Whilst reading The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years by Bernard Lewis there was a paragraph in the “Challenge of Modernity” chapter that struck me as amazing parallel to the modern day rise of China in relation to Western Europe and America.
The economic weakness of the Middle East, unlike that of the Soviet Union, was not due to an excess of central control … the Ottoman world had fallen far behind Western Europe. It had also become a predominantly consumer-oriented society.
In contrast, the rise of mercantilism in the producer-oriented West helped European trading companies, and the states that protected and encouraged them to achieve a level of commercial organization and a concentration of economic energies unknown and unparalleled in the East, where – as a matter of fact more than of theory – ‘market forces’ operated without serious restrictions. The Western trading corporation, with the help of its business-minded government, represented an entirely new force. Thanks to this growing disparity of economic strength and will, Western merchants, later manufacturers, and eventually governments, were able to establish an almost total control of Middle Eastern markets, and ultimately even of major Middle Eastern manufactures.
It’s remarkable how this sentence could appear in a book that my son could read 20 years from now about the fall of the West versus the more centrally controlled, business focused autocracy of China.