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Friday, November 05, 2004the bubbling enthusiasm that so many seem to have is probably unwarranted. In an extremely well analysed article, the author examines the future of china under different scenarios. Excerpts:
In 1984, it was clear to anyone with a pulse that Japan was about to take over the world. Within 10 years, Mitsubishi was going to challenge Boeing for leadership in commercial aviation. Fujitsu and other tech firms, guided by Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), and Yamanouchi and the Japanese pharma industry, guided by the government's Science and Technology Agency, were slated to take over the computer, electronics, and biotech industries. The book Created in Japan proved beyond any doubt that Japanese firms were going to lead the world in innovation and capture global markets: the so-called Pacific Century was upon us, and Japan, Inc. was going to steer her course. The Japanese had MNCs to rival those of America. It had the most developed global trading networks. It had a rich portfolio of patents. It had staunch government backing. Fast-forward two decades, and we're hearing the same message, but this time it's China that will steer the course of the Pacific Century. Yet, the arguments were far more compelling 20 years ago; after all, China has none of the above. History, however, took Japan (and the world) on a different course. (Note: Compared to Washington or Tokyo, for example, Beijing pays minimal lip service to tech.
Forecasting is a tricky business. Combine tech with political, economic, and social uncertainties, and nonlinear dynamics take hold. Perturbations of even the slightest nature can radically change the results. And in a world of asymmetric everything, perturbations are the rule rather than the exception.
What if a "Mao Flu" struck China, wiping out 90% of the population? "Can't happen. Reactionary, right-wing Western nonsense," some might say. Alas, the source was a special issue of Wired, hardly a bastion of right-wing thought leadership. What if oil goes to $150 per barrel? A recession in the United States, yes. Alas, a meltdown in China worse than a depression. (Iran, Sudan, and Indonesia can't meet China's growing demand; besides, their supplies are vulnerable.) And as the four BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—battle in the marketplace (especially in tech sectors), let's remember that the EU and the States, the world's two most lucrative markets, have better relations with B, R, and I, and relations between China and Japan are strained at best.
Whereas lots of people have a favorable view of China's future, many others are far less optimistic. And let's think outside the box. What if futurists looked at China with the same granularity that is often applied to the United States or the EU? I suspect that most futurists would throw their hands in the air and simply give up. I admit, futurists are often overly pessimistic. But I'm convinced that some of the better futurists, if put to the task, would predict a rather gloomy future for China. Think pandemic, think pollution, think worker unrest, think rising nationalism/fascism, think income disparities (which led to "liberation" in the first place), think ageism and other "isms," think corruption, think energy shortages…and keep on thinking.I am not arguing that China will implode. Matter of fact, I'm moderately bullish on China. But the bubbling enthusiasm that so many seem to have is probably unwarranted. What I am arguing, however, is that China's future is uncertain, much more so than most might think. Caveat emptor. Here is another view that not optimistic about china's future. |
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