Friday, August 27, 2010

A rather stupid leader in The Economist on India, China

There was this delightful story in The Guardian -- of course, not the ideal source to cite while discussing The Economist -- once that contrary to public perception that people who write those unsigned editorials, analyses and reports in the conservative magazine were just clever young chaps with a flair for the turn of phrase. The considered opinions, the deep insights are just a joke. It may be a cruel broadside, and even an inaccurate one. But time and again, The Economist proves the negative picture painted by The Guardian almost right. A grand example of this silliness passing off as serious is the leader that the newspaper -- it is a weekly magazine -- wrote in its August 21st-27th issue. It is called 'Contest of the century China v India'. The whole piece is predicated on a series of inanities. A gem from the concatenation is this: "But the 20th century taught the world that blatantly foreseeable conflicts of interest can become increasingly foreseeable wars with unforeseeably dreadful consequences." This is followed by the non sequitur: "Relying on prosperity and more democracy in China to sort things out thus seems unwise."
The weekly magazine or the weekly newspaper is boringly predictable and it seems to be turning liberal by the day. Metternich, a counter-revolutionary Austrian chancellor remarked at the bizarre and despairing phenomenon of a liberal pope! So with The Economist.
There are the typical Western assumptions: 'And because India does not threaten the West, it has powerful friends both on its own terms and as a counter-weight to China."
Then there is the confused conclusion, which is neither here nor there: "Globally, the rules-based system the West set up in the second half of the 20th century brought huge benefits to emerging powers. But it reflects an out-of-date world order, not the current global balance, let alone a future one. China and India should be playing a bigger role in shaping the rules that will govern the 21st century. That requires concessions from the West. But it also requires commitment to a rules-based international order from China and India. A serious effort to solve their own disagreements is a good place to start."
First, the rules did not help the emerging powers. The trade was dominated by the developed economies. They had the money and they needed the markets to invest. What happened was that the developed economies lost their edge. That was the problem. If India and China were to shape the rules, they would want to do it to their own advantage, and it cannot be as a result of concessions from the West. There is absolute lack of clarity of thought in the whole argument. That is The Economist for you. When it comes to grapple with reality that goes beyond its intellectual horizon, it is lost in nothingnesses.

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