Jaipur, Jan 18: China has the credentials to rule the world, said a country expert, but was outvoted by a number of other distinguished authors and thinkers who held the question was unnecessary and contenders should instead concentrate on providing their people a quality life.
“China is setting a challenge to the world… its is an obvious but necessary point that economic power is not everything but is very significant,” said Rana Mitter, a professor of the history and politics of modern China at the Oxford University’s Faculty of Oriental Studies, at a session “Who will Rule the World?” on the second day of the Jaipur Literary Festival Saturday
He quipped it was ironic that he was the second ethnic Bengali was advocating an east Asian power as a world leader, noting the first had been Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. “That didn’t turn out very well,” he said.
China was ahead of India by a long gap, said Mitter, adding three factors that made it a contender were rooted in economy and geography.
“It is the fastest growing economy in the world, its occupies a crucial geopolitical space in the economically significant Pacific area, as well as having impact over countries all over the globe,” he said.
Chinese author Xiaolu Guo, who was also on the panel, however pointed out that there was one way China lacked credentials – in culture.
Contending that China was a major force economically, she said the same could not be said of it on the cultural front.
“We all are speaking in English, not in Chinese… and the Chinese way of life is confined to China itself,” she said.
In his comments, renowned sociologist Dipankar Gupta said the question was “damning.
“Two powers (US and USSR) tried to do that and made a mess of the world,” he said.
“For India, the question is how we can rule ourselves,” he said, countries should be judged on what they can deliver to their people.
Gupta said the Nordic countries scored how in this respect and were not concerned with questions like this.
Colombian author Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, who has written “What if Latin America ruled the world?”, said if this came about, then the world would have “great dancing and better football and be more happy too”.
He said the question was wrong, and repeated assumptions that had led to the crushing of the creative period of the 1960s and 1970s.
“Countries which make the most cars, have the largest per capita incomes, and the biggest guns, have not changed the picture at all.
He advocated that people should think that they were not only historical agents, but geological too, and how their choices and decisions affected the environment.
“We should recognise that nature also has rights and is not simply there for the taking.”
Lord Meghnad Desai said the problem was that the thinking was still in terms of nation-states.
“Who will rule the world? Its not India or China …. Google, Microsoft and Coca Cola do already,” he said.
The session was moderated by author Sunil Khilnani.
(Vikas Datta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )