You’d have to be living under one of the billions of rocks in the Great Wall of China to be unaware of the friction between the massive Asian nation and the United States. With talk of tariffs and trade wars dominating the headlines daily, it can be challenging to remain dispassionate about U.S.-China tensions, particularly when considering the potential impact on livelihoods, investments and the cost of goods. Fortunately, there are experts like Doug Allen who can offer an objective—and calming—context for the current situation.
“I think we’re going through a rough patch right now, but I’m optimistic that both countries will realize the stakes and the level of interdependence between each other,” said the associate professor of management, an expert in international business and human resources, particularly in China and developing countries.
Allen has a longstanding and multi-faceted relationship with China, having visited the country 63 times since 1992. Whether traveling with his family, consulting with businesses, working as a visiting professor at Beijing’s Renmin University or leading Daniels graduate students on international trips, Allen has witnessed the country’s development firsthand over the past quarter century.
“It’s the second largest economy in the world. By some measures it’s already the largest economy in the world if you consider purchasing power parity,” he said. “They know how to scale very fast—that’s something they have demonstrated time and time again. China also does infrastructure really well.”
One Belt One Road
China’s drive to develop is on spectacular display with its immense One Belt One Road Initiative, unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013. The plan, which Allen describes as a “revitalization of the Silk Road trading route” of ancient times, focuses on connectivity and cooperation between China and approximately 65 Eurasian countries situated along the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road. Allen recently presented on the initiative at World Trade Day, an event sponsored by Denver’s World Trade Center.
“It has extensive implications beyond China in terms of facilitating trade among these many countries and opening up trade opportunities with the rest of the world,” Allen said. “I think it’s fair to say that if the vision is achieved, the scale will be unprecedented in the history of the world as an infrastructural development project.”
The projections for the One Belt One Road are, indeed, of epic proportions:
- An investment over several decades of $5-$8 trillion
- 65 percent of the world’s population, 40 percent of the world’s GDP and 75 percent of known energy supplies in “roadside countries”
- 19 satellites to support the initiative’s GPS needs
- The project’s scale may exceed the equivalent of 20 Marshall Plans
“Of course, this isn’t their first rodeo,” said Allen, referring to China’s Great Wall as evidence of the nation’s ability to successfully tackle leviathan-sized projects.
As he discusses the One Belt One Road Initiative—and China in general—Allen’s excitement is palpable, as is his enthusiasm for other countries and cultures. His global appreciation was shaped at an early age: Allen and his family traveled to Mexico and other countries for his mother’s anthropological research, while his father’s work as a professor and dean of education also involved international travel. Allen also credits the Bahá’í Faith with shaping his worldview.
“My grandparents moved to Swaziland (now eSwatini) around the time I was born to help develop Bahá’í communities there. I first visited them when I was 8 years-old, and chose to return to stay with them and study in a high school there,” said Allen, who went on to complete his undergraduate education at the University of Zimbabwe. “The premise of the Bahá’í Faith is that the earth is one country and mankind its citizens. That perspective guides my outlook on the world and fuels my optimism for the future.”
As a citizen of the world, Allen has explored a great deal of it: He’s traveled to roughly 60 countries in various capacities, including as director of Daniels’ International MBA program, a position he held for 10 years. Over the course of his time at the College, Allen has lead or accompanied students on 36 trips to 21 countries. He considers such global exposure a critical component of the experience offered by Daniels to its students.
“My exposure to Swaziland, Mexico, China and other countries tilted my own focus toward the developing countries, and that’s where the growth in the global economy will be in the foreseeable future,” he said. “I think that anybody coming out of a business school today needs to have a sense of how their activity, wherever it’s based, is going to be influenced by these countries as well as other parts of the world.”