By Greg Ellis
Let China sleep, for when she awakes she shall shake the whole world.
If you can’t read these words, better start brushing up. A profound shift has begun, the kind that occurs once every few lifetimes. Don’t be left behind. On Oct. 23, 2004, these were the ominous words emblazoned on the cover of The Globe and Mail. Between this headline were Chinese characters, ones the vast majority of Canadian university students would not understand. None of this concerned me until the evidence began to mount. October’s cover of Fortune magazine was titled “Inside The New China–The companies, consumers and innovators shaping the World’s Hottest Economy.”
“China is the future” a respected university professor told me–and now an entire weekend edition of Canada’s national newspaper was dedicated to China’s growth, economy and people. The final exam was approaching; it was time to pay attention.
With a population of 1.3 billion China’s sheer potential is no mystery. A country in the past oppressed by the shackles of communist regimes is now being transformed. A growth is about in China, and none of us should miss out. China’s economy has grown by 10 percent every year for the past two decades. While suffering from the residual effects of the pathology of communism and large-ly state-owned enterprises, China will potentially emerge as the world’s next superpower or at a minimum break the current monopolistic ranks.
The facts on China continue to pile up. China is the largest agricultural producer in the world, feeding approximately 22 percent of the world population. It has over 100 cities with a million people, India has 18, Japan, 12, The United States 9. Its population base is beginning to be adequately harnessed and the progress on the horizon will prove to be unprecedented.
China’s adoption of Western capitalism however is not a panacea. According to the World Bank over 46.76 per cent of China’s population live in incomes below the international poverty line of $2 U.S. per day. Moreover, China’s public expenditures on health and education are abysmally low, sitting at around 2.2 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. In addition, addressing China’s human right record will be of important concern for them on the world stage. According to Amnesty International 63.4 per cent of all known executions last year occurred in China. As any growing country does, China has some wrinkles to iron out particularly ones that will adversely affect them in the court of world opinion.
At first glance China’s GDP of 4.6 trillion seems impressive. However, China’s GDP per capita tells a much truer story–that work must be done to truly harness its population resources. Sitting at only $3,600 U.S. per capita compared to Canada’s $25,000 U.S. per capita, China’s economy, at least at the moment, lacks some form of economic efficiency.
All the concessions above however are misleading in and of themselves. Capitalism in China is only 10 years old and needs a chance to fully mature. No other nation has broken away from communism and grown at this speed, and our predications are shrouded with uncertainty–we have no precedent to go from. Perhaps what is most impressive is even New York based financial giant Goldman Sachs has projected China’s economy to surpass America’s by the year 2039. Militarily, China’s prowess is indisputable. China is second only to our southern neighbor in military expenditures and actually ahead of them in official military personnel. China is rising.
China’s future should be persuasive. I was previously blissfully unaware of this superpower in the making–dismissing it as a communist titanic, egregious human rights violator and unfortunately lost country. My views have markedly changed. If China is the future there needs to be a plan in the present for us to become a part of it. Having America as our economic best friend is invaluable but having more friends never hurt.