Brandeis students frequently use the Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS) as a way to explore new and innovative topics while earning class credit. JBS is a set of multiple for-credit summer programs, all of which have a specific subject, such as public health policy or global business culture. One particularly interesting JBS program this summer is “Emerging Powers and the New World Order: Identities, Politics and Culture of Globalization 2.0.” The program focuses on the political and economic rise of Asian countries, primarily China and India. Students of this JBS programs will learn about the globalization and the cultures of China and India in order to prepare them for their future within the emerging world order.
Many theorists believe that the emerging world order will be polycentric, meaning that politics, culture and economics will have multiple, diverse cultural centers, rather than one obvious center in the West. This means that Westerners will have to learn about other cultures and political systems more deeply than they would in the Eurocentric or Western world order. Chandler Rosenberger, one of the heads of the JBS Program, thinks that being educated about China and India will hugely benefit students’ careers. “The rise of China and India will have an enormous impact on all of us, but especially anyone going into business or foreign affairs. In business, it’s obvious—2 billion people have entered the marketplace as both customers and competitors.” To Rosenberger, it is essential that Westerners have a working knowledge of the people of China and India in order to engage in business with them.
Both business and politics will be deeply affected by the growth and development of China and India. These nations both have very different economic and political styles than the United States. It can be especially difficult for American students to understand the role of authoritarian politics in China’s business world. “Politics and business are closely connected in some countries but further apart in others. They are very closely connected in countries, such as India and China, where the government used to play a huge role in the economy but is now backing away. How a country frees up its economy depends a lot on which industries it’s willing to let compete in a free market and which it feels it still has to support.” For students, understanding the intricate ways in which the Chinese and Indian economies flow and change can gain them an enormous advantage in business and politics.
It is problematic to suggest that the only good reason to learn about Chinese and Indian cultures is for purposes of business. According to the JBS Program’s webpage, China and India “represent one-third of humanity.” It is a bit ridiculous not to learn about the cultures that encompass a third of the world’s people. Being educated about Chinese and Indian culture can enhance not only your business or political savvy, but also your worldview. Gaining an appreciation for the complexity of huge, multifaceted countries like China and India is a necessity of being a global citizen, and can help students gain a broader and more nuanced understanding of the world.
That being said, an understanding of Chinese and Indian cultures certainly has its practical advantages. In terms of politics, the emergence of these two global powers will have an enormous effect: “In foreign affairs, the rise of China and India is arguably the biggest change to the world order in 500 years. The rise of Germany within Europe in the late 1800s upended the Concert of Europe: Now picture the rise of not one but two Germanies, and on a global scale. Both India and China need to feel they have a place in shaping the 21st century if it’s going to be peaceful.” Students of this JBS Program might one day be the businesspeople or diplomats that maintain the peace between America and emergent powers such as India and China.
According to Rosenberger, one of the primary goals of the “Emerging Powers and the New World Order” JBS program is to help Brandeis students understand the diversity of global cultures. “The biggest mistake foreign affairs analysts make is to assume that all countries have the same interests and pursue them the same way. Countries are as different from one another as their cultures are. If you want to know what’s possible or not in dealing with China or India, you have to get to know their cultures. That’s where we start in both countries. We can give students a foundation in these countries upon which they can build for the rest of their lives.”