Posted On: Wednesday - August 16th 2023 6:41PM MST
In Topics:   China  The Future
Upon a few week trip to the Middle Kingdom, I don't see how an observer wouldn't conclude that China is the future for the World. As Peak Stupidity noted in our pre-Intro. this past Saturday, there will be lots to say about China on this blog in the near future.
This post and the ones to come will not be written in the style of Fred Reed or any wild-eyed tourist on a 3 week excursion. There's a lot to be impressed with by the modern Chinese infrastructure. However, there's not that much that I hadn't seen 6 years back, though it's been built out quite a bit more since then.
That front-car* of one of the fast trains we rode in (I snapped that picture in violation of some yellow line on the platform and got mildly admonished) is futuristic looking, sure enough. These trains hold a steady 200 mph on most of the runs, and they are filled with ~1,000 people each. The route map I had pulled up on my phone had connections to all the big cities in China, of which there are A LOT.
I won't get into these details on the trains here. The main thing I noticed in a couple of weeks in China, as I have before, is that China is a "can-do country". It's full of a unified and generally intelligent Han population** who are not encumbered at this point in general by heavy regulation and large nuisance populations that are not only not helpful but actively harmful to progress. A new subway line that would be a proud 10-year accomplishment if ever finished in an American city is just a normal yearly project in China. Shit simply gets done there. That's very impressive as compared to America in this day and age.
It's one - the longest - of 15-20 tunnels on this one superhighway, 1:45 or so drive that 10 years ago was a 4 hour drive and 20 years ago was an all day journey on a hairy road through the steep mountains. This road is in a province far from the 1st tier cities.
Is this feeling a big change of heart by Peak Stupidity after our talk of dashed high hopes for China? (See also Part 2.) No, that's not exactly the case. Again, we've seen this amazing civil engineering work 6 years ago and prior. The dashed high hopes had to do with our vision from 15 years back of freedom in China. China is no longer the Wild, Wild, East, if it indeed ever really was. (It seemed to come close though, back in '07.)
Along with much else that was written about by Kai Strittmatter in his book We Have Been Harmonized*** of the electronic/AI enabled Orwellian society being developed, it's the phone-based payments, using We Chat and the social credit and health scoring system that has detracted from any hope I had for a gleaming Chinese future. That future might be physically gleaming, but not gleaming in any abstract sense.
The phone payments are ubiquitous, no doubt - we used them for big items - but they are not part of the kind of mandatory system I had expected. (I'll get to that in another post too.) However, the Chinese government, with the near absolute power of the CCP, one guy presiding, can use the systems in place to clamp down on any kind of behavior it wants very easily and at any time. Well, actually, it has already, with the downright ridiculous 9 month-long Covid~Zero program of '22 that Peak Stupidity reported on regularly.
But, yes, they've got their act together over there in the Middle Kingdom at this point. These infrastructure improvements allow for greater efficiency for other endeavors.
When told and shown pictures of what I'd seen, Americans have still given me the pooh-pooh type reply of "yeah, that's all using slave labor". Nobody meant actual slavery but they meant massive low-wage labor by Chinamen. No, that's not the case. Things are still inexpensive and wages are set accordingly, but massive Cheap Chinese labor is a thing of the past. That one child policy, taken fairly seriously by most, started in 1979. The youngest of those raised in large families are in their mid-40s now. They can't work like 20 y/o's.
Menial labor is done in Vietnam, Bangladesh etc, but managed by Chinese companies. For manufacturing in China and these amazing infrastructure improvements, they have stolen lot of IP, trade secrets, engineering knowledge, over the years, but they HAVE IT now. They don't need much help at this point.
Economically, China sure looks to be where the future lies. Politically, well, I'm hoping that America does not have to be a part of the future they're making over there. We've got more than our share of stupidity to put an end to first, but I don't think it's hopeless that we can't create our own, better future, right here.
That's my big overall impression from our trip there. There's plenty more to come on interesting aspects of life in China, with plenty of compliments and criticisms.
* I'm not sure one could call it a locomotive per se, as I figure all the cars are powered (via the scissors-style brush mechanisms on top of all the cars). The driver works in there, with just a few plush first-class seats behind him.
** We did get to some "minority people" areas. We'll have a post with pictures. One wouldn't know things were any different due to a) their looking the same to me as any other Chinese people, and b) their having been assimilated with not much left but the tourist sites.
*** Peak Stupidity reviewed it in 4 posts: Part 1 - - Part 2 - - Part 3, and Part 4.