Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Monday, May 1, 2023

What does it mean when India overtakes China? There is more to becoming a world power than sheer numbers

First posted on Asia Times. As India is about to overtake China to become the most populous in the world, The New York Times promises a future series of articles speculating on how India might change the world as China has in the last 40-plus years. I am certain that India being the largest democracy in the world will be mentioned ad nauseam, but other considerations might be overlooked. I would like to provide a broader framework in the interest of a comprehensive discussion. As my teacher and good friend Martin Jacques has repeatedly argued, China is a civilization state unlike any nation as defined by the West. India can also be considered a civilization state, but with major differences. In the 3rd century BCE, China had a brutal and cruel leader with a vision that united all seven warring states. Qin Shi Huang became China’s first emperor. He standardized the spoken and written language, the currency, the weight and other measures and even the width of the wagon axles on the roads. He wanted to live forever, but at least his legacy survived. A national identity Most important, the first emperor established a national identity for all the ethnic peoples living in China. In time, these people responded to the Chinese culture and assimilated into the Chinese way of life, gradually discarding their own original heritage. Today, we say China is made up of nearly 92% ethnic Han, the remainder being 50-some other identifiable minorities. Actually, the Han Chinese are made up of a mixed gene pool of many other tribes that have faded into history. There is no “purebred Chinese” per se. Missing in India’s history is that one strong unifying figure to rally the disparate groups of people and establish a national identify. India still recognizes 16 official languages along with other unofficial ones, and people many cannot communicate with another. Contrary to popular impression, only 10% of the population can speak English. The closest to a national identity is the one imposed by the British rule on the Indian subcontinent for nearly 100 years between the 19th and 20th centuries. The Brits, of course, were not there to construct an Indian identity. They were there to exploit, colonize and enslave the indigenous people. Consequently, Indians today have a much weaker sense of who they are as compared with the Chinese. It’s harder for them to know their ethnicity, other than the idea of attaining the mythical stature of a white Aryan as nirvana. India continues to be hobbled by the caste system, a legacy of its culture. This means that by virtue of their parentage, more than 300 million Indians will be socially stigmatized and economically marginalized with no hope of realizing their potential. Their children and grandchildren suffer the same fate. Caste system is India’s worst obstacle Another reflection from the mindset of the caste system is that India’s elite schools are reserved for the privileged few. Quality of the non-elite universities is not high. Most, especially women, cannot get into India’s better schools for lack of seats. China has about four times as many universities as India, and some have been placed among the world’s top 100 institutions of higher learning. Functional literacy is over 90% in China and about 60% in India. In Chinese culture, education is life’s highest priority. The difference in the two countries’ systems of government is one the West loves to extol. India is the world’s largest democracy, while China is not a (Western style) democracy. What is that supposed to mean? From my perspective, India is constrained by all the limitations of a Western democracy. The government talks a lot but does not get much done. Corruption is rife at every level. The poor are condemned to stay poor. Come to think of it, it reminds me of another democracy, the United States. However, given its huge population, India can boast about its relatively small group of brilliant and talented people, those who are fortunate enough to have realized their full potential. One obvious example is the corps of business executives originally from India who are dominating corporate America. For India to realize its full potential as a nation, it needs to stop seeing itself as an Anglo-Saxon country, and join the Global South to contribute to the wealth and well-being of the coalition of people of color. India needs to raise the quality of higher education and open access to every citizen. Only by allowing every person the opportunity to realize his or her full potential can India become another emerging pillar of technology and industry. To create jobs for the growing body of educated youth, India needs to attract foreign investment. This means less red tape and a total absence of corruption, and, of course, prompt completion of infrastructure projects. Lessons from China Contrary to the Western idea that conflict is the way to peace, India should proactively approach China to resolve their border dispute. So silly to argue over a Line of Control drawn by a Brit more than a century ago (the McMahon Line). For India truly to overtake China and become a new emerging world leader, it would need to learn two essential lessons from China. One lesson, relatively easy to do, is to greatly improve the quality of education and boost the quantity of the workforce. The government then would have to eliminate corruption at every level and bureaucratic red tape to make foreign direct investment easy and attractive. FDI creates jobs and raises GDP. The second lesson, much more challenging, is to launch a cultural revolution on a scale that surpasses even the one in China, but with a constructive end-point rather than a destructive one. The objective of an Indian revolution is to truly eliminate caste, liberate women, and give all the opportunity to realize their potential.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

China and Judaism

In a burst of activity, I wrote a series of short pieces for Asia Times under their column called Chatham House Rules.
China and Jews go back as far as the Tang Dynasty. In those days Jewish traders that plied the Silk Road went into China as part of big caravans–to better defend themselves against bandits–and were frequently part of caravans led by Arab traders. They got along just fine in the interest of “international trade.”
By the Northern Sung dynasty (960-1127AD), a thriving Jewish community existed in Kaifeng, a city south of Beijing that was then the capital of China. From various records, we now know that Jewish traders were granted audience with the emperor who bade them to revere and preserve the customs of their ancestors, consistent with well established Chinese tradition. The synagogue in Kaifeng was built in 1163AD and a Rabbi Levi was in charge of the first congregation.
Apparently the emperor also bestowed seven surnames to eight Jewish families living in Kaifeng. The surnames were Ai, Gao, Jin, Li, Shi, Zhang and Zhao. The descendants today still refer themselves as belonging to “qixingbajia,” seven surnames in eight families. One speculation is that these surnames sounded Jewish.
Of course in more recent modern history, you are probably familiar with the story of the Chinese consul general in Vienna who issued visas to Jews as fast as he could stamp their passport to enable them to get out of Europe ahead of Hitler’s Gestapo. Many of these lived through WWII in a ghetto in Shanghai and had some of their bitter sweet memories of surviving cramp quarters alongside understanding and kindly Chinese neighbors.
After Deng Xiaoping opened China and launched economic reform, Jews from Europe and Israel were among those entering China to begin business relationships. The Chinese basically have not learned to discriminate between a Jewish person and any other members of the white race. If China later became more partial to the Israelis, it was because of the the technology Israel had to offer.

Dr. Wendy Abraham, noted lecturer and authority on Jews in China, has said more than once that China is the only nation in the world that has never persecuted the Jews on account of their beliefs. On a personal note, I have two Jewish brothers-in-law and they both love the Chinese cuisine. Now that’s a tie that binds.

Friday, October 31, 2014

There exists solid footing for Creationism after all

Recently I attended a lecture given by Professor Peter Fisher, head of MIT Physics Department. The subject of his talk was on dark matter in the universe.

He said the universe we can see, i.e., all the stars, galaxies and other light sources make up only 4% of the universe. The other 96% of the universe is made up of dark matter and dark energy. So far, we humans have not found a way to see the dark matter and energy.

That was an OMG moment for me. That 96% gives the Creationists and advocates of Intelligence Design plenty of "ground" to stand on.