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A packed audience in the Community School of Naples’ G&L Theatre on November 12 was privy to a detailed presentation from RAND Corporation expert Timothy Heath on the subject of ‘Understanding China’ as part of the ongoing Imagine Solutions Seminar series. Heath has dedicated his career to studying and understanding the underlying motivators, trends, cultural and political priorities, and historical context that drive today’s China.
Imagine Solutions Seminars provide an opportunity to explore a single issue in an in-depth manner, presented by a leading subject matter expert with interactive question and answer. This November 12 Seminar was only the second event of its kind offered by the organizers of the Imagine Solutions Conference, which hosts its 10th annual conference on February 24, 2020, but clearly public interest is strong, as both sold out within weeks of opening for registration.
Heath spoke with impressive mastery of his subject, creating an image for attendees of a China that in the latter part of the 1990s was floundering, considered by global leaders to be on the verge of becoming a failed state. At the same time, the United States was very powerful and influential, with no meaningful competition from peer nations for status. How, then, in a relatively short amount of time, geopolitically speaking, has China proliferated as an emerging power, and what are the chances it will meaningfully overtake the U.S.?
China’s recent ascendency has been the result of an overt, top-down, government-led mission to redefine its internal structure. Transitioning away from the upstart intentions that brought the Communist party into power, Chinese leaders sought to consolidate power, integrating into the global economy, modernizing their military, and overall creating a newly rich and dominant China. Clearly, to an extent, this strategy has been successful. China is arguably on the leading edge of important aspects of the technology race, with a rampantly expanding economy.
Subsequent and natural questions to pose: What are the implications of a developing China for the U.S. and the rest of the world, and is their pace of growth valid and sustainable?
The reality, explained clearly by Heath, is that China faces real challenges to attaining its ultimate goal of true, controlling power. For one, its apparent economic growth is likely to be attenuated by demographic issues including an insufficient and aged workforce, with no pipeline of new workers. Its productivity is highly unbalanced, with debt on the rise, and significant waste of resources.
A major, persistent problem is extensive corruption within the country. Abuse of power is especially rife within local government, and popular unrest is on the upswing. Unchecked growth and no regulation of industry has led to massive pollution, which is equally engendering discontent within the broader populace. While steps have been taken to curb the continued spread of pollution, the resultant industrial modifications have global as well as domestic consequences.
These and a host of other instances of in-nation instability are reason enough to conclude that China is not an immediate nor dire threat to the U.S. or our peer countries. However, the Chinese government remains committed to achieving a position of international leadership, and with their impressive allocation towards technological advancement, U.S. interests need to stay aware and present in protecting our own populace and global rank.
If you’re curious about upcoming Imagine Solutions Seminars or the Imagine Solutions Conference, you can learn all the details at our website. Upcoming Seminars will feature the topics of blockchain and cryptocurrency on January 21 and a historical and scholarly look at presidential elections on March 31. Our full-day thought leader conference will be on February 24, 2020 with 20 world-class speakers addressing a range of topics including healthcare, business, social entrepreneurship, the arts, and more.
Big ideas happen all the time. We’d love to keep you informed about what’s new at Imagine Solutions, exciting things our past speakers are accomplishing, and other important topics of curiosity and inspiration.