Economist : The world language

Swaminathan Madhuresan smadhuresan at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jan 7 13:32:52 EST 2000


Dr. Lars Fosse wrote:
[The power of English is a direct consequence of the combined influence
of American popular entertainment and knowledge production, not to
mention economic and military clout. English will dominate for as long
as America rules and perhaps a bit longer, just as Latin dominated
Europe for quite a few centuries after the collapse of the Roman
empire.But no language rules for ever. Maybe we'll all speak Chinese
a few centuries from now.  A thought for the new millenium? ]

The New York Times has a different view.
Asia's century? Unlikely
New York Times
By IAN BURUMA
Friday 31 December 1999

SOME 15 years before the end of this millennium, the cry went up that
the Asians were coming; the Japanese had bought Rockefeller Centre,
then chunks of Hollywood, and soon they would rule the world.
----------

Still, it would be foolish simply to dismiss Asian achievements and potential
now that Americans feel richer and many Asians have taken a cold bath. For Asia
will have its ups again, just as the West will have its downs. One need only
look at Silicon Valley's dependence on expatriate Chinese, Koreans,
Japanese and Indians. What they can do in California, they could surely
do at home, given half a chance.

And therein lies the rub. Will they get the chance? That is the question we
must
answer if we are to speculate about Asian success in the next hundred years.
------------------------------

One thing is certain: For a country, a city or a region to thrive in the
age of information technology, its citizens must be flexible, creative,
individualistic, cosmopolitan, free and, preferably, conversant in English.
And

these are just the qualities that East Asian "Confucian" education, with its
stress on rote learning and obedience, is set up to discourage, if not
actively stamp out.

But not all of Asia lies under the shadow of Confucius, and even those parts
that do are loosening up. There are enough people in Asia who think for
themselves, and they will thrive wherever they are most free; that is, in the
most democratic, least hidebound parts of Asia. These may sometimes be the
very places with high crime rates, much ethnic mixing and slack social
discipline:
Bombay, not Pyongyang; Bangkok, not Rangoon. Even Tokyo now has a large
population of immigrants, and the Japanese are beginning to jaywalk - a
positive sign if ever there was one.
---------------

The most vertiginous rise of all, however, might happen in India, or at least
parts of India. Already many commercial transactions initiated in London or
New York are in fact being carried out on computers in Bangalore. Once Indian
governments unlearn some of the more dogmatic lessons of Fabian socialism
imbibed by earlier generations at the London School of Economics, and give
young Indians the freedom they need, India could quickly overtake China. And
then?
Rockefeller Centre, perhaps?

That leaves China, the last large Asian country still trying to combine
authoritarian government with capitalist enterprise: freedom is to be
sacrificed to the promise of collective prosperity. It is, if you like, the
test case of
those vaunted "Asian values". And I can see it ending in tears.

It is hard to imagine how a nation's economy can keep on growing without
freedom of information, without its citizens having the right to question their
leaders
------------

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