It is time for America, as in The United States of, to wake up, says international economist Dr. Dambisa Moyo.
The world’s population will grow from its current (2012) level of 7 billion to 30 billion by 2050. The bulk of that growth will be in citizens from developing countries born into the economic middle class, with all their inherited expectations for a quality lifestyle, for themselves, and a good education and bright future for their own children.
Already, 60% of Chinese citizens live in the economic middle class: they want, for example, cars, not bicycles. And they have higher expectations of their government to provide economic opportunities, including good jobs.
China, in 2004, began investing for the future by buying rights to essential manufacturing commodities it does not have, such as copper and coal, and building good relations with developing areas such as Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. Through this investment and mutually beneficial trade, China has made new friends, particularly in the developing countries of the world, where 90% of the world’s population live and where 90% of the future middle class population will come from.
Ask Africans what they think of China and you will hear good things: there is now a trans-Africa road, reaching from Cape Town to Cairo, 9,000 miles long, and paved – and at every border crossing there is a sign that says, This Road Courtesy The Republic of China. It’s not all altruistic: a defining characteristic of the middle class is to hold their governments accountable, no matter what the political structure, to honor the social contract between citizen and state. With the growth of the middle class comes growth in the expectations of government, including provisions for good health care, education, and economic opportunity.
It has taken the world awhile to realize that there can be more than one kind of capitalism than “Western.” There is Russian capitalism, India capitalism, and Chinese capitalism. With the rise of the global middle class, good economics matters more than ever – but not necessarily political structure. The world’s Western-style economies (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US, Canada) have had to learn to include in their plans the world’s Developing-style economies as well (South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, China, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Turkey, European Union, Saudi Arabia, Australia).
The West is not the sole shining example of how to govern and grow any more… but the reason may be surprising: It has succeeded, and still succeeds, in showing new ways for countries to operate. But the lessons have been noted and put into practice by others, albeit a little differently in each case.
We are in a new circumstance where a majority of the world’s population has a better chance of a quality lifestyle than ever before in history. Already, half the world is middle class. But the growth of the middle class between now and 2050 is going to make for unprecedented needs for arable land, water, energy, and minerals.
This means understanding the new circumstances and thinking ahead. For all their growth, China and the world’s other developing nations are, still, technically poor. The US needs to become their partner in economics rather than their preacher on politics. Because when there is a strong middle class on the ground, government accountability follows.
The UP Experience 2012 speaker announced – DAMBISA MOYO
The UP Experience