Thomas Barnett has been arguing that the world has entered a progressive era; a global shift to the left. I think he is absolutely right. We are watching the rise of a global middle class – a first in human history. As these formerly poor people rise in socioeconomic status they are going to demand liberty and democracy. Here Mr. Barnett points to a New York Times piece on a surprising move out of China’s authoritarian party system.
Thanks to growing grass-roots protests by Chinese citizens over big industrial projects, the NYT reports that the government there now says all such plans must pass a “social risk assessment” prior to final approval.
Interesting choice of terms, yes? The environmental impact is what the people worry about, but it’s the “social risk” that gets the government interested.
(Small aside about America: speaking of a new global progressive era I do believe that America is entering one itself. We have been in this situation before in the 1890s – technological progress that has stagnated wages of the middle class, a broken political system and ossified political structures (i.e. the tax code). I think America will be left of center for a couple decades as the middle class is rejuvenated, minorities become more assimilated and our political logjams are cleared out. The world is gonna keep on turning and the flag is gonna keep on flying, even when China’s economy is bigger than ours.)
China has to ask itself how it will develop an economy and society as robust and dynamic as America’s – the nation that has assimilated waves of immigrants for generations and grew richer and more open the whole time.