This week we are hearing that in five years we will no longer be first by the economic measure known as GDP or gross daily product. News readers on CNN seemed both surprised and appalled by the news.
How could we be surprised by this? All our businesses have gone to China, except the ones which have gone to India. Capitalism could not be expected to ignore cheap labor, low overhead, and an endless supply of workers and consumers forever.
We believe that we are number one, that we should always be number one. Even on this one measure we don’t want to lose our ascendancy. But if you saw the Olympics in Beijing and if you saw the opening ceremony then you are aware of the enormous population of people who live in China, who are loyal to China, and who currently can be harnessed to work for China and to work to improve their own standard of living. If you read about China then you know that the Chinese people have never lived under a democracy. (Calling a country the Democratic Republic of whatever does not make a country a democracy.) Read Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang (nonfiction) or Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress byDai Sijie and Ina Rilke (fiction) to learn how difficult it was to thread your way through the “Cultural Revolution”. If life is a bit easier for the Chinese people these days it is difficult to feel badly about it. In spite of China’s GDP it will be many years before everyone in China enjoys a standard of living anything like ours. They may never enjoy the freedoms we enjoy. Perhaps we haven’t learned our sharing as well as we should have.
I’m an American. I love being number one. I hope our economy gets a second wind and “rocks” again. If it doesn’t get there right away, I think we will still be number one in a number of other areas.
All countries have jets now, all countries have tourism, TV, the internet. People want what others have. It is natural for prosperity to spread. However we don’t want prosperity to leave us behind. Unless we find the next new thing fast and keep it to ourselves we may have to learn to celebrate our primacy in areas other than economics.