The “rise of China” is nothing to fear. But not for the reasons Charles Kenny suggests.
We’re 14-odd years boots-on-the-ground there (still there now), and it is high time that the US (and Americans) have a glance at the Chinese playbook. It is remarkably simple. Here’s an oversimplified peek:
1. The government isn’t responsible for you or your well-being. If you don’t want to starve, you work, hustle, and make things happen. No jobs in your community? Then you go to where they are. “Jobs creation” may or may not be the business of the state, but job acquisition is the individual’s responsibility.
Hardly a day passes when I do not see some newly-opened shop, fruit stand, boutique, or some other entrepreneurial endeavor underway in my second-tier Chinese city — and folks, opening a business in China isn’t exactly easy or turn-key. But it’s funny that the communist (with Chinese characteristics) state keeps the peeps striving for comprehensive economic improvement by *not* having too many iron rice bowls and gratuitous safety-nets. Or safety hammocks. Or futons in Section 8 tenements.
2. Families are imperfect world-wide, each proverbially unhappy in their own way. But by and large, the Chinese still take seriously the idea that the family is a unit. When they have the means (and many work slavishly to have something that approximates the means), planning for the child’s future begins when le petit huangdi is in utero. Youth is still contemplated largely as preparation for adulthood and for all the unpleasantness and responsibilities that come with it.
In over a decade in China, I have yet to meet or even hear of a family in which the parents took the view that, at 18, Junior starts paying rent or he hits the bricks.
Let’s by all means have, make room for, and (in case it matters) even celebrate the diversity of American families. But American parents need to shrug-off all the humanist psychology nonsense that got us to the point where experts in the behavioural sciences now encourage parents to make their children active-stakeholders in their own childhood. Responsible, reasonably-ambitious adults are actively crafted and thoughtfully cultivated by parents, and not by public schools, society, or the community — although to really eff’ up a child it takes a village.
3. China’s modern foreign policy seems largely if not wholly free from any kind of ideological evangelism, and they keep most of their aid expenditures domestic. What concepts!
4. If you overstay your visa in China, and the PSB nabs you, you’re gone. Done. Deported. No hearing, no trial. Gone. If you stay under the radar, and then one day decide to fly outwith the motherland, customs nabs you at the airport, and then fines and/or imposes a custodial sentence upon you. And good luck getting another entry visa. Never mind that China is not, historically, a nation of immigrants, or a melting pot. Immigration policies and rules pursuant to the entry and residency of aliens matter in China.
Why they wouldn’t matter in any sovereign state that even bothers to have and to maintain borders is more of a mystery than the actual contents of hualvshui, or why some US military personnel drive KIAs. Being in a country illegally is a crime, and law enforcement deals with criminal behaviours. Why American citizens – within and outwith the Beltway – should be wringing their hands about whether or not it is appropriate for LEOs to apprehend trespassers is just bizarre.
5. Read an American broadsheet or periodical, and an article about China focuses on the Chinese — generally, how thin the ice is upon which they dance, or how terrible the government is which they are forced bravely to suffer. What does much of Chinese media report on, when covering news of the world? The lives and fates and fortunes of overseas Chinese, mainly.
It’s neo-colonialism, folks, and Chinese diaspora planet-wide have their own mini-assemblies, and leadership structures, and are represented as a unit by the CCPCC. Rubberneck they do, of course — foreigners and their funny ways make the pages (and i-pages, and e-pages) in China, for sure. But when was the last time CNN (or Fox) did news items about the American expat communities in Beijing, or Shanghai, or Chengdu? To read The New York Times‘ China-reporting, you’d think there weren’t any real Americans living and working and having settled lives in China — and enjoying them. Exception: One of the Americans is married to a Chinese, and the couple is (a) wealthy, fashionable, and progressive, and have just produced a play, film, or concert, or just redecorated their loft, or, (b) the American is trying to free Tibet.
These respective biases (“spins”) speak volumes about (inter alia) the priorities of the respective nations, and their peoples.
We could continue this thread for pages, but we’ll end here. For now.
And the take-away?
Time spent citing and complaining about China’s “human rights” record, etc., – or: time congratulating ourselves for The American Way of Life – is time that could be better spent learning about what China is doing well, and doing right.
And TIME might want to make time for that one day.