Yesterday, I wrote about China’s economic outlook heading into the coming years. Given the facts at hand about China’s impressive – and if not miraculous – economic and social development over the course of a little more than four decades, it follows that China is “communist in name only.” China is very much driven by the entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that Max Weber had in mind when he wrote his famous “Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” It is also important to note that China now leads the United States in terms of the number of research and scientific publications that are put out. Thus, China has the psychological edge when it comes to competing with the United States from an economic and social standpoint due to the aforementioned factors.
One of the more interesting moments of my book writing project was during a trip I made to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. It was in August 2016 during a ‘United Nations Youth General Assembly.’ Attendees had come from all over the world, and whose ages ranged between 18 years on the low end to 29 years of age on the high end. I was 27 years of age at the time. On the first day of the assembly – which was held in the iconic United Nations General Assembly Hall – the attendees were given a chance to ask the inaugural speakers a question. Of the three or four questions that were asked by the young people in attendance, an attendee from China asked what was perhaps the most interesting and pertinent question of our time. And it was a very simple question. He asked: “What will the United States do to stop corruption?”
Had I encountered him now, I would have told him that the culture of “contracting” which the United States started soon after the end of the Cold War – which in turn is a white-washed form of corruption, nepotism, and graft – negates the ability of the United States to stamp out corruption. If certain people in the American system were to take the initiative to stamp out corruption, it would mean holding themselves accountable, which no one wants to do.
While I was a graduate student in Washington, I remember meeting John Sopko, who held the unfortunate position of “Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction” (SIGAR) for many years. After he tripped on the podium right at the beginning of his speech and nearly fell on his ass, he gave his two cents while sweating profusely, and then opened up to a Q&A session. He called on me when I raised my hand, and I gave him names of some of the individuals who were living right under his nose here in the Washington, DC-Metropolitan Area. I asked him why no one was holding them accountable. In response, Sopko laughed slightly, and said “we are looking into it.”
Although corruption has no concrete definition and it cannot really be put into specific words, people know and feel corruption when they encounter it. I remember when I was in Kenya during an internship in 2011 at the Kenyan Supreme Court in Nairobi. I asked one of the court’s staffers where the restroom was, but he demanded that I give him ten shillings before he showed me where it was. For an American student who never encountered these types of things at home, it was odd. But for people in many developing countries, these kinds of corrupt encounters are the norm. However, at the time, I had not internalized the fact that these types of corrupt dealings were going on in the American system, but in a whitewashed form. Thus, corruption and war are ubiquitous and are found everywhere. As for the young Chinese attendee’s question of whether one can stamp out corruption and war, I believe a collective effort to stamp out corruption and war which in turn is guided by a ‘collective consciousness’ is well underway globally, but it will take time to bear fruit.