China is a phenomenon unlike anything in economic history. The average Chinese consumes 17 times more today than in 1987. This is like the difference between driving a car and riding a bicycle or between indoor plumbing and an outhouse. In an incredibly short period of time, this formerly backward country has lifted itself into the very first rank of world economies.
Over the same period, China has moved approximately 600 million people from the countryside to the cities—the equivalent of moving the entire population of Europe from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. To accommodate those people, it built the equivalent of a new London, plus a new Berlin, Rome, Glasgow, Helsinki, Naples, and Lyons. And of course, moving people whose ancestors spent millennia in the monotony of traditional village life and bringing them into the industrial world led to an explosion of productivity.
Where does America stand in respect to China? By a measure economists call purchasing power parity, you can buy a lot more with $100 in China than you can in the United States. Adjusted for that measure, the Chinese economy is already bigger than ours. In terms of dollars, our economy is still bigger. But the Chinese are gaining on us, and in the next eight to ten years their economy—unlike the economies of our previous competitors—will catch up.
China, on the other hand, is an empire based on the coercion of unwilling people. Whereas the United States became a great nation populated by people who chose to be part of it, China conquered peoples of different ethnicities and with different languages and has kept them together by force. Whereas our principle is E Pluribus Unum, the Chinese reality is E Pluribus Pluribus with a dictator at the top.
China once covered a relatively small geographic area. It took about 1,500 years for it to reach its current borders in the ninth century. These borders are natural frontiers. China can’t expand over the Himalayas to India, while to its extreme west is desert and to its east is the ocean. So China is not an inherently expansionist power.
Nor is China unified. It has a written system of several thousand characters that takes seven years of elementary education to learn, working four hours a day with an ink brush, ink pot, and paper. Learning these characters well enough to read a school textbook or a newspaper is how the Chinese are socialized. The current generation is the first where the majority of Chinese understand the common language, due to the centralization of the state and the mass media. But the Chinese still speak very different languages. Cantonese and Mandarin are as different as Finnish and French. In Hong Kong, you’ll see two Chinese screaming at each other in broken English because one speaks Mandarin and the other speaks Cantonese and they don’t have a word in common.
China is inherently unstable because all that holds it together is an imperial culture and the tax collector in Beijing. It is like a collection of very powerful, oppositely charged magnets held together by super glue—it looks stable, but it isn’t.
– How dutiful are China’s daughters, discarding fashion for uniform.
– This formation, composed of the Capital Women’s Militia is a dazzling spotlight of the parade.
– Among this formation are civil servants, entrepreneurs, social youths and university students.
– With their vigorous energy, they showcase the Capital Women’s Militia’s lustrous splendour.
– With their fiery youth, they illustrate their love and loyalty for the motherland.