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China in 2040 — Leading the World?

Will China take over the number one spot in the league of global leaders 40 years from now?

November 3, 2001

Will China take over the number one spot in the league of global leaders 40 years from now?

In the year 2040, China is the leading industrial country in the world. Sony-Toyota and General Electric-Motors auto plants are scattered along the country’s coastline. The newly minted electronic cars are shipped out to markets around the world on Cosco, the Chinese-owned shipping line that is the world’s largest.

The new craze for space vacations has propelled the stock of Sichuan Space, and founder Jia Mingzi is now the world’s richest man. China’s extensive explorations of the moon and its new space colony there have worried the United States and India, but the G-3 countries have been unable to reach agreement amongst themselves on the issue.

The upcoming Chinese elections are attracting enormous attention around the world. This is particularly true among the 25 million Chinese-Americans and the countless other Chinese scattered throughout Australia and Canada (where Mandarin has surpassed French as the second language).

The People’s Party, formerly known as the Communist Party, is still likely to win because of its strong organization in rural areas. But, for the first time ever, the vigorous Democratic Party has a chance of wresting power.

The Democratic Party’s main issues are corruption and China’s horrific environmental situation. It is also benefiting from anger among elderly voters who are irritated that the People’s Party has allowed Tibet and Taiwan to become independent.

Both political parties say that they would do more for education. However, China’s average educational attainment is already higher than in Europe or America. And Qinghua University in Beijing is now regarded by many as the finest scientific university in the world.

Chinese students are also studying in huge numbers in every university in the United States and Australia. They make up 10% or 20% of the student body at Harvard University and on many West Coast campuses.

Chinese scholars, many of them bearing foreign passports, have an enormous presence at universities throughout the Western world. And in 2040, it is common to hear Mandarin spoken in the corridors of international scientific conferences.

Chinese songs regularly appear on the Top 40. And China’s domination of the Olympics and of several key sports has made it a center for international athletics. Most American schools now teach Chinese, using the revolutionary new brain-cramming technology pioneered at Qinghua.

In addition, Chinese movies have become a regular feature at multiplex movie theatres throughout the United States, while qi gong exercises are as popular in Kansas and Nebraska as they are in Texas.

© 2000 by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Adapted from Thunder from the East.
Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf.