When England Ruled the Mind
Several years ago a young US diplomat told me, “Wherever in the world I’ve been posted, I always found that the British had been there before me.” Luigi Barzini and Ian Buruma both wrote excellent books describing how in 19th century Europe the British came to define continental culture. Liberals admired British constitutional democracy. Conservatives their naval strength and sporting culture. Baron de Coubertin, founder of the Olympics, saw the English public school’s inculcation of rugby and cricket playing in young boys as something France should emulate. The rugby stayed but the cricket died on the vine.
The Americans and their culture of course replaced the British as The Model Nation after World War II.
What, one wonders, will a future China and India offer to the world to inspire similar emulation?
China’s will most likely be the example of going from mass poverty to mass manufacturing at an incredible pace, creating an enormous infrastructure and financial stock along the way.
India will be about developing democratic structures and a robust civil society amid poverty and illiteracy. The real test is the next stage of both countries’ development.
India has to build the sort of industrial base that China has. China has to build the sort of political flexibility that India has. Whoever succeeds in this crossover game, I suspect, will be this century’s Model Power. I give India the edge if only because political systems are a lot harder to change than physical landscapes. But time will tell.