There is a ancient Chinese curse: ‘May you live in interesting times’. And we certainly are living in such times. But I guess what amazes me as trained historian, is that the whole of Western society has not really woken up to the idea that in say 10 years China will be the largest economy in the world, about 220 years after it lost that dominance. I don’t have any more answers as to what this means than the next person, but my real amazement is that so few people are asking the question as to what does this mean. So I thought I devote one of our blog’s Top Ten Questions to this subject: what does the rise of China (and perhaps also the rise of India) mean for:
- Our Economic Theories: we are being over-taken by a hybrid system of hyper capitalism and statist manipulated markets, with a banking system that loses billions in under-performing loans. Such a system is not supposed in free market terms to out-perform us. Why is it doing this and what are the lessons for our own economic management and economy?
- Our Fundamental Economic Competitiveness. How can we compete and earn a living in a world where there is now a convergence of cheap labor, off-shoring of jobs and the technology to make almost anything in China. How do we earn our living in this new world?
- Our Political Theories: Democracy is supposed to be necessary for economic competitiveness and the capitalist system. This no longer seems to be the case. Why is this so?
- Our Military Security. At what stage does Chinese economic dominance convert into military dominance? What would it take to make Chinese military strength uni-polar as the US appeared to be in 1991?
- Our Cultural Outlook In the 20th century the US and Europe were culturally dominant. What will be the effect of this changing? What will the new dominant culture look like?
- Our Scientific Progress How will we fund science if our economies are no longer strong? How can our economies be strong without scientific research?
- Our Environmental Future How will the rise of China (and India) affect our planet? What will the balance between economic growth and sustainability look like?
- Our Natural Resource Supply How will China’s appetite for raw materials affect their supply to potentially economically and militarily weaker powers?
- Our Education System Isn’t there something fundamentally wrong with our education system if it is delivering such dysfunctional results at the level of individual student, education system and societal levels?
- Our Overall Future. When you answer all these questions and others like them, where does that leave us in say 20 years time?
My point in asking them is how totally blindfold we seem to be. We are not asking these questions and instead are playing stupid political games and the Left and Right blaming each other for trends that are systemic and structural and not down to George W Bush or Barack Obama. So I think we should start answering some of these questions and doing something about the answers as a matter of urgency.
Of course it would be interesting to know what China thinks about these questions too.