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Growth and decline

 
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mithridates



Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Location: President's office, Korean Space Agency

PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 7:21 am    Post subject: Growth and decline Reply with quote

From the New York Times today:

Quote:
China, the World's Capital

From Kaifeng to New York, glory is as ephemeral as smoke and clouds.

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: May 22, 2005

KAIFENG, China

As this millennium dawns, New York City is the most important city in the world, the unofficial capital of planet Earth. But before we New Yorkers become too full of ourselves, it might be worthwhile to glance at dilapidated Kaifeng in central China.

Kaifeng, an ancient city along the mud-clogged Yellow River, was by far the most important place in the world in 1000. And if you've never heard of it, that's a useful warning for Americans - as the Chinese headline above puts it, in a language of the future that many more Americans should start learning, "glory is as ephemeral as smoke and clouds."

As the world's only superpower, America may look today as if global domination is an entitlement. But if you look back at the sweep of history, it's striking how fleeting supremacy is, particularly for individual cities.

My vote for most important city in the world in the period leading up to 2000 B.C. would be Ur, Iraq. In 1500 B.C., perhaps Thebes, Egypt. There was no dominant player in 1000 B.C., though one could make a case for Sidon, Lebanon. In 500 B.C., it would be Persepolis, Persia; in the year 1, Rome; around A.D. 500, maybe Changan, China; in 1000, Kaifeng, China; in 1500, probably Florence, Italy; in 2000, New York City; and in 2500, probably none of the above.

Today Kaifeng is grimy and poor, not even the provincial capital and so minor it lacks even an airport. Its sad state only underscores how fortunes change. In the 11th century, when it was the capital of Song Dynasty China, its population was more than one million. In contrast, London's population then was about 15,000.

An ancient 17-foot painted scroll, now in the Palace Museum in Beijing, shows the bustle and prosperity of ancient Kaifeng. Hundreds of pedestrians jostle each other on the streets, camels carry merchandise in from the Silk Road, and teahouses and restaurants do a thriving business.

Kaifeng's stature attracted people from all over the world, including hundreds of Jews. Even today, there are some people in Kaifeng who look like other Chinese but who consider themselves Jewish and do not eat pork.

As I roamed the Kaifeng area, asking local people why such an international center had sunk so low, I encountered plenty of envy of New York. One man said he was arranging to be smuggled into the U.S. illegally, by paying a gang $25,000, but many local people insisted that China is on course to bounce back and recover its historic role as world leader.

"China is booming now," said Wang Ruina, a young peasant woman on the outskirts of town. "Give us a few decades and we'll catch up with the U.S., even pass it."

She's right. The U.S. has had the biggest economy in the world for more than a century, but most projections show that China will surpass us in about 15 years, as measured by purchasing power parity.

So what can New York learn from a city like Kaifeng?

One lesson is the importance of sustaining a technological edge and sound economic policies. Ancient China flourished partly because of pro-growth, pro-trade policies and technological innovations like curved iron plows, printing and paper money. But then China came to scorn trade and commerce, and per capita income stagnated for 600 years.

A second lesson is the danger of hubris, for China concluded it had nothing to learn from the rest of the world - and that was the beginning of the end.

I worry about the U.S. in both regards. Our economic management is so lax that we can't confront farm subsidies or long-term budget deficits. Our technology is strong, but American public schools are second-rate in math and science. And Americans' lack of interest in the world contrasts with the restlessness, drive and determination that are again pushing China to the forefront.

Beside the Yellow River I met a 70-year-old peasant named Hao Wang, who had never gone to a day of school. He couldn't even write his name - and yet his progeny were different.

"Two of my grandsons are now in university," he boasted, and then he started talking about the computer in his home.

Thinking of Kaifeng should stimulate us to struggle to improve our high-tech edge, educational strengths and pro-growth policies. For if we rest on our laurels, even a city as great as New York may end up as Kaifeng-on-the-Hudson.


PS Kaifeng = , pronounced in Korean. Just in case you're curious.
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Ya-ta Boy



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: Established in 1994

PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, mith. Kristoff is usually worth a read. He and his wife did a good book on China a few years ago. His column reminded me of Shelley:

Percy Bysshe Shelly - Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedastle these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.
Look on my works ye mighty, and despair.
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of the colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

****

Time has a way of putting things in a different perspective. Too many people think that today is somehow permanent. The majority of people alive today will spend most of their life in a world where China is the richest country. That will have consequences. Think about living in a world where hakwon boss-type thinking comes with money. Yikes.
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ya-Ta Boy wrote:
The majority of people alive today will spend most of their life in a world where China is the richest country


It's somewhat hype. Yes, China will become more powerful, but their current growth rate is unsustainable in the long-run, and they have a lot of internal problems to address. Plus, there's little doubt that to some extent local CCP party members are fudging the numbers to advance their own agenda.

Even so, per capita China has a long, long way to go. I don't argue that the United States' power will continue to be exclusively dominant, I think surely it's rate of growth will diminish in comparison to other players, but I think a lot of people are assuming that China can continue it's growth rate at a steady 9% for the next 15 years. That would be unheard of and completely unprecedented.
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mithridates



Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Location: President's office, Korean Space Agency

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think even the Chinese government wants growth to be this quick. Isn't their target somewhere between 6% and 8%?
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sundubuman



Joined: 04 Feb 2003
Location: seoul

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ya-ta,

you continue to amaze,

China will not be the richest country in the world. It is heading for a demographic nightmare. By 2050, the average Chinese will be quite a few years older than the average American.

Even IF they can manage their own political, ethnic, and cultural transitions to modernity, their population will be shrinking within a few decades. And that is a mighty mighty big IF.
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Ya-ta Boy



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: Established in 1994

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It's somewhat hype. Yes, China will become more powerful



I said 'richer'. Projections are that it will take 15 years. So what if it takes 20 or 30 years instead? My point remains.

Quote:
That would be unheard of and completely unprecedented.


Yes, and what they have accomplished since '79 is also unheard of and completely unprecedented.

I do agree that China has many internal problems to solve, most importantly corruption and how to open up the political process. No one can know how that will play out.

I don't think it is necessary to read the OP as meaning only China has the potential to become the dominant player in the future. I read the article as a reminder simply that times change. Nothing remains static.

Quote:
Ancient China flourished partly because of pro-growth, pro-trade policies and technological innovations like curved iron plows, printing and paper money. But then China came to scorn trade and commerce, and per capita income stagnated for 600 years.


In the current political atmosphere in the US where Bush is threatening to veto a reform of the law on stem cell research, the push to shut down the borders (and as I see it, the goal is not to gain control of the border but to bar immigrants) the trend to shut the US off from the outside is growing. There is a new book getting attention. It's about how the Supreme Court is ruining America because some of the justices read legal opinions from other countries. Bush's claim in the campaign last year that the US doesn't need to listen to world opinion is also in that same line of thought. The fact that Kansas is still arguing over how to teach evolution in science class is disturbing. The brain drain has been of enormous benefit to the US, but one consequence of the internet is that the best and brightest of the world's graduates don't need to come to the US any longer. Since 9/11 it has become increasingly difficult for foreigners to get in, including students. That does not even take into account that the attitude toward the US is changing so much that fewer want to come.

My concern is not that China, India, Brazil and the EU are all developing into alternative centers of power. I think that's good. My concern is that in area after area, the US is deliberately taking itself out the leadership role.
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sundubuman



Joined: 04 Feb 2003
Location: seoul

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

umm... Ya-ta

We havew to rethink our immigration policies. Several of the holy warriors who slaughtered Americans on 9/11 were legally living in the US. What country would not have reassessed their immigration policies following such a horrendous crime.

If 9,000 Chinese (the equivalent of 9/11) were killed in Shanghai skyscrapers by Africans enraged at Chinese policies in that continent, what do you think would be China's reaction.

Our reaction has been in my opnion, fair, prudent and restrained.

America will continue to accept huge amounts of immigration.....

China will (if Japan and Korea are anything to go by) NEVER accept immigration, and will remain a (largely) mono-cultural society, one that will make Japan and Korea's AGING problem sem tiny, as it will be accompanied by a very real gender imbalance.

But not to worry, the best and brightest will find sanctuary from a demographically imploding China.....in places like Omaha and Perth.
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mithridates



Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Location: President's office, Korean Space Agency

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was a nice bit of poetry there Ya-ta boy, by the way. Here's the next article by the same guy, about the Chinese government vs. Chinese bloggers. In case some aren't aware of the stats, China has 100 million internet users and they are increasing at the incredible rate of 800 000 per week. Surprised

Quote:
Death by a Thousand Blogs


By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: May 24, 2005

Beijing

The collision between the Internet and Chinese authorities is one of the grand wrestling matches of history, visible in part at www.yuluncn.com.

That's the Web site of a self-appointed journalist named Li Xinde. He made a modest fortune selling Chinese medicine around the country, and now he's started the Chinese Public Opinion Surveillance Net - one of four million blogs in China.

Mr. Li travels around China with an I.B.M. laptop and a digital camera, investigating cases of official wrongdoing. Then he writes about them on his Web site and skips town before the local authorities can arrest him.

His biggest case so far involved a deputy mayor of Jining who is accused of stealing more than $400,000 and operating like a warlord. One of the deputy mayor's victims was a businesswoman whom he allegedly harassed and tried to kidnap.

Mr. Li's Web site published an investigative report, including a series of photos showing the deputy mayor kneeling and crying, apparently begging not to be reported to the police. The photos caused a sensation, and the deputy mayor was soon arrested.

Another of Mr. Li's campaigns involved a young peasant woman who was kidnapped by family planning officials, imprisoned and forcibly fitted with an IUD. Embarrassed by the reports, the authorities sent the officials responsible to jail for a year.

When I caught up with Mr. Li, he was investigating the mysterious death of a businessman who got in a financial dispute with a policeman and ended up arrested and then dead.

All this underscores how the Internet is beginning to play the watchdog role in China that the press plays in the West. The Internet is also eroding the leadership's monopoly on information and is complicating the traditional policy of "nei jin wai song" - cracking down at home while pretending to foreigners to be wide open.

My old friends in the Chinese news media and the Communist Party are mostly aghast at President Hu Jintao's revival of ideological slogans, praise for North Korea's political system and crackdown on the media. The former leaders Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji are also said to be appalled.

Yet China, fortunately, is bigger than its emperor. Some 100 million Chinese now surf the Web, and e-mail and Web chat rooms are ubiquitous.

The authorities have arrested a growing number of Web dissidents. But there just aren't enough police to control the Internet, and when sites are banned, Chinese get around them with proxy servers.

One of the leaders of the Tiananmen democracy movement, Chen Ziming, is now out of prison and regularly posts essays on an Internet site. Jiao Guobiao, a scholar, is officially blacklisted but writes scathing essays that circulate by e-mail all around China. One senior government official told me that he doesn't bother to read Communist Party documents any more, but he never misses a Jiao Guobiao essay.

I tried my own experiment, posting comments on Internet chat rooms. In a Chinese-language chat room on Sohu.com, I called for multiparty elections and said, "If Chinese on the other side of the Taiwan Strait can choose their leaders, why can't we choose our leaders?" That went on the site automatically, like all other messages. But after 10 minutes, the censor spotted it and removed it.

Then I toned it down: "Under the Communist Party's great leadership, China has changed tremendously. I wonder if in 20 years the party will introduce competing parties, because that could benefit us greatly." That stayed up for all to see, even though any Chinese would read it as an implicit call for a multiparty system.

So where is China going? I think the Internet is hastening China along the same path that South Korea, Chile and especially Taiwan pioneered. In each place, a booming economy nurtured a middle class, rising education, increased international contact and a growing squeamishness about torturing dissidents.

President Hu has fulminated in private speeches that foreign "hostile forces" are trying to change China. Yup, count me in - anybody who loves China as I do would be hostile to an empty Mao suit like Mr. Hu. But it's the Chinese leadership itself that is digging the Communist Party's grave, by giving the Chinese people broadband.
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bucheon bum



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: DC area

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those of you focusing on China are missing the point of the article. China might or might not pass the US in 10-15-20 years. That's obviously up in the air and depends on a variety of factors.

The point the dude is making is the US is cocky right now. Too many Americans think we're way ahead of everyone else. And we're not.

America sucks when it comes to the internet. Korea is much better. Same with cellphones. Most americans have no idea and assume we're at the top. Microsoft is now starting to try its new products in Korea, and not the USA. Why? Because your average Korean is a lot more of a tech addict than your avg. American.

Sure, the United States is still the best place to invest and the financial hub of the world. Yes, it is the best business climate. But unfortunately it is falling behind in other areas. And there simply is no sense of urgency. We're complacent.

One good thing about the Cold War is we felt like we had to work our butt off to keep ahead of the Soviets and Communists. That's what inspired us to go to the moon. Unfortunately we don't have anything pushing us right now.

So yes, China might stumble and fail to catch up the USA. But what about korea? what about Eastern Europe? what about India? Sure, they might not catch up to us in military terms, and for Korea, not in broad economic terms, but still, they all could surpass the USA in other ways.
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Ya-ta Boy



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: Established in 1994

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

800,000 a week is awesome.

This must be giving the CP the willies. How do you control people if they have their own source of news? I suppose one way is stirring up xenophobia, like a few weeks ago with the anti-Japanese demonstrations. But can the Party keep demonstrations under permanent control? Nationalism, used as a glue to hold a country together, can also scare the neighbors. Not a good thing when you want to trade with them so as to keep your factories running.

There is another thread that is partly about the sky-rocketing costs of tuition. It occurred to me that maybe there needs to be tuition reduction for science/math majors as a way of encouraging more people to go into those fields. But then if your math problems are like this: Subtract the 4th Commandment from the 7th Commandment..., maybe we have a separate problem to deal with.
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Derrek



Joined: 15 Jan 2003

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bucheon,

If your life revolves around cell phones and internet, then the USA may seem like it's falling so far behind.

You have to remember that most people I know in the USA just don't get into the idea of sending photos to friends over handphones and texting all day. The kids would, but it's expensive, not allowed in most schools AT ALL, and many grow out of it anyway.

Americans are a more private people, and at least for now, don't have much interest in texting all of their friends multiple times in an hour. They are more practical, and just want a phone that looks nice and does what it should. They will like the mp3 features though, I'd imagine. And the US is a HUGE land area to be setting up antennas all over the place. That's why coverage isn't so hot outside of many larger population areas. Korea is teeny-tiny, and is easy to provide coverage for.

Americans can pay a little extra for high-speed internet if they want to, but many don't. They use it as a tool for some things, but not as many people use it for time-consuming things like Cyworld and Cartrider. If you sit on the internet all day at work, you will lose your job. Internet usage at work is often monitored. In Korea, many of my friends admit to playing on it all day... Cyworld, Gostop, etc.

How productive is it to have more internet, fancier ways to send text messages, and in general, more ways to distract you from working?

One might argue that so many educational opportunities are available to Koreans over the net. True, but in the USA, most people prefer to jump in their car, drive to the place in a short time, and attend a real class. Driving a car, fighting traffic, and finding a place to park is not fun in Korea. Even big ciites in the USA have many community colleges close to home where one can take courses too.

The internet is great, but it's also a pretty big waste of time for most people.


Last edited by Derrek on Tue May 24, 2005 5:52 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Ya-ta Boy



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: Established in 1994

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
We havew to rethink our immigration policies.


dubu my boy,

I've been saying that for about 20 years. When did you get on the bandwagon? It's plain common sense to control who and how many people enter a country. The difference between us (as far as I can tell with your ranting) is that I don't believe in swatting a mosquito with a sledge hammer. I don't want to ban all Moslems because some of them are blood-thirsty fanatics. I don't see the world as black and white, good vs evil. Life is a lot more complicated than that.
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Tiger Beer



Joined: 07 Feb 2003
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

New York City is an extremely dynamic city that isn't going to lose anything in the next 15-20 years. The government within Washington DC, and many of its supporters in the red states are quite a bit different than the people in New York City.

Wall Street is still extremely powerful.. plus the arts and culture of the city.. and most importantly its STILL a city of just an extremely massive amount of immigrants. The people that go there and attracted to there, are some of the most ambitious, go-getters in the world.

Sure, some young people in the US and other places study Mandarin with the hopes to making trade connections in Beijing or wherever else. But by and large, the mass majority of the ambitious people in the world, if they want to make it in the world, the place to make it still New York City and will continue to be that well past 10-15 years from now.

Also because of the business climate and the thinking of the American people/government, it will still reign #1 well above anywhere else for a long time. China does have a similar chance.. but what would really be essential for China if they really want to have a #1 city is to let in massive amounts of extremely intelligent people and change all the technological, biological, financial, etc. geniuses of the world to want to leave the US and move to China. I don't see that happening on any massive scale anytime soon.
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bucheon bum



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: DC area

PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derrek wrote:
Bucheon,

If your life revolves around cell phones and internet, then the USA may seem like it's falling so far behind.

You have to remember that most people I know in the USA just don't get into the idea of sending photos to friends over handphones and texting all day. The kids would, but it's expensive, not allowed in most schools AT ALL, and many grow out of it anyway.

Americans are a more private people, and at least for now, don't have much interest in texting all of their friends multiple times in an hour. They are more practical, and just want a phone that looks nice and does what it should. They will like the mp3 features though, I'd imagine. And the US is a HUGE land area to be setting up antennas all over the place. That's why coverage isn't so hot outside of many larger population areas. Korea is teeny-tiny, and is easy to provide coverage for.

Americans can pay a little extra for high-speed internet if they want to, but many don't. They use it as a tool for some things, but not as many people use it for time-consuming things like Cyworld and Cartrider. If you sit on the internet all day at work, you will lose your job. Internet usage at work is often monitored. In Korea, many of my friends admit to playing on it all day... Cyworld, Gostop, etc.

How productive is it to have more internet, fancier ways to send text messages, and in general, more ways to distract you from working?

One might argue that so many educational opportunities are available to Koreans over the net. True, but in the USA, most people prefer to jump in their car, drive to the place in a short time, and attend a real class. Driving a car, fighting traffic, and finding a place to park is not fun in Korea. Even big ciites in the USA have many community colleges close to home where one can take courses too.

The internet is great, but it's also a pretty big waste of time for most people.


Hey mr. small picture, I was giving an example.

Look at our test performances compared to the rest of the world. They're crap. Look at the standings in health care. They're crap. Look at the number of nobel prizes we're getting; fewer than before.

I'm not saying the sky is falling or the USA is going to fall big time; I'm just saying that we are too complacent. Our competitive fire has diminished in a number of areas, that is all. [/b]
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