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The Chinese dragon is growing up


The USA has been a champion of democracy as well as capitalism. And given the success the US has had in the last century and the influence it exerts on global issues today, we tend to come to the conclusion that the combination of democracy and capitalism is the most powerful driver of innovation and economic growth, and a model that ought to be emulated by countries across the world.

Although this argument has been receiving some flak in the past year thanks to the election of one Donald Trump, there is still no doubt that the US is the most influential nation on the planet today.

Yet, the Chinese dragon is looming large and if the current trajectories hold, China will surpass the US as the most influential nation on the planet in a handful of years from now.

And China has a completely different model as compared to the US. While the US boasts about its democracy and capitalism, China has no democracy but still has a semblance of capitalism. While it is extremely hard or near impossible for foreign (US based) companies to operate successfully in China (or operate at all) without acceding to Chinese regulations, it is still relatively an open battlefield for companies arising on the Chinese land.

And China is indeed making quick progress on every aspect that the US is - from self-driving cars and robotics to silicon chips and new energy sources.

We are at the cusp of technologies that are game-changers - self-driving cars, robots that can replace factory workers, genetic engineering, drone technology and artificial intelligence.

Each of these technological developments have far-reaching consequences on human life. It can put millions of people out of work, it can enhance the abilities of our own species, and so much more that we may not even be able to imagine today.

These consequences are much harder to handle in a democracy where the majority of the people fear that these consequences may be detrimental to them personally. While replacing menial labour might still result in a lot of jobs being created that require specialised skills, many many people won't be able to make that transition.

A forty year old Walmart checkout clerk may not be able to upskill herself to become a computer programmer if her job is replaced by a robot. The same for a truck driver or a factory worker or a school teacher. And these people, being in the majority, will vote people into power who will slow down the progress on these fronts.

But what if the nation isn't a democracy? Like China. Then, it is very easy for the government to draw up quick rules and regulations to usher in these new technologies without any opposition. Mind you, the concerns of the majority of the people in China will be the same as the concerns of the majority of the people in the US. But while the Americans can vote someone to power that can prioritize these concerns over technological advancement, the Chinese cannot do so.

Which means that democracy can be the achilles' heel for the US in its competition with China for world dominance.

Many in the US are already calling for decoupling democracy and capitalism so that they don't fall behind in the race of technological and scientific advancement.

When China does surpass the US, will the US still hold on to the values it takes pride in today, or will it prioritize world domination over everything else?

Arguably, neither is a good outcome. So, all the more reason to dissolve nations and move towards one government for the planet.

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