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China, India or Egypt: who will win the 21st century?


Veterans of the Drip know we do like a bit of Thomas Friedman, the moustachio'ed sergeant major of the New York Times' op-ed pages. This week, on his annual pilgrimage to India, he reflects on three countries with a very different relationship between state and society.

His thesis is pretty convincing, don't you think?

"India has a weak central government but a really strong civil society, bubbling with elections and associations at every level. China has a muscular central government but a weak civil society, yet one that is clearly straining to express itself more. Egypt, alas, has a weak government and a very weak civil society, one that was suppressed for 50 years, denied real elections and, therefore, is easy prey to have its revolution diverted by the one group that could organize, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the one free space, the mosque. But there is one thing all three have in common: gigantic youth bulges under the age of 30, increasingly connected by technology but very unevenly educated."

And he adds: "My view: Of these three, the one that will thrive the most in the 21st century will be the one that is most successful at converting its youth bulge into a “demographic dividend” that keeps paying off every decade, as opposed to a “demographic bomb” that keeps going off every decade. That will be the society that provides more of its youth with the education, jobs and voice they seek to realize their full potential."