What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

China: The Descending Dragon

April 30, 2012, 12:00 AM

What is the Big Idea?

China's growth is slowing. Its economy expanded at 8.1 percent during the first quarter, which is significantly slower than the previous quarters and a disappointment compared to the last decade of double digit growth. 

There are two main reasons for the cool down. Domestically, demand is decreasing and the construction industry has been hampered by policies that were aimed at curtailing breakneck expansion. Also, overseas demand for Chinese goods has weakened. 

This trend, however, is not common among booming economies, according to Ruchir Sharma, author of Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles. Developing countries hit a "middle-income trap" and stop catching up to rich countries when the per capital income reaches $5,000 to $15,000, says Sharma. While they may continue to catch up, the rate of their growth slows down. Japan in the 1970s, Taiwan in the 1980s and South Korea in the 1990s all slowed from 9 percent to 5 percent growth, because the bigger the economy the harder it becomes to maintain rapid growth.

While it sounds like bad news for China, what this really means is that China is no longer a poor country, says Sharma. Watch this video to hear his take on what this means for the rest of the world.

What is the Significance?

Chinese demand for commodities like oil and iron ore have driven up prices. A slowdown could stave off demand, bring prices down and prompt the exploration of alternative energy sources. It could also mean more jobs shifting back to U.S. soil.

Research from The Boston Consultant Group claims that by 2015, wages and benefits for the average Chinese factory worker will jump between 15 percent and 20 percent, leaving U.S. manufacturers with less incentive to ship jobs overseas. 

"As companies think through their plant networks, many will see the benefit in building new plants in the United States to serve the U.S. and western export markets, while retooling plants in China to make goods for the Chinese and Asian markets," Sirkin and Zinser write in a summary of their research.

Still, some experts think this is an overly rosy assessment of China's slowdown. 

"Those reports are a bit optimistic," Victoria Lai said to International Business Times. "In fact, China is still taking up more market share in more sectors of manufacturing exports than it did before."

Rising wages would only prompt manufacturers to take jobs to cheaper destinations like Vietnam and Bangladesh, says Lai. 

"The question remains: Do we want the manufacturing of things like iPads to move back to the United States, or do we want more of the design engineering, the sales and the higher-value services jobs that don't require midnight manufacturing shifts?" Lai said.  


Join the debate. Do you want manufacturing jobs to return to the U.S.? Or would you rather see the U.S. focus on innovation and higher skilled jobs? Tell us what you think in the comments section.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com/Cvetanovski


China: The Descending Dragon

Newsletter: Share: