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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023

Elephant in the Room

The Trump administration has been truculent toward China over trade.

President Donald Trump himself has reportedly been downright rude toward Africa, using foul and dismissive language to characterize the nations of the continent.

China, all the while, continues to build relationships in Africa, using everything from diplomatic finesse to big-money investments in oil and mining sectors, and low-cost loans for infrastructure projects there.

China also buys lots of African commodities needed to fuel its economy – it has been the continent’s largest trading partner for 10 years now.

It’s a relationship marked by official shows of respect and friendship, and a recent example might bring an opportunity for enterprising businesses in Los Angeles.

China’s latest respectful and friendly gesture toward Africa was a move to ban the processing and sale of ivory.

Chinese culture has for millennia regarded ivory to be an auspicious material. It’s often used in carvings vested with religious significance or crafted as pieces valued highly for their artistic aspects.

Demand from China has helped power the ivory trade to levels that threaten the existence of African elephants.

Elephants are a linchpin of the economies of numerous African countries, stars of a tourist trade that counts on such creatures in the wild.

China banned the ivory trade at home at the end of last year. The country’s ivory processing operations and sales outlets –estimated at 150 or so – have been shut down, according to the government. The move doesn’t end the ivory trade, which continues illegally in many places, and remains legal in much of southern Africa.

It does put a serious drag on a prime source of demand, though – and there’s every reason to believe it will engender goodwill toward China in many nations of Africa.

What does all of this have to do with the community of business in Los Angeles?

Consider the opportunity to be found when the government of a nation of 1.5 billion tells the population to find a new favorite material for the decorative arts.

Think of the potential for the individual or enterprise that devises the material that gives the factories and artisans of China a way back into the game of carving or otherwise creating everything from objet d’art to items of religious veneration.

Give some thought to silicon, which essentially comes from silica, which comes from sand, clay and dirt. More than half of the crust that covers earth – and runs anywhere from 3 miles to 43 miles deep – contains silica.

The stuff can be turned into silicon crystals – which get sliced and diced into computer chips.

But they also could be worked in various artistic ways.

L.A. has got beaches with plenty of sand, all sorts of technical and creative genius, a robust roster of colleges and universities, and a history of creating things that the world will want and eventually need.

Sounds like enough to find the new ivory, win some friends in Africa, make some money in China, and develop a new industry here.

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