|How far can we see into the future?|
I was just reading the essay The State of the Anglosphere in City Journal.
It concerns the financial health and wellbeing of the Anglosphere: The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, vis à vis the Sinosphere: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. Many in our sphere see doom and gloom ahead in the decline and fall of our sphere and the rise of theirs. The article, highly recommended reading, goes on to explain how it ain’t necessarily so. Well, for different reasons than they cite,
I could have told them that.
Not that I’m an expert, by any means at all, but I’ve never been worried about the Chinese. Yes, they’ve got over a billion more people there than we have, and to many Americans that’s intimidating. Many here see thousands of people, active as ants, at work in the factories that produce a lot of what we don’t necessarily need, but do buy in the west. Should we gradually decide, as we seem to be starting to do now, that we really don't need or don't want to spend our money on a lot of the stuff produced in China, the Sino side of things is going to suffer.
Some Anglos can foresee wave after wave of invaders hitting our shores. Sheer numbers or not, I think it’s going to take many decades for the Sino peoples to come to the point where they could do that, and by then they’d probably not even think of doing it at all. Yes, the military might of the Anglo side of things is geared up and on the alert to forestall any moves by the Sino side, but what would aggression gain the Chinese?
I realize that generalizations about national characteristics – all Scots are thrifty or all Swiss efficient – are just that: generalizations. But in all my reading over the last decades, I’ve come to the understanding that the Chinese are, even more than generally, a race of entrepreneurs. I could never understand how their brand of communism could spread, and I can readily see its recent morphing into capitalism. Over the long run for them commune-ism gave way to their innate individual-ism. The “what’s in it for me?” attitude is in their DNA, it’s in their mother’s milk. The yuan is where their heart is – or words to that effect.
In “Dreaming in Chinese”, a recent essay in in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Richard Wolin reported on his recent trip to China. He told of a talk with a journalist there who had interviewed a woman who’d visited China both in the seventies and just last year. To condense it all, the woman, a philosopher and psychoanalyst, found that “she much preferred the China of the Cultural Revolutionary era, that she finds the sauve-qui-peut (every man for himself) freneticism of post-Mao China off-putting and distasteful — a 21st-century dystopia.” Basically, they’re back to their ancient ways with a modern twist.
Chairman Mao tried to shake them up, promote a “what’s in it for us” ethic, and it seemed to work, in the global scheme of things, for a while. Eventually every one of them wanted, if it’s at all possible, to have a little business, a little income on side. What started in an era of relatively slow communication and little understanding of what the rest of the world was doing, had its demise in the electronic age where television and the internet, slowly gaining a foothold, allowed many to see what was available, and at what price, beyond their borders.
The Chinese have a lot of old sayings and a long history in which they amassed them. One saying that speaks volumes is “The heavens are high and the Emperor is far away.” For eons the Chinese were rule-breakers whenever they could get away with it, and some of them try it now. The adulteration and contamination of foods and drugs, or the short cuts taken on manufactured goods speak not only about lack of laws and oversight, but also for the “what’s in it for me?” attitude. The ‘emperor’ is closer these days, and such nefarious practices come to light relatively quickly. Yes, the “what’s in it for me?” attitude is very much alive in the Anglo world, but it usually causes others financial not physical damage, and the damage isn’t as widespread.
At present, the more modern Chinese, versus the vast, invisible majority of their population, are in the throes of reconciling and reining in that ‘self’-ish bent as they bring a basically third world country into the twenty-first century.
I once heard it said that eventually all the earth’s people will be one nice café-au-lait color. That being so, I think we’ll also be beyond being ‘Anglo’ or ‘Sino’. I can’t foresee that time or the events, peaceful and gradual or quick and chaotic, that will precede it. I wonder what our collective ‘Terran’ characteristics will be.
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Note - since I first wrote this, a month or so ago, I came up with the essay for the previous post on the future size of our teeth. Our collective 'Terran' characteristics might be like those of the the 'alien' in that post.