Before Jon Stewart’s current two-week vacation (he really needs to get a sub for these!), he interviewed Ian Bremmer (video link) of the Eurasia Group about what led to the Western economic downfall and why China wasn’t as heavily affected. While he isn’t advocating for Communism, Bremmer mentions that our recent lack of financial regulations and oversight isn’t helping anything.
As Americans, we can’t ignore China or what some have seen as its sister in growth, India. Though the two nations have different tracks right now, both are accelerating growth in ways which are fascinating, scary, and important to watch.
What I really found interesting was Bremmer’s suggestion that the Chinese government can keep people “happy” through this economic growth. As long as times are prosperous (e.g. 1950’s America!), the government can infringe on peoples’ rights. This is interesting because I’ve always wondered if this economic prosperity will lead to more individual freedom – and I wonder if I’m terribly wrong.
I subscribe to “Freshly Pressed,” a blog about what’s hot on WordPress through my RSS feed. One of today’s posts by Joseph Romano at Blogging Perspectives Daily involved what it is like to live with the “Great Firewall” of China. Romano mentions the Internet service being “horrible to say the least” – and I honestly can’t imagine seeing what has become my information lifeblood shrivel up.
One teaching activity I used this year (before the Google-China debacle) was to have my students type in a search for key phrases like “Tiananmen Square” and see that on Google.cn (which now redirects to the Hong Kong version of the site) there is an image base that overwhelmingly looks more like a tourist brochure to see the location in Beijing rather than Google.com’s heavy rotation of massacre and protest photos.
Aside from having a Taiwanese girlfriend, I’ve always wanted to learn the Chinese language and experience the culture from a competitive/business standpoint. I teach my students that 1.3 billion – BILLION people speak the Chinese language and most of these speak Mandarin while reading/writing the same characters. With China’s growth, we will see more of the language – it’s really a given more than most Americans realize.
However, how can I support a country which is so autocratic? How can I not support Taiwan when considering that even with their lower footprint, they (comparatively) stick by principles when allowing their citizens basic human rights?
On another note: you too can test China’s firewall here. I tried my blog and… it does work – albeit slowly. I wonder if that will be the same after this post?
Oh, and count me as an even bigger Google fan. I hope things change for the better in China – and though I’m not holding my breath, I’m optimistic.