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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

May 13, 2024

On this unusual “from the vault” episode of Unsupervised Learning, Razib talks to John Massey, a retired Australian engineer who has been a long-time correspondent. Massey and Razib recorded this podcast in the spring of 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, Australia and China were enacting strict lockdowns to halt the spread of the virus, while the US and Europe were already taking a more relaxed approach. Though the conversation is a bit of a temporal rewind, back to a time when Americans were more worried about infection than inflation, the overarching theme is the role of China in the world and its possible future history.

Massey, though an Australian, has married into an ethnic Chinese family, and some of his grandchildren live in China. The current great power tension of the 21st century is clearly China vs. the US, and in this battle Massey takes a broadly pro-Chinese stance. This is obviously a minority view for Westerners, but it is not entirely unheard of, with even voices as prominent as Thomas Friedman, columnist at The New York Times, waxing poetic about Chinese technocratic efficiency. Prior to its recent economic doldrums and fertility problems, the narrative of China ascendant was dominant and overpowering, and Massey reflects a faction of the West that still believes that Asian power’s preeminence is inevitable, given the forces of history. For them, the fundamental question is simply how we in the West will adapt to it.

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