Coming to Grips with China

Although China’s growth has slowed very recently, it is still tracking at around 7%.

British Economist Martin Jacques has said that the “west is rapidly losing influence”¬† and that the world will be an increasingly unfamiliar place to those not conversant with the changes that are taking place.

Did you know that 90% of the world’s population live in developing countries?

That 70% of the world’s population is under the age of 25?


Martin Jacques TED talk is below. I loved this.

Predictions

China has 1.3 billion people.

In 2050, China is predicted to be more than double the size of the Unites States.

Goldman Sachs’ predictions of Chinese growth indicate it will reach the same size as the United States by GDP in 2020 with an economy worth 18,000 billion dollars.

Never before in history has a developing country been the world’s largest.

The Cultural Difference

The fact that it is very different kind of civilisation should not be taken for granted.

China is different from the west in three key ways:

The Civilisation State

The Civilisation State is borne from concepts of Confucianism and collectivism. According to Jacques, “It is a widespread assumption that as a country modernises, it westernises. China is not like the west and it will not become like the west,” he argues. “The Chinese identity does not come from the last hundred years. It comes from thousands of years.”

The most important political value of the Chinese is unity. This is grossly at odds with the west.

Notion of ‘Race’

The Chinese also have a different notion of race. The majority of the population live in Eastern China and identify as Han. It is the most monoracial place in the world. The Han identity has held the country together and is considered to be superior to other races.

Nature of ‘The State’

“The Chinese state enjoys more legitimacy and authority than any other”, says Jacques. The State is an almost spiritual representation and embodiment of the civilisation. It is the guardian of the civilisation.

Whereas in the West we view the state as ‘an intruder’, in China, the state is viewed as an intimate; not just a member of the family, but the patriarch. The state is completely embedded in society.

Jacques argues that if we look at it through western eyes and draw on only western experience we will never understand China.

Soon, China will have many cities of over 20 million people. To accommodate their needs, the Chinese government is investing in huge infrastructure projects the like of which have never been seen in the west. They include visionary and futuristic high speed rail transportation systems, the three gorges dam, as well as the now Grand Canal – the longest artificial river in the world – that commenced in 542 BC and was competed in 700 AD.

It is striking when you consider how difficult it is for Australia to achieve bipartisanship to create valuable investments for the future as relatively small in scale as the National Broadband Network or high speed rail. It is fascinating to hear how advanced China is in so many ways. The innovations are things I can’t see ever happening here, because of the profound disunity and political point-scoring. Politicians are risk averse to the extreme that they rarely do anything these days except block, cut and veto.

I’m not saying that China has the answer. I certainly don’t think it excels in human rights. But I do find some appeal in the concept of a benevolent dictator.

By and large, this massive global shift in power might be scary for some. But it represents democratisation. China, India and Malaysia combined comprise 38% of the world’s population. Why shouldn’t they take their turn and rise?

Given the last few years of global violence and austerity, this could be a good thing.

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