Thursday, January 20, 2011

Manifest Destiny

China is in the news a lot recently for a myriad of reasons. Topping the reasons is President Hu Jintao's visit to America taking place right now. His visit is being marked as a historical event where topics ranging from human rights, the economy, and military dominance are being discussed. I almost wish I were in the Teach for America DC corps could I could be a bit closer to all the action.

The BBC had another interesting article that I just had to comment on about US anxiety over China's growing power on the world stage. The article questioned five Duke students about the growing role of China and the role of the US in the world. Three of the five students were Chinese-born, another American, and one was Indian. I pulled out some comments from their interviews that I found most eye-opening or controversial:

Romeen Sheth lives in Atlanta but his family is from that other emerging economic powerhouse, India. He takes a provocative stance on the future of the US, contrasting China and India's annual economic growth of 8-10% a year with the American economy "flat-lining" at about 1.5% to 2% a year.
"If we continue on the trajectory we're at right now I think America could soon find itself in a position of global insignificance."

I found his comment to be very jarring, but when I really thought about it, I then found it a bit misguided. For one thing, a nation's economic might alone does not make it a powerful or "insignificant" nation. While I do feel that in terms of education, health care, and some areas of the economy, America is failing, it is far from being in the position that he predicts.

The same guy later on said:
"So what we're doing is giving US-acquired information and we're sending it back to India and China. So America is the first empire that is giving away its strategic weapons almost. In an information-age society knowledge is a strategic weapon."

I do agree with him on this notion. I have always felt that America is putting itself at a risk by keeping it's doors wide open, especially in the academic work. Universities in America place such high emphasis on parading how many nations their student body hails from, but no one stops to think of the threat of a brain drain that this could put our nation at. While many high school students fail to get into US colleges, international admissions are always steady and their allocations typically grow rather than shrink. I also fear that this knowledge (from studies) and even knowledge from mundane day-to-day activities and observations attributes to international change, as he mentioned.

Jack Zhang argues that these values are what make America great. Yet democracy - particularly one as divided and dysfunctional as America's today - can be a handicap when it comes to global competition.
"I don't think it's so much America has become complacent in its power or prosperity, it's just their political institutions cause difficulties. China has an authoritarian, one-party state, so can afford to pursue economic policies that might not make everyone happy."

I have always been a firm believer in this. It's just like Star Wars (silly, nerd reference) - that democracies, while great for the rights of the people, are slow, ineffective at times, and more often than not fail the people. I think China is a great example of a government that makes quick policy changes, however these changes often hurt the people, are not well thought out, and sometimes fail (such as Beijing's ridiculous driving policies). But at least in China there is little red tape that all decisions and laws have to go through. At least there is no bi-party system that argues for years on issues that the people want and sometimes demand. It's a tough choice to make for which one is more beneficial.

Lastly I would like to leave with a video that was linked to in the article. This advert was apparently created during recent election campaigns by the Citizens Against Government Waste. When I first watched this, I found it both creepy, and frightening. However, I don't find it very realistic because China still has a long way to go to create a sound society for it's people.



To the few (if any) people reading this, what are your thoughts on all of this?

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