The main paradox of modern times – global issues


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  • Opinion by Vladimir Popov (Berlin)
  • Interpress service

“Asian values” are the priority of the interests of society (the village, the institution, the nation, the global community) over the interests of the individual. As a matter of fact, what are today called “Asian values”, prior to Protestantism in the sixteenth century, was a universal principle of all mankind – there was no precedence for the interests of the individual over the interests of society before that time.

Collective values ​​are often placed alongside Western liberal values, which emphasize the primacy of human rights that cannot be isolated from the individual under any circumstances, even for the highest public good. John Rawls, political philosopher and reference on this issue, formulated the principle of the primacy of democratic values ​​and human rights: according to him, human rights, including political rights, “are not subject to political bargaining or to the detriment of social interests. Defenders of ‘Asian values’ believe, who Their roots are often sought in Confucianism, that, in principle, the political rights of individuals can be sacrificed for the greater common good, for example, in order to achieve high and sustainable growth rates and social equality.

Values, of course, is a largely vague and subjective concept. Economists like to work with something concrete – objective and measurable categories, but there are also those. Social harmony is based on low income and wealth inequality, which is quite measurable: in China and East Asia today it is lower than in other countries, if only the comparisons are made correctly – adjusted for state size and level of development. And the “oligarchy density” (the ratio of billionaire wealth to GDP), which measures inequality at the top of the property pyramid, is lower in China than in most other countries.

The country’s share in the economy (government consumption as a percentage of GDP, to be exact) is higher than in states with similar characteristics, the number of law and order violations and criminal penalties (crime rate, murder rate and imprisonment rate) lower1. There are other measurable objective indicators – the rate of employment and lifelong unemployment, the ratio of bank credit to the stock market, the concentration of control over firms, etc. There are also differences in personal preferences as measured by the World Value Survey and other opinion polls – degree of trust in government, willingness to defend the homeland, importance of family ties, etc.2.

But the most important thing, of course, is the public realization that the state and society as a whole are more important than any individual, even the most important. For example, the one-child policy, which has been practiced in China since the beginning of reforms in 1979 and until recently, is traditionally perceived in the West as a violation of the “inalienable” reproductive rights of citizens, but in China it was supported by the vast majority. The majority of the population did not ask questions.

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” – this famous phrase left by John F. Kennedy made a strong impression in the United States and the West, but not in China. “As if it could not be otherwise” – my Chinese friend noted clearly.

Civilizations competition

There was a time when the West’s bet on personal freedom and human rights seemed to pay off as the West overpowered all other civilizations economically and militarily. The general feeling was that “the rest” could only imitate the West in order to achieve the same success. However, the rise of East Asia in the post-war period, especially the emergence of its central state – China, makes one believe that the “end of history” has been postponed, and it is too early to end the debate over competing civilizations. China (and earlier – other East Asian countries based on Chinese culture – Japan, Korea, Taiwan and ASEAN countries) in the post-war period managed to raise growth rates to 7-10% and maintain such growth rates for several decades. As a result, East Asia in the second half of the twentieth century became, in fact, the only large region that was able to narrow the gap in levels of economic development with the West.

Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe failed to do so. True, in the 50s and 70s of the last century, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as well as Latin America, narrowed the gap with the West. But then, their model of alternative import development came to a standstill: Latin America after the debt crisis of the early 1980s experienced a “lost decade,” Eastern Europe of the 1990s experienced a transformational stagnation that can only be compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s. . Years.

As a matter of fact, only in East Asia there are countries that have managed to transform themselves from a developed country into a developed one – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. No other country in the world has been able to catch up with the West because of high growth rates (and not because of high resource prices). The last two cases can be attributed to small scales – these are cities, not countries, but there is no way to denounce the first three cases. Especially now, when China is following in the footsteps of these countries with a population of one-fifth of the world’s population.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this growth today, not only because China is the largest country in the world, but also because for the first time in modern history we are dealing with a successful catch-up development based on an illiberal, if not antisemitic basis. – Liberal principles – about “Asian values”, collective in essence institutions. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, China, or rather East Asia, the development model is gaining more and more adherents in developing countries – from Brazil to Fiji. Of course, geopolitics and military potential are of great importance, but in the end countries with higher economic efficiency will be dominant. “In the last analysis, labor productivity is the most important, the main thing for the victory of the new social order” (Lenin).

The comparative economic and social dynamics during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21 is further evidence of the merits of the collective model, if such evidence is still needed. In China, Japan and South Korea, there was practically no increase in mortality compared to the previous period (2015-19), and life expectancy did not decrease. Among Western countries, only Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Norway showed such a result, while in the United States the death rate increased by almost 25% year-on-year, life expectancy decreased by a year and a half – from 78.8 in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020 This year, 2021, life expectancy in the United States will likely decrease further, while in China it will increase, so that China can surpass the United States in longevity.

Meanwhile, China leads economic growth: GDP growth rates in 2020 slowed only slightly (from 6% in 2019 to 2% in 2020; 8-9% expected in 2021 to make up for the previous slowdown), while in In all other G20 countries, except Turkey, there was a decrease in production, sometimes it is noticeable – from 5 to 10% in 20203.

Climate forecast

Russia has stood between East and West for almost all of its history. The modern Russian socio-economic model is partly liberal, but partly collectivist, especially after overcoming the chaos of the 1990s.

Having lost the competition with the Chinese economic and social model in many ways, the West will likely attempt to create a united front of states, regardless of whether these states are liberal and democratic or not, to contain the rise and spread of China. collective model. It can be assumed that all countries considered authoritarian in the West today, from Venezuela to North Korea, would receive leniency for alleged violations of human rights and democracy if only they joined the anti-Chinese alliance. It is possible that the West will try to lure Russia by lifting sanctions and even possibly joining the club of Western “civilized countries”.

If Russia and other countries considered authoritarian in the West agree to such a settlement, the rise of China and the spread of the East Asian model may slow, but they cannot be stopped. But if Russia ties its fate to China and the new collective model, the decline of the West could happen faster than expected.

1 Popov, Vladimir. Why Europe Looks So Much Like China: Big Government and Low Income Inequality. MPRA paper number 106326March 2021.

2 Keon Lee and Vladimir Popov (Editors) Rethinking the East Asian model of economic development after Covid-19. – Special issue of Seoul Journal of Economics, 2020, vol. 33;

Popov, Vladimir. Which economic model is more competitive? West and South after the Covid-19 pandemic. –Seoul Journal of Economics 2020, vol. 33, no. 4, p. 505-538;

The Covid-19 pandemic and the long-term development trajectories of East Asian and Western economic models. – Pathways to Peace and Security (??????????????????), 2020, 2 (59).

3 Popov, Vladimir. The global health care system after the Corona virus: who bears the responsibility to protect. MPRA paper number 100542, May 2020;

Popov, Vladimir. How do you deal with the economic recession due to the Corona virus? MPRA paper number 100485May 2020.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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