Political Scientists vs. Engineers – How the East & West Became Divided

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Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

  • Decoupling a result of divisions between theory and science
  • Some influential Governments are academically unbalanced 
  • Implications for future global development 

Understanding why such a strong undercurrent of apparent ‘decoupling’ between China, Russia and the West is occurring is important to appreciate as businesses, executives and even academics are ever more being asked, or even manipulated to choose between sides. What political views one has can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection, so partisan has political involvement in the relationships between Government and business become.

Any prior middle ground is rapidly being diminished in a rush towards left and right, positive and negative, right and wrong, east and west, democracy and totalitarianism with partisanism encouraged as the new normal. These are in fact dangerous times; partisanism is the deliberate move towards insisting one view is superior, even morally so, than the other. It is a danger to democracy, which weakens when the middle ground, a merging of opinions, and compromise is in retreat. The question is, how did we arrive at this point?

To try and understand at least some aspect of this, I have examined the academic backgrounds of five senior and influential contemporary politicians from six different countries and regions: the United States, China, the European Union, Russia, India and the United Kingdom. I list their position, name and what they studied at University prior to embarking on their respective political careers, the point being to try snd understand why so called ‘ideological’ differences are gaining global traction and leading to divisions.

The United States

  • President: Joe Biden – Political Science
  • Vice-President: Kamala Harris – Political Science, Economics
  • President, US Senate: Patrick Leahy – Political Science
  • President, US Senate Emeritus: Chuck Grassley – Political Science
  • Secretary of State: Antony Blinken – Social Studies, Law
  • US Trade Representative: Katherine Tai – History, Law


  • President: Xi Jinping – Chemical Engineer
  • Premier: Li Keqiang – Law, Economics
  • Chairman, Standing Commitee: Zhang Dejiang – Economics, Korean Language
  • Chairman, CPPCC: Yu Zhengsheng – Electronic Engineering
  • Foreign Minister: Wang Yi – Construction, Japanese Language
  • Minister of Commerce: Wang Wentao – Engineering (Spaceflight Technology)

The European Union

  • President, European Commission: Ursula von der Leyen – Physician
  • President, European Council: Charles Michel – Law
  • Vice-President, European Commission: Josep Borrell – Aeronautical Engineering
  • President, European Parliament: David Sassoli – Political Science
  • Vice-President, European Parliament: Roberta Metsola – Law


  • President: Vladimir Putin – Law, German Language
  • Vice President: Alexander Rutskoy – Air Force Pilot
  • Security Council: Dmitry Medvedev – Law, Linguistics
  • Prime Minister: Mikhail Mishustin – Systems Engineering
  • Foreign Minister: Sergei Lavrov – International Relations, Asian Linguistics


  • Prime Minister: Narendra Modi – Political Science
  • President: Ram Nath Kovind – Law
  • Vice-President: Venkaiah Naidu – Politics & Diplomacy
  • Minister of Commerce: Hardeep Singh Puri – History
  • Foreign Minister: Subrahmanyam Jaishankar – Political Science

The United Kingdom

  • Prime Minister: Boris Johnson – Classical Philosophy
  • First Secretary of State / Foreign Minister: Dominic Raab – Law
  • Home Secretary: Priti Patel – Economics
  • Minister of State for Investment: Gerry Grimstone – Chemistry

The findings reveal fundamental academic differences between the United States and China in particular. The US is governed at the highest levels by Political Scientists. One can assume that this is the main upholds the democratic principle as the only true path. American politics is therefore heavily politicized to an academic degree. It is also unbalanced.

In comparison, China’s politicians are mostly engineers, and have been for the past twenty years. Bearing that in mind, there’s no real surprise they got together and built the Belt & Road! While all are members of the Communist Party, a more logical set of processes influence the decision-making process. It is also easy to see where there would be conflicts regarding science-based reasoning rubbing up against democratic political theory.

Theory and Practicality aren’t easy bedfellows when the middle ground is eroded.

The European Union retains a strong legal presence within its make up – which may account for its notoriously long-winded approach to agreements. Attention to legal issues take precedence over freedom of expression, a creeping issue within Brussels.

Russia is more surprising with an apparently more balanced mix of academia, suggesting a humanitarian approach, although that is exactly the opposite of how the Russian political system is portrayed as working. Regardless, the country is huge with a diverse population, recognition to that is reflected in the Governments personnel.

India is also influenced by lawyers, although it should be remembered that as a Union of States these often represent conflicting interests. Those with knowledge of navigating through the national administration and civil service will recognize the issue immediately.

Finally, the United Kingdom, where essential components such as economics and law represent the countries leaders, but without any engineering presence. That may reflect the service nature of the UK, but it ignores the need for national development.

While these findings are fairly basic, they do point towards differing academic perspectives resulting in a decoupling driven by conflicts between science and theory. Readers can judge for themselves their own interpretations of this, and others may delve deeper into the phenomena. However, with the science and engineering strongly on China’s side, political theory that of the United States, and the EU apparently in the hands of legal perspectives, it may not be so surprising that disagreements currently rule. A rebalancing of some of the academic qualifications for running certain Governments may well be an issue for further concern, discussion, and debate elsewhere.

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Silk Road Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Asia, and assists foreign investors into the region. For strategic advisory and business intelligence issues please contact the firm at silkroad@dezshira.com or visit www.dezshira.com