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Footnote to my below comment:
Hitting the ground running:
The label "Made in China" is actually quite misleading. A more precise expression would be "Assembled in China". Almost all sophisticated parts in goods "Made in China" are manufactured abroad. China tries to make the transition from low-tech low profit margin to high -tech high profit margin. (That's why they panicked when Trump went after the Chinese chip manufacturer for doing business in Iran.)
The Belt and Road initiative is not only about influence, it's also about creating "ports" inland, as land close to the big harbours is running out and has become expensive.
The 1984-tech they're installing might be in case the financial system starts behaving unpredictably and people start to revolt because they think that the government has broken the social contract and feel betrayed.
Some rather random thought bits:
- Democracy translates as "rule of the people". Democracy is not the same as holding elections. Democracy doesn't translate as "rule of at least half of the population". In a democracy minorities, being part of the people, are protected, as otherwise they're excluded from participating in said "rule of the people". A state without basic principles, protecting the ability to participate in said "rule", like freedom of speech for example, can't be a democracy.
- The logic of development dictatorship worked in Singapore, because it is a city state. The centralisation that comes with the concetration of power is only managable on this small scale.
- The West only exported Western values in it being a role model. Politically, the West exported tyranny for the most of it (School of the Americas, Economic Hitmen,...).
- If land prices in China fall, the government has a problem to generate revenue, if land prices don't fall, manufacturing will soon be disproportionally expensive. And there's the moder, complex, un-bail-out-able finance system, with loads of bad debt, that evolved over the past generation. China's trying to hit the ground running, I guess we'll see...
- Rawls' veil of ignorance. The quality of life in the West (especially in Western-Europe) has reached hence unseen heights and the world is aware of that. Where would you want to get born?
Most of us understand the pure meaning of democracy. This is not the place for such a discussion
In practical democracy, everyone has a right to have a say through the ballot box. some people are too lazy, and others have a say by not having a say
In some countries it is compulsory to vote - so everyone has a say regardless.
In autocratic countries the marginals and the poor do not have a say .. They don't even get heard through ' freedom of speech '
Did I forget ? Freedom of speech and an independent judiciary are integral to democracy... non existent in China
succession in an autocracy is not upto the the electorate. A realisation from the Emperor Tiberius.
He decided to appoint Caligula as his successor - to show up Tiberius as a very good emperor. And the people had no say in it
Aa for China - they almost had a murderer as the present chairman/President
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To answer Robert Guest's question. Western leaders shouldn't acknowledge that West is going to be "number two" in the future. What they should acknowledge is that such a possibility exists. And then present an assessment of the long-term after-effects of such a change for the West, both in cultural, economic and every other aspect Western think-tanks can think of.
Then Western leaders should start acting to prevent that it ever happens.
Why? During just 200 years of the "historical abberation" Kishore Mahbubani speaks of, when it was the West, and not India and China, which had the largest world economy the West managed to enormously raise the whole world population in every imaginable aspect. This was done - apart from technological progress per se, which the West did not keep to itself - mostly thanks to globalization, liberal values and unchaining/channeling a lot of human energy into helping the poor and/or underprivileged around the world.
The mistake which the West commited was to assume that the globalization of well-being will be followed, on auto-pilot to use Kishore Mahbubani term, by the globalization of liberal mindset. It didn't. To cite again - "China is progressing due to its autocratic leadership , India -despite its democratic one". That's certainly too little to look forward optimistically to the future in which West is no longer " the number one", for that would be a world without in-built "fuses", a world with a leadership which is not accountable to the people.
Yet, Western leaders should do everything to follow Bill Clinton's naive advice and construct a rules-based world, and act along the rules. Naive - since it is naive to think that if the West would stop being "number" one, the worked-out rules would be followed. Yet- effective as acting along the rules acceptable by all sides in the existing status quo, weakens the possibility of the status quo change.
To sum up. Westen leaders should support intra-Western liberalism and democracy, stop dreaming these are exportable values, stop acting too generously - look for Wests interests first, the way enlightened Chinese autocratic leadership of today does for China's.
....and the West, at least the EU, should follow Kishore Mahbubani's advice and start acting in Africa a little more the way China does...
Great, inspiring interview, thank you The Economist.
Today, I accepted delivery of ink cartridge replacements, made in China, for my HP Officejet Pro home printer. Each packet contained one each of the 3 colours plus a black ink cartridge. When ordering them through Amazon, delivery was free as I ordered 2 sets and the total cost was $64. What a bargain and they work perfectly! Last weekend, I purchased the original replacements from HP, 3 colours only from Costco, not including the black cartridge and was charged $100 ($99.99) for the single set. That is roughly triple the price of the Chinese set and I received a black cartridge in addition.
This weekend, I will be returning the HP ink to Costco for a refund. I refuse to be overcharged or scalped by HP's daylight robbery and in future, I know where I shall be shopping for my ink as I consider the Chinese equivalent of Amazon. Congratulations to China for making this possible and if this is competition fuelled by free trade, then bring it on. I doubt whether the West is able to compete on an equal footing and in time, more of the world's citizens will come to realise the benefits of China's rise and how USA Inc. has ripped us off for so long and made the world a more dangerous place by its war-mongering.
While you praise the low-price offer by China, please spend a few minutes to contemplate the true cost for the low price and the sustainability of such offer. Let's not be so naive to believe that China is simply 40% more efficient in producing the same product offered by Costco.
Behind that shinning cartridge you happily received, there are Chinese labor who suffers bare minimum wage, low quality of life, concentration camp style factory, 80-hr work week, suffocating air pollution, and an oppressive authoritarian regime that keep this system going.
While you claimed "daylight robbery" by HP, you are denying the production cost, sustainable wages that HP has to pay its employees and its suppliers, which could simply be your neighbors, your own children, friends, and relatives.
Let's apply your logic to individual service. You order a hamburger at a McDonald's somewhere in New York City, you are served by a person who is paid $15.00 /hr. To get the same burger in Shanghai, it is prepared by a person who is paid $2.78/hr.
Is this a "daylight rubbery" by the person who flipped burger for you in New York City?
Chances are, your printer will malfunction.
HP's in what's sometimes referred to as the "razor blade business". They don't want you to buy cartridges for less than their asking price. If Asian HP cartridges are cheaper than the ones sold where you live, my guess would be, that they use a different proprietary-standard to ensure you paying the full price.
First, your printer will display some Fear-Uncertanty-Doubt messages, and if you still continue to use cheap cartridges it will turn into "The machine that goes ping!".
Or they're simply counterfeit, and, well, same difference...
Mahbubani’s argument is confused and self-contradictory. On the one hand he’s claiming that Western values have aided the rest of the world; on the other hand he argues that the Chinese system is in many ways better than Western values. By arbitrarily picking and choosing examples, one can argue in favor of anything at all.
Mahbubani fails entirely to understand the fundamental problems of tribalism and tyranny. By claiming that quasi-democratic window-dressing is meaningful he’s as guilty as any Western commentator of fetishizing democracy without bothering to look at the underlying reality. It’s not good enough to say that because Chinese people can today wear a wider range of clothing it therefore follows that China is a less tyrannical nation. If democracy is supposedly good, its primary value is that one can replace leaders. Yet Mahbubani argues that an eternal Xi is what China really needs. So what is this? Democracy without democracy? Clearly Mahbubani’s argument is incoherent. And with regard to his argument that Chinese people return to China after traveling abroad, we need to remember that there is very little possibility of any of these travelers successfully getting asylum anywhere in the world. So what choice do they have but to return?
Meanwhile India, which is the world’s largest “democracy,” is supposedly succeeding despite its government. So apparently democracy can get in the way of progress, but somehow the people can work around this impediment so that’s all right. Again Mahbubani’s argument is nothing more than selective pick-and-choose, with an inconsistent underlying argument that is inherently self-contradictory.
What Mahbubani does not observe is that representative democracy, as evinced in the West, was a system generally unfit for purpose but that survived for more than two hundred years because it was never really implemented. Voters cast their votes for politicians who in general agreed about most of the core issues and implemented policies with little regard for the atavistic yearnings of the masses. Today however the average person believes they have the “right” to be “heard” on a wide range of topics about which they know practically nothing and for which they have no meaningful contribution. Politicians have learned that they can reliably secure votes by pandering to the masses, which means making promises that are impossible to fulfil. Therefore it’s not surprising that (a) democracy is failing today in the West, and (b) it’s failed everywhere else that it’s been attempted, becoming nothing more than the flimsiest window-dressing over tribalism.
As is often the case among clever people who spend their time talking to other clever people, Mahbubani simply does not understand why people like Trump, Le Pen, Orban, Erdogan, et al are coming to dominate the supposed democracies. It is clear that the more influence the average citizen has on national policy, the poorer those policies become. And this is because ordinary people don’t grasp the issues and look instead for simplistic “solutions” based on nothing more than slogans. In our complex global world this is clearly a recipe for absolute disaster. Or to put it another way, Trump isn’t a transient aberrant phenomenon but rather the flabby adumbration of worse to come.