Don’t speak Chinese?
That’s okay, probably. If you’re 50 or older … maybe 40 … it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to. Especially if you have no interest in involving yourself in the global economy. But you might consider getting lessons for your kids. Seriously. If you want them to be successful in coming decades—and who doesn’t want their kids to be successful in coming decades?—it has become clear to me that they will have to either speak Chinese, or they will need to make life-long friendships with kids that do speak Chinese.
But then, the kids that do speak Chinese will always have the edge, won’t they? Really, why would the Chinese business leaders and policy kings want to deal with your kid—whose relationship to the Chinese language only goes as far as he has a friend that actually speaks Chinese—when they can deal with the kid who actually speaks Chinese?
Course, I could be wrong about all of this. First of all, I could be wrong about the basic premise of my argument, that the axle upon which global economies spin is the dominant source of energy. What that means is that nothing else happens without the energy to make it happen. Right? Am I wrong about that?
I don’t think I am. Whatever you’re selling—be it cars, collies, cottages, corn flakes, computers or Kool-Aid—it doesn’t get manufactured, marketed or moved without the dominant source of energy making it happen. And, of course, that source of energy changes with the times and the conditions. Not so long ago, the dominant source of energy was pack animals. Or, to be precise, whatever pack animals ate that gave them the energy to carry Cossacks and cowboys, pull carriages and Conestogas, or plows … whatever.
So, I guess you might say that 200 years ago, the dominant source of energy was grass or alfalfa, and a handful of oats on occasion. Then, in pretty rapid order in terms of history’s long-view, the grass and oats were replaced by combustible fuels of various sorts, and the horses and mules and oxen were replaced first by steam-driven devices, then by Fords and Chevys and Peterbuilts and 747s and Princess Cruise lines and … oh, just a million other damn things. Cuisinarts and microwaves and vibrating beds and weed whackers and sump-pumps and Frigidaires and everything else in your kitchen and most of the stuff in your whole house, and everywhere else, for that matter—all of which, even to this day, run primarily because something, somewhere, is going up in flames.
That combustible stuff made a few people a lot of money. A lot! That’s why, for years and years, the richest people around were the ones who controlled the stuff that burned best. But by now, we know where it got us, don’t we? At least, if you’re not dumber than a bus-load of Trump supporters, you know where it got us—all that combustible stuff being combusted. If you needed more proof than what’s happened this last summer and fall alone that something is going seriously kerflooey with the climate, you are—indeed—dumber, or at least as dumb, as a bus-load of Trump supporters.
But if you’re smart enough to know that global warming is as real as a level 5 hurricane—which leaves out the greatest share of the political party currently in charge of American policy—you’re already aware that the dominant source of energy is, in every part of the modern world but America, shifting away from shit that burns up and is there-after useless, to shit that’s the same no matter how many times it’s used. Primarily wind and solar.
Which brings us back to China. I won’t try to report here-in how rapidly and massively and remarkably China is moving away from fossil fuels. Such a discussion would involve a lot of words like “gigawatts” and “photovoltaic,” and I wouldn’t be fooling anyone into thinking I had a real grasp of what they mean. So let’s keep it to terms such as “shit that burns up” and “shit that’s exactly the same even after you make electricity from it.”
But the truth is, China is going gang-busters with shit that’s exactly the same even after you make electricity from it, and they are getting closer and closer to eliminating the use of shit that burns up. And all of this is happening even while the people here in America who are richer than sugar-frosted diamonds because their daddies and grand-daddies took control of the shit that burns up market way back and are fighting like hell to keep the re-usable energy sources from cutting into their game.
So the up-shot is, China is now the global leader in developing what we all know will be—and a lot sooner than anyone predicted—the next dominant source of energy. Which will make the China the next global leader, period. And a lot sooner than anyone predicted.
And as we all know, the global leader gets to pick the global language. We did it for years. All those Japanese and Germans and Saudis and such, learning English so they could make deals with the Rockefellers and Kochs and Carnegies. Well, pal, it’s about to change. I won’t be around to see it, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that by … oh, say our tri-centennial celebration in 2076 … kids will need a couple of years of Mandarin even to be considered for the Harvard MBA program.
I know I’ve taken a long and wind-y path getting back to the nub of my parental advice—do your kids a favor and get them Chinese lessons, remember?—but long and wind-y is often the way of great global shifts, and I think we’re in for a doozie.
And a lot sooner than anyone predicted.
By the way, if you can’t make sense of the title of this piece—中國贏了！—it means, according to Google Translate, “China Wins!”