Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

From WikiChina [New York Times]

Tongue-in-cheek, but definitely revealing in this Op-Ed wake-up call for the Americans, fantastic if it is read in the right spirit, but potentially lethal for the Chinese public image -‘…record numbers of U.S. high school students are now studying Chinese, which should guarantee us a steady supply of cheap labor that speaks our language here, as we use our $2.3 trillion in reserves to quietly buy up U.S. factories. In sum, things are going well for China in America.’

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OP-ED COLUMNIST | From WikiChina
Source – New York Times, published November 30, 2010

While secrets from WikiLeaks were splashed all over the American newspapers, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if China had a WikiLeaker and we could see what its embassy in Washington was reporting about America? I suspect the cable would read like this:

Washington Embassy, People’s Republic of China, to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Beijing, TOP SECRET/Subject: America today.

Things are going well here for China. America remains a deeply politically polarized country, which is certainly helpful for our goal of overtaking the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economy and nation. But we’re particularly optimistic because the Americans are polarized over all the wrong things. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Economics, Influence, International Relations, Nationalism, Opinion, Politics, Population, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, The Chinese Identity, Trade, U.S., Wikileaks

Lee Kuan Yew Reflects: THE RISE OF CHINA [Time Magazine]

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew reflects on the Rise of China in this piece by Time Magazine five years ago in 2005. As I’ve shared before in this blog, if there is one person outside of China that knows China, it has to be Lee Kuan Yew. China regularly sends its mayors and future leaders to Singapore to learn about governance, I have seen the campus – it is rather majestic. In many ways, I see modern China as Singapore 2.0 only about 280 times larger (in terms of population).

All the questions of identity Singaporean Chinese had to deal with growing up in a Capitalist + Confucianist + Colonialist environment, the Chinese in China are going through now. To catch a glimpse into his insights, here’s a teaser  when asked about how China decided to coin their ascension as a ‘peaceful rise’ –

My first reaction was to tell one of their think tanks, “It’s a contradiction in terms; any rise is something that is startling.” And they said, “What would you say?” I replied: “Peaceful renaissance, or evolution, or development.” A recovery of ancient glory, an updating of a once great civilization. But it’s already done. Now the Chinese have to construe it as best they can.

In a nutshell, China is preoccupied with one really simple thing – stability at all costs.

– – –

Lee Kuan Yew Reflects – THE RISE OF CHINA
by Michael Elliott, Zoher Abdoolcarim and Simon Elegant
Source – Time Magazine, published Dec 12, 2005

TIME: The coming East Asia summit is an unprecedented gathering of Asia’s leaders. Do you see it as an epochal moment for the region?

LEE: It happened in an unplanned, almost accidental, way. Abdullah Badawi, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, offered to host an East Asia summit: ASEAN plus three — the three being China, Japan and South Korea. China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, then offered to host the second summit. That would move the center of gravity away from Southeast to Northeast Asia and make some countries anxious. We agreed that we should also invite India, Australia and New Zealand and keep the center in ASEAN; also, India would be a useful balance to China’s heft. This is a getting-together of countries that believe their economic and cultural relations will grow over the years. And this will be a restoration of two ancient civilizations: China and India. With their revival, their influence will again spread into Southeast Asia. It would mean great prosperity for the region, but could also mean a tussle for power. Therefore, we think it best that from the beginning, we bring all the parties in together. It’s not Asians versus whites. Everybody knows Australia and New Zealand are close to the U.S. There shouldn’t be any concern that this is an anti-American grouping. It’s a neater balance. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Culture, Economics, Finance, Influence, International Relations, Opinion, Politics, Population, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Time Magazine

China’s Economic Transition: Urbanization Gone Awry [Commonwealth Magazine, Taiwan]

Stimulating its own internal economy is as vital as maintaining an external status quo of peaceful conditions for China’s growth models. This article from Taiwan’s Commonwealth Magazine highlights the ‘severe stratification of its urban population‘ – the creation of additional stratas will compound the many already-existing divides within Chinese society – ethnicity, dialect group, geographic hometown, just to name a few.

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China’s Economic Transition
Urbanization Gone Awry
By Sherry Lee
Source – Commonweath Magazine (online), published May 27, 2010 (No. 447)

China hopes to evolve from the world's factory to a major consumer nation. But measures to stimulate domestic consumption are causing severe social inequality. How can China reform its imbalanced urbanization policy?Photo: Commonwealth Magazine

Even though the Chinese economy posted 11.9-percent growth in the first quarter of 2010, nerves are raw in Zhongnanhai – China’s governmental headquarters in Beijing. As the rest of the world seems to sink into economic quicksand with no end to the global crisis in sight, Chinese leaders scramble to stimulate domestic demand by pushing for the urbanization of rural China.

Things have changed in China’s fourth-, fifth- and sixth-tier municipalities. The women in these small towns and villages might still make a living working in the fields, but they don’t look like field workers anymore. The typical small-town woman wears jewelry, high heels and make-up, and occasionally stops in at the beauty shop in town to buy some skin-care products. Young male migrant workers use their spare time to surf the Internet in their cramped dormitory rooms. They play online games and order the latest consumer electronics from the big cities online. The rural population already accounts for one quarter of China’s Internet users, exceeding 100 million people.

Fueled by China’s “reform and opening-up” policy, the urban sprawl that began in the cities and towns on the affluent east coast has been constantly expanding further inland. Some 300 million farmers have moved to urban areas, and as a result the number of Chinese cities has exploded from 86 sixty years ago to 665 today. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Chinese Model, Commonwealth Magazine, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Media, Migrant Workers, Migration (Internal), Opinion, Politics, Population, Social

Ip Man 2 – post film thoughts [Opinion]

Ip Man Poster. Source - Wikipedia

I am a huge fan of the Ip Man films, and over the course of the two films, I will be honest to admit the stirrings of my ethnicity rang strongly. My ongoing research on the diasporic Chinese has made me at once proud that I belong to a long line of people continuing over 5000 years of recorded history, and second, intrigued by the values this culture that has been taught to be mine, has given me. Naturally films like Ip Man have been appealing to me. To a large extent, films like that have an effect on shaping my imagination of China. The connotative and semiotic meanings of such films replace the lack of immediate experience I have of life in the mainland, the ancestral home.

The recent wave of Chinese films to flood the popular culture market have been smacking clearly of China’s global charm offensive (yes, many of them are state sponsored and nationalistic, and not different to American films that regularly show the powers of the American flag and dreams – Independence Day is quite emblem-ic), a projection of Chinese soft power centered around nobility, humility, and above all, a rejection of China’s previous victimhood complex after being bullied by both Japan and the West for a good century during the tail end of the Qing dynasty and during China’s civil wars. For a sampling, think Red Cliff 1 and 2, Confucius, Fearless, the list is quite long.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Charm Offensive, Culture, Education, Ethnicity, Greater China, Influence, Media, Nationalism, Opinion

Chinatown in the States | Washington, D.C. – ‘not’ Tang Ren Jie [Opinion]

"Friendship Arch" in Chinatown, Washington, D.C. View west down H Street. Photo: Postdlf - Wikipedia

Something I noticed in my recent travels to the U.S – the Chinatown in Washington D.C. is probably the only one that calls Chinatown as well, ‘China Town’, translated (see above). Most others are translated as ‘Tang Ren Jie’ – meaning street of the ‘Tang’ people.

To those in the know, this has allusions to the fact that the Teochew  (the biggest component of the Chinese diaspora, and ‘legendary’ entrepreneurs) were the main instigators behind the development of Chinatowns around the world.

Teochews preferred to be associated with the Tang dynasty, and not the Han, like most other ethnic Chinese – hence the name Tang Ren Jie for Chinatowns – a cultural and social reference to the originators of these satellites of Chinese-ness around the world.  Based on the principle that most ethnic Chinese belong to the Han stock, this would mean these Chinatowns should be called Han Ren Jie (Street of the Han People), but they are not. In the case of D.C., it is called neither, but simply ‘China Town’ without any of the indicative cultural referencing.

In other news, I managed to pay a visit to, and get in touch with the good people at the Museum of Chinese in America in NYC – that should extend the reach and network of my research possibilities. More about that later – p.s. New York’s Chinatown is truly massive. Block after block, I kept having to remind myself I was in America.

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Chinese overseas, Culture, Opinion, Photo Story

David Shambaugh: Is there a Chinese model? [China Daily]

David Shambaugh is a leading authority on China’s rise, and he has been key in shaping a big portion of Western perception on China. I agree with his assessment, and to add on to what he says, I believe the successful trait of China’s model is that it is not an overarching framework, i.e. model.

Rather, the guiding principle of a scalable set of scaffolding – based of cross-pollinating (sythnesizing seems too inorganic a word) East and West; the merging overseas techniques with Chinese pragmatism and love for harmony, is something good we can learn from.

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David Shambaugh: Is there a Chinese model?
By David Shambaugh
Sourcce – China Daily, 1 March 2010

During 2009 there was an upsurge in Chinese academic and journalistic writings concerning the question of a “Chinese model”. Since last year Chinese intellectuals have been heatedly debating whether there is such a distinct Chinese model for development – and, if so, what are its contents and is it transferable for other countries?

This new interest inside of China seems to be heavily stimulated by the global financial crisis of 2008 -2010. Compared with the global fiasco brought on by this crisis and the questionable economic ideology underlying it, Chinese thinkers have found greater faith in China’s own development policies. The recent Chinese debate concerning the “China model” follows earlier such debates in the West, Africa, and Latin America about the so-called “Beijing Consensus.”

My reading of the Chinese discourse in recent months on this question reveals that there is no agreement among Chinese scholars. Some think there is a model, some not. Some think it’s exportable, some not. Yet others argue that it is a waste of time to even discuss a “Chinese model” for others, as China has too much to do to continue its development at home.

David Shambaugh is professor and director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University. Photo - China Daily

From my perspective, in order to assess whether there is such a thing as a “China model” the concept must be broken down into several constituent parts of China’s development experience. In evaluating each part, one must ask if this is unique to China – or is it simply common among other newly industrialized countries (NICs)? If the answer is yes, then China’s experience may constitute a partial or full “model” and may therefore be transferable.
First, I think China’s political system is unique-but not transferable. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has indeed evolved a political system out of a classic Leninist/Communist/Soviet style system into a hybrid political system today. This system still has many of the classic elements of Soviet Leninism, but allows for much more intra-party democracy, public participation at the local level, and puts great emphasis on meritocracy and competent governance. Only Leninist-style party-states (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba) can learn from these Chinese political practices. It is different from Asian or African authoritarian systems.

Second, China’s economic system is also a hybrid. It too still maintains many elements of the Soviet central planning and investment system. While the state sector of the economy has shrunk significantly (to approximately 30 percent of the national economy), this is deceiving-as the state remains the “invisible hand” dominating the economy – through state banks, state assets, state ownership, state manipulated prices, state cadres, and unpredictable state intervention in various economic sectors.

On the other hand, China’s collective sector remains large (approximately 30 percent) and the private sector has boomed accounting for approximately 40 percent of GDP growth. Both the collective and private sectors have benefited from a close relationship to local governments (known as “local state corporatism”). Finally, the Chinese economic success has owed much to the introduction of free market mechanisms into the rural agricultural sector (with some state subsidies and price supports).

Are these elements of China’s economic experience unique? Considered individually, no-considered collectively, yes. Are they transferable? Probably not-given the size of China, the continuing legacy of the “Soviet model,” and the heavy hand of the central and local state in the economy.

Third, what about China’s provision for social welfare as a component of its development model? Generally speaking, during the past 30 years, China has dismantled its social welfare state – leaving hundreds of millions of citizens without any or adequate provision of healthcare, unemployment insurance, cost of education, and a variety of other social services.

This is not a model to admire or transfer to other societies. What was good about the Chinese social welfare model before 1978 has been lost. Only by maintaining the world’s highest household savings rate and drawing on hidden subsidies and family connections are Chinese citizens cushioned against these costs and unexpected personal catastrophes. This is a major challenge for China in the future: to rebuild its social welfare services.

Fourth, and finally, one can ask: does Chinese diplomacy offer a unique “model” in international affairs? Here, the answer is yes-at least rhetorically. China’s concepts of the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,” “New Security Concept,” “New International Order,” “Strategic Partnerships,” and “Harmonious World” are all unique and collectively do constitute something of a diplomatic model. Unfortunately, despite years – even decades -of promoting these concepts, they mainly fall on deaf ears abroad. Many countries do not wish to emulate and practice these concepts. The world is now more interested in what China does on the world stage, not what it says.

In sum, when considering these four factors, one must conclude that while there are some individual elements of China’s development experience that are unique, they do not constitute a comprehensive and coherent “model”- nor are they easily transferred abroad. If anything, what is unique about China’s model is that it flexibly adapts to elements imported from abroad and grafted on to domestic roots in all fields, producing a unique hybrid and eclectic system – this is China’s real “model.”

Filed under: China Daily, Chinese Model, Opinion

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