Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why Chin-dia cannot be world superpowers


In today's post-recession scenario, China is out-innovating, out-building and out-educating the world. The question Barack Obama put forth to his fellow citizens at The State of the Union - can America out-innovate, out-build, and out-educate the world (or more precisely, China)? 

Maybe, maybe not. 
But thats irrelevant to who-ends-up-being-the-next-superpower.

To go a little deeper, lets have a look at a little bit of history.

Great Britain and her navy successfully ruled the world and its seas for almost two-hundred years. Her explorers dominated land in every direction, east, west, north and south. They opened the world for British markets - and therefore created one of the most robust economies in the time. Her armed forces (mainly, naval) were most feared and quite invincible.
Then came the wars. The Great War of 1914 (better known as World War I) and the World War II. Both of these events drained her economy; during the war of 1914, Great Britain spent as much as 45% of her GDP on military. Hardly recovered by that one big economical hole created by war, She spent another, this time 50% of her entire GDP, chunk on battling out during the second world war.

This severe drain of resources allowed the USA, fresh with surpluses off all the manufacturing and entrepreneurial innovation stirred by Franklin D Roosevelt's (the then American President) economic policies (The New Deal), to take over the baton as the World's leading superpower. 

The rest has been history. We know the might of the USA up until today. Dreams envisioned by American people have changed the way the world works...... up until today.

(Here comes a deja vu moment)

Today, the United States of America is in the same position as was the United Kingdom during the Great wars of 1914 and World War 2. The difference is that the US is plagued not only by wars in the Middle East against terrorists who seem to enjoy volunteering to die, but also by deficit-laden governmental spending that doesn't seem to be tamable - despite all the political will mustered.

Meanwhile China has all the economic surpluses in its kitty, courtesy its seemingly infinite capability to manufacture for the entire world. Also, her army, air force, naval and nuclear capabilities are well-feared world over. Whats best is, She has a billion hard-working, smart folks - which also makes them desirably cheap. Something like how the US felt before, during and after World War 2. 

Deja vu? 

.......Somehow, it is indeed difficult counting the US out to China already. The USA still has the largest purchasing power in the world, largest GDP, and most private wealth - numbers dwarfing those of China. It still attracts people from all the world to come and live the American dream. 


However, for assumptions' sake, assume that America loses its power on the World in the next decade - to China. Can China really take over the mantle? With all thats going behind Her, She possibly can. But the chances are bleak. Hypothetically, even if China does become the sole superpower, She won't be able to hold on to it for more than a decade. Here's why;

The Americans had a lot of things going for them when they took power over from the British. The most important was the language - English. The British, through all their global adventures in the past centuries, have made English The World's language. A South Korean randomly bumping into a Swede will try to converse with him/her in English, more than in Russian, French or even Arabic. All international business is done in English. Which didn't make it hard for the Americans to lead the world head on, as most of it understood their language - English.

Consider Cantonese and Mandarin, the two Chinese languages. Both have ancient histories, and an entirely alien script - as opposed to the Latin script followed by most languages including Spanish, English and a list of others. The grammar is absurd to an outsider. I find it hard for a Dutchman in Amsterdam, or an Argentine in Buenos Aires, to understand that the word, 'ma', in Mandarin can alone be pronounced in five different ways to mean five different things. 
Alas, the Chinese culture is very deep and complex as opposed to the western, easy-going, likable, American way of life. 


What makes things worse for China is her following communist principles. The Chinese government (run by the Communist Party of China) actively participates in human rights violations and a high degree of censorship. It is a well known warning, when in Beijing (or any other part of China) do not utter a word about the government in public. You'll most likely land in prison. Would such blind worship of the government be appreciated in mostly democratic nations around the globe? Uh uh, unsustainable form of world leadership.

Consider also the entrepreneurial nature of the two. However smart the Chinese folks are, they aren't natural entrepreneurs. It takes entrepreneurs, who build corporations, create jobs, innovate and build societies, to build a world-leader out of a nation. You would rarely find a Chinese businessman flashing a two-feet wide comforting smile as opposed to his American counterpart. At the end of the day, these seemingly small differences make all the big difference.

Coming back to Barack Obama's State of the Union speech. He also warned that America must compete against India. Indians who are smart and hard-working. Who are doing a better job for corporations (mainly American) around the world at an average of 1/8th the cost of American labor. 


But I find it hard for India to be a global leader. Credits to us for coming up so quick and rich. However, our politics is rotten and the civil situation gets worse at home by the day; for example in Kashmir, for example about Telangana, for example through the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, for example by the Gorkhas in the North East. Meanwhile our smart and efficient middle-class prefers staying out of politics, content with well-paying jobs and a great sense of (mostly Western) lifestyle. All this presents a sadly grim story that our politicians are decently incompetent to lead the world... at least for another two decades.

That being said, if there is a fall in the world power wielded by Washington D.C., it is assured that it won't go solely to one place - Beijing, Bras√≠lia or even New Delhi. The polarity of world power, most probably, will be evened out between the developed and the currently developing.

1 comment:

  1. Good article, nice flow and logical conclusion.

    It's all about freedom... Freedom to develop and innovate gives USA the power . No such freedom anywhere else :(

    ReplyDelete