Dambisa Moyo: Is China the new idol for emerging economies? (1)
"Give me liberty or give me death. " When Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia, said these words in 1775, he could never have imagined just how much they would come to reson ate with American generations to come. At the time, these words were earmarked and targeted against the British, but over the last 200 years, they've come to embody wha t many Westerners beli eve, that freedom is the most cherished value, and tha t the best systems of politics and economics have freedom emb edded in them. Who could blame them? Over the past hundred years, the combina t ion of liberal democracy and private capitalism has helped to catapult the United States and Western countries to new levels of economic development.<s pan class="mceNonEditable">¶ In the United States over the past hundred years, incomes have increased 30 times, and hundreds of thousands of people have been moved out of poverty. ¶¶ an> Meanwhile, American ingenuity and innovat ¶ ion has helped to spur industrialization and also helped in the creation and the building of things like household appliances such as refrigerators and televisions, motor vehicles an d even the mobile p hones in your pockets. ¶ It's no surprise, then, that even at the depths of the private capitalism crisis, President Obama said, "The question before us is not whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generat e we ¶ alth and to expand freedom is unmatched." Thus, there's understandably a deep-seated presumption among Westerners that the whole world will decide to adopt private capitalism as the model of economic growth, liberal democracy , and will continue to prioritize political rights over economic rights. Howev er, to many who live in the emerging markets, this is an illusion, and even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed in 1948, was unanimously adopted, what it did was to mask a schism that has emerged between developed and deve loping countries, and th e ideological beliefs between political and economic rights. ¶ This schism has only grown wider. Today, many people who live in the emerging markets, where 90 percent of the world's popul ation lives , believe that the Western obsession with political rights is beside the point, and what is actually important is delivering on food, shelter, education and healthcare. ¶ "Give me liberty or give me death" is all well and go od if you can afford it, but if you're living on less than one dolla r a day, you're far too busy trying to survive and to provide for your family than to spend your time going aroun d trying to proclaim and defend democracy. Now, I know many people in this room and around the world will think, "Well actually, this is hard to grasp," because private capitalism and liberal democracy are held sacrosanct. But I ask you today, what would you do if you had to choose? What if you had to choose between a roof ove r your head and th e right to vo te? Over the last 10 years, I've had the privilege to travel to over 60 countries, many of them in the emerging markets, in Latin America, A sia, and my own contin ent of Africa. I've met with presidents, dissidents, policymakers, lawyers, teachers, doctors and the man on t he street, and through these conversations, it's become clear to me that many people in the e >¶ merging markets believe that there's actually a split occurring betwe en what people believe ideologically in terms of politics and economics in the West and that which people believe in the rest of the world. Now, ¶ don't get me wrong. ¶ I'm not say ing people in the emerging markets don't underst and democracy, nor am I saying t hat they wouldn't ideally like to pick their presidents or their leaders.<span clas s="mceNonEditable">¶ Of course they would. ¶¶ an> However, I am saying that on balance, they worry more about where their living standard improvements are going to come from, and how it is their governments can deliver for them, than whether or not the government was elected by d ¶ emocracy. The fact of the matter is that this has become a very poignant ques ¶ tion because there is for the first time in a long time a real challenge to the lass="mceNonEditable">¶ Western ideological systems of politics and economics, and this is a system that is embodied by China. And rather than have private capitalism, they have state capi talism. Instead of liberal democrac y, they have de-prioritized the democratic system. ¶ And they have also decided to prioritize economic rights over political rights. ¶¶ pan> ass="mceNonEditable">¶ I put it to you today that it is this system that is embodied by China that is gathering mome ntum amongst people in the emerging markets as the system to follow, because th ey believe increasingly that it i s the system that will promise the best and fastest improvements in living standards in the shortest period of time. ¶ If you will indulge me, I will spend a few moments explaining to yo u first why economically they've come to this belief. First of all, it's China's economic performance over the past 30 years. She's been able to produce record economic growth and me aningfully move many people out of poverty, specifically putting a meaningful dent in poverty by moving over 300 million people out of indigence. It's not just in economics, but it's also in terms of living standards. We see that in China, 28 percent of people had secondary school access. ¶ Today, it's closer to 82 percent. ss="mceNonEditable">¶ So in its totality, economic improvement has been quite significant. Second, China has been able to meaningfully improve its income inequality without c hanging the political construct. Today, the United States and China are t he two leading economies in the world. They have vastly different political systems and different economic systems, one with private capitalism, another one broadly with state capitalism. However, these two countries have the identical GINI Coefficient, which is a measure of income equality. ¶ Perhaps what is more disturbing is that China's income equality has been improving in recent times, whereas that of the United States has been declining. Thirdly, people in the emerging markets look at China's amazing and legendary infrastructure rollout. This is not just about China building roads and ports and railways in her own country -- she's been able to build 85,000 kilometers of road network in China and surpass that of the United States -- but even if you look to places like Africa, China has been able to help tar the distance of Cape Town to Cairo, which is 9,000 miles, or three times the distance of New York to California. Now this is something that people can see and point to. Perhaps it's no surprise that in a 2007 Pew survey, when surveyed, Africans in 10 countries said they thought that the Chinese were doing amazing things to improve their livelihoods by wide margins, by as much as 98 percent. Finally, China is also providing innovative solutions to age-old social problems that the world faces. If you travel to Mogadishu, Mexico City or Mumbai, you find that dilapidated infrastructure and logistics continue to be a stumbling block to the delivery of medicine and healthcare in the rural areas. However, through a network of state-owned enterprises, the Chinese have been able to go into these rural areas, using their companies to help deliver on these healthcare solutions.