Our imperialist mindset — a hangover from the 20thcentury — suggests that developing countries are always helpless without the West. That says more about our limited analytical abilities than about how the emerging world will fare, writes Zachary Karabell
One of the more remarkable (though largely unremarked) developments in recent Indian politics has been the startling shift in the country’s discourse about capitalism. As in many developing countries, “self-reliance” and economic self-sufficiency were India’s national mantras after independence – and, in India’s case, remained so for more than four decades. Whereas most Westerners axiomatically associate capitalism with freedom, India’s nationalists associated it with slavery. After all, the British East India Company, that harbinger of capitalism, had come to trade and stayed to rule.
Most of us still look at China, the world’s second-largest economy, as the undisputed leader among major developing countries. In the long run, however, I’m betting on India to emerge as the more significant global economy.
Those who are dazzled by China often forget that much of the rapid growth before 2008 was caused by the shift of global manufacturing from Europe and the U.S., not by domestic-oriented activity. China’s economy remains export-driven, with consumers accounting for only 38 percent of gross domestic product, far below the levels of many developing and developed countries.
“China will unswervingly pursue a way of peaceful development. China’s development aims at making greater contributions toward peace and development of mankind, as well as a happy life for its people, instead of overwhelming others or scrambling for world dominance,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
Hong made the remarks at a regular press briefing while commenting on the report “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” issued on Monday by the U.S. National Intelligence Council, an analytical arm of the government’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The report said China’s economy is likely to surpass that of the United States a few years before 2030; however, it added that China may not replace the United States on a global level. “Despite the remarkable achievements made since reform and opening-up, China is still the world’s biggest developing country and has a long way to go in realizing socialist modernization. We have a clear understanding of that,” the spokesman said.
Mao Zedong believed that revolutionary fervor could overcome technological backwardness. But when more pragmatic leaders took power in Beijing, they found that China lagged so far behind the West that the country risked permanent second-class status.
Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, launched China’s rise by reforming the economy and opening the country to the West. With this opening, however, came a long-running, state-sponsored espionage program to acquire advanced technology and accelerate the growth of China’s civil and military industries. And when Western companies first went into China, they believed that the damage from espionage was tolerable, part of the cost of doing business in the world’s fastest-growing market, and that they could “run faster” to create new technologies, thereby minimizing any loss. But what was tolerable when China was a developing economy is no longer acceptable when it is the second-largest economy in the world and a potential military competitor.