Autarky is the characteristic of self-sufficiency, usually applied to societies, communities, states and their economic systems.

Autarky - Wikipedia

I came to know this word as a Nazi Germany economy policy in 1930s. It triggers me deep, as even for an already industrialized country, autarky is still an option.

Since high school

As a Chinese, we have been taught since high school the whole two thousands years of Chinese monarchy was promoting an old and inefficient 'self-sufficient peasant economy', while we are, or were heading for a much opened and better 'market economy of globalization'.

The Chinese high school education ensures it is natural for a Chinese to ignore all the actual difference coming with 'autarky' and 'open' by simply labeling it 'old and bad' and 'new and good' without explanation. Nobody likes the century humiliation, thus anything related to it is naturally despised, and everyone enjoys the economy growth from globalization. Why bother?

Chinese globalization

Globalization is a not just a marco process but the sum of actions of different groups people from around the globe. These different groups may share different history, culture, values and outlooks. With the 2000 years of Chinese peasant economy, the legacy is for sure still somewhere there.

If anything, the century of humiliation just make make Chinese feel more insecure towards a complete open economy, noticing it that the colonial powers were actually trying to open Chinese economy since 19 century or even earlier. The motivation for sure was not to develope Chinese economy.

Yet, till 2021, China is one of those benefit most from globalization.

Many, especially western countries, attributes this phenomenon to an 'unequal trading partnership' that blames China for 'disobeying world trading order' in terms of for example 'lack of respect for intellectual property'. Well that's too superficial.

China has been targeting for autarky since the very beginning. They know better than anyone that they have no other countries that they can rely on and trust with. Everything needed must can be produced from within the country in the long term. Globalization is just a tool to achieve this. The Chinese just played a little better than people expected.

Human's nature

No man wants to be contained from necessities, i.e. food, rest. No country wants to be contained from necessities either, while every single resource and technology is necessary in developing and maintaining a country. The only reason to open up is to expect such action benefits more than loss.

The premise of a open economy fails once necessities are threatened for any party. For instance, the global leading position is actually a necessity for United States, and when that is threatened by opening up U.S economy, trade wars started.

Medium-scale: social relations

We talked a lot about the national relationships, but 'autarky is the characteristic of self-sufficiency' and can be theoretically used to describe a single person. Instead of autism, autarky is far from a psychological problem, but somewhat interesting to look into indeed.

I myself was born from a traditional Chinese family where I am taught to save money, learn more, improve myself. Some common idea of a successful Chinese, was to 'cultivate oneself, regulate the family, govern the state, then lead the world to peace.' It may not seem obvious but traditional Chinese values do not promote commercial relationship, or broader, social values exchange. In other words, the long-term autarky society of China has been encoded in its cultural traditions.

One of the most ingenious innovation since industrialization is the division of labour. It has been proved mass production and pipeline workflow are better model to improve the production rate as a society.

The Chinese may have been enjoying the benefit of a not-so-traditional society in terms social relationship since like 1978, and the trend shall continue even with global trade tension. It is, just division of labour.

Personal scale: human development

I do not like this social trend to have people work like a machine part, at all. Yet, it is proven effective.

It was proven effective in a society where education was luxury and most common people just had very basic knowledge, enough for him to work like a machine.

It will be doomed when such kind of jobs are replaced by real machine parts, in near future, or right now.

Autarky will never be outdated on a personal scale, at least in the automation era.