Monday, June 13, 2005

Whose Asian Century?

Whose Asian Century?

The forces that will determine which nations will dominate the 21st century may yet favor India's emerging reach for global power status more than China's determined grasp for that prize. It was fashionable a few decades ago to bemoan the weakness of democracies in the bipolar conflict of the Cold War. Despite that pessimism, totalitarianism did not prevail in that long race -- just as the communists in China will not win the right to shape the Asian Century alone.

Who can stop the rise and rise of China? The communists, of course

If the People's Republic is now the workshop of the world, the Communist Party is the bull in its own China shop. The internal contradictions of Commie-capitalism will, in the end, scupper the present arrangements in Beijing. I said a while back that China was a better bet for the future than Russia or the European Union. Which is damning with faint praise: trapped in a demographic death spiral, Russia and Europe have no future at all. China won't advance to the First World with its present borders intact. In a billion-strong state with an 80 per cent rural population cut off from the coastal boom and prevented from participating in it, "One country, two systems" will lead to two or three countries, three or four systems. The 21st century will be an Anglosphere century, with America, India and Australia leading the way. Anti-Americans betting on Beijing will find the China shop is in the end mostly a lot of bull.

Is China a success while India is a failure?

In the 1960s, left Indian intellectuals were not alone in imagining Leninist socialism as superior to market-oriented democracies. Indians trekked to China to seek the supposed secret of China's purported developmental success. The presupposition was that (bourgeois) democracy could not compete with (proletarian) dictatorship. Yet India only escaped mass famine, as India's Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has shown, because it was a democracy.


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