When it comes to state visits the devil is in the detail. It’s the nuances of the arrangements that allow you to calibrate just how important a relationship is. That’s why the world has been watching the visit of the Chinese President Hu Jintao with such attention. The state dinner at the White House – described as an “intimate” event – apparently signifies that Washington rates China as pretty much the most important nation, economically, on earth. But the visit has also prompted much speculation in the press about how long the Chinese economic miracle can last and whether it is about to come to a juddering halt. Jim Rogers, the legendary investor who co-founded the Quantum Fund with George Soros, has moved his family to Singapore and is making sure his two young daughters can speak Mandarin. He spoke to the Business Daily’s Justin Rowlatt.
Transcript is below
Jim Rogers: The largest creditor nations in the world are in Asia now: China, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong. This is where the assets are. You know who the debtors are and where they are.
Justin Rowlatt: But listen, I mean the Chinese economy is still way behind the American economy is and it is about the third the size of the American economy.
Jim Rogers: Yes, of course. They had a disaster for 300 years, but about 30 years ago, they woke up, they changed their minds and they said we got to try something new. They unleashed entrepreneurship and capitalism again, and they have been astonishing for 30 years. It takes a while to go from a disaster to rival the Americans, but they are on their way.
Justin Rowlatt: Do you really believe the Chinese boom can continue, because lots of people are saying there are all sorts of asset price bubbles that are going to trip the Chinese up in the coming years?
Jim Rogers: Well, the only asset bubble I see potentially in China is in urban coastal real estate, but real estate is not nearly the entire Chinese economy as it was in America and the U.K. Sure, they will have setbacks.
Justin, in the 19th Century, America had a horrible civil war. We had 15 depressions with a ‘D.’ We had very few human rights. We had massacres in the streets regularly. We had very little rule of law. You could buy and sell – you can still buy and sell congressmen in America, but in those days they were cheap. America had horrible problems, but they came out of that and had a pretty good 20th Century.
Justin Rowlatt: So what does that imply about where people should put their money; where are the sensible investments in Asia?
Jim Rogers: Well, the best way to invest in Asia in my view is to buy commodities, because the Chinese have to buy cotton, they have to buy zinc, they have to buy oil, they have to buy natural resources because they don’t have enough.
If you want to invest in China and you own cotton, they are going to be very nice to you Justin. They are going to pay the bills, they are going to take you to dinner, they are going to pay you on time. If you want to invest in stocks, you have to do a lot of homework and know what you are doing. Another way is to invest in the currency. I own the renminbi. I expect the renminbi to go up a great deal over the next decade.
Justin Rowlatt: But commodities are already at relatively high prices, aren’t they? I mean hasn’t that horse bolted already?
Jim Rogers: No, no, the only commodity I know which is making an all time high is gold. Some commodities are up, yes. Sugar is up a lot, but Justin, sugar is still 50% below its all time high. How can you say that’s bolted? Silver is going up, but silver is 40% below its all time high. Yes, commodities have been going up recently, but they are still extremely depressed on a historic basis.
Justin Rowlatt: So what about oil? I mean oil prices are pretty high, aren’t they? Almost $100 a barrel. Are they really going to go higher do you think?
Jim Rogers: Well, the surprise is going to be how high the price of oil stays and how high it goes, because Justin we have had no major elephant oil discoveries in over 40 years. The International Energy Agency is going around the world pleading with people to listen. Known reserves of oil are declining. It is not good news. Unless somebody discovers a lot of oil very quickly, prices are going to go much higher over the next decade.
Justin Rowlatt: How high do you think the oil price could go then?
Jim Rogers: Justin, the price of oil is going to make new highs. It will go over $150 a barrel. It will probably go over $200 a barrel.
Justin Rowlatt: Over $200 a barrel? I mean that’s a world record high, isn’t it?
Jim Rogers: Of course it is, but Justin, the world is running out of known reserves of oil. Maybe there is a lot of oil in the world, but if there is, we don’t know where it is or how to get to it.
Justin Rowlatt: You got the pre-salt deposits off the coast of Brazil, there is Arctic oil, I mean there are big reserves of oil yet to be tapped, aren’t there?
Jim Rogers: Justin, those reserves off the coast of Brazil are wonderful if you own them, but even the wildest and most optimistic estimates would only add one year’s reserves to the world. The world is using 86 million barrels of oil everyday Justin. Even if it stays static or goes down a little bit, those finds off Brazil will make somebody rich, but they are not going to solve the world’s problems. And, if you know of a lot of oil in the Arctic, please tell us where it is, but it is going to be very difficult to get it out of there.
Justin Rowlatt: What other things should people be looking out for do you think Jim?
Jim Rogers: Well, there are many parts of the world economy which are going to do well no matter what happens. Chinese agriculture is going to boom because Mao Zedong ruined agriculture in China and now they are spending huge amounts of money trying to solve the problem.
Water is going to be a great growth industry, because India has a huge water problem, China does, America does. Many places have big water problems, so huge fortunes will be made in water in the future.
Chinese tourism is going to boom. They have not been able to travel for about 300 years. Now they can get passports easily. They can take money out of the country. And Justin, there are 1 billion 300 million of them. They want to see their own country and they want to see the world. It is going to be a great growth industry.
Justin Rowlatt: You said that obviously there are going to be issues for water for countries like China and India in the future. How would you make money out of the kind of water demand that there is in many developing countries?
Jim Rogers: Well Justin, countries can survive civil war, epidemics, all sorts of things, but one thing the countries cannot survive is that they run out of water. China has a terrible water problem in the north as does India, which has an even worse problem. So if you can figure out a way to transport it, pump it, clean it, whatever you got to do, you will make a lot of money in water.
I would not suggest you own water, because if you own water, when things get really bad, the politicians will sneer and say, “You filthy horrible capitalist, you are making money off people’s God given right to water.” And if you are lucky, they will hang you in the city square. But if you can solve the water problems, they will build a monument to you in the city square and you will be extremely rich.