Book House The Lead

China’s quest for global domination: On China’s ambition to become the new Rome

  • The book “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power: 5 Battlegrounds” by Rajiv Malhotra details the impacts of AI-driven revolution on different segments of humanity.


  • Artificial Intelligence plays a pivotal role in technological disruption, and the book discusses the following key battlegrounds of AI as the organizing principle: battle for economic development and jobs, power in the new world order, psychological control of desires and agency, metaphysics of the self and its ethics, and battle for India’s future.


  • After analyzing society’s vulnerabilities to the AI-driven revolution, the book raises troubling questions that provoke immediate debate: Is the world headed toward digital colonization by USA and China? Will depopulation become eventually unavoidable?


  • Read an excerpt from the book “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power: 5 Battlegrounds” below.


Editor’s Note: The following excerpt has been taken from the chapter ‘The Battle for World Domination’ from the book.

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I have explained the parallels between Britain and China in historic terms. Ancient Rome’s history also provides some interesting parallels with China. The Roman Empire was built on hard power. Its unparalleled network of roads provided a strategic advantage that enabled its economy to flourish. A dominant military and strong economic might enabled Rome to quickly conquer and assimilate many other nations and smaller empires.

China is likewise building an ambitious network called the Belt and Road Initiative, which includes infrastructure investments in seventy countries across Asia, Africa and Europe. The project uses cutting-edge technology to develop, operate and maintain end-to-end control over roads, railways and sea routes. Many strategically located seaports around the world will also be under China’s control and operation. Besides physical transportation, the initiative includes an electric grid and a communications network—the largest and most sophisticated global logistics network ever undertaken by any country in history. China has been accused of neo-colonialism because of the debt incurred by the host countries and terms of operation being imposed on them. These agreements give China disproportionate ownership, whether direct or indirect, of the new infrastructure. China claims it is creating employment in the short term as well as helping these countries’ long-term economies by providing sophisticated infrastructures; critics respond that China is creating persistent dependency.

The second parallel with Rome is in its use of hard power to defeat and assimilate the soft power giant of its time, Greece. The Mediterranean region had been divided conceptually into two main civilizations. The term Occident referred to Rome and the territories to its west, while Orient referred to Greece and the lands to its immediate east. Rome’s strengths were its military prowess, centralized administration and proficiency in engineering. Greece was strong in philosophy, art and culture. In modern parlance, the Romans wielded hard power while the Greeks possessed soft power. The encounter between them, beginning in the eighth century BCE and lasting nearly one thousand years, resulted in what is now known as Greco-Roman civilization.

Over several generations, Rome waged a series of wars to ultimately conquer Greece’s loose confederation of citystates. Romans were fascinated with the ancient classics of Greece, its philosophy, and the work of major figures such as Plato and Aristotle. At the same time, they had no qualms about colonizing Greece, and eventually almost destroyed the roots of the culture they so admired.

Once the Romans had scored a decisive hard power victory over Greece, they appropriated what they considered the best of Greek knowledge, art and spirituality. They adapted the original form and expression of Greek culture (such as architecture) through the process of cultural digestion, and finally incorporated it into their own framework and Latin language.

The history of the clash between Rome and Greece can provide insight into the present dynamic between China and India. China enjoys a clear hard power edge over India, an advantage that is likely to grow in the next several years in the absence of India’s acceleration. India, on the other hand, prides itself on its soft power. It is the world’s largest democracy; its civilization is founded on a vast spiritual heritage including yoga, meditation, plant-based medicine, mathematics and other significant contributions to world culture. When the subject of China’s power comes up, Indians commonly bring up their country’s soft power as a counterbalance.

But the example of Rome versus Greece illustrates that soft power cannot be supported or maintained without adequate hard power. Victors in war are not determined by cultural sophistication. The big question to consider would be the role of Chinese technological advance in any military encounter it has with India, including through Pakistan. In evaluating such a scenario, one cannot assume that soft power will protect against a hard power attack. India’s own texts like the Mahabharata demonstrate that soft power by itself is not enough to counter an enemy’s hard power advantage. India would be foolish to ignore the gigantic ambitions and appetite of China as the world’s latest, and likely fiercest, colonial hard power.

Excerpted with permission from Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power: 5 Battlegrounds, Rajiv Malhotra, Rupa Publications. Read more about the book here and buy it here.

 

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