Matt Miller on America Competing With India and China

Question: What strategies can corporations follow to confront India and China?

Miller:    I think a huge premium is on education because, and this has been true for a long time but, you know, President Clinton used to say, in the 21st Century, what you can earn depends on what you can learn, and basically we’re all competing now to be [sites] for different kinds of work that companies, especially large multinational companies, can do anywhere on the planet.  And so, we need to be as attractive a place for business to locate, with as attractive a workforce, with as good public infrastructure, because you need that.  I mean, you know, if Shanghai and Beijing were going to end up being the leaders in high speed rail or in all these other kinds of public infrastructure, while if you spend any time like I do on business travel in American airports, you feel half the time like we’re becoming a third world country.  There’s a whole generation of investments that, perhaps, under this Obama stimulus plan, will now have a good both a reason and excuse to pump money into this in a way that will be good for the economy long term, because I think it’s those kind of things, the quality of our workforce and the quality of our infrastructure is going to really be the pivot on which our future standard of living depends.

Question: Does the US put competition ahead of collaboration?

Miller:    I’m not a sociologist who’s looked at this.  I guess I would, my instinct is to challenge the premise a little bit, because while I know some other cultures don’t have as ingrained a competitive gene as we seem to, I think it’s built, and I think humans have both sides to them, the competitive side and the collaborative side, and when you think of what goes on in everybody’s daily work life these days, how you’re collaborating with networks of people, you know, in far flung offices by the internet or telephone these days routinely, I think that we’ve got that in our makeup as much as anyone, and, if anything, we probably have, at least when you hear some of the Asian societies talk about it, we may have an edge on the creativity, because we’re not as focused on drilling in rote memorization and the kind of, you know, K to 12 schooling is just brute memorization of facts.  We’re a looser, more creative culture.  In a collaborative era, I think that’s a help.

The author scopes the economic rise of the East.

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