Dambisa Moyo: Is China the new idol for emerging economies?
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Dambisa Moyo: Is China the new idol for emerging economies?

October 22, 2019


“Give me liberty or give me death.” When Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia, said these words in 1775, he could never have imagined just how much they would come to resonate with American generations to come. At the time, these words were earmarked and targeted against the British, but over the last 200 years, they’ve come to embody what many Westerners believe, that freedom is the most cherished value, and that the best systems of politics and economics have freedom embedded in them. Who could blame them? Over the past hundred years, the combination of liberal democracy and private capitalism has helped to catapult the United States and Western countries to new levels of economic development. In the United States over the past hundred years, incomes have increased 30 times, and hundreds of thousands of people have been moved out of poverty. Meanwhile, American ingenuity and innovation has helped to spur industrialization and also helped in the creation and the building of things like household appliances such as refrigerators and televisions, motor vehicles and even the mobile phones in your pockets. It’s no surprise, then, that even at the depths of the private capitalism crisis, President Obama said, “The question before us is not whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and to expand freedom is unmatched.” Thus, there’s understandably a deep-seated presumption among Westerners that the whole world will decide to adopt private capitalism as the model of economic growth, liberal democracy, and will continue to prioritize political rights over economic rights. However, to many who live in the emerging markets, this is an illusion, and even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed in 1948, was unanimously adopted, what it did was to mask a schism that has emerged between developed
and developing countries, and the ideological beliefs between political and economic rights. This schism has only grown wider. Today, many people who live in the emerging markets, where 90 percent of the world’s population lives, believe that the Western obsession with political rights is beside the point, and what is actually important is delivering on food, shelter, education and healthcare. “Give me liberty or give me death” is all well and good if you can afford it, but if you’re living on less than one dollar a day, you’re far too busy trying to survive and to provide for your family than to spend your time going around trying to proclaim and defend democracy. Now, I know many people in this room and around the world will think, “Well actually, this is hard to grasp,” because private capitalism and liberal democracy are held sacrosanct. But I ask you today, what would you do if you had to choose? What if you had to choose between a roof over your head and the right to vote? Over the last 10 years, I’ve had the privilege to travel to over 60 countries, many of them in the emerging markets, in Latin America, Asia, and my own continent of Africa. I’ve met with presidents, dissidents, policymakers, lawyers, teachers, doctors and the man on the street, and through these conversations, it’s become clear to me that many people in the emerging markets believe that there’s actually a split occurring between what people believe ideologically in terms of politics and economics in the West and that which people believe in the rest of the world. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying people in the emerging markets don’t understand democracy, nor am I saying that they wouldn’t ideally like to pick their presidents or their leaders. Of course they would. However, I am saying that on balance, they worry more about where their living standard improvements are going to come from, and how it is their governments can deliver for them, than whether or not the government was elected by democracy. The fact of the matter is that this has become a very poignant question because there is for the first time in a long time a real challenge to the Western ideological systems of politics and economics, and this is a system that is embodied by China. And rather than have private capitalism,
they have state capitalism. Instead of liberal democracy,
they have de-prioritized the democratic system. And they have also decided to prioritize economic rights over political rights. I put it to you today that it is this system that is embodied by China that is gathering momentum amongst people in the emerging markets as the system to follow, because they believe increasingly that it is the system that will promise the best and fastest improvements in living standards in the shortest period of time. If you will indulge me, I will spend a few moments explaining to you first why economically they’ve come to this belief. First of all, it’s China’s economic performance over the past 30 years. She’s been able to produce record economic growth and meaningfully move many people out of poverty, specifically putting a meaningful dent in poverty by moving over 300 million people out of indigence. It’s not just in economics, but it’s also in terms of living standards. We see that in China, 28 percent of people had secondary school access. Today, it’s closer to 82 percent. So in its totality, economic improvement has been quite significant. Second, China has been able to meaningfully improve its income inequality without changing the political construct. Today, the United States and China are the two leading economies in the world. They have vastly different political systems and different economic systems, one with private capitalism, another one broadly with state capitalism. However, these two countries have the identical GINI Coefficient, which is a measure of income equality. Perhaps what is more disturbing is that China’s income equality has been improving in recent times, whereas that of the United States has been declining. Thirdly, people in the emerging markets look at China’s amazing and legendary infrastructure rollout. This is not just about China building roads and ports and railways in her own country — she’s been able to build 85,000 kilometers of road network in China and surpass that of the United States — but even if you look to places like Africa, China has been able to help tar the distance of Cape Town to Cairo, which is 9,000 miles, or three times the distance of New York to California. Now this is something that people can see and point to. Perhaps it’s no surprise that in a 2007 Pew survey, when surveyed, Africans in 10 countries said they thought that the Chinese were doing amazing things to improve their livelihoods by wide margins, by as much as 98 percent. Finally, China is also providing innovative solutions to age-old social problems that the world faces. If you travel to Mogadishu, Mexico City or Mumbai, you find that dilapidated infrastructure and logistics continue to be a stumbling block to the delivery of medicine and healthcare in the rural areas. However, through a network of state-owned enterprises, the Chinese have been able to go into these rural areas, using their companies to help deliver on these healthcare solutions. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s no surprise that around the world, people are pointing
at what China is doing and saying, “I like that. I want that. I want to be able to do what China’s doing. That is the system that seems to work.” I’m here to also tell you that there are lots of shifts occurring around what China is doing in the democratic stance. In particular, there is growing doubt among people in the emerging markets, when people now believe that democracy is no longer to be viewed as a prerequisite for economic growth. In fact, countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Chile, not just China, have shown that actually, it’s economic growth that is a prerequisite for democracy. In a recent study, the evidence has shown that income is the greatest determinant of how long a democracy can last. The study found that if your per capita income is about 1,000 dollars a year, your democracy will last about eight and a half years. If your per capita income is between 2,000 and 4,000 dollars per year, then you’re likely to only get 33 years of democracy. And only if your per capita income is above 6,000 dollars a year will you have democracy come hell or high water. What this is telling us is that we need to first establish a middle class that is able to hold the government accountable. But perhaps it’s also telling us that we should be worried about going around the world and shoehorning democracy, because ultimately we run the risk of ending up with illiberal democracies, democracies that in some sense could be worse than the authoritarian governments that they seek to replace. The evidence around illiberal democracies is quite depressing. Freedom House finds that although 50 percent of the world’s countries today are democratic, 70 percent of those countries are illiberal in the sense that people don’t have free speech or freedom of movement. But also, we’re finding from Freedom House in a study that they published last year that freedom has been on the decline every year for the past seven years. What this says is that for people like me who care about liberal democracy, is we’ve got to find a more sustainable way of ensuring that we have a sustainable form of democracy in a liberal way, and that has its roots in economics. But it also says that as China moves toward being the largest economy in the world, something that is expected to happen by experts in 2016, that this schism between the political and economic ideologies of the West and the rest is likely to widen. What might that world look like? Well, the world could look like more state involvement and state capitalism; greater protectionisms of nation-states; but also, as I just pointed out a moment ago, ever-declining political rights and individual rights. The question that is left for us in general is, what then should the West be doing? And I suggest that they have two options. The West can either compete or cooperate. If the West chooses to compete with the Chinese model, and in effect go around the world and continue to try and push an agenda of private capitalism and liberal democracy, this is basically going against headwinds, but it also would be a natural stance for the West to take because in many ways it is the antithesis of the Chinese model of de-prioritizing democracy, and state capitalism. Now the fact of the matter is, if the West decides to compete, it will create a wider schism. The other option is for the West to cooperate, and by cooperating I mean giving the emerging market countries the flexibility to figure out in an organic way what political and economic system works best for them. Now I’m sure some of you in the room will be thinking, well, this is like ceding to China, and this is a way, in other words, for the West to take a back seat. But I put it to you that if the United States and European countries want to remain globally influential, they may have to consider cooperating in the short term in order to compete, and by that, they might have to focus more aggressively on economic outcomes to help create the middle class and therefore be able to hold government accountable and create the democracies that we really want. The fact of the matter is that instead of going around the world and haranguing countries for engaging with China, the West should be encouraging its own businesses to trade and invest in these regions. Instead of criticizing China for bad behavior, the West should be showing how it is that their own system of politics and economics is the superior one. And instead of shoehorning democracy around the world, perhaps the West should take a leaf out of its own history book and remember that it takes a lot of patience in order to develop the models and the systems that you have today. Indeed, the Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer reminds us that it took the United States nearly 170 years from the time that the Constitution was written for there to be equal rights in the United States. Some people would argue that today there is still no equal rights. In fact, there are groups who would argue that they still do not have equal rights under the law. At its very best, the Western model speaks for itself. It’s the model that put food on the table. It’s the refrigerators. It put a man on the moon. But the fact of the matter is, although people back in the day used to point at the Western countries and say, “I want that, I like that,” there’s now a new person in town in the form of a country, China. Today, generations are looking at China and saying, “China can produce infrastructure, China can produce economic growth, and we like that.” Because ultimately, the question before us, and the question before seven billion people on the planet is, how can we create prosperity? People who care and will pivot towards the model of politics and economics in a very rational way, to those models that will ensure that they can have better living standards in the shortest period of time. As you leave here today, I would like to leave you with a very personal message, which is what it is that I believe we should be doing as individuals, and this is really about being open-minded, open-minded to the fact that our hopes and dreams of creating prosperity for people around the world, creating and meaningfully putting a dent in poverty for hundreds of millions of people, has to be based in being open-minded, because these systems have good things and they have bad things. Just to illustrate, I went into my annals of myself. That’s a picture of me. Awww. (Laughter) I was born and raised in Zambia in 1969. At the time of my birth, blacks were not issued birth certificates, and that law only changed in 1973. This is an affidavit from the Zambian government. I bring this to you to tell you that in 40 years, I’ve gone from not being recognized as a human being to standing in front of the illustrious TED crowd today to talk to you about my views. In this vein, we can increase economic growth. We can meaningfully put a dent in poverty. But also, it’s going to require that we look at our assumptions, assumptions and strictures that we’ve grown up with around democracy, around private capitalism, around what creates economic growth and reduces poverty and creates freedoms. We might have to tear those books up and start to look at other options and be open-minded to seek the truth. Ultimately, it’s about transforming the world and making it a better place. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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  1. Nowadays, the ideological fanaticism of people's freedom of democracy is the same as the fanaticism of religion in the middle ages. It make people lose rational and think independently. The freedom of democracy is just a means of making life more happy, and it's never a standard.

  2. There are also already calls for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over outrage at the gross violations of human rights in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where at least hundreds of thousands and likely well over 1 million people, mostly Muslim, are incarcerated in a large network of camps. If there were images of military violence in Hong Kong to go along with the documented horrors in Xinjiang, boycott calls would be amplified dramatically. The June 4 option is there, but it is not an appealing one.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/08/soviet-union-china-hong-kong/595444/

  3. to wit: the GINI Coefficient ~ at the present (2019) time, the need to pay $10 and greater amounts to secure a decent meal in California USA is getting more and more difficult to handle AND buy raw groceries to make up a decent balanced meal has gotten so expensive where buying by volume is wasteful because food spoils in short time ~ "somethings" the top 1% do not care to understand nor willingly know nor acknowledge ~

  4. Democracy? you know what democracy is to us Chinese? that's not a good word, that's a joke, a joke you westerns made to cheer the world up, it's a word we use to ridicule(those who really believe in it, like the woman).
    In fact, we live with happiness and safety——but do you? I am afraid not.
    Your freedom is not the freedom we want(you guys really like guns, right?), the difference is the culture. you believe you are right, but we believe we are right too, just because we are different so you define that "Chinese do NOT have democracy, they need to be saved", how ridiculous!
    In China, we say "a man who always wants to teach others is a wise guy". who do you think is "the wise guy"? YOU, you westerns. Countries, civilizations like these, have a "not-very -long" history, with ONLY 10% of the population, want to teach us, how can I say? RIDICULOUS.

  5. Us founded under the crown 1607. Patrick henry: give me liberty 1775.
    Traitors and now they have lost the whole country, should have stayed under the crown. Their little stunt lasted till 1865.

  6. Bullshit , USA just rule on oceans and that power provide wealth and this lead to economic freedom , then to innovation and even democracy

  7. But developing countries become democracies after the middle-class grows: S Korea, Taiwan, etc. Democracy is a sign of grown-up maturity.

  8. 一个国家是不是发达且有前途,不是“是不是德谟克拉西”能够决定的。而是整体的国民素质,教育水平,科研能力,经济政治等一系列政策,和其他多种重要的因素共同决定的。
    况且,一般来说“经济基础决定上层建筑”是一个很朴素的原理,只有达到了一定的生产水平,才能说有了追求更多的政治权力等等的一个经济基础。所以我国政府一直将“脱离极度贫困”作为核心人权是有道理的,饭都吃不饱,高谈阔论一些诉求是不具备更大的意义的。
    美国的政策是对的,中国的政策(中特社会主义理论)当然也是对的,但是任何一个国家不加分析就照抄中国或美国的政策,一定是错的。要讲究一个实事求是,这是先辈几十年曲折探索和苏联解体带给我们的启示。

  9. great talk, but there is no stopping the great china now. sorry too late, and by the way, the african states would serve themselves well if the rid their nations of the white man, and his presence all together, and so would the islamic nations

  10. western democracies were built off the backs of the developing countries where they forcefully took people as slaves, and gained capital via extreme reparations and continued exploitation. They still have this colonial mind set today where they feel like they have the right to interfere and tell other people what they should do with the own country with little or no understanding of the native culture and history unique to those places. They are disguising themselves as a wolf in sheep's clothing with respect to bringing "human rights". It is hypocrisy in the highest degree.

  11. Well you clearly are buying into the ccp abit here, just buy showing taiwan as a part of china on the map you clearly have abit of a bias.

  12. It would be interesting to see how they will turn out but they have to do it at their own risks for sure.

  13. Democracy in the US was abhored by the founders; it was feared and suppressed by the plantation owners, bankers, industrialists and merchants of the 19th century, transformed into just a myth by the advertising industry and media in the 20th century, and finally buried by the neoliberals and neocons of the 21st century. It never had more than a brief breath in the United States and "freedom" has always been the freedom to exploit the masses by the corporations and the capitalist ruling class.

  14. a brilliant speech from a brilliant person; it's always great to get a vision from someone who has a global point of view

  15. The Chinese system is not for everyone.
    People have bashed the CCP for so long they are blind to its intricacies. It's a meritocratic machine, and test and learn model, and a harmony through conflict system.
    You can't just slap that onto any country

  16. China is the new IDIOT for emerging economies. China will loss all the investment over the foreign countries and become bankrupt in debts.

  17. Democracy is like the apple snow white ate, it looks attractive and it kills. There is no true democracy in the west because they know it causes division. The west has been supporting and funding separatists all over the world to mess up their countries, backed their rights to split the country. But see what they are doing, Texas, Scotland, Quebec, Catalonia. When it comes to their own countries they just won’t let go.
    Democracy is a dream for all of the humankind to pursue, but when you are starve to death, I wonder if you have the strength to walk to the voting venue.

  18. Love those shoes. Lauding China? Seriously, they've held their people back for half a century. If they were Taiwan, they'd have been the most powerful economy in the world … in the 1970's.

  19. Way better than what Steven Bannon’s pitch on Claws of red dragon interview released today. This is a fair view and most of the westerns have very biased views.

  20. 说的很好,没有基础的民主都是狭隘的民主,台湾和香港走的就是狭隘民主,甚至可以说更像民粹,可笑的是他们追求民主的同时其实是在不停侮辱着民主LOL

  21. but why many chinese busenessman is robbed in africa , chinese want to help afica become better , why aficans do such horrible things to chinese , why why why ?

  22. Michael Jackson's song falls on many deaf ears with no heels…. "Heal the world, make it a better place for you and me….and the entire human race."

  23. Am I the only one who sees this? Democracy not the answer, it's the problem! By Dambisa own admission
    it's a failed sysytem as @ 9:40 she states "The evidence around illiberal democracies is quite depressing."
    "Freedom House finds that even though 50% of the world's countries today are democracies, 70% of them are illiberal in the sense that they don't have free speech or freedom of movement.(Which a minimum of critical thinking might suggest that this "illiberalism causing depression" certainly had a maturation period
    of years if not decades in order to fully mature into the beast that it is!) And the response from those
    that would be our overlords dictating our sense of moral and civic duty, would respond much like the common man might reconcile this dilemma "Well at least it's better than a dictatorship" or maybe even more depressing the platitude of absolute resignation to one's fate "That's life!" In fact it's far from iife much more akin to death. As I understand the system the only difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you get to choose your dictator!
    No, the answer for humanity is to recognise that the human condition is predicated on the spiritual
    aspect of man being understood to be primary and the inevitable flow of wisdom that emanates from such
    a mindset dictates that "only the acknowledgement of and a strict adherence to a lethally accurate,
    finely tuned moral compass will guarantee humanity's future." In my model, the widow, the orphan,
    the hungry and the poor should be catered on an "as needs" basis first which not only guarantees
    the giver their own safety net should they need it, but also makes them feel good about expressing their
    own humanity by giving to those who are in need. Consequently they are now in a sense, free to pursue
    their desire to acquire their pot of gold if that is their wish, unencumbered by a guilty conscience!

  24. The USA the super Democracy and the greatest world professor of democracy do not build :road-railway-airfield-schools-hospitals-dams etc …China is building these and the Africans see-touch-walk-study-play on them…So Americans let China go on doing them.

  25. 在如何解决贫困人口的问题上,中国政府最有发言权,因为过去三十年一直都在解决这个问题,而且解决的还不错,在如何搞创新科技,高品质教育方面,老牌欧洲强国和美国最有资格说话,因为他们已经不需要考虑人们下一餐有没有的吃和能不能吃饱的问题

  26. When China had democracy before 1949, KMT allows Free speech and free protest , then CCP took over China steps by steps , it is understandable CCP doesn’t want any other party to copy his measure.

  27. 最简单的就是打嘴炮,反正什么都不用做,没有成本的骂共产党,不用做任何事,不用付任何责任。除了打嘴炮骂我们五毛党,还能干啥。只能蜗居在小角落,做自己的民主春秋大梦。

  28. Russia, Africa, India, Asia and even the Muslim nations in the Middle East DO NOT fear China.
    They can PROSPER with China because China is looking for friendly partners NOT hostile competitors.
    It doesn't take much for America to understand this !!

  29. If you like this talk, you will also enjoy Eric X Li's talk, a read insider's view and why democracy is not one-size-fit-all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0YjL9rZyR0&t=46s

  30. China commies are so greedy .. wanting it all .. copying .. stealing and trying to make all in china 2025 .. then making money as loan shark on the corrupted countries being hooked into debt traps Belt Road Initiative.. as a loan shark china expanding its muscle in military especially in the navy .. to go around robbing others’ sovereign.. islands and sea .. to go around collecting debts from those corrupted countries if daring not to pay back massive debts.. meaning their sovereign will be seized..

  31. This thot has no idea what she's talking about. Little does she know China is a house of cards, with ulterior motives. It's sad how naive she is, little does she know they help poor countries in order to occupy key strategic locations to expand their power. They are the ones supporting the tragedy of the Venezuelan people by supporting the Maduro regime. It saddens me she put in so much hard work, but everything she states falls to pieces, when she misses the fact that China is a communist corrupt authoritarian regime.

  32. Income inequality means freedom. Do we need to equalize grades in college now? So someone that studies really hard and gets better grades than someone that parties too much, and gets bad grades should be considered greedy? Should we penalize people with high grades and redistribute their grades to less performing students? No. Never. Nor should we ever look at income inequality as something that should be equalized.

  33. For the past 200 years, the rise power of Western world is simply beacuse science and technological development and plunder other countries, democracy is just a consequence.
    Pour countries fight for a democracy rather than hardwork for bread and house is just a JOKE.
    This deeply because the developed countries don't want them to be catched up.So we can understand why they force the pour countries to "Democratization". Becasue they don't really want you to be rich or have a good development to threat and challenge their leadership!! Ukraine,Syria,Libya too many examples.
    As we all kown,Saudi Arabia is a Monarchy country. They have emperor!They can even send spy agent to kill journalist
    in a foreign contrie's embassy just because the journalist don't agree with the authorities.(Wikipedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Jamal_Khashoggi).
    SO Why does the western don't "Democratization" this kind of contry which don't have democarcy even govened by Saudi royal family?
    Because ,Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States,they buy weapons form US and sell oil as well.
    SO can we draw a conclusion that:
    Western mind is “Double standard” :
    IF you are my ally you can even be a Authoritarian EMPEROR!ELSE IF you are not my ally you are my competitor such as China THEN no matter what you do you are not a democracy contry.
    And here is my question:Why we shouldn't let the expert do what they are good at ?
    I don't thik One person one vote will select a good president who are good at running a coutry.
    Democracy and populism is hard to distinguish.

  34. China is the only major industry country who build industry system totally based on people,s hardworking and intelligence and equal competition on global market without any colony interest.

  35. But democracy shouldn't be the final solution for human being. We should always explore and find the best way for ourselves, not necessarily the China Model or the Western Model, but a model that fits each country's culture.

  36. Need to correct this lady Dr. at 8:45, "Countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Chile"—-please be aware that Taiwan is not a country. Taiwan is one part of China. The KMT lost the civil war (1945-1949) with CCP, then they withdraw from China mainland to Taiwan island. As a piece of strong evidence, China and the United States officially established diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979, the United States recognizes the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China and Taiwan as part of China.

  37. The number of people lifted out of poverty is now 6 million since this talk. China plans to eliminate people living under the poverty line in China by 2020 – not killing them, but enabling them to help themselves. And the middle class is now growing and growing. Ignore this market at your own peril.

  38. Ms. Moyo does not possess the insight into how China would definitely remain in dire situation economically had America and test of developed nations believed in the best way to contribute to world peace was to convert the vast poverty-stricken China be lifted out of that miserable system by giving its people of the opportunity to earn a living first, however meager that maybe. History has proven that neither right wing nod left wing extremist countries can lift its people out of poverty or provide political stability for true long term economic growth. Soon after talk, China’s chairmen Xi made himself potentially permanent dictator of that country by changing its constitution in 2017. I wonder what her view of China today? If she still holds same view, then she is like Chamberlain of pre-WW II Britain, an unfortunate lack of foresight and courage as well as true intellect to know what is good for the world on the long term.

  39. Why do we have to say I want that instead of creating it yourself for your own people… If chiba is a good model, then get the inspiration and get to work!

  40. Western countries: Democracy is a pre-requisite for economic growth … …

    Karl Marx: base determines superstructure

    Now I know why western countries don't want people to read about Marxism.

  41. 这话反过来听就是说民主是个奢侈品适合败家。现在台湾天天吵的不可开交,英国的苏格兰要闹独立,美国一次次选出低能总统。民主只是一种调和社会内部矛盾的方法,现在看明显还是个烂方法,连儒家都比不了。

  42. The notion that you can convince a "Democracy" that believes it is successful to change will be next to impossible. Fact to the matter is China is changing the world because it understands what power and unity means. Western society means Democracy is good if one group/demographic has sustained growth at everyone else expense…….. Truth will always be a bitter pill to swallow……

  43. To say other emerging markets can do what China did is false. China was in a perfect storm where it had the demographics and infrastructure to become the factory of the world and accumulated tremendous surplus capital. It was also able to use the shield as an emerging economy to skirt the WTO rules.

  44. under democratic philosophy ,westerncountries has piled up worlds highest debt of 40 trillions dollars at the expenses of Asian countries. china it self has 3 trillion dollar surplus and india is next. if india follows Chinese system or singaporian systemthen asia rules the world and in future if  never gets deceived  by west . like both countries were for 0 to 1600  years  with 40 pct of world GDP. both countries were victims of west from 1600 to 1850  until they woke up. now both r under right leader shipso lets see what happens in nwxt 50 years.

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