I have a theory called “Economy of Impact.” Once one maximizes one’s impact through citizen intelligence distribution and social activism, the impact itself will become a strong platform to better not only the original social cause but also one’s own life. I learn this from my own citizen diplomacy activities. One year ago, I was a poor and struggling economics teacher earning $500 a month. I knew I’m talented in economics but no one else believed in me.
I see my economics knowledge as citizen intelligence since I’m an unknown economist and a powerless citizen. I always dream I could use my knowledge to make contribution to the betterment of the society one day. Then the news on Sino-American trade war started to be heard everywhere. I knew this trade war was going to cause millions of tragedies at the bottom of the social spectrum where I also reside and struggle. There are millions of Chinese Migrant workers whose families’ livelihood and children’s education depend on manufacturing industry that will be destroyed by a trade war.
I noticed a big trend in the western mainstream Media, which was blaming China’s trade and exchange rate policy for low employment and other economic problems in the US. Paul Krugman and Martin Wolf were all talking about how to fight a currency war with China.
The situation really worried me. The worst thing was there was not a single Chinese economist to present Chinese perspective on this urgent issue in the international financial media. It’s a conversation with only one side of the story. There’s little wonder that at that moment the consensus of China as the major culprit for the US’s trade deficit and unemployment was coming to a boiling point. If there’s only one side of the story in a conversation, the conversation will head toward a wrong direction, which serves no purposes of communication but confrontation. The conclusion based on that kind of conversation will be irrational and detrimental to both sides. So I decided to present the other side of the story myself. I know I’m literally Mr Nobody and no one will listen to me. However the urgency of the event weighed so heavy on me. I needed to fight for not just myself but also millions of struggling people who might lose their jobs in the trade war.
I logged onto the websites of the US Department of Commerce, Department of the Treasury and other government agencies, looking for the data and reports on the Sino-American trade and currency issues. I spent more than 20 sleepless nights to analysis them, which almost destroyed my health. However, in the end I came to some very powerful conclusions: 1st, Empirically speaking the US economy has problems not because of any single country’s currency exchange rate, but a chronic low saving rate; 2nd, growth in employment in the US mainly came from the production of capital goods and services which are mainly fed into China’s manufacturing industries. If China increases the Yuan exchange rate drastically, and the manufacturing industry is destroyed, the US employment will be hindered; 3rd, the world currency status of the dollar has caused a serious imbalance between wealth creation and job creation in the US. That imbalance could trigger a Greek-style debt crisis.
I emailed my report on the dire consequences of the US-China trade war to President Obama, Treasury Secretary, and Commerce Secretary.This is what I call citizen intelligence distribution:Grassroots academics are doing their bits to communicate with powerful decision makers for the common good. I also sent my article to Wall Street Journal. I knew my effort would possibly be discounted to zero because of my low social and academic standing. But I did give my all to impact something I will have no hope to impact. What happened was my article was published by Wall Street Journal, President Obama wrote back to me not just one but two letters, the mooted trade war didn’t happen and I became well-know enough in my country to be recognised as an economist. Such a small beer I am that many think what I did is unbelievable. My life was changed forever.
Don’t aim for economic gains for yourself but for others with your talent. Only then your talent will achieve maximum impact. If one achieves enough impact, one can achieve anything.
The happiest thing out of this for me is: back then I was barely making enough money to support myself in Beijing—one of the world’s most expensive cities. Now I can send home $1000 a month for my father to treat his diabetes without any self-suffering. It feels so good after I have been killing myself for so long over the guilt of being no help to my family.