Friday, October 19, 2007

As goes China, so goes modernity?

What are the characteristics of modernity that we can draw by comparing the US with the People's Republic of China?In the article Big Red Checkbook by John Feffer published in The Nation the November 5, 2007 issue,he discusses various author's views as expressed in their books about contemporary China.

In China Road, his absorbing chronicle of traveling Route 312 from Shanghai across the expanse of China to the farthest reaches of the Gobi Desert, National Public Radio correspondent Rob Gifford meets a Tibetan who makes his living teaching Chinese to his compatriots. Gifford carefully broaches the subject of betrayal.

"No one blames me," the Tibetan tells him. "There is no other choice. The only way to say I'm not going to take part in this is not to learn Chinese and reject the whole Chinese system. But that would condemn me to poverty." He won't give up his Buddhism, and he will never marry a Han Chinese woman. But otherwise he has decided to trade in the nomadic life, which he says is nothing to romanticize, for the life of an upwardly mobile Chinese citizen. "That is simply today's world. The modern world. The globalized world. I'm not sure we can completely blame the Chinese for that."

Foreign policy analysts speak of various crunches that China will face. There's the demographic one, when China suddenly becomes a senior citizen society virtually overnight because of its one-child policy. There is the economic one, when rapid growth begins to sputter and an angry middle class joins hands with the disenfranchised to close down the party. There's the environmental one, when the poisons of industrial development choke the country to death.

How these conditions might appear varies somewhat between the US and the PRC, but it is disturbingly easy to show parallels between the two. Does Modernity lead to a techno-feudalism or are there other possibilities?

No comments:

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster