‘The sick man of Asia.’

It was a British newspaper — The Daily News — that first coined this term in 1863.

They observed that the Qing Dynasty in China was facing problems that were catastrophic.

The country appeared to be tearing itself apart. Collapse seemed all but certain.


Source: MIT Visualizing Cultures


Of course, for the sake of wokeness, it’s become convenient to blame Western imperialism for China’s afflictions. And, yes, it’s true that the colonial powers did their fair share of plundering during the so-called ‘century of humiliation’.

But let’s stop blaming the West for a moment. Look a bit deeper. And you will uncover an unspoken truth: the many ways in which the Chinese people themselves engaged in destructive behaviour.

Warlords. Ultranationalists. Communists.

Starvation. Disease. Murder.

Indeed, there were a million ways to die.

In fact, back then, if you were Chinese and you lived to the age of 50, your family and friends would throw a celebration. This would be known as a ‘second birthday’ for you. And why not? 50 was a grand number. It was the equivalent of winning the lottery. You had beat the odds.

Given this horrifying reality, my great-grandparents were among the millions of migrants who left China to settle in Southeast Asia.


Source: South China Morning Post


But it was no easy escape. The journey itself was a gamble. They had to travel across the rough South China Sea on overcrowded wooden boats. And they were fearful of the pirates who lay in wait, waiting to intercept unlucky refugees.

Once again, there were many, many unpleasant ways to die.

Many did not survive the exodus.

My great-grandparents were the lucky ones.

All this happened only six generations ago.

Not very long ago at all.



Life as we know it today


Of course, a lot has changed since that turbulent era of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

My family has transitioned from peasantry to working class to middle class. Indeed, in terms of social mobility, we have made more progress in the last 100 years than in the previous 1,000.

The trajectory of my family pretty much falls in line with the story of the world at large.

In recent decades, we’ve seen an upward surge in our quality of life.

We are safer. Healthier. Wealthier. More so than ever before.


Source: Our World in Data


Source: Our World in Data


The pace of change has been so swift, it can be hard to comprehend. In many cases, the transformation has been completely mind-blowing.

Some critical facts here:

  • In 1770, the average life expectancy of a human being was around 35. In 2019, it’s well over 70.
  • In 1820, the number of people living in extreme poverty was 89% of the global population. In 2015, it’s only 10%.
  • In 1800, the number of people who couldn’t read and write was 88% of the global population. In 2016, it’s only 14%.

These are remarkable accomplishments. Incredible.

And yet, despite all this, we’ve seen a steady escalation of negativity in the media. This happens both on the left and the right.

Existential panic has become the norm. Isolated events are magnified and presented as breaking news. And issues of controversy are exaggerated to the point of parody.

The War on Drugs.

The War on Terror.

The War on Covid.

The War on Climate Change.

Our enemy — if we can call it that — is often vague. Often nebulous. Hard to pin down. Which increases our collective anxiety even more.

According to The Washington Post, negative headlines enjoy a 60% higher clickthrough rate. We appear to be addicted to bad news. We want more of it. So the media gladly obliges. As the old saying goes, ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’

I find this astonishing. The early 21st century will be defined as a period of great cynicism — but that perception doesn’t actually line up with the facts of human progress, which actually lean toward optimism and hope.



Our opportunity for you


What do I believe?

Well, in this age of misinformation, it’s this: the fearmongers on both the left and the right are wrong.

They are wrong because…well, they’ve always been wrong.

These prophets of doom constantly overlook three things:

  • Humanity’s resilience.
  • Humanity’s adaptability.
  • Humanity’s courage.

Here are two recent examples to consider:

  • In the wake of 9/11, I heard people on the right say that the world as we know it is over. Because of the threat from terrorists, people will never want to travel again.
  • In the wake of Covid, I heard people on the left say that the world as we know it is over. Because of the threat from a virus, people will never want to travel again.

In both cases, these alarmists were wrong.

If anything, the War on Terror and the War on Covid are just fleeting examples of so many other occasions where the media kept saying, ‘This time it’s different.’


Source: AMP Capital


Boom. Bust.

Bear. Bull.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s all part of the cycle. And rest assured, the cycle always turns when it faces an inflection point.

In the words of Peter Lynch: ‘Far more money has been lost by investors trying to anticipate corrections, than lost in the corrections themselves.’

So…maybe it’s time to look past your fear? Maybe it’s time to free your mind? Embrace the long-term prosperity that you deserve?

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  • Diversifying Your Wealth Base and Navigating Global Markets
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So come talk to us. We’re now offering an initial free consult for Eligible and Wholesale Clients. We’d love to hear more about your financial goals and dreams.

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John Ling

Analyst, Wealth Morning

(This article is general in nature and should not be construed as any financial or investment advice. To obtain guidance for your specific situation, please seek independent financial advice.)