Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chimerica thoughts

Having just returned from two weeks in China, here are a few differences I have noticed between the USA and China.

~Chinese people are thin. Americans are generally much plumper.

~Chinese economy is running on an open throttle. American economy is stalled. I think this is because their economy was crippled for so many years with communist smallthink, aka great leap forward and cultural revolution. After Mao's death, reformers such as Deng Xiaoping and others were able to crank the economy up with a dose of capitalistic freedoms. These new programs are now hitting their stride at an optimum time during the collapse of western economies due to widespread credit abuse.  But the Chinese still haven't figured out yet, or understood the need for, constitutional protections for freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. Ultimately it will be their undoing unless they can lighten up their governmental compulsions to keep tabs on everything that everybody does, instead of tending to the larger issues.  The communist party is nitpicking their people to death. How long the good Chinese people can endure this control-freak mentality in the governing party in an age of expanding electronic communication is anybody's guess.  

~99% of all human hair in China is black. I mention this only as an indicator of relatively low cultural diversity. In America, we have a wide range of hair colors, from blonde to black and everything in between.  We are a melting pot of world ethnicities, whereas China is a melting pot, so far,  of Asian ethnicities only.  The Han and Manchu groups seem to be the two dominant groups. Uighars of Urumqi in the northwest, for instance, are resisting the intrusion of Han influence  into that area. The Hans, some of  whom have immigrated to the northwest from the middle of China, are generally well-educated and have been traditionally a ruling ethnic group for thousands of years. Class differences due to education levels are the main factors here, as well as Han inside-track to communist party hierarchy.  Hierarchy is big in China; I think it goes back to the Confucian heritage, which emphasizes the state or whole of society over the individual. Everybody has a place in the big picture, so to speak, and that supposedly makes everything hunky-dory. Of course, it really doesn't work out that way; communist party spent all those years micro-managing idealistic egalitarianism into ancient culture that had been only recently released (1911) from monarchy.  In America, our emphases have been upon individual freedoms. Admittedly, we've had our problems with ethnic conflicts too. The difference is we have constitutional structures for working these issues out. And although these issues take time to resolve in America, they do get worked out eventually, I believe.

~After viewing three Chinese metropoli from the air--Shanghai, Beijing, and Chengdu--the sight of Atlanta from the air, with its green carpet of trees and relatively clean air, made quite an impact on me, because the air over Chinese cities is very smoggy.  Thank God for our American EPA.  I hope the Chinese can get a handle on this problem of air pollution--particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon emissions, etc. The governments have recently undertaken new programs for planting forests and greenways. These progressive, prudent measures may ultimately outperform our inclinations toward similar workings in America. But they need the green, oxygen-for-carbon-exchange tree canopies even more than we do, especially in the cities, because they have so many more people than we do. They've been in the same place for thousands of years, whereas most American immigrations have crowded into our continent in the last five hundred years or so.  I suppose that if the expansion of "civilized cultures" (European)  had happened a couple thousand years ago instead of from 1492 AD onward, then we would have the same population density (and hence environmental) problems as China with its 1.3 billion people. 

~The two national parks we visited in the mountains of Sichuan province were stunningly beautiful, and well-managed with great sensitivity to the crystal-clear waters and cold, clean air. 

~Bottom line for me after two weeks in China is: it's a fascinating place; I hope they can get their wild-west growth bridled with effective environmental stewardship. They sorely need it. China was nice, but

~God bless America, land that I love.

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

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