November 3, 2011
Learning is a two-way process
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
For more than three decades, China has looked up to and learnt from the West in its drive tocatch up with the rest of the world. Quite a few even believe that the country has everything tolearn from the West while the West has nothing to learn from China.
But that should not be the case today, at least according to Loretta Napoleoni, author of thenew book, Maonomics: Why Chinese Communists Make Better Capitalists Than We Do.
In a talk at the China Institute in New York this week, Napoleoni claims the West has a lot tolearn from the Chinese model. She describes the Western system as now obsolete and oldand out of sync with globalization.
In Napoleoni’s view, China has handled the process of globalization much better than Westernnations. It is wrong for the West to leave everything to the market in a globalized world.
The Italian economist argues that China’s transformations are not limited to reshaping theeconomy according to the principles of free trade, but also in the social and political arenas.
One of the world’s leading experts on money laundering and terror financing, Napoleoni admitsshe is not a China specialist and it is not a book about China, but about the world we are livingin. She wants to use China as a benchmark to analyze the shortcoming of Western capitalismand she finds many.
She criticizes the West for constantly expecting China to fail and blaming all its problems onChina and praises China’s success in poverty reduction. She says that the Chinesegovernment has been much better in keeping the social contract with the people than manyWestern governments. China is giving the world the opportunity to have a new economic andpolitical model, which can give birth to a new world order, she says.
However, it is wrong for Napoleoni to say that China benefits more than the West fromglobalization. Statistics show that the Western multinationals grab most of the profits whileChinese manufacturers receive only a meager share and China has inherited all of theenvironmental damage.
Also, while China’s progress has been phenomenal, the challenges it faces are still many andserious. In many ways, these challenges are far greater for China, which is still developing,than those facing the developed Western nations.
Nevertheless, Napoleoni is right in pointing out that every nation has something to offer. Thisincludes the China miracle.
There is no doubt that the West, which likes to tout the superiority of its political and economicsystem, is now in deep trouble with its debt crises, high unemployment, nasty politics,corruption and social unrest.
The grass-roots Occupy Wall Street movement in New York’s financial district is just the latestexample.
In just four weeks, it has spread to hundreds of cities in the United States and around theworld. The movement has become so powerful that few news media today can afford to ignoreor purely deride as they did in the first two weeks.
The message from the protesters is clear. They are deeply frustrated with the widening gapbetween the rich and the poor and an increasingly dysfunctional system where political partiescare more about votes than the good of the people and the fact that the changes promised bypoliticians are all too often not delivered.
What all these mean is that China should not learn blindly from the West. But that does notmean we have nothing to learn from the West. Our thirst in learning from the rest of the worldhas been a key feature of the China miracle. We should never let it up.
The author, based in New York, is deputy editor of China Daily US edition. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 10/14/2011 page8)