China and India have been involved in a phase of ultrafast catching up and economic growth, reach a level of development in the past thirty years that took other countries more than a century.

Few countries have experienced so many economic and sociological upheavals in such a short period of time. China, then, can be seen as a microcosm of the forces and tensions affecting the planet as a whole:

  • Unbridled liberalism, the race for technical innovation, flourishing industry, more competitive universities, the propagation and appropriation of information and communications technologies, propagation et appropriation des TIC, citizen emancipation and energy to a huge degree, individual and collective acts of resistance…
  • Authoritarian regimes, urban chaos, unchecked consumerism, increased and omnipresent pollution, a widening gap between rich and poor, the sudden collapse of a value system, loss of reference points…

The general impression is of a country of contrasts that seems impossible to understand. CiNUM 2007’s prospective mission to the Chinese cities of Bejing and Shanghai helped us gather and compare some of the nuanced — and often contradictory — opinions about the future of China. Unchecked growth: such advancements, when considered with the size of China and India, and the increasing number of young companies that are developing or setting up there, are causing the rest of the world to invest heavily in these countries. The promise of development is so great that Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan are now sending an unprecedented number of contingents of thousands of young students to study in Chinese universities. It’ll happen, or it will all fall apart, but the speed and extent of this economic growth has raised a number of fears:

  • Fear of global warming and its immediate consequences, particularly on the environment: pollution is an increasingly serious urban problem, and is slowly becoming a preoccupation of citizens and politicians alike.
  • Economic fear that the financial bubble will burst, especially if demand pressure from the USA, which is the source of most industrial Chinese orders, starts to decrease.
  • Fear of a loss of values in a country where the motivating principle is now to get to rich, sometimes to the detriment of human and ethical values, which are crumbling fast. Studies show an increase in the number of cases of depression linked to a lack of respect in employer/employee or parent/child relationships, amongst others.

There is no doubt that China and India will become exporters of concepts and cultural models and goods. Beyond the industrial, commercial and financial power gains, the culture of these countries is much more rich and diverse than the little that they will be able to export.