Why will China win the 21st century?
January 27, 2012 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Suppose you had to defend the thesis that the 21st Century is going to be the Chinese Century, in the way that the 20th Century is often referred to as the American Century. What arguments would you muster to support that claim?

This is a situation in which I will actually be, in a public debate next Wednesday. Wish me luck and help me win!
posted by slappy_pinchbottom to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The most straightforward argument I can think of (or at least a good opening one) is that most centuries during the last few millennia have been Chinese centuries; East Asia, of which China has always been the hub, has almost invariably had the highest concentration of human population, wealth, and technology.

From pre-Roman times onward much of the world's longest-distance trade was focused on getting stuff from China. When the Age of Expansion led to the European powers plundering the rest of the world what they did with most of their newfound wealth, at first at least, was to cart all the highest-value/most-portable goods - gold, silver, jewels, furs - off to China to buy Chinese stuff.
posted by XMLicious at 6:25 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ownership of american debt?
Ownership of the american manufacturing pipeline?
Total internet usage per capita?
Absolute increase in standards of living?
posted by scolbath at 6:26 PM on January 27, 2012

In Kim Stanley Robinson's upcoming "2312" (set in you-guessed-it) he makes the point XMLicious makes: aside from a brief period of European dominance, most centuries have been Chinese centuries.
posted by gerryblog at 6:32 PM on January 27, 2012

This article might be a good start for you.
posted by Leezie at 6:38 PM on January 27, 2012

The absolute size of the Chinese economy is going to exceed the United States' in about 20 years.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:40 PM on January 27, 2012

The Ameican century was powered by a vast internal market. It has been very easy to launch a manufacturing enterprise in the US and expand to a big middle class population with efficient transportation hubs, a common language and cultural similarities.
China has an emerging middle class that will exceed the size of the US market. It is building an efficient transportation system and pushing cultural integration via the all powerful communist party. China is well positioned to make its internal market the premiere consumer marketplace. This will displace the American market position.

One might argue that the US finds itself like Britian in 1900. The costs of maintaining the empire prevented the UK from meeting the challenge posed by the growth of the US economy. The empire made them the center of global trade. When the Great War hit they stumbled and could never recover.
posted by humanfont at 8:48 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, here's a thought: a Marxist might say that post-Deng China will dominate in the 21st century because it is the dialectical synthesis of Communism and capitalism.

Bonus musical number: I Read Some Marx (And I Liked It)
posted by XMLicious at 11:41 PM on January 27, 2012

Their 'outreach' also has positive responses amongst the 'reached', if not the worried western media. As these sources of raw materials and increasingly scarce resources appreciate the Chinese businesslike approach, they will also be ensuring security for energy/raw materials through softer means than simply 'take and grab' or conditional aid etc

For example:

SPIEGEL: Now it's the Chinese who are making inroads on the continent. Though they are investing in the commodities and food sectors, they care very little about the environment and not at all about human rights. Doesn't that disturb you?

Moyo: The Chinese don't want to impose either democracy or their religion, and they aren't driven by a feeling of guilt about colonialism. They're coming in the name of China. They need copper and oil. Many Africans love them because they build streets and stadiums and create jobs. That's the progress that the West has repeatedly promised us over the last 40 years but never really delivered.

SPIEGEL: The Chinese rely on corrupt elites more than ever.

Moyo: They aren't perfect. But they also haven't done anything that Western countries haven't done themselves over the last 40 years. It would be better if the West stopped warning Africans about the Chinese.

SPIEGEL: What's happening in Africa now is a type of land-grab. Major corporations -- and particularly Chinese ones -- are buying up land at dumping prices and then growing corn and grains on it for export. But the Africans themselves continue to starve.

Moyo: That's not a landgrab; that's investment. The Europeans should open up their markets so that we Africans can sell our products. But the European Union and the United States subsidize their agricultural so that African products have no chance there.


WELT-SICHTEN: You say that aid has failed. But what's wrong with, for example, the German development bank KfW financing water supply systems in Kampala?

YASH TANDON: Why do you call it aid? Just call it business, like the Chinese and the Indians do in Africa. The Chinese go to Kampala to do business. They go to the government or the private sector and talk about investments. Aid, by contrast, is humiliating.

WELT-SICHTEN: So it's better to do it like China?

YASH TANDON: Absolutely. Why hide your commercial and political interests? Be transparent, just call it what it is. Call it business.

posted by infini at 2:09 AM on January 28, 2012

The growth alone would be sufficient for you to win over my mind. :)
posted by MyMind at 10:29 AM on January 28, 2012

It's a weird framing, this "winning a century" thing, but you could try using one of Obama's favorite lines, from his 2010 state of the nation talk: "The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy." Here's a slightly longer version:

The world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century. From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to producing and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation.

Well, ok then. Let's look at how that's going:

China Leads Global Investments in Renewable Energy

The World's Biggest Green Energy Projects: The U.S. and Europe have led the way in renewable power, but right now China has the grandest plans.

...renewable plants are getting ever bigger, especially in China, where plans are on a scale far beyond anything contemplated in the rest of the world. The U.S. now has three of the 10 biggest projects in the world, but it will very soon lose the crown for largest wind project and largest solar project to China.

More: In 2010, China became the largest wind energy provider worldwide, with the installed wind power capacity reaching 41.8 GW at the end of 2010. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the development of wind energy in China, in terms of scale and rhythm, is absolutely unparalleled in the world.

Is clean tech China's moon shot?

It's not as if Western governments aren't involved in promoting wind turbines. The United States and Germany are the top two countries by installed power, and China edged out Spain into third place last year....But China has been on a tear -- last year it installed more wind turbines than any other country"

[Of course, calling China's solar industry, e.g., "clean tech" is kind of silly, since lax anti-pollution enforcement means solar panel factories can save money by just dumping their toxic byproducts instead of reusing or disposing them properly, but that itself can be evidence of a sort in favor of your argument.]

Be careful; it's complex - for instance, almost all of China's solar industry is currently being exported, and there are good counter-arguments to all the points in the links I just gave you - but energy is definitely the main angle I'd start exploring if I was preparing for this debate.
posted by mediareport at 9:54 PM on January 28, 2012

Supporting that is the fact that UN has declared 2012 the Year of Sustainable Energy for all
posted by infini at 10:35 PM on January 28, 2012

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