World Bank president Robert Zoellick told a group of reporters in Beijing yesterday that, while China has plenty of money, what it lacks is is the expertise to deal with its problems.
He wasn't kidding.
The single largest constraint on the growth of companies in China is a lack of talent. China is lacking adequate pilots to fly its planes, managers to lead its enterprises, and out-of-the-box types to drive its innovative and creative industries.
What holds true at the micro level holds is but a reflection of a broader national problem. The long-term growth of the world's most populous nation is more threatened by its yawning talent gap than by any other single factor.
Long term, the answer is education. But in the near and medium term, China will have to rely on a growing force of imported talent to keep the economy expanding, particularly in the high-value-added industries it needs so badly to develop before the world's youngest nation becomes the world's oldest.