With the Olympics approaching we can see China in just about every newscast when turning on the television. News reports recently have ranged from Tibetan uprisings, Taiwan elections, Sichuan (that's pronounced Sit-che-wahn) province earthquakes, to the more positive, such as the upcoming Olympics, a population that loves Americans (more or less), and... well, I don't know what else to be sure.
While China is rising fast, it still has a lot of problems and things to learn, some of which may never be resolved or as good as we have them in the United States. Yes, China will likely surpass the U.S. in a lot of areas, such as overall economic power (as well as Internet users, which they just did a few days ago). But they should eventually, as they have 1.3 billion persons to our 300 million. It's a numbers game in this respect.
A numbers game... that is what China is also playing at the Olympics. When I was in Shenzhen on one of my normal bike rides to Lianhuaxian park, I watched the torch go by the central government building (the big wavy colored building in my photos). Several young men and women that were part of the official escort looked incredibly young. In fact, many of them were younger than would be allowed in the Olympics if they were to compete.
Even though there were very few foreigners around at the time, I could see the image China was trying to project to the world... young, determined, and powerful. What I saw personally, however, was young, determined, and ignorant of the world stage and their puppet place within it. The government wants to see their population become powerful, but sometimes for different reasons than the population themselves understands.
Read here for a news post on the suspicions that the Chinese government are protecting underage Olympians to help bolster their wins during the Olympics:
China's positives and long-term negatives:
1) A young workforce that is very focused on helping its country succeed in all areas of development, backed by a government that has done a lot to build this workforce (whether the methods were right or wrong at times).
2) Thousands of miles of rivers to navigate and dam, although they are becoming polluted fast (drinking out of the tap is not a good idea...).
3) Overseas investments help spur their domestic economy that is increasingly turning Chinese towards a consumerist lifestyle (which will in turn lead to more domestic economic stimulus vs. the current outside stimulus).
4) The Chinese have a short-term focus of growing big and fast and doing proud for their country. Sometimes they aren't sure how and what the consequences of that "how" are going to be to their country, or the world.
5) They now have more Internet users than the U.S. This can be looked upon as a good thing, as more and more Chinese are seeing the world and hopefully making positive judgments about their place in it. Views which hopefully will overtake their current government someday.
6) They are learning English, woot! (and so is everyone else in the world... English is this centuries universal language, even if, by numbers, more speak Mandarin Chinese or Hindi Indian).
7) While the U.S. sees China as a growing threat in many ways, I don't believe they are an enemy on the level as Germany was in WWII or Russia during the Cold War. We have a chance to really be a team on the world stage. The potential is there, so let's hope our leaders both take advantage of it.
1) An overall population this is aging faster than the U.S. They will have 300 million elderly by 2050. How are they going to pay for their care when the One-Child Per Family policy act is restricting the age-old practice of birthing large families to help support the aging population (they don't have medicare or Social Security like we do, even if ours isn't the greatest).
2) While they have a large area of land, resources are dwindling or already critically low. The Chinese are very inefficient about their use of energy (a problem for sure when it comes to global climate change). The U.S. is lucky here, as we have 25% of the world's coal reserves, 25% of fresh water reserves, the largest potential for solar energy, wind energy, and hydrothermal energy, plenty of forests and other natural resources, and many raw resources overall.
3) While the Chinese economy is booming, their intake of money is actually going to a lot of foreign firms, not necessarily the Chinese government or its people.
4) The separation between the rich and poor is huge, and growing. This may eventually cause severe unrest, destabilizing their economy at points.
5) They lack a long-term "where are we in the world" focus, but at least they aren't like some in the sole reason that they believe god will save them and, well, because they haven't anything else to do over there apparently. The Chinese love us Americans (more or less)!
6) A political regime that still today restrains its people in far too many ways, even though they now outnumber the U.S. in Internet users (I've had personal experience with the Chinese Internet, and while you can get to where you want if you're savvy enough, there is a lot of problems with it yet).
7) With such pressure the younger population has, both internally through a competitive viewpoint and externally through their government's eyes, we may see the country implode before it has a chance to rest from its efforts.
Supportive articles on the subject:
Boom or Bust
Will China truly be the next global super power, in all rights and respects beyond the obvious numbers? I am not so sure... but that's good for us I think. The U.S. has it lucky, that's for sure. I've seen what its like on the other side of the ocean, and while it was only a year and only a single journey, it was enough... for now anyway :).