May 28, 2023

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Robin Zeng, the most powerful capitalist in the world –

forget that Elon Musk. The most important man in world capitalism is Yu Kun Zeng, Robin Zeng for Western Friends. He will make a difference in our lives, but little is known about him. He is 55 years old, officially residing in Hong Kong, holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and holds a Assets estimated between thirty and forty billion dollars (37 in the world) He is the founder, CEO and major shareholder of Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (Catl). His company controls More than a third of the electric battery market in the world It is the main supplier of such giants of capitalism of the twentieth century as Ford or BMW and heroes of the twenty-first century such as Tesla.

The Chinese car boom is leaving Italy behind

All this is very important. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Last year, global spending on the purchase of electric vehicles amounted to nearly $500 billion. This was a 50% increase compared to 2021. This year certainly could see even more growth. While in Italy we play around dreaming of biofuels, in the last months of 2022 the share of registered battery-electric vehicles in Europe (not to mention hybrids) has overtaken those powered by diesel. The latter was the dominant technology until a few years ago and is one of the leaders in the European industry able to take over 53% of the car market in 2014. Today’s diesel has been decimated by scandals of Volkswagen falsifying emissions tests To hide the obsolescence of its model in facing climate challenges. Related cars Lithium battery Today they account for the majority of models sold in Europe, but Europe is not a thing: Half of the approximately thirty million examples in circulation today are found in China. Whatever the European directives say, in a few years new petrol- or diesel-only cars will be a rarity.

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We are facing a revolution not only in the technological or industrial paradigm. It also capitalizes on the trade flows of Europe (including Italy) and questions our fate as an advanced society: without even researching what it represents. He produced cars for Italy in the 20th century, just consider that this sector is directly worth more than a tenth of all European industry. In addition, of course, to all related activities.

However we are about to become addicted to the mysterious and wonderful Robin Zing. An entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in physics, whose Chinese name only appears on the web when searching for patent references. A man who founded the first lithium battery company at a very young age, He sold it to a Japanese multinational electronics companyand then launched a spin-off, which is today the world champion of technology at the moment.

Now take a closer look at the implications in the chart above (by Mercer). Shows trade flows in car sales between China and the European Union in the past few years. In the past, Europe had a huge surplus, selling cars for five or six billion euros a quarter to the Chinese (including Italian components for German cars) and importing almost nothing. Today Europe is still profitable, but China exports battery electric cars to the EU at about ten times the opposite direction’s value. We are clearly running a trade deficit due to new technology gaining ground in a sector once dominated by Europe. We remain in excess only in the decline of technologies. Meanwhile – notes Brad Setser of the Council on Foreign Relations – China has gone from exporting cars to the world for $15 billion quarterly in 2021 to exporting $70 billion today.

As for us – Italians and Europeans – We are so late that we don’t even understand what is happening around. It’s not just that six of the top ten electric battery manufacturers are Chinese, three are South Korean and one is Japanese. Even more important is the way they move around in Europe. In the past few years, four of these producers have announced more than €11 billion in “greenfield” investments (meaning, factories out of nothing) in just one EU country: illiberal, pro-Russian, and penetrable to China Hungary. despot Victor Orban. From this system we see despotism, collusion with the Kremlin, kleptocracy. Chinese and Korean investors ease of doing business and laws and thus almost slavery labor costs, strong tax cuts and no political risk for companies owned by public banks in Beijing. like Orban is working to make Hungary a center for electric batteries in Europe, which large groups such as Volkswagen, BMW or Daimler will rely on. Needless to say, the investments are guided by the 7.3 billion project by Catl from Robin Zang, and he too. In three or four years, Orbán’s corrupt and opaque Hungary has attracted more technological investment from abroad than Italy has in its history. We can deplore many of Budapest’s authoritarian methods of government – and rightly so – BUT The Italian ruling classes have not been frank in reading the great technological transformations of this century. The relevant skills will be pooled in Hungary, not in Italy.

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Now look at the second chart above. It ranks the top twenty in the Economic Complexity Index. Developed by César Hidalgo (MIT) and Ricardo Hausmann (Harvard), this index summarizes each country’s productive capacity based on the knowledge its population has accumulated compared to that of other countries. Italy slipped from 13th place in 2001, to 17th in 2011, to 19th in 2021. It was recently overtaken by Hungary, as well as Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. But in fact, all the major countries of Western Europe have lost in the last 20 years. The economies of East Asia, such as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, particularly the economies of Central and Eastern Europe, increased. And what we do know about this ranking is that the higher the level of a country, the higher its per capita income (considering the different cost of living in different places). And vice versa if it goes down. In fact, this effect becomes more evident as the technological content of the economy becomes more important in this era.

However, a recent study by Andrea Orami and Daniele Pianicelli of the Bank of Italy shows how this happens in our country. Companies did not prepare for the electric revolution by filing more patents or by merging with one another. Fiat-Chrysler between 2013 and 2018 did not produce a single battery-powered model, while several dozen were produced in underdeveloped Europe. And the International Energy Agency shows that Italy not only has few electric models in circulation, but also has fewer recharging points than the world average in proportion to the number of cars there are.

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These are unacceptable levels of backwardness. Let us continue in this way, and there will come a time when we will not be able to define ourselves as one of the most developed countries. But Italy is only a particularly striking case of the malaise that crosses the whole of Western Europe. Batteries are an example of a more general industrial technology delay in this part of the world. That is why I do not understand the feeling of abandoning potential investments by cutting the recovery plan or designing new European rules that are not very suitable for these years. The point is knowing how to invest with at least a little Robin Zhang’s foresight.

This text is taken from Newsletter “Whatever it takes” By Federico Fubini.