Tuesday, September 11, 2012

China Today

Shanghai Skyline, 2012


I would hardly claim to be an "old China hand" by any means, but I was fascinated by my recent trip to Shanghai -- my first to the People's Republic of China.

We all know that China is tremendously important to our world today.  Here are a few of the conclusions  I drew from my recent trip to China...

China Population.  There are over 1.3 billion Chinese people alive today making up about 19.4% of the world's total population.  There are over 23 millions residents of Shanghai -- more than 3 times greater than London.  There are over 100 Chinese cities with a population of over 1 million people.

Old China

China Family.  The basic social unit in China is not the individual, but rather the family.  Confucius laid great store in the institution of the family.  "Confucianism advocates a structured society in which people are bound together by the moral ties of the five familial relationships: parent-child, ruler-subject, brother-brother, husband-wife, and friend-friend."  (Source: Beijing and Shanghai, Dorling Kindersley, 2011).  Mao's cultural revolution turned children into spies on their parents who would denounce them to catastrophic effect.  The Red Guards were able to channel their teenage angst into the most diabolical displays of violence and destruction.  China's "one-child policy" now puts constraints upon individual freedom for the sake of the "greater good".

China Economy.  It is astonishing to consider that China, where 38 million people died of starvation (1958 -1961, brought on by Mao's obsession with rearmament and acquiring nuclear weapons at all cost, see Mao: the Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday www.amzn.com/0679746323) is now an economic superpower.  In 2010 China passed Japan to become the #2 largest economy in the world as measured by GDP.  The world now looks to China for economic growth and progress.  The US government looks to China for support of its bond market.  If the Chinese economy catches a cold, the whole world will tremble.

Commander K. in "old" Shanghai
China and Capitalism.  Even during the height of Mao's Communist revolution the overseas Chinese were among the great capitalists of the world.  The Chinese love to gamble on horses (Happy Valley), in casinos (Macao, etc.) and in the equity markets.  Chinese minorities in the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia are among the most successful entrepreneurs in those countries and have been for years.  Did China take over Hong Kong in 1997 or did Hong Kong style capitalism take over China?

China and the Internet.  More Internet transactions now take place in China every year than in any country on earth (not highest dollar total yet due to lower average transaction size).  Baidu (http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/13/technology/thebuzz/index.htm) is the Chinese equivalent of Google.  Their are Chinese counterparts of Facebook (Renren) and You Tube (Youku).  Organized crime based in China is also a major source of predatory cyber-attacks on western businesses large and small.

China and Wealth.  In the west it has become fashionable to decry greedy bankers, rapacious corporations and the "one percent".   In contrast, Deng Xiaoping, a prominent Chinese political leader proclaimed, "To get rich is glorious!" According to Rupert Hoogewerf, publisher of the Hurun Report (http://www.hurun.net/hurun/indexen.aspx), there are about 600 billionaires in China today.  As westerners, we tend to focus on Chinese exports but it is the burgeoning Chinese domestic market that is of keen interest to corporations such as Boeing, General Motors, Starbucks, McDonald's, Tiffany's and many more.  Diageo's Johnny Walker recently opened up a swank whiskey tasting bar in Shanghai and a larger one is now under construction in Beijing.

China Education.  China is a civilization that has long respected education and scholarship.  Communist China has an unfortunate taste for "re-education" as well.  Riots were sparked recently in Hong Kong due to enforced "patriotism classes" that were widely perceived to be exercises in propaganda and thought control.  (http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/-/world/14795828/hong-kong-backs-down-on-chinese-patriotism-lessons/)  At the same time wealthy Chinese are today sending 90% of their children overseas for a college education.

China Environment.  China's communist party rulers, in their rush for rapid economic development, have sacrificed their natural environment (see earlier post, Conservatism and the Environment, 2/7/12).  Ten out of the top ten cities in the world as ranked by air and water pollution are in China (Forbes).  According to the FT, up to 700,000 people per year die prematurely in China due to air and water contamination.  Pollution above Chinese cities is visible from outer space http://gizmodo.com/5875972/chinas-pollution-is-so-insane-you-can-see-it-from-space.  The absence of a free press in China postpones progress on numerous environmental issues.

Commander K, in Shanghai with Dragon friend
China Capital Punishment.  According to human rights groups, China executes more prisoners that all the rest of the world combined (http://laogai.org/our_work/death-penalty-organ-harvesting/).  The organs of the victims are harvested due to the absence of a tradition of organ donation -- in ancient China burial of multiple body parts (head here, trunk there) was the ultimate form of punishment.

Commander K. and Starbucks store in Shanghai
China and Tea.  China is a ancient tea-loving culture.  The Chinese have elaborate tea ceremonies and many different varieties.  The Cutty Sark (see earlier post, Cutty Sark, 5/14/12), launched in 1869, was designed to bring tea cargoes back to Europe as quickly as possible to caffeine addicted tea-drinkers looking for a "cuppa".  Today, however, the winds of change are blowing and there are about 600 Starbucks open in China and this is expected to grow to 1,500 by 2015.

P - 41, Flying Tiger with Chinese Nationalist markings (FHC Everett, WA)

China and Japan.  China has a long complicated history with its island neighbour Japan.  In the 20th century Japanese Imperialists strove to conquer China.  Some historians argue that the proper start of World War II was the Japanese attack on China that began in 1937 after the Marco Polo bridge incident.  Japanese forces brutally sacked Nanking in 1937 ("The Rape of Nanking") killing over 200,000 Chinese -- an action that some Japanese prefer to deny to this day http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_of_Nanking.  In 1938  the biological warfare Unit 739 was set up outside Harbin in Manchukuo under the auspices of the Kwantung Army.  Thousands of Chinese were killed with exposure to anthrax, cholera and the black plague.  Source:  The Second World War, Anthony Beevor, 2012, p. 771, www.amzn.com/0316023744.

Japanese Zero, (FHC Everett, WA)
Today there is sabre rattling going on across the China sea over disputed uninhabited Senkaku islands that both nations claim and may contain off shore oil resources.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443819404577639141670806120.html?mod=googlenews_wsj  China is building a "blue seas" fleet complete with its first aircraft carrier, the Varyag --purchased from the Ukrainian navy and now being refitted (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/28/us-china-carrier-idUSBRE87R15X20120828) that is designed to project Chinese power and influence throughout the Pacific.

Shanghai Globe -- The East is still Red
Commander Kelly says, "Stay tuned to see how China develops and transforms itself and the world."


You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427


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