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China in the World
June 17, 2011 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Be it resolved: The 21st Century Will Belong to China. At tonight's Munk Debates, Niall Ferguson and David Daokui Li debate Henry Kissinger and Fareed Zakaria

(Video may go behind a paywall after the free live airing.)
posted by HLD (60 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
When Henry Kissinger passes away, the future begins.
posted by Mike Mongo at 5:50 PM on June 17, 2011 [22 favorites]


Hey, was Eichmann ever on the marquee for a debate? I mean, other than at his trial?
posted by orthogonality at 5:53 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought the battle for the 21st Century was going to be Signal vs. Noise.
posted by Trurl at 6:07 PM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yup, missed the window. A shame, sounds like it would have been interesting.
posted by Edgewise at 6:07 PM on June 17, 2011


Yep, China is going to completely dominate the 21st century in exactly the same way Japan completely bought and dominated the U.S. by the 90s.
posted by happyroach at 6:10 PM on June 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


The news is far better than the dismal prospect of one hegemony replacing another as bandied about in the councils of the bourgeois, comrades:
Given the legacy of the Chinese revolution, subjective historical conditions in China may favor a revolutionary socialist solution to China’s contradictions. A state-sector working class that is influenced by socialist consciousness can potentially take over China’s key economic sectors and play a leading role in the coming revolutionary struggle. A broad revolutionary class alliance may be formed between state-sector workers, migrant workers, and the proletarianized petty bourgeoisie.

Because of China’s central position in the global capitalist system, the significance of a victorious socialist revolution in China cannot be overstated. It will break the entire length of global capitalist commodity chains. It will turn the global balance of power decisively in favor of the world proletariat. It will pave the way for twenty-first century global socialist revolution, and dramatically increase the chance that the coming global crisis will be resolved in a way that is consistent with the preservation of human civilization.
posted by Abiezer at 6:11 PM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Cool Abiezer, a prediction of the future that sounds like turgid jargon-y Commintern propaganda circa 1949. I can almost hear a chorus of the People's Army singing in the background about "Stalin our Leader!"
posted by orthogonality at 6:18 PM on June 17, 2011


He's certainly in full-on tankie mode in the extract I posted, ortho, (and in his general framing overall) but the rest of the article bears a read - there's a number of solid points behind the guff and wishful thinking, and if it boils down to us seeing a more genuine agency of the Chinese people rather than various self-appointed elites, I for welcome, etc... or more broadly, raises the point that nation states per se won't be the only actors shaping our future.
(Admittedly also chucked it into the mix as just read it, plus only caught last few minutes of debate so much to say about that).
posted by Abiezer at 6:25 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will the Chinese capitalist class manage to accommodate the working-class challenge while maintaining the capitalist system?

Well, it's worked out that way in the United States, Europe, throughout most of the other Asian nations and in a quorum of emerging states in the global South, so yeah, probably.

Wish I hadn't missed the debate - I imagine it would have been the first time I've ever found myself on Kissinger's side on, well, any question, really. China has a ton of potential and some truly monumental social, ecological, and structural problems to go along with it.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:28 PM on June 17, 2011


According to Steve Paikin's twitter, after polling the audience at the beginning and the end of the debate, the No side (Kissinger-Zakaria) increased the audience vote from 40 to 62%, while Yes side (Ferguson-Li) went from 39 to 38%.
posted by HLD at 6:34 PM on June 17, 2011


Yep, China is going to completely dominate the 21st century in exactly the same way Japan completely bought and dominated the U.S. by the 90s.

There was a time (which I remember, called the early 70's) where people would and did laugh outright at the concept of a Japanese car. Now Detroit is a ghost town

There was also a time (which I remember) when Japanese electronics were considered cheap pieces of crap and the idea of Korean electronics was only good for tawdry jokes. Now Asia creates far more quality electronics than the United States.

Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in? Neither can I.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:34 PM on June 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, it's an intriguing idea, ortho - that a Chinese "state-sector working class" might turn out to be a more powerful force than most Western observers currently think. For all its rhetoric, the piece provides examples that are worth noting (e.g., the Tonghua Iron and Steel revolt, in which an executive from a mismanaging corporation trying a takeover bid was beaten to death by workers, with the government stopping the company from further involvement).

Who knows how powerful that kind of movement may get? Sure, I tend to think it won't do much good, given the power of corrupt central and local business interests in a fairly totalitarian environment, and given the massive corporate land grabs farmers across China are currently being subjected to, but I can't know much for sure from this distance. From the first link:

A banner nailed to the front of his home at Liulipeng village on the edge of Gushi, where blocks of new housing eat into fields read: "The Constitution grants citizens an inviolable right to private property."

"That banner is to warn them not to mess with me," he said. A 2004 amendment to the Constitution declares that "citizens' lawful private property is inviolable."


Not quite a socialist foundation for your revolution, but again, who knows what an empowered, relatively educated Chinese working class may demand - or get - in the next 20-30 years?
posted by mediareport at 6:37 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


China is facing a growing number of massive social and infrastructure problems. It's not just about how much stuff they're going to make; it's about whether or not they can adapt to light-speed change. Can a centrally planned economy do that and keep a more world conscious populace docile at the same time?

Frankly, I think the entire world economy is heading for the reset button. There are so many variables at play that nobody (including me) knows what is going to happen. We're looking at dramatic non-linear change, with potential for all kinds of black swans. Hang on to what's close, and worthwhile.

Besides, it's not just about any one nation any more, anyway; it's about the world. We're all connected now.
posted by Vibrissae at 6:42 PM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Depends on whether or not it can shed it's totalitarian reflexes, and whether the US can keep its own in check.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:46 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


That list of names is a godsend for Bulimics
posted by volt4ire at 6:56 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in?

Aircraft carriers.
posted by Trurl at 7:06 PM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in? Neither can I.

Entertainment
Investment derivatives
High fructose corn syrup


What do I win?
posted by Renoroc at 7:14 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in? Neither can I.

Hyperbole
24/7 News Channels
Sarah Palin
posted by mrzarquon at 7:18 PM on June 17, 2011


Frankly, I think the entire world economy is heading for the reset button.
...
Besides, it's not just about any one nation any more, anyway; it's about the world. We're all connected now.

At least for now. One of those drastic changes you're talking about could include a retreat from the current level of globalism.
posted by Edgewise at 7:30 PM on June 17, 2011


>>Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in?

>Aircraft carriers.

And the people who love them.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:43 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stuff the US still makes:

Aerospace - even Airbus avionics are mostly sourced stateside. And orbital stuff, like satellites? USA.
Software - American software culture is waaaaay different than it is other places. Coders start out as cowboys, renegades who shoot from the hip, shipping sloppy product that's jaw-dropping in its innovation early in their career, and wind up as craftsmen, refining architecture and fixing he mistakes of youthful colleagues. This culture has not been successfully exported to other places.
Hardware - Name a microprocessor architecture not designed, refined and brought to market in the USA that has any marketshare at all. Name a computing or networking platform that doesn't owe its existence to West Coast or Boston developers. Lots of fabs still over here...
Cars - US factories are insanely productive, easily beating out European, Asian and South American factories in terms of units-per-manhour. Only the Australians come close. The problem with American cars has always been American management, which is some of the worst in the world in long-term strategy.

This is a very incomplete list.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:45 PM on June 17, 2011 [17 favorites]


China needs us as a market; we need them for cheap goods...we have a huge military. They will built up. Result: there will be a two-world split--the Western, run by us; the Eastern, run by China. Back to the good old Cold War days, except it is global marketing that will keep the peace.
silent wars: cyberwars going on endlessly.
posted by Postroad at 8:00 PM on June 17, 2011


They're welcome to it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:09 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


China's claimed territorial waters.

Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in?

Aircraft carriers.


China might surpass us in manufacturing more aircraft carriers if they mean to enforce their claims!
posted by astapasta24 at 8:25 PM on June 17, 2011


Name a microprocessor architecture not designed, refined and brought to market in the USA that has any marketshare at all.

ARM is the top 32-bit architecture by a wide margin. ARM Holdings is a British company.
posted by FreedomTickler at 8:34 PM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more

In fact, the US is still by a long, long, way the largest manufacturer in the world.

It's fun to just say stuff to fit one's preferred narrative, but the coming Sinicization of the world is greatly exaggerated. Put another way; it's not happening. People who bemoan the structural problems in the United States would do well to keep in mind those problems pale in comparison to China's.

Some people thought in the 30's that the Soviets would be running circles around us by mid-century. America was in a depression and they were experiencing extreme growth. Sound familiar?

China is boxed in by deserts, mountains and historically hostile powers of credible strength. It historically tends to be either poor and united or rich and fractious. It's ruling class' legitimacy is based on level of growth that is impossible to sustain in a mature economy. And when stuff gets really bad over there, the result isn't a poor election result for the governing party.

And sane leader would trade China's problems for America's in a second. America's "decline" is more of a return to some degree of natural balance: America as very powerful vis-a-vis the rest of the world, but not a quite a hyperpower.

In the long run, India is better situated for success in the 21st century than China, but without a fundamental shift in the current underpinnings of state power, there is no immediate external rival to the United States that could seriously challenge its position as hegemon.
posted by spaltavian at 8:35 PM on June 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


China might surpass us in manufacturing more aircraft carriers if they mean to enforce their claims!

They'll need more aircraft carriers if they want to enforce their own coast. The United States, and hell, probably Britain, have better force projection in the South China Sea than the Chinese do.
posted by spaltavian at 8:37 PM on June 17, 2011


Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in?

Made in China stickers?
posted by Skygazer at 8:38 PM on June 17, 2011


Just watched The China Question today, thought it was a good documentary. Too bad I missed this debate.
posted by yifes at 8:40 PM on June 17, 2011


It was a fantastic debate, the most enjoyable I've seen on any topic. Well worth the $5 I think they will charge to watch the video archive of it in the future. I never thought I'd hear Kissinger coming across like a liberal internationalist, but there you had it. It was interesting to see that his thinking had moved beyond balance-of-power realism. And Niall Ferguson and Fareed Zakaria going at it were hilarious. I didn't expect much from David Li but ended up really enjoying him. The Munk Debates keep setting the bar higher, then vaulting over it.
posted by Dasein at 8:54 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fact, the US is still by a long, long, way the largest manufacturer in the world.

And tearing down the U.S. Middle Class will help us stay that way in the face of Chinese competition.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:26 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Henry Kissinger? Haven't we hanged him yet?
posted by steambadger at 9:55 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


In fact, the US is still by a long, long, way the largest manufacturer in the world.
posted by spaltavian


That info-graphic includes utilities (Verizon tech support) and mining (mountaintop removal) as part of manufacturing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:13 PM on June 17, 2011


China's claimed territorial waters.

Notice all the countries who probably have rights to that territorial water China claimed.

I wonder what a war with Vietnam / Philippines / Malaysia will do for Chinese trade routes through the South China sea.

I'm sure that China will claim that Vietnam was always part of China though....
posted by dibblda at 12:01 AM on June 18, 2011


Hardware - Name a microprocessor architecture not designed, refined and brought to market in the USA that has any marketshare at all.

ARM. Sorry to interrupt your jingoistic narrative, do carry on.
posted by rodgerd at 1:48 AM on June 18, 2011


spaltavian: "In the long run, India is better situated for success in the 21st century than China, but without a fundamental shift in the current underpinnings of state power, there is no immediate external rival to the United States that could seriously challenge its position as hegemon."

I think the key word here is external.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:53 AM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


"In fact, the US is still by a long, long, way the largest manufacturer in the world."

One guy earns $1000 per month, and spends $800 per month.

Another guy earns $2000, and spends $2500. Which one is sustainable in the long-run?

Here's the CIA's list of countries by current account balance, highest to lowest. The US comes in at 191. Nobody else is even close. (They define current account balance as "a country's net trade in goods and services, plus net earnings from rents, interest, profits, and dividends, and net transfer payments (such as pension funds and worker remittances) to and from the rest of the world during the period specified." I.E., the amount of money flowing in to, or out of a country during a year, mainly because of trade and investments. There's a lot more flowing out than in. But you probably knew that.)
posted by Net Prophet at 2:38 AM on June 18, 2011


Sorry to interrupt your jingoistic narrative, do carry on.

Explain. Especially the part where listing examples of globally competitive sectors of the U.S. economy is considered 'jingoistic'.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 4:05 AM on June 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


This Us versus Them lists are interesting but odd that what seems down the pike is totally ignored: global warming trends, famine, water shortages world wide, pollution, dwindling natural energy resources.
posted by Postroad at 5:14 AM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


water shortages

I trust that a technological solution will be found that lets the human body operate on some liquid other than water.
posted by Trurl at 5:19 AM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I trust that a technological solution will be found that lets the human body operate on some liquid other than water.

Okay, got that covered.

Now, if there are actually any sandworms our there, we're all set.
posted by steambadger at 5:43 AM on June 18, 2011


I trust that a technological solution will be found that lets the human body operate on some liquid other than water.

Hopefully, it'll have electrolytes.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:23 AM on June 18, 2011


I think the key word here is external.

Name a serious rival that doesn't have similar or worse structural problems.
posted by spaltavian at 6:31 AM on June 18, 2011


~Will the Chinese capitalist class manage to accommodate the working-class challenge while maintaining the capitalist system?

~Well, it's worked out that way in the United States...


I dunno. Accommodate? It seems to me that the US Capitalist class has decided to jettison the working class almost entirely. Unless, of course, that is what you meant by "accommodate"...
posted by Thorzdad at 7:06 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at the debate last night... it was certainly spirited, and Ferguson and Zakaria really got stuck into each other, including an amusing series of quoting each other's books to reinforce their own arguments.

Of course the question was overly simplistic, but it was interesting to hear different approaches to "managing China's rise", and thankfully having Li on the stage made it something more than just an exercise in internal Western discussion.

All in an all, an enjoyable (if nerdy) Friday evening.
posted by modernnomad at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2011


Explain. Especially the part where listing examples of globally competitive sectors of the U.S. economy is considered 'jingoistic'.
Tone. Name a post where it isn't a factor.
posted by bonaldi at 8:49 AM on June 18, 2011


If you missed it and don't want to buy a yearly subscription for $10 (a charitable deduction), the Ideas program on Radio One will broadcast the debate on Monday, June 27 at 9 pm.
posted by HLD at 9:09 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry to interrupt your jingoistic narrative, do carry on.

MetaFilter doesn't hate America, but anything in excess of mild enthusiasm for the US is strongly frowned upon.
posted by Scoo at 9:18 AM on June 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I read this stat on reddit the other day, so I'm not sure exactly how accurate it is, but apparently China's education system taught about 68 million or so children last year, while the US educated, IIRC 81 million or something like that. People talk a lot about china, but if you run the numbers, it's really still a 3rd world country. Per capita, it's much poorer then Greece. In fact looking at the list It's a bit less then Ecuador, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Peru. Less then South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Kazakhstan. It has half the per-capita (PPP) GDP as Mexico and Botswana.

I just looked up the education stats to double check China has 69.1 million total students, and the U.S. has 81.5 million

So the U.S, with 1/4th the education, is educating more people. I wonder if that has something to do with the one child policy or something.
posted by delmoi at 10:09 AM on June 18, 2011


Those numbers are messed up and make no sense. There's no sources for the primary or secondary figures, while further down in the article it says that china has over 200 million primary and secondary students.

Good job wikipedia.
posted by yifes at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is the era of resource shortages, global warming, economic instabilty and demographic timebombs. The solution tothese problems isn't going to be found at the barrel of a gun or some new colonial system.
posted by humanfont at 11:37 AM on June 18, 2011


Hey, was Eichmann ever on the marquee for a debate? I mean, other than at his trial?

Godwinned in the second comment. Kissinger does not ever, ever equal Eichmann.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:44 AM on June 18, 2011


Those numbers are messed up and make no sense. There's no sources for the primary or secondary figures, while further down in the article it says that china has over 200 million primary and secondary students.

The source is this, see the 'footnotes' on the bottom of that table.
posted by delmoi at 12:02 PM on June 18, 2011


A bit late with this, but I thought I would chime in too.
There was a time (which I remember, called the early 70's) where people would and did laugh outright at the concept of a Japanese car. Now Detroit is a ghost town
First of all Detroit's population declined, but it's not a ghost town. And many of those Japanese cars are made in the U.S nowadays anyway.
Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in? Neither can I.
Airliners? Why do we need to be 'the world leader'? If you only look at consumer products, I guess more of those are made in China, but most manufacturing is industrial and clearly the U.S. has every other country beat. Dollar for dollar the U.S manufactures more stuff then any other country. In 2007 (which is the latest year in that table) the U.S. made more stuff then Germany and China put together. Almost as much as China and Japan combined.

If you only think in terms of specific products, or looking at a specific city, that's not going to get a very reliable estimate. The U.S makes more stuff now then ever. There are fewer jobs due to automation, not because of a collapse in demand or competition from China.

I hate this "America doesn't make stuff anymore" narrative. It's pervasive, and it's also wrong
posted by delmoi at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "The source is this, see the 'footnotes' on the bottom of that table."

That is incorrect. The number of primary and secondary institutions are provided by the link you posted. The number of primary and secondary students are provided by another article, which apparently got its numbers from the People's Education Press.

I'm going to have to call Bullshit on the Guardian article, as numerous sources state the number of primary students alone number in the hundred millions, not 17.3 million.
posted by yifes at 12:41 PM on June 18, 2011


The thing I hate about buying consumer goods from China is the consistent reports of lousy working conditions, long hours, and safety issues. I wish I could buy an iPad without the guilt that it is causing respiratory problems for the unfortunate soul who Foxconn (and Apple) was too cheap to buy a breather for while they polished the aluminum. I wish I could buy a motherboard from an American company that believed people should have 8 hour shifts with breaks and a lunch, where they can go home to their family after rather than a "people warehouse" dormitory. Apple & Jobs have remarked how Foxconn is a wonderful city with MOVIE THEATERS! I'd like to see any of the Apple execs spend a month there making their own product.
posted by pashdown at 4:40 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see any of the Apple execs spend a month there making their own product.

How do you think Steve Jobs got cancer......
posted by humanfont at 4:44 PM on June 18, 2011



Can you think of one single thing that the United States manufactures any more - that it is a world leader in? Neither can I.

Do wars count?
posted by notreally at 6:39 PM on June 18, 2011


So the U.S, with 1/4th the education, is educating more people.

Quantity almost doesn't matter. The question is, how good are the schools there vs here?

No answer here, just asking.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:24 PM on June 19, 2011


Apparantly the nays have it.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:28 PM on June 19, 2011


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