From Knowledge Society to Knowledge Economy



What prompted China’s multilateral growth in the globalised world? The author could summarily find its answer in a couple of fundamental reasons, and one among them, is China’s millennia-old glorious history of knowledge, which the great Prophet of Islam (PBUH), acknowledged and prescribed his backward Arab fellowmen to follow as a key to success and growth. Vide a tradition (Hadi’th), he is reported to have had left an advice to them: “to acquire and learn knowledge even if you have to go to China.” The Prophet’s saying is revealing on three counts. First, his inherent urge for learning and knowledge in accordance with Allah’s command in the holy Qur’an. Second, his vision to see the then backward Arab society exposed to the progressive world communities and third, his un-biased recognition of China’s knowledge pre-eminence notwithstanding ideological incompatibility between Islam in Arabia and Paganism/Buddhism in China.  It is indeed this knowledge legacy that triggered China’s mastery in art, thought, culture, science, technology and medicine in the yester years, and rendered her one among the glorious civilizations of the world. The labyrinth of historical evidences and the masterpieces of archaeological finds retrieved, for instance, from Kashmir’s immediate neighbourhood, Dunhuang Aksu, Lopnor, Lolan , Khotan and Kashghar in Eastern Turkistan or what now constitutes China’s largest province, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region [Xinjiang], stand testimony to China’s great name and fame in the by-gone ages.
It is indeed this rich knowledge legacy that the Chinese exploited and bequeathed to their future generation through measures seeking to combine past with the present knowledge. As a matter of fact, the Chinese government provides substantial funds for the educational sector and the growth of its allied institutions across Xinjiang and elsewhere. Besides formal institutions, China persistently endeavours for the growth of private and public libraries and book shops across the country. These abound with rich literature on Chinese history, culture, medicines and technology, modern sciences apart. Interestingly, the private book shops housed in multi-storey and multi-chambered structures in Urumchi and elsewhere in China symbolize study centres rather than the book shops. Apart from the purchase of books, the visitors have a free choice to study the available book material on the spot and that too without any fee or charge whatsoever. Consequently, every single space in the book stalls is occupied by the readers of all sorts: men, women and children of Chinese, Uighur, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Mongol and Tajik ethnic descent. This presupposes the unconditional patronage of the private sector to knowledge dissemination and the inherent longing of the Chinese for knowledge acquisition. The latter is evidenced by those tens and thousands of the Chinese travelers who, while on board, study books, magazines, journals etc. in buses, trains and planes.
China’s secret of knowledge pre-eminence is also grounded in her being a value-based society, to which Confucianism, Buddhism and Maoism invariably contributed from early times. The given philosophies taught the Chinese to resist challenges, survive trials and tribulations, render respect to elders and uphold traditional values. These values exist till date, and, in one instance, the author experienced groups of young souls clearing snow at the Campus of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences [XASS] in Urumchi, the capital city of Xinjiang. Who these were? Were they paid for it and by whom? On query, I was told that they were actually the male-female students of XASS itself who volunteered for the said job at the behest of their teachers suggesting thereby the ethical base of the Chinese society and the strong institutions and the comprehensive growth emanating there from.
One may surmise as to why China’s current multi-vector growth was delayed when it was since blessed with sufficient natural resources, political stability, cheap labour, etc. Perhaps the reason was the deficiency of requisite finances, which China was able to shore up with the huge foreign investment by several transcontinental financial corporations in the wake of neo-liberalism, recognizing the developed and the developing countries as the co-partners in the process of local, regional and global integration. It strongly and successfully triggered China’s boom in the 21st century globalised world, and enabled her to register a worthwhile growth rate in GDP and other indicators of socio-economic development. Indeed her growth is remarkable for she not only transformed herself from a self-sufficient society into a rapidly growing economy but even assumed the role of a locomotive in the new economic order. For this, however, she had to undergo a rigorous exercise. On the one hand, she broke off her age-long isolation from the world and, on the other, exploited the global interdependence to her multilateral benefit. Finally, therefore, she emerged as a protagonist in the international arena, and, in that, lifted millions of its people out of poverty. Thus a country that only two and half decades ago was  overwhelmed with unprecedented un-employment and poverty,  is now better capacitated to provide jobs to millions and millions of people from within and outside China. The massive agricultural, industrial, urban, educational, physical and human growth in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities and towns, speak for her key role in the regional and global economic order. The growth is such that USA finds China as a greatest threat to her strategic and future economic interests in the globe at large. The European countries envy China’s radical transformation, and san for bilateral and trilateral cooperation with her to benefit by its vertical and horizontal growth.  The South and Central Asian countries look forward to China as a role model of growth and development.
True China has a single party system which indisputably restricts the scope of transparency and the people’s rights to speech, organization and expression. The State appears to be predominant over everything else. Notwithstanding her growth, the wage scales remain low and do not necessarily correspond to China’s significant growth rate in nationalistic terms. The buying power of the people at large is far less compared to their counterparts in China’s neighbourhood. Nevertheless, the country exhibits a great deal of strength on other counts. The writ of the State reigns supreme. The institutions are stable and function smoothly within their normal axis. While the prices are under control, the inflation level is seriously monitored to strike a balance between receipts and expenditure. Unlike the past, different ethno-religious minorities are allowed religious freedom by the Communist China. The works of public welfare and the human security remain on the agenda of the State. The scams and scandals are almost non-existent which markedly distinguish China from her South and Central Asian democracies.
China must boast of her record time progress. She sportingly negotiated globalization to reconstruct her otherwise stagnant country profile. However, while conceiving and enforcing perspective plans of development, China kept a balance between tradition and modernity, and carved out a robust socio-economic construct with the support of a rich and centuries-old knowledge and resource base. Little wonder, therefore, to see China speedily transforming from Knowledge society to knowledge economy.

(Prof Mushtaq A.Kaw is former Director Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir. He is presently Dean, College Development Council at the University. Feedback at

Lastupdate on : Tue, 15 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 15 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST

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