To think the sun is setting on the West

(49 Posts)
GlobalGill Fri 22-Mar-13 12:52:31

Sorry to be depressing but I am beginning to think the West is in terminal decline. The debt can't be repaid and unless something unforeseen happens the situation is only going to get worse in the UK.

I see the growing influence of China. Asia is buzzing, China is growing rapidly it has the money, it's the creditor and it has the power.

Should be be advising our children to bear this in mind as they choose future careers and what to study at University etc? Everyone seems to have their heads buried in the sand about this or am I way off the mark? Should we be telling our children to pack their bags and look to live and work in Asia as they'll be little future for them in the US or UK?

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 22-Mar-13 12:56:47


civilisations rise and fall. It has happened throughout history.

I think that the west is in a far worse financial mess than the governments are letting on!

Look to china and africa. Oil has been found in kenya, uganda, southern sudan and ghana. Natural gas in tanzinia. Kenya-gold, rare earth, titanium, coal...

Resources are wealth and power.

ImTooHecsyForYourParty Fri 22-Mar-13 12:58:44


AuntieStella Fri 22-Mar-13 13:00:59

The rise of China has been quietly going on since the 1990s. They own large amounts of the means of production in Africa and elsewhere.

The EU and US have definitely run out of money, and whatever colour government tries rearranging deck chairs, it's not going to be salvageable - in the sense that it's not going to go back to the illusion-bubble of wealth of the early 00s.

Bridgetbidet Fri 22-Mar-13 13:01:39

I think everywhere is finished. Apart from a very small global elite I think the population of the entire world has a much lower standard of living to look forward to. I think people are burying their heads about that, I certainly don't expect my grandchildren to have access to decent, free at the point of use healthcare or education.

But I don't think the answer to that will be to go to Asia, I don't think the mass populace in China or India will have it either. I think the standard of living will simply decrease in the West for the masses but not rise elsewhere.

GlobalGill Fri 22-Mar-13 13:10:59

Bridget surely it's better to stand with the creditors than the debtors though? Learning Mandarin - ideally from a young age - may not be realistic for many but could prove to be a real differentiator in the future. Spending time in China whilst at University etc...It feels defeatist to me to sit in the UK and think that you're just going to see inevitable rot set in (if that's what you believe will happen).

Bridgetbidet Fri 22-Mar-13 13:18:29

The only reason why that would be worthwhile is if you genuinely believe that for the majority of Chinese people life is going to get significantly better and the standard of living will outstrip the West.

This doesn't show any particular sign of happening, the wealth gap in China is growing massively. To me it doesn't seem that the wealth is going from the mass of the population in the West to the masses in the East - it's just going up towards the elite whichever country you're in.

I suppose that you can learn Chinese or spend time there. But there is no particular guarantee that this will make you part of China's elite who have the money.

Look at immigrants to this country, the vast, vast majority live perfectly ordinary lives and often they are likely to be amongst the poorest. There is no reason why immigrants from the west to China should be any different. And unless the standards of living for ordinary people improve drastically you would go to all that effort and it probably wouldn't improve your standard of living at all.

Meglet Fri 22-Mar-13 13:23:49

IIRC China have had a housing bubble crash too. I don't think they're quite as secure as they once were.

Hamishbear Fri 22-Mar-13 13:28:16

Interesting points here. If you look back to the USA in the 19th Century they were not a rich country, there were wars and fighting on the streets and now most have what you'd call a decent standard of living, it's not a third world country at any rate.

As someone said upthread civilsations rise and fall; China was once a powerful and important nation. Why is it inconceivable that over a period of time (maybe 50 years) life for the average Chinese person just gets better and better?

As for learning Chinese not making you part of China's elite that have the money...What about a UK RG graduate, for example, whose parents exposed him or her to Mandarin as a toddler and the child kept it up from their teens & then spent time whilst at Uni in China etc, perhaps a semester which effectively consolidated 16 years of learning from a native tutor? I think a law graduate, an agriculture graduate etc that can speak fluent Mandarin might find, if they were smart about it, that they had more than a dead end job and yes, did in time become part of an 'elite' of sorts if they decided that's what they really wanted.

What I am interested in is is the Uk really washed up?

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 13:29:51

I think the West may never regain its economic status. We might regain some ground selling stuff to the BRIC countries and then to Africa, as their stars rise...I think there will be some serious wonga to be made there, but for the elite few.

Callisto Fri 22-Mar-13 13:31:52

I wouldn't write the western world off just yet. China is an economic powerhouse, but we are already seeing the return of manufacturing to the EU because it is becoming so expensive in China. People there are expecting higher wages, they are being forced to address the environmental impact, and the vast majority still live in terrible poverty. Western exports, especially luxury, are increasing and more and more Chinese are being sent to school in the US and UK. They are all learning English for a reason.

On the other hand, there is no way the Earth can support 7 million people living first world lives. Over-population and climate change are far more of a worry than China/India/Brazil etc. Personally, I think as a race we are pretty well doomed but for environmental reasons rather than economic ones.

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 13:32:33

Hamish crossed with you.

I think the West can still supply certain goods, services and expertise to BRIC and Africa. W e have an advantage here in that we've had the time and experience to refine our skills and efficiencies IYSWIM.

But this will only provide sustenance for the few...

Callisto Fri 22-Mar-13 13:34:46

The UK is not necessarily washed up. But it will take a re-vamp of education and some excellent leadership which I doubt will happen. I can't see anyone in any of the parties who has the guts and vision to make Britain great again. sad

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 13:40:03

callisto I don't think that will happen.

The government, like most of the population, seem to be in utter denial about what is happening. Middle class complacancy is rife.

Hamishbear Fri 22-Mar-13 13:46:53

Callisto where is the money coming from? I am not economist but I can't see how we can ever be as wealthy as we once were. It feels like that ship has sailed. I fear that one day all the UK and US's chickens will come home to roost (if that's the right expression).

No one seems to be hungry enough in the UK they do seem comparatively complacent and Asia's star does seem to be in the ascendant as some have said.

Hamish and * word* you are both right. I don't think any political party wants or knows how to do anything about it. So sad when we were once a nation of great engineers. I watched something on tv last year about no interest in engineering degrees in the UK. Many students study engineering in Italy, lots of them are women too. When did our students suddenly decide to take up media studies?! Shipping jobs out of the UK didn't help. People (Daily Fail fans) in the UK moan about the benefits culture, but there aren't the jobs for these people that used to exist and the high street is in decline too.

quoteunquote Fri 22-Mar-13 13:54:08

Well if we want to be in the game , we need a USE (United states of Europe) asap,

unfortunately we appear to be to stupid to realise we have more in common with each other than we have differences,

So we (Europeans) over the next few years, will be giving the biggest demonstration of "cutting off your nose to spite your face" ever.

word, flipping ipad!

quote you are also correct. Without harmony in Europe there isn't any hope.

Callisto Fri 22-Mar-13 13:58:01

confused Is this at my 1st post? If so, as manufacturing exports increase there will be more money in the coffers and more people employed. I think there are an awful lot of people in the UK who would rather winge about how shite life is than do something about it though. The US can't be written off. It is still a huge manufacturing nation with a positive outlook and vast amounts of talent. If they can go green and wean themselves off oil then they will be in great shape for the rest of the century. Obviously this is very simplistic!

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 13:59:05

There is no public appetite for the types of changes we need to make, even if we had the money to do it.

Read any MN thread about childhood/education. Post after post decrying homework as the devil's own sperm. Parents worrying about pressure. Teachers worrying about elitism. Mothers beating their breasts wanting their DC to be happy... as if happiness were somehow the antithisis of hard graft, or difficulty or boredom.

My friends from developing countries find these attitudes risible.

lottieandmia Fri 22-Mar-13 13:59:51

All the new, 'designer' private schools like the one in New York that was on radio 4 recently teach the children mandarin from 4.

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 14:03:10

As for the states, DH and I travel there regularly for work and leisure and one thing that always strikes me is the sheer size of the home economy.

American fruit being shipped around the country in American made trucks to be eaten by other Americans.
American families jumping in their American cars to stay in American holiday resorts where they'll BBQ American burgers and drink American beer.

lottieandmia Fri 22-Mar-13 14:06:00

I have family living in the US who say most Americans don't have a passport.

Hamishbear Fri 22-Mar-13 14:07:37

Absolutely, Word. I fear we need to introduce our children to 'hard graft' I am afraid because if they are strangers to it life may be very unpleasant & difficult for them in the future. I am all for education but my friends, those who are not from the UK, are doubly or triply encouraging and focussed when it comes to ensuring their children do well at school.

Agree Callisto that the US can't be written off, it's still a very wealthy country but agree with the OP that this isn't likely to last for the next 100 years and beyond. The debt just gets greater and greater and more and more money seems to be printed.

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 14:12:35

lottie it's true!

Which is bad for breeding insular attitudes, but excellent for growing your home economy. The more dollars that remain in house the better.

I also think you can galvanise the americans to buy local goods; for a start they think anyhting American is naturally superior, and second they have a sense of loyalty to their country which is useful.

Callisto Fri 22-Mar-13 14:15:17

Shame the British are so crap at supporting their own economy really.

SolomanDaisy Fri 22-Mar-13 14:18:37

I definitely think we're at a turning point stage in the pattern of world wealth distribution. It's not easy to see how things will go though - changing patterns of natural resource discovery, new developments in sustainable technologies, changing weather patterns. All those things will have a huge impact on what happens next. I wouldn't want to be betting on Mandarin when Hindi or Ukranian or Somali could turn out to be what our children need. Though actually the trend towards English as the global language seems pretty unstoppable.

I agree with what you say about Americans and their loyalty to their nation and I admire their 'can do' attitude. In the UK it's 'you can't do that because....' or 'that's unrealistic' (true in my upbringing). The French are also loyal to their products and food. In the UK we shuffle and mumble and apologise for things that aren't our fault and put down successful people.

Lueji Fri 22-Mar-13 14:21:03

You never know. In 20 years the tables could easily have turned.

But, yes, I think the West must definitely have to face that it's no longer a leader.

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 14:23:49

solomon I agree that learning Mandarin is neither here nor there. Unless one wants to go and work for the Chinese, there's little point.

Better to make something or provide a service that all developing cuntires need. Somehting they need to buy in Brazil and China and Nigeria. The rich man will spend his money if you have summat he wants!

Callisto Fri 22-Mar-13 14:35:04

Word - That's why the UK should be investing heavily in green tech and nuclear. It is these sort of things that everyone will need.

Hamishbear Fri 22-Mar-13 14:35:47

Completely disagree on the Mandarin, especially if you can get to fluency. It's a real differentiator and not just a gimmick. The Chinese are going to be tremendously powerful and important in our children's lifetimes unless something unforeseen happens. Mainland Chinese are suddenly everywhere, I was in Paris for work recently and the hotel was filled with Chinese tourists and businessmen. Just one example. Simply put many now have so much money it's mind-blowing. Those that can speak Chinese who are not ethnically Chinese look committed, hungry open minded and interesting, put simply they will so stand out from other peers as China plays a larger and larger part on the global stage. Believe me those non Chinese who are smarter (and wealthier) than I have children who are already approaching fluency or fluent, they haven't invested so heavily in this because it's just a parlour game.

aldiwhore Fri 22-Mar-13 14:48:29

I think a chapter is closing. The way that countries are structured, economically you cannot keep growing forever. Does that mean despair for the West? No I don't think so, I think it will mean that we will have to view our civilisation differently. Perhaps we will focus on feeding our populus, being more self sufficient, manufacturing at home keeping people in work and spending at home, rather than chasing global profit and the cheapest option. That is probably idealist and completely over simplified. Perhaps we will not be so bothered about being a mini-superpower but quietly content to be managing.

If I were to move anywhere, it would probably be Australia. Being a young nation (relatively speaking) they have a young, optimistic attitude and seem to have a good balance.

Every country has it's ups and downs. The rich elite, of which there aren't many, don't care so long as they're not losing their own money and so long as the poor masses (and even if you consider yourself well off, you're still one of the poor masses) don't really notice or kick off.

I hope perhaps when the money runs out and credit can't be found, we may actually remember that money is not our God after all, and 'stuff' is just that. Apart from war, real poverty and famine, many of the world's 'poor' are among the happiest and if we consider 1st world obesity, diabetes, addictions, cancer rate, heart disease, etc etc etc., probably not as unhealthy as we are either.

So, yes, I think it's the beginning of a metaphorical ice age, a metaphorical sunset (though I don't consider the boom years as sunny) but I also believe that the west will live to see another dawn.

BegoniaBampot Fri 22-Mar-13 14:53:04

I do have a bad feeling about this. Know nowt about economics but feel for the first time that this might not be fixable and it is only the start. Quite worrying.

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 15:04:49

Interesting hamish

My view has been that it would take up too much time to get to a decent level of Mandarin. Time that we could spend on other skills and attributes.

A judgement call, if you will.

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 15:07:24

Begonia it is worrying, but I do think it is probably unstoppable.

So I kind of started putting my energies into ensuring that my own DC can make the best of it IYSWIM.

I have to ask: is it deliberate, or a happy accident, that the thread title sounds as if the OP's been taking lessons in rhetoric from the Little Red Book?

Hamishbear Fri 22-Mar-13 15:15:05

Begonia I fear you are right and I think the best advice is to suggest children look East, at least for a time to gain experience and be where the action is.

williaminajetfighter Fri 22-Mar-13 15:17:58

I too think its an end of an era. But certainly don't fancy working in or emulation China where staff are paid poorly, where workers have limited rights, where class and hierarchy is worse than here and where commerce is highly unregulated.

Unfortunately we are in a global economy which is evening out. I foresee the next generation in Britain having quite a drop in the standard of living. Sadly I think our slightly false economies and industries of finance, education, tourism and services and our naive belief that a public sector economy is all we need is a real downfall for us. I also think the British have lost their drive and chutzpah. 10x more people seem to want a job working in public sector administration (good pension, adequate sick day allowance) than starting their own business/enterprise.

Charmingbaker Fri 22-Mar-13 15:18:08

What the west does have in it's favour is democracy. Many of the developing nations have far greater inequalities than we have, but with growing middle classes and greater access to education the people will demand a greater say in how they are governed.

znaika Fri 22-Mar-13 15:21:56

Hve any of you actually been to China. I mean it's an amazing place, Chinese cultural heritage is rich and fascinating, but China itself is miles away from the level of civilisation and privilege you have in the UK, some of it is shockingly awful. Same with other BRIC countries. They have low wages, corruption and appalling human rights, and environmental disasters. Despite the West "going down the pan" all the ideas still come from the west. China rips them, off copies them and flogs em cheaper, but China isn't coming up with the ideas themselves. Despite all the handwringing that goes on on here about education. I am grateful everyday for my western education. the ability to think critically is not something promoted in China. Until it is they need you in the west

wordfactory Fri 22-Mar-13 15:27:32

znaika I agree that they need us. I actually think they'll continue to need us for some time.

But, and its a big but, they won't need that many of us!!!!!

So the trick is ensuring that you are one of the few able to offer somehting they need or want.

Mimishimi Fri 22-Mar-13 15:35:26

Too many wars, too many lies, too much hubris, demographic collapse. Wax and wane's not like we haven't been through it before.

Hamishbear Fri 22-Mar-13 15:43:00

Znaika there's lots we can learn from the Chinese education system though developing one’s concentration, powers of analysis and deduction, memory, ability to persevere etc. It's not just about rote learning in many major centres anymore they are evolving and developing the system. Elsewhere in Asia, in Singapore for example, education is becoming more creative whilst still keeping an eye on the rigour. You say China has 'low wages, corruption and appalling human rights, and environmental disasters.' so do many developing nations. Look at America in the 19th Century - as I think I or someone else said up thread- it wasn't pretty, it really wasn't and look at it now. No one would have thought such evolution possible yet we are only talking about a period of 100 years or so and you've got a hugely civilised country. I believe China will sort it out they are awash with cash, that helps. It's not going to be easy but they are well on their way.

Hamishbear Fri 22-Mar-13 15:44:26

Well put Mimishimi.

babybarrister Fri 22-Mar-13 15:46:28

Yea YANBU - this is why I have been trying to encourage MPS etc to consider other second languages aside from French which is clearly going to be a waste of time for tomorrow's children

GrowSomeCress Fri 22-Mar-13 17:07:08

ImTooHecsy resources can also be a curse - countries become trapped in a cycle of just primary sector production

SolomanDaisy Fri 22-Mar-13 17:47:25

I think the actual second language learnt at school doesn't matter much - once you can reach fluency in another language you realise it is possible and can learn more as you get older. Unfortunately in the UK we only tend to teach languages to a basic level.

We do still have more advanced research and development capabilities, which should work to our advantage if we handle it right.

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