July 2007: Turns out I'm heading back to China on August 3rd for a week stay in a city called "Tianjin" just outside of Beijing.
I was in Beijing and Shanghai for about one week and in India for a week several years ago. Pretty interesting ... between the two countries China (1.3B people) and India (1.0B people) they contain about 38% of the world's 6B population. U.S. is the third largest at about 0.3B population and represents about 5% of the world's population. Contrast that with the respective gross national product (a measure of wealth) of the countries; U.S. at about $13Trillion, China at $2.3Trillion and India at about $0.8Trillion. So with 5% of the world's population we have over four times the wealth of China and India combined and they collectively have almost eight times our population.
I've also spent some time in Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Australia and I think it is fair to say ... with the exception of Australia, Korea, Japan, and Singapore, the Asian countries have a long way to go to meet what we or the Europeans would consider acceptable levels of water quality, available electricity, roads, schooling for their children, adequate housing, etc. It is absolutely staggering to see the levels of poverty that exist in these countries and yet in the midst of the poverty is a fast rising middle class and an even faster super rich class driving the globalization of their major industries.
It is quite exciting to watch these giant countries find their way forward as their populations become more educated and their standards of living increase. Contrast that with many of the European countries and Japan where populations are shrinking and populations are aging rapidly. It is no wonder that the U.S. is reaching out to China and India so strongly as when we look 20 years from now the countries that will be replacing our European partners in terms of population are currently the source of much of the world's angst ... Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Iran ... and they will increase rapidly to represent 20% of the global population, they are all impoverished and they are all being radicalized. In 20 years we will be down to about 4.3% of global population.
A very interesting and very disturbing phenomenon that is very apparent when overseas looking at the U.S. is the fact that for all the good we do globally and the tremendous influence that we have on virtually every country in the world ... and with all our wealth and education and military strength we spend very little time and effort trying to truly understand other nations ... at least not nearly at the level they try to understand us. My goodness ... a good example of this is the fact that we have over 20% of our population in the southern U.S. is of Hispanic origin and we can't even be bothered to learn Spanish in our schools or study their cultures.
I am absolutely fascinated by this topic as well as global energy ... but that is a whole different story that gets pushed off the national discussion ... to talk about Paris Hilton.