August 9, 2002

THE NEXT JAPAN :

Get set for a totally new China (KENICHI OHMAE, Straits Times)
OVER the coming decades, China will become a thoroughly new form of political and economic entity. Brutally competitive in both politics and world markets, innovative and resilient, China will be more dominant than any nation except America.

Such a shift in the global balance of power occurs only about once every century and is comparable to the emergence of the United States as a world power a century ago.

The magnitude of this change is due, in part, to a radical and rapid shift in China's governance.

Because the shift has been so sudden, it is tempting to write it off as a fluke. But China's restructuring is permanent and will affect all aspects of national life, as well as its global standing.

The People's Republic now embodies two systems: the centralised, autocratic communist administration, dominated by an outdated ideology and military interests, and the decentralised, free-market economic regime.

Whether deliberately or not, China is reorganising itself to balance central authority and common purpose with decentralised freedom, in the same way that nimble companies balance home-office and divisional control.

The result is a new geopolitical model - the country as corporation.


Periodically we get a bunch of hype about the next great power, but the folks pumping them up tend to ignore the internal contradictions and weaknesses of the country involved. In the case of China the biggest problem seems obvious : it's too big. It is too big in at least two senses. First,
there is just no precedent in human history that suggests you can effectively administer a nation of over a billion people. Everything from voting to infrastructure development and maintenance to tax collection to a simple meeting of a congress or a parliament will be daunting. Consider only that last point. How do you apportion representation with over a billion citizens? Assume a Congress structured like ours and you'd have a lower house with nearly two thousand people in it. Could they conceivably legislate effectively? Perhaps, but it seems at least problematic.
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 9, 2002 7:57 AM
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