China Makes Strides and then Trips

Two summers ago, I sat in a conference room in a downtown editorial office in Beijing and listened to journalist Yu Xiaodong brief the office on a developing story.  He described a hot-line that Chinese people could call to voice complaints about government officials.  He said that in the first two minutes in which the line was set up it crashed due to an influx of callers.

When I look at contemporary China, I see many parallels to this incident.  There is a driving force towards progress and development, but restrictions within government are keeping many at a stand still.  Many American companies have found their investment interests in China impeded by government regulations.  Nicholas Kristof makes a lot of great points in his article, “The Rise of Chinese Cheneys” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/opinion/20kristof.html?emc=eta1), about the success and conflict amidst modern China.

His comments on China’s human rights’ violations were well-informed regarding discrimination of muslims and the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo.  I was surprised that Kristof neglected to mention the role of migrant workers in China.  Nearly 15% of China’s population, 150 migrant workers are treated as second class citizens performing menial manufacturing, construction and labor work in China’s cities.  These workers are deprived of health insurance, adequate housing, and education while outside of their native provinces (as mandated by China’s hukou system).

I also found the section describing Xi Jinping’s, the next leader of China, harsh accusation that the U.S. used germ warfare during the Korean highly relevant to China’s cultural trends.  While China consistently rebukes claims that it is following U.S. cultural trends, I feel that to a large extent many Chinese have already begun to adopt American cultural ideologies.  This is incredibly narcissistic, and is only true to some extent.  The surge in American brands found in China including McDonald’s, the demand for American executives in Chinese companies as a symbol of prestige, and the yearly increase in Beijing’s number of private vehicles at a rate of one million cars per year all hint at a cultural drive towards American ideologies.  And while Xi Jinping might disagree, he did just send his only child to study as an undergraduate at America’s top university.

Overall Kristof highlights some key points about China’s development.  In evaluating China it is vital to weigh both the pros and cons of both economic and political actions. Perhaps I am an idealist, but I am optimistic that China will continue to progress and solve problems of instability, human rights’ violations, and international conflict.

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