Spin to win
Cotton spinning has returned to Lancashire, England after 30 years – longer if you take the real date most spinning was lost to China. Why is it coming back? There are two reasons. First, the quality of Chinese spun cotton does not meet the stringent requirements of richer and more demanding clients for their shirts and dresses. Second, we are seeing the first signs of what some people are calling de-globalisation but what I call re-globalisation.
China is perfectly capable of producing high quality goods. To date its record is variable. Some products they set their sights on being high quality have been just that – but for only a short while. Lenovo computers is an example. After a while quality standards slip, probably because of profit pressure leading to cost reductions that affect the product’s performance.
Customers like Marks & Spencer and other established clothing companies want consistency, not good one day and poor the next. They also want flexibility, the opportunity for just-in-time orders and small runs as well as big lots. These are a nightmare in huge production units. Smaller producers can be more agile and respond better to odd calls.
If you listen to Mr Trump you’d think America was shutting its doors to goods from everywhere. That won’t happen, nor, hopefully, will Mr Trump, though we said that of Brexit. Look what happened then. But USA cannot afford to shut its boundaries to overseas products any more than the rest of the world can refuse to buy from them. For all that, the world is showing signs that globalisation has gone too fast, is not satisfying the extreme ambitions it gave rise to and is set for a re-structure, albeit perhaps a modest one.
The issue seems to be one of a country’s sovereign control. Europe is now the centre point of struggle to keep control of your own country while cooperating in a wider group for essentials like defence and many aspects of trade. We want to be part of a bigger market but we also want to be firmly in charge of our own affairs. We’ve gotten over “my country right or wrong” and are now into “my country right if right”.
How shall we balance national interests with international aspirations? First, we must allow our national institutions room to make flexible and alterable arrangements. The process of agreeing them is complicated and takes long enough to ensure we don’t keep changing them. The Continent will move this way as a result of Brexit. That will be good for Europe.
Second, each country must play to its strengths. As with people, countries are greedy and want everything. They cannot have that and, again, as with people, their weaknesses are the most difficult aspects of them to correct. We all underestimate our strengths, which is what we should concentrate on. Britain has had high quality as a strong suit for centuries and it still exists in the measured, common-sense approach to many aspects of life.
Third, new technology and a need for a complete review of security and defence demands attention to border control before it becomes, as one country calls it, Border Force. Border control is about sovereignty and the right to determine who can migrate to your country. It is wrong that just anyone should be able to pick the benefits out of a country to which they have not contributed. It is equally wrong to refuse asylum to the legitimately needy.
We should spin to win not just for ourselves but for everyone’s benefit.