August 08, 2006

Open Source

Radio Open Source has just done a show based on a topic I suggested a month or two back. The issue is China's rise: how is its growing energy resource consumption shaping its presence in developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, and what implications that has for U.S. foreign policy. The conversation takes a number of interesting tacks beyond my initial topic proposal, and features commentary from Thomas Barnett and others.

This was my comment on the show:

I wasn't able to listen to the show live (time zone differences pretty much rule that out) but I've heard it now. Very interesting discussion, ranging over quite a broad range (I wrote a senior term paper on the Uyghurs, so they're a bit of an interest of mine as well). Glad to see I was able to squeak in my question before it went to air.

For me the two most interesting points raised during the program were Thomas Barnett's suggestion that given China's mercantalist program of relatively shallow, extractive relations with countries in L.America, Africa, and the M.East, and their limited ability to spawn broader economic development, they will increasingly be seen in those countries as the negative face of globalization. A number of the China/Africa articles I've collected in my bookmarks suggest such reactions are already beginning, particularly in cases where cheap imported Chinese labor is supplanting locals.

Equally important I thought was John Pomfret's response to my question, where he suggested that the Chinese global ruleset (to use a Barnett-esque turn of phrase) was essentially undefined, outside the basic bottom-line business of business. I would subscribe to Dr. Barnett's later comment, where he says that we have come to the conclusion that dictatorships are not viable long-term solutions for development; that's actually part of the reason why a rival "Beijing Consensus" cocerns me, since I think a country with as many unaddressed internal weaknesses as China (whose long- or even mid-term stability I am unassured of) is not a particularly good model for world-wide emulation, at least as long as it retains its current autocratic and form.

Suggestions for August are open, so if you'd like to see Christopher Lydon and his future guests tackle another topic of interest to you, do drop them a note.

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