Wednesday, May 21, 2008

China's New Path

As a resident of Shenzhen, I've been able to see both the best and the worst of China - relative to change.

As many people already know, Shenzhen is a wonder of capitalism in China. It has grown out of nowhere in the past 20 years. It is the most modern Chinese city. It is a place with limitless opportunities and possibilities. It is a place where all of the able people from all over China and the world come to gather for commerce. It is a place of law and order - the best in China.

Shenzhen is also a lot of other things. It is one of the only places that has absolutely no culture within a country and civilization that has lasted more than 5000 years. It is a cut-throat world where money is first and foremost. Everything else is secondary. It is a place of questionable morals and the air quality is just as bad.

Shenzhen was famously created by Deng Xiaoping who famously announced that "to be rich is glorious." Ever since those famous words were uttered, China has transformed from a place focused on equality to that of money. It was a place where personal possessions and wealth were not the focus, but community was overriding. People helping people even though everyone had very little. It has emerged to a place where money and materialism is paramount while the community is just an afterthought. Now the discrepancy between the haves and have-nots is incredible.

In the past few years, this path of money has never been questioned on the grand scale. Although certain events have brought the Chinese people together (the spy plane incident, the japanese textbooks, the Olympics), everything was still on the same trajectory.

That was until 5/12/2008 at 2:28pm.

In the past few days - and during the mourning period - the only thing on TV has been coverage of the earthquake. Every single channel. All Bars have been closed. All KTVs have been closed. Even online games have been abandoned. It is a national mourning in every respect. During this time, people from every walk of life, from every region and province have come together to do what they can in support of the recovery efforts. If you can donate money, ok. Time and effort, good as well.

Candlelit visuals have been everywhere. The only real topic of conversation is the earthquake. Everything else is secondary. It is something that I've never seen, but so immensely proud of from my fellow countrymen.

During the events of 9/11, I was in my high school in New Jersey. In the past 7 years, those events have completely and utterly transformed American society. Whether it is political, environmental or social, so many things have been altered.

I predict that the earthquake of 5/12/2008 will have a comparable effect on China. Not only will government initiatives change, but the people will too. The people have been reminded of what it once was, a place where people cared about its fellow people. It has woken up from a period of rapid growth into something thats more wholly rounded and responsible for all in society. Not only will there be much more social activism but the compassion and empathy of the people will increase.

This is now the path of China. Not a path towards "democracy" (as the western media states) but towards a embrace for the communal-ness of its past.


Maddy said...

True, but i think value degeneration and growing wealth gap between poor and rich are natural consequences of chinese markets opening up and a growing economy, Surprisingly if you observe it the over nationalistic sentiment which led to all those famines and ultimately economic collapse of china in 70's. Even west experienced all this capitalistic growth , much earlier but not at the same breakneck pace at china. But looking at the past i do not know if nationalism is a good thing or a bad thing for china. Only time will tell i guess. nice post.

Mike said...

I don't really think the nationalistic sentiment was the primary reason for famines in the 70s. It was failed economic policies and a different world environment.

My argument is that this sentiment for "helping thy neighbor" is a great retreat to back to the communal qualities of the past (that I personally have experienced and identified with).