The world is off track. At least, the western world is. Greece is on fire, the U.S. is drowning in debt, Germany is fighting to remain the least profligate in the EU, and David Cameron is the leader of Britain. And all the while China seems to be steaming along quite steadily. Their growth, while slowing slightly, is still remarkable, they hold massive amounts of foreign reserves, they are starting to replace the dollar as the reserve currency (possibly unwillingly), and they are gaining increasing clout on the world stage (as the old guard diminishes). All this begs the question: can we learn anything from them? The answer is quite obvious: yes. And there is one area in particular in which we can learn from China: their leaders plan for the future.

Being a one party state China does not have the inane posturing and grandstanding commonly found in election campaigns. Instead, their goals and promises are set out in a series of five-year plans. They plan where they want to be in five years, and then they go out and attempt to accomplish as much of their goals as they can. They then judge themselves against those goals and make the necessary changes in order to make sure they are more successful (in achieving their goals) the next time around. And do you know what? It works. China is on the right path to lifting an unprecedented amount of people out of poverty, within the next two decades they will likely control the worlds reserve currency, they are planning on going to the moon, and it is only a matter of time before their armed forces dwarf even that of the U.S. They are moving forward.

The western world, by comparison, is moving backward. The fantastic lead built up over countless generations has all but evaporated as Japan, China, and Korea (etc.) have overtaken us technologically, and Middle Eastern, South American, and other Asian countries have capitalised on our need for their resources. We are no longer the world leaders, but the world’s consumers. And part of the reason for this decline can be attributed to our failure to plan. While the leaders of countries like China have planned ahead and met challenges, our leaders are busy building up and attacking ideological straw men. Instead of five-year plans, we get campaign promises. Campaign promises that are quite often fantastical (such as Mitt Romney’s promises to both cap taxation at 17% as well as balance the budget without cutting defence, or 2008 candidate Obama pledging to ensure 10% of U.S. electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012), and therefore quite often abandoned with little notice.

The western world needs to copy China’s penchant for planning ahead. While it is unlikely that opposing political parties could ever get together and come up with a reasonable five-year plan, most democratic countries have electoral terms of four years. Requiring newly elected (or re-elected) governments to release a four year plan immediately after the election would require political parties to put to paper exactly what they mean to accomplish within their term, and would force them to stick to their plan lest they be held accountable at the next election. Infinitely better than campaign promises, this requirement would force governments to make reasonable and achievable goals, and could quite possibly force political parties to make reasonable and achievable campaign promises (as their campaign promises would almost certainly be compared to their four year plans). We must start planning ahead; after all, failing to plan is planning to fail.