Lecture Hop: Eastern Promise
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog newbie Sahil Vora goes Beyond the Hype of India and China to investigate the mysterious trend of “panda-hugging.”
The Heyman Center for the Humanities joined up with the Committee on Global Thought and put on its second event of the spring semester, a forum entitled “India and China: A Comparison of their Past, Present, and Future.” The event attracted an illustrious panel of globalization economists: Ngaire Woods, of Oxford; Prabhat Patnaik, an Indian economist; and our very own Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and chair of the Committee on Global Thought.
Prabhat Patnaik, the first speaker of the day, presented his thoughts on India and China’s internal economic affairs rapidly, precisely, and without the aid of notes. He acknowledged the popular consensus that India and China were emerging as global economic powers, but remained surprised by “the hype about India and China” because both countries suffer from incredible poverty.
Ngaire Woods shifted the topic of discussion to an analysis of “Western hysteria emerging from Chinese donations to Africa.” According to Woods, Western nations interpret Chinese donations to other developing countries as a threat to Western influence. China purchases a substantial amount of U.S. debt, exports more merchandise than any other country, possesses over a trillion dollars in its reserves, and owns nationalized energy markets.
Established Western donors criticize China for making reckless loans without encouraging good governance or environmental stewardship in developing countries. However, Woods argued that the West’s use of controversial conditionalities, which restrict loans or debt relief based on the borrowing country’s adherence to certain good governance or development goals, fails to produce either growth or good governance. “You might accuse me of ‘panda-hugging,’ which is a term I just heard, [but] my point is not to be a Chinese apologist, my point is to dissect the Western response to Chinese aid, which has become hysterical, and bring the debate down to a more sensible [level].”
Like Woods, Stiglitz argued that Western donors, especially the International Monetary Fund, treat aid as a “white man’s burden.” Western governments use conditionalities, “as if they know best how to create growth,” even though their methods tend to fail in practice.
Finally, Stiglitz opened the floor for questions, during which well-dressed businessmen and women scrambled over each other to get the illustrious panelists’ view on the anticipated economic downturn. The evening ended on a note of optimism, however, when Stiglitz argued, “These global economic changes affect how we run global governance. It’s an exciting period in which we’ll have to rethink the foundations.”