On several occasions I’ve quoted other authors when they’ve penned great one-liners to describe the situation in China: a crime wave with a flag; a billion souls in a sex imbalanced society; a crime syndicate in a stage of “bumptious nationalism” (like Britain circa 1800 or the US circa 1900) with a “naïve, passionate, and uncritical” patriotism.
When I do I also typically add that you can never have too many robot space planes.
I stumbled across the new one liner used in the above title from a Peace Corp worker quoted by Jonah Goldberg in Why We Need Not Envy China:
“Imagine that there’s a country exactly like the United States. Exactly the same size. It’s got the same cities. It’s got the same number of rich people and poor people. It’s just like us. And now add 1 billion peasants. That’s China.”
Goldberg provides a quick list of reasons why we should not idealize China: 40 million live in caves, 20 million live on $90/yr, another 35 million on less than $125/yr, hundreds of millions live on $1 or $2 a day, environmental degradation, real estate bubble worse than our own, demographics that pretty much ensure it will grow old before it grows rich. He then concludes:
Moreover, China’s social fabric is in dire need of repair. Just consider the recent horrifying footage of a two-year-old toddler who was struck by two vehicles and was left to die in agony in the middle of a busy street as passersby ignored her. The New York Times reported this summer that, in some regions, it is common for officials to snatch newborn babies from parents — and sell them. Indeed, China has a thriving market in children. And do you really think our problems with income inequality are worse than China’s?
Oh, and let’s not forget: It’s still an autocratic police state.
Obama is hardly alone in his effort to mythologize China in order to justify expansion of government. Times columnist Tom Friedman — who has written often of his envy for China’s authoritarian system — begins his new book comparing the unreliable escalators at his neighborhood subway station with a glitzy convention center in China, in order to suggest that China is winning the future. It’s as instructive as comparing his mansion in Bethesda, Md., to a Chinese cave.