I recently spent about 10 days in China and I am suppose to go there again in two weeks for more than a week. During the latest visit, I was in Shanghai, Beijing, and Xi’an. What I saw and experienced there has been very impressive — I am not able to get it out of my head. The speed at which they have been able to build their physical, manufacturing, business, and educational infrastructure is unbelievable. Living in USA and being originally from India (where I visit every year), I am used to believing that democratic system is much better in the long term and hence China’s progress will be less desirable than that of India — for example. But every time I go, my belief is challenged. It appears that China is doing everything right to help their citizens and is building right environment for them.
I agree that the human rights and freedom issues are extremely important for a society, but can I really compare human ‘rights’ of people in countries like India and say that what they have more valuable than the facilities that Governemnt is building for people by providing them opportunities for betterment of their and their children’s life?
Or can I say that the democracy that exists in India is going to turn around and create leaders in the next 50 years who will think about the society and build things for society rather than exploiting religion and ignorant masses and keep propagating ignorance (rather than education) for their own short term gain making them the biggest (by a large margin) investors of Black money in Switzerlan, whils having one of the worst infrastructure in the country.
I don’t have any answers and I am not a social scientist — but some of these thoughts have been keeping me wondering about the system that is evolving in China and the system that is in India and sometimes even in USA where Republicans must oppose whatever the democratic president wants to accomplish — independent of whether it is good or bad — because that is required for them to have any chance in the next election.
Following my trip to China where I was awestruck by the second-to-none facilities at Tsinghua and SJTU, and equally by their policy oriented towards rapid path to competing at highest international level (as described by a dean and profs at Tisnghua, and the results of which I can see in terms of success rates of accepted papers at good international conferences), I made a couple of trips to India and specifically spoke to a chief minister of a state (which has grown well but has done poor job in education) at length and presented a good bit of data. Some details at http://knoesis.wright.edu/library/resource.php?id=00489
This issue is also tied to policy making and implementation (not just democracy) which allows for education to be turned into business, impedes in faculty independence and uses measures other than merit for educational outcome. Lord Bhiku Parekh has written a very good article talking about problems with higher education and research culture in India. I will try to find a link to that paper and post.
Amit, I read your white paper and completely agree with your viewpoint.
Education situation in India needs serious — I mean SERIOUS — attention at every level from public education in elementary schools to higher education. We are surviving purely based on the native intelligence and motivation levels of our top students. This can help only a bit — we need to put a system. China is impressive in that respect. We can learn from our neighbor many things — and education is definitely one of those.
People are constantly forgetting that China has actually empowered millions of people economically since the start of its economic boom. They all focus on the infringements on civil and political rights, which undeniably exist. Yet, can we really ask of China to have an absolutely clean record in just 20 years? How long did it take us in the West to get to where we are today? The rights of man were defined and established in the 18th century, yet it was only 40 years ago that African Americans could ride the bus like normal human beings. We sometimes forget how difficult it is to manage a country, let alone a country of almost 2 billion.
Your observation is right — and very correctly stated. I am impressed by the speed at which China is changing. Each of my trip has dispelled severl mic-concepts I had about this country. And interestingly, I am typing this again from China.