Go, China, you good thing!
People who keep putting China down for various aspects of its way of life are tiresome. Okay, so it’s not a western-liberal capitalist democracy. Build a bridge and get over it, folks!
China is still the future of the world. Big statement? Well, there’s no certainty about it but it sure isn’t impossible, either. The United States of America is a phenomenal powerhouse, shaping global events through its financial and military muscle. And it has crafted and shared a legacy that is astounding in its transformative capacity. Truly, it has shaped the world in its own image.
But if we know nothing else, we know that change is constant, inevitable and surprising.
America has – quite possibly, even probably – had its heyday. Oh, its influence, even its dominance, will not wane quickly. Nor should it. The world, after all, remains created in its image and the loss of that influence, without a lengthy transition, would be surpassingly disruptive.
Still, China is almost certainly destined to pass America as the driving force of global politics. The sheer weight of numbers – China outstripping America’s population by more than three to one – strongly suggests only one possible outcome. India is populous, for sure, and quite clever in its mastery of technology. But it lacks the sheer (admittedly state-driven) drive to win.
Bear in mind, also, that China has a vast and often unrecognised diaspora that extends its influence vastly more permeably throughout the global population. In the long run this factor, alone, could be the decisive one.
And anyone who doubts that the transition from one ‘empire’ to another can happen quickly and unexpectedly need only review the passing of the baton from Great Britain to the United States through the course of the era which brought us World War II. Only a matter of decades prior to that it was difficult if not impossible to imagine the forthcoming rapid decline of such a vast, globe-spanning colonial power. Nor the rise and rise of America through the post-war industrialisation period.
What is troubling about the possible transition of global power-sharing through the remainder of this century is the condemnation so frequently directed at China for its legacy political system and attitudes. Yes, its people labour under a regime regarded by most as oppressive but the vast bulk of its populace is not threatening rebellion. Their equanimity is perplexing to outsiders but who can legitimately say they must be saved from themselves?
Anyone whose own nation has not been invaded and occupied by a conqueror would be hard put to realistically imagine the deeply ingrained suspicions and alienation that must accompany such subjugation. It would affect your psyche to its very core regardless of how well self-actualised you might be in current circumstances.
The five to seven thousand years of Chinese history is a huge factor, too, in cultivating a very different perspective. America has a birthday of 250 years of ‘independence’ coming up in 2026. Australia will get to celebrate its 230th white settlement anniversary in 2018. Clearly, we are but babes in arms comparatively. With our rapid-fire three and four-year electoral cycles, we tend to look askance at China’s ten-year plans. But thousands of years of history can make a century but the blink of an eye. These are peoples well adapted to the waiting game.
And there is an arrogance abroad relating to China’s modernisation that is very troubling. The environmental degradation of China – and the disseminated negative impacts on the rest of our world – is utterly to be lamented. Yet it is pompous and prissy for nations which did exactly the same thing during their own, earlier, transformations to now condemn China for simply following in their footsteps. Okay, so we know more about the fragility of our environment now. Yet who truly has the legitimacy to say that simply because other nations did it first, those that follow must abide by a different set of rules that would deny them economic wealth and prosperity.
Any wonder the Chinese (and the Indians and others) are offended by such high-handed judgmentalism.
Regardless of how the global power game plays out over the coming century one thing should not be lost in considering the possibilities. Just because most liberal democracies dislike the constraints and lack of freedoms inherent in China’s political system does not mean we may not eventually come under such a yoke.
Alienation and denunciation of a nation most of us do not understand will not offer the world a better future. Co-operation and friendship, no matter how challenged such approaches might be from time to time, is the only sensible way to help manage the cycle of political change. If we do not attempt to be genuine contributors to possible solutions we may not like the eventual outcomes at all.
Let us know how you feel about this vital issue.