to be told how to make money, they sense profit, and go. The WTO was this gigantic green light to stopped cars at the red light.  And they said this is it. If I want to make real money, I need to bet the farm. I’m going to build a big factory because now I can sell everything to everyone in America without a tariff.” Those who raced got rich.

“In India, historically, entrepreneurs didn’t know what would happen when the government changed, so they built one small factory to ensure they didn’t have overcapacity,” he said. “India never scaled. But now you have a stable government with a consistent set of policies,” he said. “Ambani and Adani, they’re in a league all their own. But the next 50 people down the rankings have a chance and they’re going to go for it. These two guys can’t do everything. And the government needs aggressive risk takers to build the country. If you want to be Vanderbilt or Rockefeller this is your moment.”