If you are interested in hosting a viewing of this show with your classmates at your house, below please add your comment re: the when, where, what to bring, how to RSVP, etc. Let’s get these going and start to build our foundation for China!!
Please give the below issues and questions some thought as you watch the show, and, then return to this blog post to respond to at least one or two of them (or an item that stood out in your own mind about the show) as required by the syllabus.
1. One thing that struck me while watching this feature was that a number of the Chinese citizens interviewed spoke of the perceived limitless opportunities that China now offers (many of) its people (admittedly not all). Yet many Americans seem to believe that most Chinese people are in a constant state of repression. Even though you have yet to travel there, who do you agree with (at this point in time and your life) and why?
(In my own travels in China, most of the people I have met are quite proud of their country, content with their lives and optimistic about their future. I am curious what you think. See related post on this issue from the Diligence China blog.)
2. Why do the Chinese elite concur with the government’s â€œgo-slowâ€ reform policy of “crossing the river by feeling for stones“?
In the show, a wealthy banker talks about how this policy, first coined by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and early 1980s in referring to China’s step-by-step liberalization, makes sense for China. Do you think the urban elite of China concur with this not because they feel compelled to do so by the government, but because this policy has, at least so far, served them so well?
Will China be plunged another one of its nightmares of political instability and revolution and dynasty overthrow if the current Communist government loses the tacit support of the Chinese elite (this is also why you need to read a good history on China to learn about how one thing people liked about the Communists was that they at least brought some desired stability to the country after years of turmoil, abuse and corruption by the Nationalists and most people again had food on their tables)?
3. What character/person in the show would you most like to meet and have dinner with in China, and why?
4. Though China is not yet a country that is built on the â€œrule of lawâ€ to the extent the US is, it appears to becoming more so each day (see, e.g., this related post from the China Law Blog), and the people are more and more turning to China’s courts to address their legal problems. These courts do not always rule fairly, but they apparently rule fairly enough for the people to generally believe in and support them. Do you agree or disagree?
5. When you see poor uneducated people in Chinese factories create the things you and I buy on the cheap at Wal-Mart, Ride Aid or Target, it may make you feel sad and/or angry and/or disillusioned. If so, how do or will you reconcile those feelings with your purchases of such products? What plans do you have to change your purchasing habits, if any? Do you help or hurt these workers by purchasing such prodcuts?
Relatedly, upon seeing these types of factories, I commonly see foreigners jump to the quick and easy conclusion that such workers are abused and/or suffering. That may be, but what additional facts, other than visiting these factories (which we will do), do you/would you need to conduct a thoughtful analysis and come to a conclusion re: where the “truth” is in this complex debate?
6. Re: the extensive environmental pollution you saw in the feature, many of my friends in China argue that the US/the West is in no position to lecture them on such an issue given what we did to the environment only a century ago when we industrialized as a nation (I even remember as a kid in the 1970s watching on television some American rivers burning, yes, that’s right, burning!, due to their heavy chemical and polluted content). How do you feel about this issue, who do you agree with, and why?
Relatedly, why is China and whether it gets issues of sustainability and wise enviromental policy right so important to all of us, the rest of the world and our respective futures? What can you do to help?
If you were a consultant working in China on such issues, what “course corrections” or American “best practices” would you recommend to the Chinese that they could realistically and politically adopt and execute? See also this related and interesting post from Thomas Barnett’s blog (this this one too) — Barnett has written some great stuff on China (what I like about him is that he is not afraid to go against the proverbial tide). He seems to truly understand world politics and he also understands how countries develop. He argues (controversially, of course) that before enviromental awareness and sophistication of a society and country can kick in, you must run the unpopular gauntlet of development and the heavy pollution that goes along with it, and that the sooner and more quickly you can move a country into developed country status (China is not yet there) the better chance you have of raising (faster) overall societal interest in environmental issues and sustainability. See also the related Stewart Brand “The Long Now” post on this blog. What are the strengths and weaknesses of his argument?
7. Per Dr. Morris’ November 3 Chinese history session with us, has the CBC, with its title of China “Rises” missed the mark in how it views and reads China (along with those book authors whose title may go along the lines of China “Wakes”).
I.e., would a more historically accurate title for this CBC show be “China Is Quickly Moving Back To Where It Sees Its Proper Place In The World”?