Writing for Forbes magazine, British Historian Paul Johnson predicts that due to its widespread use of English, India will overtake China and will continue to be a more vibrant supporter of Western liberal ideas. While I am an Indo-phile, I think that Johnson’s overreaching. I present you excerpts from his article below in blue . My comments are in italics.
Few (who don’t speak English) have read the writings of British philosophers John Locke and Edmund Burke, not to mention those of America’s Founding Fathers, which has lead directly to a lack of understanding of what the West is about.
(True, but the French were inspired by the American Revolution and they didn’t necessarily speak English in 1789 when they stormed the Bastille)
Very few mainland Chinese speak English nor do they have any conception of the liberal tradition that the language enshrines. It’s alarming to realize that the Chinese government is spending massive amounts of money and deploying large numbers of people (by one calculation more than 1 million) to spread its notions and influence in Africa–cultural and political ideas that differ greatly from the West’s.
(China is also spending vast amounts of money teaching English to its young people. In fact many Indians are living in in China teaching English. But it is true that India’s leadership in politics and business functions in English, while the Chinese do not).
Fortunately it’s a different story in India, and the responsibility for this rests largely with one man, the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. In 1834 Macaulay was sent to India as an administrator, and the next year he found himself president of the Committee of Public Instruction for Bengal. As such, Macaulay made up his mind that Indians must be taught English and be exposed to Western culture.”
… Because India remained attached to the English language umbilical cord, ideas, methods and technology flowed into its educated and commercial classes on a scale and in ways that China, especially since its years of Communist totalitarian rule, has been denied.
As the century progresses India has a good chance of moving to the head of the innovatory field. It has both the freedom and the language to be receptive to new ideas and is in a position to produce technologies of its own that may become global winners.
(Yes, indeed. In fact in the creation of the Nano automobile, the Swach water purifier, the ChotuKool refrigerator, and the lunar mission, India has already demonstrated how its own ideas can lead the world in frugal engineering).
India is about to overtake China in terms of population and will also outdistance it economically and financially well before the end of the 21st century. Where India will stand in relation to the U.S. I don’t know. But America, with its own soundly based democratic institutions and traditions of intellectual and economic freedom, will be well placed to remain in the front ranks. I predict this will be a neck-and-neck race, with China running a poor third and Russia and Europe limping in as also-rans.