An Eye on the UCCI By Louieco Lewis, assistant professor, Business Studies
Namaste, a warm respectful Hindu greeting, and Ni Hao, a Chinese greeting equivalent to hello: will either of these be the greeting used by business and political leaders when they meet in the near future? China and India have experienced and continue to experience phenomenal economic growth partly through software development, technological innovation, a low-wage, technologically educated work force and low-cost manufacturing. Goldman Sach's economic research group in 2001 estimated that the three largest economies in 2050 will be China, the United States, and India. Napoleon, apparently, was aware of China's growth potential during its years of decline in the early 1800s. He said: “Let China sleep, for when China wakes, it will shake the world.”
Students of history are aware that the West's dominance of the world has been for a relatively short period of time (about 500 years) in the total arc of civilisation.
Spain, and especially Portugal, aided by their superior navigational skills in the late 1400s, grabbed large areas of the New World in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The rest of Europe quickly joined in the exploitation of the natural resources and slaughter of the indigenous peoples, of the New World, from the far north of North Americas, to the tip of South America. After the American Revolution (1775-1783), America was able to flex its economic muscle, partially because of cheap African slave labour and the settlement of land it had stolen from Native Americans. The American Industrial Revolution further propelled the West's economic dominance of the rest of the world.
Prior to the West's dominance, China and India led the world in science and math, technology and economic power. Professor David Landes of Harvard University in his 1998 book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, points out that in 1000AD, "Europe was a barbaric backwater", while India, China, and the Islamic World were engaged in trade, industry, mathematics, science, medicine and a number of other scholarly pursuits.
In mathematics during the Vedic Age in India the concept of zero, the algorithm, square root and cube root found their origins around 600BC. A certain Indian philosopher discussed the theory of relativity and the atom. In medicine, plastic surgeries were performed, cataracts were treated and dental surgery was possible. In astronomy the earth's circumference was determined, the calculation of occurrences of eclipses was performed, the number of planets in our solar system identified, and the fact that the sun is a star was learned.
Mathematicians of the Kerala School (14th Century) studied infinite series, convergence, and differentiation, methods to solve nonlinear equations; and Jyestadeva, of the Kerala School, wrote the first calculus text, the Yuktibhasa, 300 years before Leibnitz and Newton advanced their treatises. Much of the credit for the early development of many of the mathematical ideas developed mistakenly goes to the Arabs and Persians, who in fact fine-tuned and internationalised these mathematical concepts. Albert Einstein held the Indians' contribution to science in high esteem when he said,
"We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."
Indians in the United States account for approximately 1.5 per cent of the total population, yet 38 per cent of the doctors, 36 per cent of NASA scientists are Indian. The creator of the Pentium chip and the founder and creator of Hotmail are Indian as well.
Ancient China similarly has contributed much to the world: the wheel barrow, the compass, paper and printing, gunpowder, porcelain, water-driven machines — all in the 12th Century, 500 years before England's Industrial Revolution. Additionally, blast furnaces for smelting iron, forensic entomology, the flame-thrower, the belt and chain drive, chemical warfare, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, the harvesting of silk, the clock, gas and petroleum drilling, farm and animal husbandry, the seismograph, acupuncture, the calendar, paper currency, and the expression of geometrical shapes by equations were all in use well before than in the West.
In the United States the Chinese (approximately 1.2 per cent of the US population) have made similar contributions to the fields of science, medicine, computing, and Internet innovations — such as the co-founder of Yahoo.
If India and China continue to experience such robust growth the US and many Western countries will find that those students (Chinese-American, Indian-American as well as foreign Chinese and Indian students) who were to be the backbone of the ‘potential technical core’ for the West will be seeking their fortunes in their Mother countries. A number of prominent newspapers, such as The New York Times and evening news programmes have interviewed Chinese-American and Indian-Americans who already work in their Mother countries or have intentions of relocating. Additionally, there has been decreased enrolment by these two groups in science and engineering schools in the US and Western countries possibly because there has been an increase in the universities in India and China that are offering PhDs in science and engineering.
Demographers, market research analysts, and social scientists have studied generation X and generation Y, the tech savvy generations, with their netbooks, notebooks, ipods and the like. These digital generations will need a cadre of software engineers and computer scientists to satisfy their technical cravings. Undergraduate and graduate students in the West have been getting business degrees and MBAs, while degrees in science, engineering, and the mathematical sciences have had more than a 20 per cent decline since the mid 1980s. The National Academies has issued a report regarding the decline of math and science education in the US — Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Will the West be paying exorbitant prices to the East for technical innovations, or astronomical wages to those technocrats who stay in the West?
The 2050 GDP estimates lists China, the US, and India in that order. If we consider that India's monthly wage (IMF -2002) was $23.80 compared to China's monthly of $110.80, might China outsource to Indian firms? With the economies of India and China in overdrive the US may become No. 3 in terms of GDP if the majority of the Chinese and Indian populations living in the US leave for greener pastures.
China's decline was in part the result of wars, but for the most part, it was an autocratic leadership that limited individual freedoms and commerce. For India a number of invasions and religious strife were factors in her decline. Sound familiar? With India and China "coming to come", look out world: remember the intellectual capital in these countries has always been deep. Their past accomplishments shaped the word as we know it.