Yesterday, I was discussing the issues behind why China was still playing catch-up with the rest of the world. My friend said that it was because the industrial revolution happened in Britain, and not in China. For me, that wasn’t a good enough justification. Global trade is not a new concept, and has actually been going on for thousands of years. Admittedly, the volume of trade in today’s world far exceeds what anyone could have imagined, but nonetheless… China at some pointhad come across the McCartney Mission, and if things were successful, trade might have actually flourished between the two countries, and maybe technological trade might have actually happened. Unfortunately, Mr. McCartney of Britain screwed up. Some people may not want to admit that, justifying things with a middle-of-the-road explanation:
…The failure of the primary objectives was not due to Macartney’s refusal to kowtow in the presence of the Qianlong Emperor, as is sometimes believed. It was also not a result of the Chinese reliance on tradition in dictating foreign policy, but rather a result of competing world views which were uncomprehending and to some extent incompatible…
McCartney refusing to kowtow aside, considering how Isaac Titsingh was actually successful in establishing Dutch presence in China, and the lack of any positive results McCartney’s Mission produced, we can clearly say it failed.
At any point after this, China could have bought more than just weapons, they could have purchased technology to use, but they didn’t. Granted, adopting this technology would have taken time, for instance, it took the US 20 years to get the entire nation connected by telephone, with a population of over 100-million in 1915, let alone to try that daunting task with China’s then more-than-400-million population. Despite the setbacks of WWII, and the internal strifes which continued to plague China afterwards, after the communist part won out, it was still pretty much stuck with very little. However, it didn’t do itself much good, but getting into quarrels with its main partner, Russia, and it took a while before they had any communications with the United States. In the 1980s, everyone was still pretty much stuck in the 1800s, save a few technological advances, because you were pissed off at Russia, leading them to cut off any technological ties, and you weren’t serious about establishing ties with the United States, or any other advance nation at the time, to replace this technological vacuum. But hey, you made a nuclear bomb at least Good deal that does for the people! In effect, it was the leader of the third-world. Whoopdy-doo, now what did you do for your people? Great Leap Forward? Culutural Revolution? Nice.
So here we are today, still playing catch-up. Question is, where are we going to go from here?
Little bit behind on my Economist reading, but just read a seriously thought provoking article, entitled, “The third industrial revolution: The digitisation of manufacturing will transform the way goods are made—and change the politics of jobs too.” The thesis of the article (and one which I completely buy) is that we are on the cusp of a third industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution “began in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry.” The “second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production.” The third revolution “is under way” and that consists of manufacturing “going digital.”