Postmodern classic?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

China/India debate

A source of major international debate is the relative economic (with the related political and cultural results) 'power' of China and India. Who will be the dominating force of the 21st century?

There are a lot of different theories out there, all based on certain assumptions. Take this assessment from an Indian news website. Not authoritative, but an interesting and brief look at the major statistics commonly available that highlight China's recent advantages in the world economy. Business pages across the world are touting statistics like these, and the potential Chinese markets with enthusiasm- just like the British did 150 years ago. Pretty compelling argument, but those key words- 'if present growth rates are sustained' (along with it's close cousin 'if current trends continue...') are glaring indicators of uncertainty and optimistic dissonance of potential problems. Some related blogs offer their analysis describing India's potential strengths visavis China's potential weaknesses. I'm not a 'China-hater', but I am skeptical.

I think history shows, and this is a grand statement that I take responsibility for, trends never continue as predicted. Inevitably, something comes up putting a wrench in the works of that 'inevitable development' and those who are bold and innovative are the ones who successfully adapt to the change. Not necessarily those who 'should be' the primary beneficiaries of this new situation.

I think of America's rise in particular, although there are many other examples of this. If we first look to the instability facing our country following the Revolutionary War, or the Civil War, then our 'ascendancy' and current international power was by no means assured. One can easily see that even after the First World War. Despite being the most powerful military at the time, we withdrew and still had the Great Depression in between. Despite our resources, we could have continued to decline, lost the 2nd World War, etc... many things could have happened. Nothing is inevitable.

Conclusion: Both China and India both have major problems along with their potential for growth. Don't let my cynicism mislead you- China is an amazing country with a strong culture (despite 3 generations of Communist rule). Their education and resources should make them a strong force in the next century. India has some problems too- I am not saying their democratic traditions or stronger financial fundamentals will necessarily lead to the dominating growth possible for them. However, to think that either country (this applies even to the U.S) .is guaranteed an essential spot 50 years down the road is quite absurd.


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