Hello, after a short work-enforced absence I’m back. I have not been completely idle these last weeks (and here). Also Atanu and I have cut a podcast together for James Reese on Radio Economics which will go online on Sunday. Meantime this is really just a short ‘warm-up post’.
One of the topics which Atanu and I have been chatting about is the relative sterility of all these India/China comparisons. But having said that I can’t help feeling that far too many people have a ‘down’ on India which has no real rational basis (and a rose coloured filter over China, for which ditto). Put another way, why do I manage to believe in India when so many others seem so full of doubts? I don’t know, I think this is a topic which I am about to explore.
Certainly in the news today is just one more reason why I think China’s break-out from the manufacturing-based economy is going to be much more difficult than many seem to imagine. The reason this time? China is effectively trying to create a walled garden information environment for its citizens:
China has announced it is creating a new set of domain names based on Chinese characters.
China has created three of its own top-level domains that will use the domain names .cn, .com and .net, in Chinese. The domain names were launched on Wednesday by the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry.
The creation of Chinese character domain names has led to speculation that China could break away from ICANN completely, and undermine the global unity of the DNS, the network of servers that resolves domain name requests.
“It means Internet users don’t have to surf the Web via the servers under the management of ICANN, of the US,” reported the People’s Daily Online, a Chinese Government-approved publication.
The Chinese government is effectively trying to separate off its citizens from the rest of the information universe, under the pretext, of course, of avoiding US domination.
The Tasmania Effect?
Jared Diamond once explained some of the consequences of cutting yourself off like this in the context of the physical separation of Tasmania from the Australian mainland at the end of the Pleistocene era:
How did those enormous gaps in Tasmanian material culture arise?
The answer stems from the fact that Tasmania used to be joined to the southern Australian mainland at Pleistocene times of low sea level, until that land bridge was severed by rising sea level 10,000 years ago. People walked out to Tasmania tens of thousands of years ago, when it was still part of Australia. Once that land bridge was severed, though, there was absolutely no further contact of Tasmanians with mainland Australians or with any other people on Earth until European arrival in 1642, because both Tasmanians and mainland Australians lacked watercraft capable of crossing those 130-mile straits between Tasmania and Australia. Tasmanian history is thus a study of human isolation unprecedented except in science fiction ÷ namely, complete isolation from other humans for 10,000 years. Tasmania had the smallest and most isolated human population in the world. If population size and isolation have any effect on accumulation of inventions, we should expect to see that effect in Tasmania.
Meantime Google seems to be going full speed ahead leveraging its huge engine capacity in an attempt to tow China back towards shore.