Some Sunday Links On China

Tyler Cowen from his blog: ‘The Rise And Fall Of The Chinese Economy


From a George F Kennan article written in 1948 on China.

My how times have changed!:

‘From the analysis in this paper of demographic and economic factors it is concluded that for years to come China will probably be plagued by (1) an implacable population pressure, which is likely to result in (2) a general standard of living around and below the subsistence level, which in turn will tend to cause (3) popular unrest (4) economic backwardness, (5) cultural lag, and (6) an uncontrolled crude birth rate.

The political alternatives which this vicious cycle will permit for China’s future are chaos or authoritarianism. Democracy cannot take root in so harsh an environment.

Authoritarianism may be able to break the cycle by drastic means, such as forcible “socialization”. At best, such measures could be put into effect only at heavy and long protracted cost to the whole social structure; at worst they could provoke such rebellion as to recreate a state of chaos.’

As previously posted:


Interview here. (Link will not last)

America’s Metternich (mostly kidding) wrote “On China“.  Interesting quote from the interview (unsurprisingly, Kissinger just wants people to read the book):

‘The remarks hint at what may be Mr. Kissinger’s fundamental view of U.S.-China relations—that they are already so fragile that it could be derailed by some candid remarks by him in a simple newspaper interview. Alternatively, he may simply have in mind his own opportunities for “maintaining influence.”‘

Some thoughts and some round-up on this blog.  Isn’t this what blogs are for?:

1. China is an old civilization which has been around for millennia, and which has a long history of a somewhat meritocratic, bureaucratic government long before anyone else arrived at such a form of government.  It’s currently centered around a Han Chinese core and is generally more authoritarian and conformist than most Americans are comfortable with, but to which many Chinese are loyal enough.  This isn’t necessarily a model that travels as well as Western models due to this Han core, but it has its advantages.

This blog is generally not favorable to what it perceives to be post-ish Communist authoritarian bureaucracy, but hey, there you go.  A highly individualistic and a much more conformist civilization are going to not understand one another on many issues. Americans tend to be idealistic and to assume their model is the default model without necessarily understanding how and why others might think differently.

2. China is undergoing seethingly rapid economic, social, and technological change.  It’s tough for many Chinese people to figure out exactly what’s going on, let alone outsiders, but Chinese leadership needs desperately to keep economic growth high, unemployment lower, and to copy, integrate, and frankly, steal, as much information and intellectual property to industrialize and modernize as quickly as possible.

3. Strategically, China has long borders, many powerful, organized neighbors (Japan, Korea, India, Russia) and many diverse ethnic and religious groups the central government has had to keep under wraps (respect is an important concept). Chinese authority must figure out how to match its political structure with an aging population, increasing wealth, increasing ‘middle-class,’ disposable income and expectations, increasing military strength and how to deal with those often powerfully opposed neighbors and internal struggles.

4. The Chinese are often people we can do business with on many levels, people who can be quite pragmatic and seem to want to get rich as much as they want to spread an opposing worldview to Western models.  They’re surprisingly sensitive to their own strengths and weaknesses and generally play their cards close to their chests.  They are quite thoughtful and strategic in often different ways than Americans. This past century is a sore point and seen as a rather shameful anomaly to their longer heritage of being the dominant power in the region.

Unsurprisingly, there is much, much ignorance on both sides, as is typical in human affairs, and ignorance is generally the default position.

5There are near constant and highly organized State-sponsored cyber-attacks and espionage going on against American interests (and some blowback and counter-espionage, I figure).  Many in higher levels of Chinese government clearly see the West as constraining and antithetical to Chinese interests.  Much logic and rational choice compels this, but also much vanity, pride, and fear and ignorance.    Such human nature can be found all ’round.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.


Interesting piece here.

Our author reviews Evan Osnos’ book about his 8 years spent living on the ground in China:

‘For its part, the government seems to be making efforts to get a grasp on public opinion, though they stem more from its need to buttress its own chances of survival than from any democratic instinct. Attempts at opinion polling have not gone well, mainly because most Chinese are wary about voicing criticism of the government to a stranger on the phone. Nevertheless, there is the sense that the leaders are aware that the ground is shifting. They just don’t know where it is shifting to—and no one else does, either. There is an obsession with establishing the “central melody” of the current culture, but the tune keeps slipping away.’

As previously posted:


(Q & A starts at about minute 6:20)

This blog is still trying to better understand China.  Troost traveled for months around the country, went with the flow, and wrote about his experiences.

The book comes highly recommended.

Interview with Troost here (via Althouse).

Fascinating piece here.

What’s life like in Beijing for an American editing an English-language Business Magazine?

Interesting quote on author Eveline Chao’s censor:

‘I understood then the mundane nature of all that kept her in place. A job she didn’t like, but worked hard to keep. A system that would never reward her for good work, only punish her for mistakes. And in exchange: Tutors. Traffic. Expensive drumming lessons. They were the same things that kept anyone, anywhere, in place — and it was the very ordinariness of these things that made them intractable.’

Also On This Site:  TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’Repost-From The American Interest Online: Niall Ferguson on ‘What Chimerica Hath Wrought’