Tag Archive for 'standard-of-living'

Keeping up with China

This month’s IET Engineering & Technology magazine focuses on China. Two particular articles worth reading are The Next Science Superpower? and Space: The Chinese Way.

The opening paragraph of the second article is the most striking:

China made its first manned spaceflight 40 years after America and the Soviet Union, but that doesn’t mean it is 40 years behind them in space technology.

This principle applies more generally to science and technology in China and it’s development too. The Industrial Revolution may have taken us some time, but today’s developing countries will not take that long and will catch up with us very fast. What happens when they actually overtake us?

Politicians from across the political spectrum have spoken of the need to meet the challenges of globalisation. Yet I think none have really addressed this challenge head-on. The march of progress in developing countries means, inevitably, that our wealth (in relative terms) is diminishing. Could that, at some point, result in a reduction in absolute wealth, and in our standards of living? What happens to the UK when a consumer boom built on cheap imports, rather than any real industry comes to an end because we can’t afford “luxury” Chinese exports?

I often looked at the Make Poverty History campaigners and wondered whether they realised that for the starving in Africa to get a fairer share of economic wealth, we would have to give up ours. Were all the protestors really so magnanimous as to want to give up some of their standard of living in order to raise that of others?

I think there are some hard choices ahead of us about how we remain competitive as an economy as well as what standards of living (absolute and relative) we are prepared to accept and aspire towards, for ourselves and others.