I have been urging more Mandarin and study abroad programs for Oregon's public schools and universities since the summer of 2006. This 5/12/08 email is the latest in a series of regular emails to all 90 Oregon legislators.
The video of Fareed Zakaria's appearance on the Charlie Rose show discussing his new book "The Post-American World" can be seen on my website here.
Dear Senator / Representative
Please call for the Legislature to hold hearings on what Fareed Zakaria calls "the rise of the rest" and to pass legislation to increase Mandarin and study abroad programs for our public K-16 students. The world is changing and the Legislature needs to stay informed and think through the implications of these global changes for our educational system. With less than one percent of our K-12 students now studying Mandarin, and with far too few students studying abroad anywhere, and with a subcommittee of the Board of Higher Education preparing a document "Portland’s Higher Education Agenda for the 21st Century" without mentioning the rise of China, we simply are not up to date in our thinking about the changing world nor preparing our next generations for the challenges they will face.
"We are now living through the third great power shift of the modern era," writes Fareed Zakari, international editor for Newsweek magazine, in his new book titled "The Post-American World." He continues:
It could be called "the rise of the rest." Over the past few decades, countries all over the world have been experiencing rates of economic growth that were once unthinkable. While they have had booms and busts, the overall trend has been unambiguously upward. This growth has been most visible in Asia but is no longer confined to it. That is why to call this shift "the rise of Asia" does not describe it accurately. In 2006 and 2007, 124 countries grew at a rate of 4 percent or more. That includes more than 30 countries in Africa, two-thirds of the continent....
The 50 counties where the earth’s poorest people live are basket cases that need urgent attention. In the other 142 – which include China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey, Kenya, and South Africa – the poor are slowly being absorbed into productive and growing economies. For the first time ever, we are witnessing genuinely global growth. This is creating an international system in which countries in all parts of the world are no longer objects or observers but players in their own right.
China is a central character in this unfolding drama. In a chapter on China, titled "The Challenger," Zakaria writes:
China has grown over 9 percent a year for almost thirty years, the fastest rate for a major economy in recorded history. In that same period, it has moved around 400 million people out of poverty, the largest reduction that has taken place anywhere, anytime. The average Chinese person’s income has increased nearly sevenfold. China, despite drawbacks and downsides, has achieved, on a massive scale, the dream of every Third World county – a decisive break with poverty. The economist Jeffrey Sachs puts it simple: "China is the most successful development story in world history."
The magnitude of the change in China is almost unimaginable. The size of the economy has doubled every eight years for three decades. In 1978, the country made 200 air conditioners a year, in 2005, it made 48 million. China today exports in a single day more than it exported in all of 1978.
China represents an enormous market opportunity to sell goods and services. But China also represents a challenge to U.S. national security. A NY Times article on Zakaria’s book summed this up:
The central strategic challenge for American diplomacy in the years to come, Mr. Zakaria says, concerns China: how to deter its aggression and expansionism, while at the same time accommodating its legitimate growth. He suggests that in a world in which "the United States is seen as an overbearing hegemon," China might well seek to position itself as "the alternative to a hectoring and arrogant America," gradually expanding its economic ties and enlarging its sphere of influence.
"How will America," he asks, "cope with such a scenario — a kind of cold war but this time with a vibrant market society, with the world’s largest population, a nation that is not showcasing a hopeless model of state socialism or squandering its power in pointless military interventions? This is a new challenge for the United States, one it has not tackled before, and for which it is largely unprepared."
My argument to you as an Oregon legislator is that you are on the front lines of the effort to prepare the U.S. for these challenges (economic, national security). We need to invest more in preparing our next generations so that they have the skills to deal with China and "the rest". This means more foreign languages and more study abroad opportunities. You have the responsibility and authority to change the Oregon educational system so that more of our students study Mandarin and more study abroad. Please step up to the challenge.
Respectfully – Dave Porter
PS – Zakaria and his book have been making a variety of appearances on TV and in print:
(1) NY Times article "A Challenge for the U.S.: Sun Rising on the East" by Michiko Kakutani is here.
(2) Fareed Zakaria’s own NY Times Op-Ed article "The Post-American World: the Rise of the Rest" is here.
(3) Fareed Zakaria’s Foreign Affairs magazine article "The Future of American Power: How America Can Survive the Rise of the Rest" is here.
(4) Zakaria’s book is mentioned along with others in Ian Buruma’s article "After America: Is the West being overtaken by the rest" in the New Yorker (4/21/08) here.
(5) Fareed Zakaria’s Newsweek article "The Rise of the Rest: It's true China is booming, Russia is growing more assertive, terrorism is a threat. But if America is losing the ability to dictate to this new world, it has not lost the ability to lead" is here. It has a 3 minute video.
PPS – Relating to my high school study abroad scholarship proposal, my interview with ednews.org is here. And note that the US State Department through the National Security Language Initiative is in the process of accepting national proposals for the development of high school language-focused study abroad programs in Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Indic, Farsi, and Turkish. Their explicit purposes are "to develop a cadre of Americans with advanced linguistic skills and related cultural understanding who are able to advance international dialogue, promote the security of the United States, and compete effectively in the global economy." See here.
PPPS – The document "Portland’s Higher Education Agenda for the 21st Century" is here. It has a companion document here. As I wrote: "Both documents are seriously flawed. Neither document reflects the enormous, historical changes taking place in Asia. Neither document reflects the vastly changed economic and geopolitical situation today’s students will live in over their lifetimes. Neither document mentions the opportunities, threats, and challenges that a rising China presents." They could be corrected.