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In reverse order, obstacles first: There's not much debate about the scale or impressiveness of what China has achieved in the past 30+ years. Through that time its economy was (largely) opened, and its political controls were (selectively) removed. As a result hundreds of millions of people moved from rural poverty to the middle class and beyond; the country regained its pride; the landscape was covered with factories and skyscrapers and shopping malls and high speed trains; and a thousand other aspects of life were changed. This really has happened, and the achievement commands respect.
The interesting question is what comes next. The two main, opposing points of view boil down to "they're still gaining momentum" versus "now the hard part begins." The first camp leads to graphs like the one below, typical of the "New Chinese Century" / "Bow down to your Chinese overlords" books and articles that periodically appear. (The graph was taken from a particularly credulous version). Essentially this view assumes a straight-ahead, compound-interest, years-into-the-future extrapolation of China's recent growth trends.
The contrary perspective holds that things are about to become harder for China -- in economic, social, and political dimensions all at once. The main reason for the increased friction is that the very traits that have sped China's development over the past 30+ years may impede the next phase of growth. For instance: to-hell-with-the-environment development policies made China the world's factory; but now they have to be reversed -- even while the country is still, on average, quite poor -- lest it become the world's cancer ward and birth-defects center. The kind of intellectual-property laws that make it easy to buy pirated movies, music, or software on any Chinese streetcorner were a catch-up advantage. Now they're a handicap to ambitious, high-value Chinese firms. Control of the Internet, media, and political discussion has been convenient for the leadership. But those same controls make it harder for China to develop "real" universities, retain first-rate researchers, and bring the best out from its own most talented people. (See Matt Schiavenza's new item on this point.) And on down the list.
Not to be coy about it: almost everyone I'm aware of in the first, China-uber-alles camp knows China mainly via charts, and at a distance. Most people I know on-scene are instead in the "anything is possible, but it's going to be a lot tougher" category. And that is the case I argue at length in China Airborne, where I look at the country's ambitions in highest-tech and -value industries as proxies for its potential.
To wrap this up, there's is a good three-part presentation statement of the "getting tougher" case by George Magnus, in The Globalist. Part One is called China and the End of Extrapolation, and you can follow links to the next two. Judge for yourself, but I think he presents the "tougher" case very well. And if you'd like the most amusing presentation of the "holy moley, they're going to take over everything" original view, I refer you to the immortal "Chinese Professor" TV ad.
Now, dreams. The Atlantic Wire has an item today saying that frequent references to "the Chinese Dream" by Xi Jinping, the new Chinese president, may reflect the global influence of the NYT's Thomas Friedman, who wrote a column back in December to the same effect.
I can't prove that this correlation is wrong, but (no offense to Friedman) I'd bet any amount of money that it is. As several commenters, including me, have noted on the Wire item. It certainly is true that Xi Jinping has been talking about the "Chinese Dream," and it's true as well that Friedman wrote a column about it a few months ago. But the "Dream" formulation has been a familiar one in China for years, including explicitly in Xi's own speeches for more than a year. Back in 2008 the motto for the Beijing Olympics was "One World, One Dream" (一个世界同一个梦想), and for a few years before and after the Games there was a lot of chatter in China about the meaning of its dream.
The title of my wife's book Dreaming in Chinese (above), which came out two years ago, was based in part on the importance of this theme; a recent book by Gerald Lemos was called The End of the Chinese Dream (right). I had a long essay on this site a year ago with the title "What Is the Chinese Dream?", and most people who have written about China have similar items in their inventory. There's no reason the Wire writer would be aware of this background; I mention it because it's worth underscoring the fact that a national dream is not a unique American concept.
Update: Whoa! I see via Isaac Stone Fish at Foreign Policy that Thomas Friedman is saying he deserves "only part credit" for the use of the term by Xi Jinping, saying that the rest belongs to (a friend of both Friedman's and mine) Peggy Liu. I'll leave it at that, and with the note that maybe Xi is catching up with the many other people in China whom I have heard talking about this concept for years and years.
And I just remembered that I'm actually headed back to Beijing tomorrow for a short trip, so this will be one more thing to ask when I arrive.
Update-update: And via Jeremy Goldkorn and Danwei, here's a similar speech from back in 2009.
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne.
When I woke up this morning, I had one goal: Finish this article by 11 a.m.
So, predictably, by the time it was 10 a.m., I had made and consumed two cups of coffee, taken out the trash, cleaned my room while taking a deliberately slow approach to folding my shirts, gone on a walk outside to clear my head, had a thing of yogurt and fruit to reward the physical exertion, sent an email to my aunt and sister, read about 100 Tweets (favorited three; written and deleted one), despaired at my lack of progress, comforted myself by eating a second breakfast, opened several tabs from ESPN.com on my browser ... and written absolutely nothing.
What's the matter with me?* Nothing, according to research that conveniently justifies this sort of behavior to my editors. Or, at least, nothing out of the ordinary for writers, as Megan McArdle has explained on this site. I'm just a terrible procrastinator.
What's the healthiest way to keep everyone caffeinated?
“I don't have one. They're kind of expensive to use,” John Sylvan told me frankly, of Keurig K-Cups, the single-serve brewing pods that have fundamentally changed the coffee experience in recent years. “Plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.” Which would seem like a pretty banal sentiment, were Sylvan not the inventor of the K-Cup.
Almost one in three American homes now has a pod-based coffee machine, even though Sylvan never imagined they would be used outside of offices. Last year K-Cups accounted for most of Keurig Green Mountain’s $4.7 billion in revenue—more than five times what the company made five years prior. So even though he gets treated like a minor celebrity when he tells people he founded Keurig, Sylvan has some regrets about selling his share of the company in 1997 for $50,000. But that’s not what really upsets him.
The cause of hangovers isn't what you think—and other insights from a new group that researches a very old problem.
If you have one too many tonight, among the things you might be wondering tomorrow morning–along with “Where is the Advil?” and “Can everyone please just shhh?”—are a number of existential queries that hangovers, in all their guilt-inducing agony, tend to stir. Like, “Is that ‘hair of the dog’ thing true?” or “Why is it that hangovers always make me swear off drinking forever, yet I don’t?”
This weekend in Seattle, an unusual group of scientists will gather to mull these and other questions at the meeting of the Alcohol Hangover Research Group. Their logo, fittingly, is a pint of beer next to a spilled glass of red wine.
Hangover research is a bit of a neglected field, not the highest priority in terms of health-research funding. But there’s a lot hangovers can tell us about our brains, our guts, and the epidemiology of alcoholism. In other words, tell me how you feel the morning after getting blitzed, and I’ll tell you what you are.
In America, saying thank you is routine. In India, it can be insulting.
I have been living in the United States for more than a decade, and I now say thank you about 50 times a day. Most of the time, I do it without thinking. I say thank you to the bus driver who takes me from point A to point B along with 20 other people. He usually can’t even hear me. I say thank you to the cashier at the coffee shop. I say thank you to the stranger who holds the door open for me at a restaurant. I say thank you to my wife and my 5-year-old daughter several times a day for various things: turning the volume of the television down or up, flicking the light switch on or off, asking me if I want to eat something or do something with them.
When I first moved to the United States, all this took some getting used to. I didn’t know I was supposed to thank someone who took my money for something I bought at a store. I didn’t know I was supposed to thank people when they asked how I was doing (and almost everyone who walks by me says “Hyadoin” to me). I had no idea how I was supposed to respond to the police officer who gave me a speeding ticket and then said, “Thanks, and have a good day.”
At Cook County, where a third of those incarcerated suffer from psychological disorders, officials are looking for ways to treat inmates less like prisoners and more like patients.
It was 9 o’clock in the morning at Cook County Jail, but in the subterranean holding cells where dozens await their turn before a judge, you wouldn't be able to tell. Pre-bail processing here takes place entirely underground. A labyrinth of tunnels connects the jail’s buildings to one another and to the Cook County Criminal Court. Signs and directions are intentionally left off the smooth concrete corridors to hinder escape attempts. Even those who run the jail get lost down here from time to time, they told me.
No natural light reaches the tunnels. Human voices echoed off the featureless walls, creating an omnipresent din. On this Monday, when those arrested over the weekend in Chicago and its suburbs filled the fenced cages, that din became a roar. Many inmates were standing, sitting, or milling around. But some—perhaps two or three per holding pen—were lying on the floor, asleep.
More than 30 percent of us say "meme" as "me-me" ... and other findings from a new survey
Okay, once and for all: Is it "gif" or "jif"?
EBay Deals, which runs a blog, decided to find out. Its team surveyed 1,100 people—U.S. residents, ranging in age from 18 to 45—asking them about the terms they use to describe some of the most common objects and actions of digital life. And about the way they pronounce those terms when they're discussing them IRL, which is pronounced I-R-L. The team, a representative told me, started by issuing a round of questions to 200 people, asking for open-ended answers; once they got a selection of three or four common terms—"remote," for example, as well as "remote control," "clicker," and "controller"—they polled the entire group to get a sense of the popularity of each term.
The 13 best-paid non-executive jobs in America have one thing in common: They're all in health care. Anesthesiologists nip surgeons to grab the top spot.
That's the top takeaway from this fun and long—like, reallylong—graph of the average wage of 820 occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics by Reddit user Dan Lin (via Vox). If you're worried about being underpaid and would like official data to make your case on Monday, go search mean-wage tables at the BLS site here.
Although the richest occupations tracked by the Bureau are basically all doctors, the landscape of wealth changes when you zoom in on the richest 0.1 percent of the country, which is heavy with chief executives and financiers. Click the pic to enlarge.
The McKinney I grew up in was a conservative southern town. After this weekend’s events, I wonder, can its culture keep up with its growth?
When I was in high school in McKinney, Texas, I won a “student of the month” award along with several other students. I went to a public high school, but the award was overseen by the local Rotary Club. The award ceremony was a typical luncheon: baked chicken, big round tables with the boys and girls of the month fidgeting and hoping their parents wouldn't say anything embarrassing.
The only unusual thing about it was that, although no one had stated their religious affiliation, the ceremony opened with a Christian prayer. Better yet, the aim of the prayer was for God to grant George W. Bush a second term of his presidency.
At the time, this was not that surprising. McKinney was, and in some ways still is, a small, conservative southern town—the kind of place where people don't always stop to consider whether everyone else in the room agrees with them.
Orr: Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
George R. R. Martin has said that Robert Frost’s brief, Dante-inspired poem in turn provided inspiration for A Song of Ice and Fire, and never has this lineage been half as evident as over the past two episodes of this season. Last week at Hardhome, we saw the chilling, remorseless hate of the Night’s King; this week, we watched the burning desire of Stannis (resulting in arguably the most disturbing scene of the show to date) and, in a less awful fashion, that of Daenerys. A few scattered thoughts on other events in the episode before I come back to these two huge developments.
Images of where people live—from cave dwellings and tree houses to soccer-ball-shaped shelters, toilet-shaped homes, and portable domiciles.
Today we have a collection of images of interesting and unique houses from around the world, from cave dwellings and tree houses to soccer-ball-shaped shelters, toilet-shaped homes, and portable domiciles.