Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Overtaken

I'm not certain why but I let global competition get the best of me, but I do. And this rings especially true when China is in the mix. I guess I become cynical when I hear about the progress other nations are making while America slips into decline. Or possibly it's the progresses other nations are making that I only wish America would begin, such as improved transportation, infrastructure, and policy.

The BBC this week released two news articles predicting China overtaking the United States in the areas of the economy and science in the near future:
China 'to overtake US and dominate trade by 2030'
China 'to overtake US on science' in two years

In terms of the economy and trade, the article predicts China will eclipse the US in terms of trade and the economy within the next twenty years. This will happen as long as the Chinese economy continues to grow at the rate that it does. What I question is if the Chinese society overall could handle this growth, and if the government will continue to keep the economy growing at the pace that is has been. For example, with the growing concern over the quality of life in rural areas, and with pollution and environmental problems, will the government halt economic growth to protect these two areas - or will the economy continue to remain their largest focus? However, with the growing middle class in China, the country is predicting to increase foreign products and imports drastically in the coming years to keep up with demand, which will also boost its trade growth.

The article stirred me because I become angry with the fact that America continues to rely so strongly on foreign trade, while at the same time continuing to import from China when Chinese refuses to raise the value of its currency. I believe the government needs to bring more growth to American made goods by creating policy (and sticking behind it) that makes it more difficult to trade with foreign countries. The media continues to raise the issue of jobs fleeing our country, but it seems that nothing is being done to protect industry in America.

In terms of the science article, I do not see this as a surprise. Again I'm angered because America continues to slash spending on education and it comes to no surprise that other nations are quickly catching up to our research output. Two weeks ago the BBC had an article highlighting the new high-speed rail that is connecting Beijing and Shanghai, making the trip just under four hours. Not only is this technology cutting edge, America's rail system is greatly paled by China's. America does not rely on its rail system and our transportation infrastructure has made it difficult to get around our own nation without a car. Sure most Americans have access to a car, but it shouldn't be that way. A flight across the country should not bankrupt your wallet. Americans should have access to reasonably priced, and speedy, rail services that connect major cities and the regions of the country.


However, one very interesting point made in the article was that China wants to work to reclaim its historic reputation as being a forerunner in technology and innovation. The article also mentions that the number of times Chinese academics are references is still relatively low, causing the scientific community to remain dependent on output from other nations. And a Chinese professor is quoted in the article as saying "There are many millions of graduates but they are mandated to publish so the numbers are high." Again, with China's enormous population comes many mouths to feed, but also brings positive benefits to the nation such as a large labor force, cheap labor, and a high population of academics.

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