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Former Prime Minister Sir John Key has made it clear he doesn’t share US President Donald Trump’s view on protectionism.
In a podcast released this week, Key warned against politicians creating “odd barriers” between countries and called for acceptance of a globalised world.
“There’s the theory that went around the world, Donald Trump says it every day of the week, that China steals intellectual property,” Key says.
“Well, maybe some Chinese entities once did, but that’s a bit like saying Russian entities do it, North Korea entities do it. You could name any country in the world. You could even say New Zealand companies were doing that.”
Key argues this simply isn’t accurate and points to the moves being made by Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
“China is actually creatinga huge amount of intellectual property,” argues Key.
“Look at what someone like Sequoia, one of the most dominant and most successful VCs in Silicon Valley, they have huge resources in China and Israel. And the reason is because there are so many amazing companies coming out of China.
“If you look at the big tech companies out there, whether it’s Alibaba or Tencent, their systems are amazing. They learnt digital payment systems before a lot of other companies have.
“At your peril, you underestimate them, actually.”
Key is in favour of Silicon Valley’s approach of basing business ideas on the quality of the thinking rather than where that thinking might come from.
“[Silicon Valley] is a place that’s completely unbiased,” he says.
“It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, what gender you are, what sexuality you are. All they care about is results. If you’ve got the product that works, they’ll love you and buy you. And I kind of like that. I think that’s really cool. That’s what the world’s got to be about: show me the solution and someone will pay for it.”
Key’s comments were made during a podcast with Jamie Beaton, the founder of private tutoring company Crimson Consulting, who recently launched an online high school called Crimson Global Academy that aims to connect students with top teachers around the world.
The former Prime Minister has held a small stake in the business since November last year, when he joined the Crimson board.
In the wide-ranging interview, Key goes on to point out that an acceptance of globalisation also opens the doors to more opportunities.
“Despite the odd barriers you see some politicians try to put up at the moment, the genie’s out the bottle,” he says.
“If you accept the world as globalised, then you wouldn’t want to be siloed to the country that you come from. If you look at New Zealand for example, that’s a consumer base of five million people. China is producing that number of middle-income consumers within the next year.”
Key also sees the increasingly globalised world as having a direct impact on the individual worker’s career trajectory.
“We live in a very different world now. In the generation before me, you’d work for one company. You worked for the post office for 40 years, you retired and you got the gold watch.
“In my generation, you maybe worked for two or three companies.
“But now you could be bouncing around all over the show. That used to be a sign of instability, but now it’s a sign of experience.”
Elaborating further on the topic of globalisation, Key advises against employing self-imposed limitations that serve to disconnect New Zealanders from the rest of the world.
“If you think globally and you think big, then there’s every chance you’ll achieve that,” he says.
“People are generally limited not by the environment they live in, but by their imagination half the time.”
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