The theme of this year’s DLD conference was optimism and courage. And so -- if Parag Khanna is indeed right about the future being Asian, should that make us optimistic about the future of democracy?
Yes and no. Certainly his notion of Asia an interdependent system – a reinvented Silk Roads for the digital 21st century, offers much potential for democracy. Trade – a globalized network of economic interaction – lies at the heart of Khanna’s notion of the Asian century. And this represents an essential foundation for a healthy ecosystem of Asian democracies.
Secondly, Khanna is correct to focus on the high level of trust which most Asians regard their government. Democracy is in crisis in the West – particularly the United Kingdom and the United States – because of the historic low levels of trust that the public holds for its elected politicians.
Then there’s the T word. Technocracy – or the rule of experts. Khanna argues that “technocracy isn’t the opposite of democracy.” And, I guess he’s right in some ways. But I’m a little troubled by his embrace of technocracy. He glosses over the undemocratic nature of Asia’s most successful technocratic society – Singapore, with its one party rule and active discrimination against dissenting voices. No, Singapore isn’t China. But nor is it a liberal democracy with a focus on individual rights, privacy and toleration.
And then, of course, there’s China. Khanna very explicitly rejects the conflation of the Asian Century with the Chinese century. And he does remind us that the China won’t be able to expert its deeply undemocratic social credit system to the rest of Asia. But I wonder if Khanna is a little soft on China – particularly in the unambiguous credit that he gives the country’s Communist party government for China’s economic miracle.
There’s quite a lot of optimism in Khanna’s take on China. But much less focus on courage. He seems to suggest that the Chinese people are content with their deal with their government – prosperity and order in exchange for an authoritarian political system. I hope he’s wrong. I still believe in the courage of the Chinese people. And, as I suggested to him, I think that this historic stand-off – between Chinese citizens and their government – will ultimately be the reason why the Future is Asian.
Hope you enjoyed this week’s episode with Parag Khanna, you can find out more about him here:
Find Parag’s Books here:
The Future Is Asian - ....Now, in the 21st century, the world is being Asianized.
Connectograpghy - Mapping the Future of Global Civilization.
Technocracy In America - Rise of the Info-State.
How To Run The World - Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance
Also Parag’s TedTalks - How Megacities Are Changing The Map Of The World
Please be sure to check out DLD’s up and coming events,
Produced by Jason Sanderson -Podcast Tech