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Stanford University’s voices on what’s at stake for China in the next decade

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business recently assembled a collection of views around its campus on the stakes China faces in the next decade as a new generation of leadership transitions into power.  Topics addressed were economic reform, press freedom, education, future world order, and business opportunities.  That collection is interesting because it sheds light on the general mindset at the university.  In some ways, it indicates how Stanford students are biased in their studies about China.  In short, some of the views are horribly wrong, and I want to explain why.

Nicholas C. Hope, Director of Stanford Center for International Development, recognized that China’s economic reform since the 1970’s have reduced poverty, and that her society is increasingly more complex to further the necessary reforms.  He said that a major challenge will be for China’s new leaders to make the government’s performance more directly accountable to the Chinese people.  No disagreement thus far.

He went on:

Unless people believe that their government’s decisions serve the interests of all Chinese there is a growing risk that the Party leaders increasingly are viewed as clinging to power in order to enrich themselves, their families and their associates. To ensure popular support for a reform process well begun but far from complete, the urgent need is to give people a voice in the key decisions that influence their lives and livelihoods.

Honestly, I agree with almost everything Hope said, except for what I high-lighted above.  From a U.S.-style electoral democracy perspective, Hope is essentially saying China needs to move towards one-man-one-vote.  Unless our memory is extremely short, we should remember not that long ago, there was the Occupy Wall Street movement within America itself.  Ordinary Americans are still upset that the richest are continuing to amass the lions share of wealth while the majority’s share shrunk in this past decade.  America has one-man-one-vote, but it is not clear whether the wealthy-becoming-wealthier trend is going to change.

This past summer, I vacationed in China.  While in Shanghai, I met my cousin, who now owns a factory with some of his friends making photo-voltaic cells.  While growing up, he and I literally played in the dirt!  When I think about having a voice in the key decisions that influenced my cousin’s live and livelihood, for going from dirt to factory ownership, China certainly has just about everything he needs!

Furthermore, I think about India.  If my cousin is in India today (remember, India is a democracy), I highly doubt he’d find the infrastructure, supply chain, capital, and expertise to get his factory off the ground.  Not to say India won’t get there some day.  The point is that one-man-one-vote can fall behind.

So, the mistake that Hope makes is really an ideological one.  The assumption he makes is that livelihoods flows automatically from ‘democracy.’  That is simply not true.

Livelihood flows from not being invaded or society turned upside-down.  Those things matter too.  China’s growth story in these last few decades is testament to that; ‘democracy’ is simply not something the Chinese obsess over.

Marc Andreesen recently told this to CNBC in reaction to President Obama winning over Governor Romney:

“A lot business people if you scratch below the surface, you’ll find that we’re basically antibipartisanship and pro-gridlock. And so I think if you’re going to have a Democratic president, having a Republican House is a pretty good counterbalance to that. It’s what we’ve been living with and I think we’ve been doing fine, and I think we’ll live with that for the next four years.”

The competition between various segments of society, especially between the wealthier Americans and the poorer ones, is intense!  In China, that competition exists as well.  The government’s job is to ensure a level-playing field and special interests not corrupt it.

Neither country’s political systems have good solutions to such problems.

In regards to press freedom, Melissa Chan, John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, wrote:

China’s new leadership will have to decide whether they’d like to create a more transparent society over the next ten years or continue on the country’s current path.  Global expectations that the 2008 Beijing Olympics would mark the start of a more liberal China have not panned out — the country has taken two steps back on press freedom for both domestic and foreign journalists (this past May, I became the first foreign reporter in more than a decade to be expelled from the country).

Chan is also a reporter for Al-Jazeera English, and in regards to her ‘expulsion,’ this is what a commentary on Global Times said:

China didn’t give a specific reason for expelling the reporter. This ambiguity cannot be criticized. According to foreign journalist sources here in Beijing, Melissa Chan holds an aggressive political stance. According to foreign reports, she has a tense relationship with the management authorities of foreign correspondents. She has produced some programs which are intolerable for China.

Interfering with foreign media’s reporting is a retrograde act, and it is simply impossible to do. However, foreign journalists in China must abide by journalistic ethics. They have their values and reporting angles, but the bottom line is that they should not turn facts upside down.

Looking at the number of foreign journalists stationed in China today compared to few decades ago, it is clear there is more access.  China also passed laws within these last few years requiring governments disclosures, honoring citizen’s right to know.  Those are steps forward, not backward.

While listening to Rob Schmitz on NPR exposing Mike Daisey’s lies this past year on Apple’s subcon, Foxconn, I was struck how freely he roamed throughout China.  In one day, we was visiting a factory worker’s home in some far-flung location.  In another, he was inside the factory looking at assembly lines and living quarters.  For the most part, journalists in China have tremendous access.

The type of “freedom” Chan talks about is obviously and narrowly those of political in nature.  In fact, criticisms against the Chinese government is rampant.  We only need to look at the weibo’s in China.

She continued:

YouTube, Twitter, Facebook — even the webpages of Bloomberg and the New York Times are now blocked.  Access to information is not simply a human rights issue.  When one-fifth of the world’s population lives in a parallel digital universe and is actively discouraged from connecting with global perspectives and to global social networks, it can lead to dangerous geopolitical misunderstandings.

While I personally believe it is too blunt to block services like YouTube in China, and I do agree that more contacts between peoples of the two countries will be helpful, Chan’s narrative here really shows how political her views are against the Chinese government.

First of all, the Chinese government encourages and supports many students studying abroad, including in America.  The Chinese government even pledged support to many American students who partake in Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative, by assisting them with living allowances in China!  What is rather embarrassing is that the 100,000 Strong Initiative is not fully funded by the American government.  This, despite American being a much richer society.

Secondly, I know of no American friends (minus those with Chinese heritage) ever searching in Baidu in Chinese.  Why is that?

When 16-year old Ye Shiwen was unfairly accused in the Western media of doping, the science journal, Nature, lost faculty, also piled on with flimsy homage to those accusations.  Chinese scientists were appalled. They protested.  Nature’s editors then issued a public apology.

What does that tell us?  Chinese are not in a parallel digital universe.  They are reading Nature on the Internet.  They are conducting searches on Google.com.  In fact, Google’s search revenue deriving from users from within China is still significant despite it having pulled out of the search market.

The OpenCourseWare Consortium in fact has a huge following in China. Chinese students are watching computer science courses taught at MIT over the Internet.  They are watching political science courses taught at other universities.

Are American students “actively connecting with global perspectives?”  Certainly not in Chinese; not nearly at the scale the Chinese are in English.

So, if we want to distill “access to information as a human rights issue,” is there any doubt China is ahead?  The question we must answer is: does YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook represent “global perspectives?” No, I don’t think so.

In terms of truly connecting with “global perspectives,” I think China is definitely on the right trajectory.  We should look at all the places Chinese students go to study.  We should look at the growing footprint of Chinese companies and investments around the world.  We should look at the increasing number of Chinese traveling abroad.

In terms of “dangerous geopolitical misunderstandings,” I think equally important is the idea that Americans should better understand perspectives around the world.

Lastly, she said:

More troubling may be the possibility that the next president, Xi Jinping, will not have the power to effect change even if he wishes it.  This year’s tumultuous political transition has revealed a divided oligarchy on tenterhooks.  They inch forward, avoiding disruptive change.  Journalists in China will continue to face the challenges of operating in what Reporters Without Borders says is one of the most difficult news environments in the world: China ranked 174th out of 179 countries in the organization’s Press Freedom Index, between Bahrain and Iran.

One thing that struck me with this collection of opinions from the Stanford University is what’s missing!  There are students from China studying political science, international relations, economics, journalism, and other subjects at the university.  Why wasn’t one of their opinions included?

Let’s be honest.  Reporter Without Borders is a propaganda organization, at least in the present day form.

I will illustrate with a modern example.  Now that Libya is under new rule, there is virtually no reporting of the plight of the Libyans under new leadership from the Western press.  Why?  Because the misery that exists in that coutry makes for pimping for new wars and regime change inconvenient isn’t it?

Until Reporter Without Borders reflect this sort of censorship in the Western press in the Press Freedom Index scorecard, the organization is purely a propaganda tool.

The next opinion came from Jennifer Haskell, a Stanford University 3rd year PhD candidate focusing on comparative politics. She cited the following statistics in pointing out inequality in education between China’s rural poor and the wealthier city-dwellers:

The biggest challenge that the Chinese leadership faces in the field of education is increasing inequality.  Research by Scott Rozelle and others at the Rural Education Action Project (REAP) at Stanford shows that 70% of students in cities attend four year colleges, compared to less than 5% of their peers in poor rural areas.

Raising high school attendance and graduation rates across the country would not only help address growing inequality but is also essential as China tries to transition its economy away from a focus on manufacturing and avoid the middle income trap.

I think there is something important to be said about China’s development.  China is in transition.  This is an important point.

Between 5% and 70% is an incredible gap.  China must address that.

Since the founding of modern China, literay has climbed to 94% in 2010 (UNESCO).  In contrast to India’s rate for women at 65%, China is already at 90%.

Another way to look at her situation is that China’s potential is yet to be unleashed.  When China was ravaged by foreigners, education was hardly provided for.  During the Cultural Revolution, education was non-existent.  That was China’s starting point.

In 2010, China’s postsecondary education enrolled 6.4 million students.  Back in 2000, it was only 2.2 million.  That’s nearly trippling within one decade!

China is in the midst of an industrial revolution right now.  Hundreds of millions of Chinese have moved into cities from rural areas and similar numbers will in the coming decades.  While in the midst of it, once a family moves out of subsistence, the student will not be pressured to till the land, and hence less obstacles to pursue higher education.

Haskell’s narrative of a “growing inequality in education” is actually not quite right.  Rather, the narrative should be that the Chinese population has finally been educated.  Inequality was at it’s height when no Chinese were educated, period!  So, inequality has been on the decline.

While millions of Chinese work in manufacturing, and given China’s over-all population size, even assuming each person working in a factory automatically means lost opportunity in higher education, would not come close to explaining the number of people between that 70% and 5%.

So, clearly, a huge swath of the population has yet to attain postsecondary and higher education, but will in lock-steps as China industrializes and creates more jobs for a more educated work force.

If all the Chinese at one point were educated in higher-education, and then a decline ensues which leads to a rural drop, her narrative would be correct.  Haskell’s narrative is wrong because the history is not correct.

In response to: Which industries will become increasingly significant for business opportunities in China?

A quote was pulled from a keynote speech by Jon Huntsman, former US ambassador to China, gave during a recent China conference at the school.  He said:

The focus will be on “industries and technologies that support [China’s] migration to a consumption-based economy,” as well as industries that will “build confidence in the population.”
Jon M. Huntsman Jr. predicts that personal services industries will be a major growth area in China, including travel tourism, financial services, retirement, and healthcare.

Indeed, China’s current 5-year plan calls for restructuring for more consumption.  The Chinese are not interested in being stuck earning $6 in asembling a product like the iPhone which sells for $500.  As the industries Huntsman listed indicate, China is developing her economy in a comprehensive way.

Aside from agreeing with Huntsman, I found Thomas Fingar, Oksenberg-Rohlen Distinguished Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, remarks were about right in responding to: If China had an opportunity to refashion the global order, what would it change and what would it seek to accomplish?

He wrote:

The question is certainly premature because it will be a long time, if ever, before China has an opportunity to replace or restructure the liberal world order that has been established and led by the United States during the decades since World War II. But many, inside and outside China, recognize that the current system is increasingly ill-suited for the challenges of today and tomorrow, and that China will have an important voice in deciding what to keep, what to replace, and what to reengineer.

The United States is the sole superpower and China is still far behind; militarily, politically, and economically.

China is benefiting from the existing world order.  She is vested in it.  China is adding funds into IMF and the WB, to be members rather than boycotters.  China continues to affirm support for the EU project.  The list goes on.

Chinese leaders often say they have tremendous challenges.  By lifting her own population out of poverty and addressing other ills her massive population faces, she is doing her part in moving humanity forward.

Corruption is rampant.  Pollution is getting out of control.  Food safety has plagued Chinese society.  Income inequality is growing.  The list is long.

Perhaps China’s system is “ill-suited” for those challenges, but to dogmatically accept “democracy” or “press freedom” as panacea is ridiculous.

In my opinion, the political climate in America is too full of it.  Ideology and dogma have gripped the nation.  American society has to learn to climb back down and deal with issues as they are.  I won’t be silly enough to evangelize the “Chinese model” as America’s solution.  America’s circumstances are unique and she must find her own path.

As for Stanford, I urge it to keep an open mind.

  1. no-name
    November 8th, 2012 at 21:08 | #1

    Americans have a very continuously warped and mis-rendered eye view on the rest of the world in particular China and even anything Chinese. ‘China’ is almost always written with such words like chaos, unrest, hole, volcano and crash strung together. Americans should read the article at http://www.scribd.com/doc/112633572 and take a mental look at the mirror. BTW, truth hurts and so my upload count has now been reduced to 0.

  2. N.M.Cheung
    November 9th, 2012 at 04:09 | #2

    One thing I want to debunk is the mythology of 1 man, 1 vote. Certainly on the superficial level in U.S. it’s not true; for example the electoral system makes a vote in Wyoming much more powerful than a vote in California, and senate is so much more regional than democratic. On a deeper level I can be called an elitist, for democracy can work only if the electorate is fully educated, versed in all the issues, in other words all have to satisfy Plato’s definition of a philosopher king. For even Athenians voted to hemlock Socrates,; Kansas voted against their interest; and if it come to a vote of U.S. as exceptional country ( maintaining the empire), most Americans would, but the rest of the worl do not have a vote. On the issue of global warming, do we depend on the vote of provincial self interest or the interest of the human race as a whole? When China promograted the one child policy, most informed people in China agree that it’s a necessity, yet West consider it a fragrant human right violation, and certainly it would not pass on a one man, one vote platform. Yet on a planet sustainability level it might be best.

  3. tc
    November 9th, 2012 at 05:51 | #3

    “…and if it come to a vote of U.S. as exceptional country ( maintaining the empire), most Americans would, but the rest of the world do not have a vote….” — Excellent. But, if the rest of the world do have a vote, how can it be called “empire”? We dictates everything. We decide who can do what….

  4. vspam
    November 9th, 2012 at 13:29 | #4

    I often wonder why the so-called “China expert” have such a warped worldviews of China. Everyday, I have less respect for the Western MSM, especially from the Anglosphere. One have to wonder why, there are noticeable pattern of how News article and media are disseminated in the West. Your example of Libya, also applies to Iraq. Any article which portray China in a bad light will have many more outlet covering it than regular relevant news. During the drum up to the Iraq war, we saw similar patter in news as those in Libya. After the war started, there is an almost absent of any human interest stories how the war affect the Iraqis.

    My only conclusion is that the media and the American public don’t want China or anyone else to prosper and that there are sense of self-righteousness and contentment from Americans when other countries are in disarray and turmoils.

  5. November 9th, 2012 at 22:56 | #5

    Britain’s foreign policy has always been to undermine whichever power is the strongest on the European mainland. The United States has that exact policy on the global stage today. So, yeah, Western media is aligned with that – especially now that China is seemingly the next strongest challenger.

    Obviously, this is not carried out to the extreme like during the Cold War where everything is much more zero-sum. Today, it’s much more moderate relative to the Cold War. Otherwise that would not explain the economic exchange between U.S. and China.

    From an PR perspective, that undermining manifest itself in the media: propaganda, defamation, and generally making everything China stands for stink. Even Chinese students are implicitly described as ‘cheats.’

    That self-righteousness is quite overbearing. The bizarre thing is how Westerners are so enamored and unable to be critical on what is fed them.

  6. November 10th, 2012 at 00:31 | #6

    From yinyang’s post:

    In 2010, China’s postsecondary education enrolled 6.4 million students. Back in 2000, it was only 2.2 million. That’s nearly trippling within one decade!

    China is in the midst of an industrial revolution right now. Hundreds of millions of Chinese have moved into cities from rural areas and similar numbers will in the coming decades. While in the midst of it, once a family moves out of subsistence, the student will not be pressured to till the land, and hence less obstacles to pursue higher education.

    Haskell’s narrative of a “growing inequality in education” is actually not quite right. Rather, the narrative should be that the Chinese population has finally been educated. Inequality was at it’s height when no Chinese were educated, period! So, inequality has been on the decline.

    While millions of Chinese work in manufacturing, and given China’s over-all population size, even assuming each person working in a factory automatically means lost opportunity in higher education, would not come close to explaining the number of people between that 70% and 5%.

    So, clearly, a huge swath of the population has yet to attain postsecondary and higher education, but will in lock-steps as China industrializes and creates more jobs for a more educated work force.

    If all the Chinese at one point were educated in higher-education, and then a decline ensues which leads to a rural drop, her narrative would be correct. Haskell’s narrative is wrong because the history is not correct.

    I want to bring out a bigger point, by focusing first on the petty.

    I will give Haskell a little. She is technically right – inequality has been growing, if you define inequality as the difference between the haves and have nots. But as you correctly point out, to point out inequality as per se a social evil is to miss seeing the tree from the forest. When no one is educated, everyone is perfectly equal, I suppose. And when a few become educated, I suppose inequality just developed. But to then presume / assume / pontificate / lecture that this inequality is bad is to ignore the net gain to society when even a few is educated.

    In general, it is impossible to develop a region as large as China uniformly. If you accept that, then by definition, when China develops – whenever any perfectly egalitarian society develops – inequality will appear. Sure inequality is only bad if it is persistent, but as an intrinsic characteristic – it is only a cost of development – it must be weighed against the bigger picture of development. That weighing and a sense of the bigger picture is what’s missing in so many Western narratives / understanding of China.

  7. wwww1234
    November 10th, 2012 at 04:41 | #7

    Kuznets curve: Simon Kuznets argued that levels of economic inequality are in large part the result of stages of development. Kuznets saw a curve-like relationship between level of income and inequality, now known as Kuznets curve. According to Kuznets, countries with low levels of development have relatively equal distributions of wealth. As a country develops, it acquires more capital, which leads to the owners of this capital having more wealth and income and introducing inequality. Eventually, through various possible redistribution mechanisms such as social welfare programs, more developed countries move back to lower levels of inequality. Kuznets demonstrated this relationship using cross-sectional data. However, more recent testing of this theory with superior panel data has shown it to be very weak. Kuznets’ curve predicts that income inequality will eventually decrease given time. As an example, income inequality did fall in the United States during its High School Movement in the 1940s and after. However, recent data shows that the level of income inequality began to rise after the 1970s. This does not necessarily disprove Kuznets’ theory. It may be possible that another Kuznets’ cycle is occurring, specifically the move from the manufacturing sector to the service sector. This implies that it may be possible for multiple Kuznets’ cycles to be in effect at any given time.

  8. pug_ster
    November 10th, 2012 at 08:22 | #8


    The problem is that Westerners in general know little about anything outside of where they live. For example, I asked my co-worker the other day where Hong Kong is, and he believed that it is in Japan. Instead many Western Propagandists choose to mislead their people about China and themselves. With the advent of the internet people can read information that normally that they don’t have access to and they start to realize that these Western Propagandists are nothing but liars.

  9. perspectivehere
    November 10th, 2012 at 10:25 | #9

    Good post. I want to comment on Jennifer Haskell’s quote above. It is a sound-bite so it leaves out a lot of important detail. One thing it seems to ignore is the rapid increasing urbanization of China’s population, and how this process will change the significance of the 5% Rural/70% Urban disparity in 4-year college attendance.

    “According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, China had 622 million urban residents at the end of 2009 – a population well over twice the size of the entire U.S. but still just 47% of China’s total. China’s urbanization rate is still below the global average and much lower than what executives are accustomed to seeing in U.S. and European markets. China’s current plans to achieve a 67% rate by 2030 – shifting 280 million people to cities within two decades – is set to become a signature event in shaping the global economy this century.” (From a Deloitte May 2010 report on Urbanization in China)

    If China is successful in its plans to shift 280 million people (20% of its population) from rural to urban areas in the next 20 years, these formerly rural families’ children will be growing up in urban areas and able to access the greater educational opportunities and infrastructure that are available in urban areas.

    Delivering educational resources to remote and poor rural areas is an expensive proposition. This is a problem around the world – costs per student in small rural schools are far higher than in urban areas which benefit from economies of scale, critical mass and transportation efficiencies. Finding enough qualified teachers to teach in remote rural areas, getting school buildings and supplies to poor rural areas, transportation for students in places without good road infrastructure etc. – these are not easy problems to overcome). China’s solution to these problems appear to be focused less on devoting more education resources to rural areas, and more on migrating its rural population to the cities so that its people can more easily access urban education resources.

    China’s current urbanization level is still very low compared to developed countries. The United States rate of urbanization rose from 65% in 1950 to 82% in 2010. By comparison, China’s urbanization rate in 1950 was less than 12% but rose to 49.2% by 2010. It is predicted that China will reach 65% urbanization rate by 2025. This suggests that China in 2025 will be similar demographically to the US in 1950 – where 35% of its population live in rural areas and 65% live in urban areas. (See UN on-line population data on urban and rural populations)

    Think of the 1950’s-60’s TV sitcoms in America featuring rural-themes, like The Real McCoys, Andy Griffith show The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and Hee Haw. These were a big hit then, but by the 1970’s no longer attracted young urban audiences. This is not surprising, since the percentage of U.S. rural population fell from 35% to 26% from 1950 to 1980 . The movie Country (1984) starring Jessica Lange was a poignant portrayal of the loss of a family farm due to various economic trends and government policies. This corresponded to a further drop of rural population from 26% in 1980 to just under 18% in 2010.

    The Rural Education Action Project (REAP) at Stanford appears to be doing commendable work with poor rural Chinese, carrying out statistical surveys and various educational programs with poor rural students. See the “REAP at a glance” video.

    However, I wonder to what extent these small scale works, however helpful to the individuals they touch directly, can be scaled up to impact on hundreds of millions of rural Chinese in thousands of poor communities all over China, each with their own unique problems. It seems like the Chinese policy of encouraging the migration of rural populations to urban centers (including building new cities from scratch) will have a far stronger and lasting impact.

    Also I’m a little disturbed by a quote from one of the research articles on the REAP website:

    “In short, such findings demonstrate the low level of college matriculation of the poor in China. To the extent that this demonstrates the inequality in China’s education system, it shows that China is following a path that was not taken in the past by other successful countries in the region that today are developed. For example, Vinod et. al. (2000) shows that the US has always had fairly equitable levels of education. Likewise, people in Japan and Korea have had relatively equal access to education in their nations. China, in being different in this dimension, may be facing challenges that these other countries were able to avoid.”

    I was interested by the sentence “the US has always had fairly equitable levels of education.” I tried to verify this assertion by looking up the Vinod article cited (Vinod Thomas, Yan Wang, and Xibo Fan, 2000. Measuring Education Inequality: Gini Coefficients of Education, World Bank.) but could not find any data that supported this assertion. The closest pieces of data are (a) Figure 7 show that the US had a high level of educational equality in 1990, and (b) Figure 9 showing a relatively high level of education equality in the US from 1960 to 1990, but this hardly supports the assertion that “the US has always had fairly equitable levels of education.” We would need to see data covering the education history of the US from 1780’s to 1960, or at least starting from post-industrial revolution, to support the above statement.

    This kind of sloppy research is quite disturbing and reads to me like propaganda (i.e., making US look better compared to China). If I have misread it, I’m open to be corrected.

  10. N.M.Cheung
    November 10th, 2012 at 12:45 | #10

    In today’s NY Times there is an article asking why the relative silence from Chinese intellectuals about the recent spade of self immolation in the Tibetan region, I would like to answer them here as Times didn’t have any letter section to reply to the question there, and I have my doubts whether they would even publish my response.
    My first reaction is why Times didn’t ask Dalai Lama why didn’t he try to stop the self immolations? If he just issue an edict against self immolation as it’s against Buddhist scripture for taking any live including self the issue would be moot. Obvious Dalai Lama want to put pressure on Chinese Government and putting politics ahead of human lives. Second, we consider Taliban suicide bombers as terrorists. They kill innocents but also sow terror and instability to the society. The motives maybe revenge, or maybe religious fanaticism or even brain washed naivete, but we do condemn them. Yet Western reports always put the blame on China without examing the issues.
    On the issues of motives I think we can examine what the article said and see if it’s valid. The question of the return of Dalai Lama, China always says that he’s welcome to return but only as a religious leader. Looking at the history of Dalai Lama; he’s the 14th, which only span around 400 years, various Dalai Lamas were assassinated due to politics by other factions in the hierarchy. Yet China has not bother to harm him in any way and respects the religion. Except during period of Cultural Revolution there were no danages to the monasteries and temples. Chinese government has subsidized and paid for the refurbishment of all the temples and Potala Palace. On the charge of cultural genocide it’s more complicated. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China immigration into Tibet was very strictly controlled, as a matter of fact one can’t freely move between provinces until opening to the outside and market forces came to play. With the contruction of the railroad and economic reform of the last 30 years, people are much more free to move within China, and more people move into Tibet for trade and other livelihood. Some clash of cultures are inevitable as modernity and equal status of women filter down. The use of Tibetan language was encoraged. Yet modern life, science and mathematics teaching cannot be easily translated into a language used mostly for medieval religionous dialogue, and Mandarin and yes English are taught. Tibetans are exempt from the one child policy, and all minority nationalities has their college entrance score adjusted by 20 points (mixed race 10 points) higher as an affirmative action. Each Tibetan family has additional payments for subsidy. As for the exile’s hope for an independent Tibet, no Chinese be one regular people or intellectual will tolerate. Just as blue states in U.S. subsidize the red states, other provinces in China subsidize Tibet and help build up the infrastructures. When I visited Tibet earlier this year, the scenary was spectacular and people friendly. China consider Tibet as inseparatable part not just for the resources like water but history.

  11. November 10th, 2012 at 16:36 | #11


    I was interested by the sentence “the US has always had fairly equitable levels of education.” I tried to verify this assertion by looking up the Vinod article cited (Vinod Thomas, Yan Wang, and Xibo Fan, 2000. Measuring Education Inequality: Gini Coefficients of Education, World Bank.) but could not find any data that supported this assertion. …

    This kind of sloppy research is quite disturbing and reads to me like propaganda (i.e., making US look better compared to China). If I have misread it, I’m open to be corrected.

    If we go back in history, let’s not forget to take into account inequalities between property owners and workers, men and women, whites and immigrants, citizens and native Americans, and whites and slaves. It’s easy to talk about “equality” among well-endowed white property owners … but if you expand the scope … you might see things differently.

    One might say: don’t judge the past with today’s standards. Fair enough. But the point is that even if you the people in the past had today’s values, they could not have done much better. The country was built on the backs of slaves, immigrants, and the stolen resources of the Native Americans. You can’t get around that fact no matter how you spin things. That inequality is the essence of American history – the fundamental building block of American “propsperity.”

  12. November 11th, 2012 at 05:36 | #12

    Excellent analysis. Another rare treat of rationality and thoughtfulness in cyberspace.

    Melissa Chan is hardly worth the energy to debunk. People like her belong to a different medium, where logic and facts are of secondary importance, even irrelevant. Don’t knock it. As a 3rd rate journalist, she is now known. Not a bad career move.

    “YouTube, Twitter, Facebook represent global perspective?” Perhaps that’s the imminent danger if not already a sad fact. But perhaps that is exactly where the global community should be more vigilant, and try to avoid, minimise, or contain, if it could, for the sake of human (not just US) civilisation. There are after all plenty of real issues out there that takes nominal intelligence to handle. Is that hyperbole on my part? I just finished Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”. I nearly physically applauded his prophesy made in 1985 when I put it down.

    The delusional culture foresaw by Postman is largely complete in America by now. The rest of the world is busy catching up. Someone is photographing a bunch of fries on his restaurant plate right now in Hong Kong with an i Phone, uploading it to Facebook. Within five minutes, he’d get a dozen “likes”. He and his fry-liking friends don’t have time for critical thinking. Maybe this would partly solve yinyang’s puzzle? “That self-righteousness is quite overbearing. The bizarre thing is how Westerners are so enamored and unable to be critical on what is fed them.” In the amusing world, where entertainment and politics (and everything else) have become inseparable and indistinguishable, where sound-bites taken out of context have wiped out boring analysis, where the human attention span has “evolved” to less than 45 seconds, this is to be expected.

  13. perspectivehere
    November 14th, 2012 at 10:53 | #13

    This blog post by Stanford Professor of Asian Languages and Comparative Literature Ban Wang is quite interesting. The post is not dated (as far as I can tell) but I think it is sometime in late 2008 or 2009.

    The blog post mentions 2 books that are worth reading, and presents what is unique about Confucianism as a social and moral theory of governance.

    Security, the China Threat, and Confucianism

    In the United States the security question is primarily a matter of national security. Area studies has been traditionally embedded in the US national security establishment. During the Cold War there was a high level of collaboration between universities, foundations, and the intelligence arms of the U.S. state. Prior to World War II, the number of area studies programs could be counted on both hands. By 1968, however, there were 191 centers of Asian studies, most of them staffed and directed by graduates of the Office of Strategic Services.

    During the Cold War, Chinese studies was in large part sponsored by the State Department and the National Security Council. It was part of America’s project to keep East Asia secure for capital markets against the destabilizing factors of rising communist China and Southeast Asia. The military industrial complex had an academic service branch, called the military-academic complex.

    A forthcoming book, Confucianism, Colonialism, and the Cold War, by Grace Chou of Chinese University of Hong Kong, illustrates the way security driven agendas were aligned with Asian scholarship. The New Asia College in Hong Kong, set up after World War II, was sponsored by the British colonial administration and US nongovernmental organizations. The idea was to spread democracy against communism. Mainland Chinese scholars alienated from communism and exiled in Hong Kong directed this college. Chou’s study tells a story of cooperation and struggle between the three parties, revealing the triumphs and the limits of New Asia College’s cultural education in its interaction with the Hong Kong environment, Maoist China, British imperial ambitions, post-war global dynamics of modernization, migration, and the Cold War.

    In recent decades, there has been a constant drumbeat regarding the China threat, recalling the myth of Yellow Peril of the past. The disruption of the relay of the Olympic torch, the use of Tibet against an oppressive monolith of the Chinese regime, and the charge against China’s expansionist ambition have been some of the more prominent cases. Military strategists in the US and the mass media have tended to play up China’s military buildup and its growing alliance and influence with South-East Asian and Latin American countries. Some fear that the rise of China would parallel the rise of Germany in the 19th century. The new dragon will throw its weight around the world as a new capitalist (did someone say “communist”?), imperialist hegemon, edging out the US in Asia and probably in the world. China’s soft power, its language, and its campaign to establish Confucian institutes in the US and around the world are causing anxiety.

    I presented Daniel Bell’s book China’s New Confucianism at the security and humanities workshop on Wednesday July 9th, 2008. As a Canadian, Daniel Bell has taught in universities in Singapore and China for more than a decade. While teaching the Western tradition of political philosophy and turning the lens of liberal democracy on China’s political reform, he has become an enthusiastic student of China’s millennial resources of political culture. He has learned to read the ancient classics in the original and delved deeply into the conceptual intricacies and history of those texts. China’s political culture entails a form of politics that combines moral pedagogy, exemplary leadership, and benevolent care for ordinary people as the foundation for good order. In light of our workshop concerns, Chinese political culture emerges as a different approach to security questions. It treats security issues not as something at the level of power, police, law-enforcement, and war-making, but as moral, interpersonal, familial and social issues. In his search for an alternative to liberal democracy, Bell finds Confucian political notions and the resurgence of interest in Confucianism in contemporary China deeply engaging. Indeed, he has become an articulate and educated voice from the West on the forum of China’s political reform. Deeply involved in the intellectual circles in Beijing and other big cities he is able to actively engage the media and press. By looking at cultural alternatives, Bell finds the forgotten resources and limitations of Western liberal democracy. This self-reflection allows him to sympathize and resonate with the democratic alternatives that have been unearthed from a re-reading of Confucianism and its socio-political potentials. The intelligibility of Chinese culture and Confucianism seems to be based very much on a genuine democratic, republican conceptual discourse and language. This is why Bell’s reading of Confucianism offers a happy translatability between Confucianism and liberal language. His book China’s New Confucianism comes as an interesting response to the West’s security concerns about China.

    Bell deals with security from the perspective of a social and political theorist. He examines the motivations and rationales for a whole series of political reforms underway or yet to be taken. These reforms, if traced to the “benevolent” aspects of Confucianism, will affect Chinese people domestically and will shape China’s international profile and policy. In his book Bell gives empathetic accounts of current political discussions and open-endedness that permeate rituals and everyday life in China. By rendering Confucianism relevant to our understanding of a changing China, Bell acknowledges the problems that beset China, its range of opportunities and dangers, and describes moral resources of different systems of thought, institutions, and governance. Cutting back and forth between Chinese and Western traditions, he inquires into resources that may be helpful for constructing new normative frameworks for securing stability, sociality and harmonious international relations. These resources are community-centered, less based on the political and civil rights than on substantive economic and social rights, less on contractual relations than on affective solidarity in associational life of ordinary people.

    I think Grace Chou’s book will offer some interesting insights into the influence of British colonialism on higher education in Hong Kong and particularly Chinese Studies, which is quite topical given the recent controversy over National Education.

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