Monday, March 1, 2021

Rising national development and the inevitable rising wastage of public time and energy on worthless pursuits - this could happen to China too

For a lack of time, I'll briefly summarize this idea, although I believe that this idea is very important and might partly help to explain why once-rising nations such as Japan have finally stagnated, and are increasingly on a trajectory where they will eventually be overtaken.

Western media and public describe the Chinese people using words such as 'hard working', 'diligent', 'sincere', 'focused', and so on. Likely true as well. But are these attributes / qualities constant in time for the population of a particular country? Most probably no.

When a nation is poor but wants to become rich, powerful and influential, its population works very hard, makes sacrifices and achieves results. However, once a significant elevation in the individual level of wealth and prosperity occurs, the population begins to waste its individual and thus collective time and energy on worthless / unproductive areas and pursuits. The original hard-work, sacrifices and focused efforts on areas of national need get forgotten and are replaced by wastage of time and energy on excessive fun and entertainment which might contribute to increased satisfaction and happiness at the individual level but at the national level it causes the nation to gradually lose its competitiveness.

For example, it's possible that the new crop of Chinese youth is increasingly unaware of the immense sacrifices made by their forefathers, and that the power and prestige that they take for granted on the world stage came about as a result of extreme hard-work put in by the previous generations.

Take a look at the below photos. What are these Chinese girls doing? They might all be in a paying job, but are they really contributing to nation-building? Or are their jobs simply earning them some money at the individual level but their contribution to the advancement of the country is either negligible or truly zero? Same goes for the explosive growth of short-video apps such as Douyin and Kuaishou. Billions of minutes of Chinese people - especially youth - are getting wasted in endless scrolling watching worthless short videos. Agreed it's entertainment at individual level, but at the national level their nation needs the energy of its youth to be spent on areas where the nation is lacking - semiconductors, software, next-generation telecom technologies, high-end lab equipment, pharmaceuticals, breakthroughs in aviation engines, a truly global currency, and so on.

It might appear that the explosive growth of short-video apps in China [and India] is a good thing for the nation's "tech sector". Headlines such as "Tencent-backed Kuaishou more than doubles in Hong Kong debut after $5.4 billion IPO [link]" might make bankers rich and the public happy. On the face of it you might think that it's a win-win and that everyone wins. But think again. Is national interest being rightly served by the explosive growth of such services? Tencent might benefit financially from the mega IPO of its short-video app. The public will enjoy watching more short videos. Investment banks will milk a lot as well. But will China's national priorities be served? Will the nation as a whole, on a net basis, benefit from exponential rise in the availability, proliferation and usage of such services? Or will the wastage of billions or maybe trillions of minutes of Chinese youth harm China overall even if select individuals and entities benefit?

What's happening to France is a case in point. Once technologically dominant, it's experiencing a decay in its scientific prowess. Too much focus on arts, paintings, baking, music, foods, and other "light" activities, coupled with a disease-like obsession with concepts such as freedom / individualism / liberty has reduced their collective national might in the areas of science and technology. They couldn't even develop a vaccine for the coronavirus, whereas tiny Vietnam is on course with a domestic vaccine. Individually each French person might be freely pursuing whatever they want to, but collectively they could be losing as a nation. This is essentially the grave concern raised in this post.

How can nations avoid this trap of increasingly development and increasingly prosperity leading paradoxically to a decline in the future growth prospects of the nations? Can laws ever be correctly crafted to address this dangerous phenomenon? Will the public in a democratic setup even accept being dictated that they're indulging "too much" in wasteful activities? Can only China-style governance ensure that the public can be nudged and/or limited in how much of their time and energy / effort they can spend on non-productive pursuits? These are hard questions to which careful thought might be able to provide answers. But the central point remains - with prosperity comes rising national wastefulness in the form of more video games, more short videos, more liquor, more casinos, less hard work, less research, less study, less sacrifice, and so on. If not a government, some kind of an empowered 'committee' of 'elders' might be entrusted with identifying such dangerous trends in a nation, and setting out steps / policies to reverse the rot.

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