China purports to be monolithic and the center of the world; in reality, China is polycentric and, while a country of rising wealth and power, not the center of the world, despite its ability to menace its neighbors at will. The Quing Dynasty was one its feeble ast legs, in the late s and was powerless to resist foreign infiltration. China was unstable as warlords fought the Qings and each other for influence and dominance.
Neither Sun, nor his less-than-able general, Chiang Kai Shek, were able to untie the country and establish true democratic rule. The disunited warlords were no match for the Japanese. Mao then mismanaged China for decades.
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Under his ruthless, chaotic, and murderous leadership, millions died, and tens of millions more suffered abject poverty and unspeakable torture and repression. In , most Chinese were poor and living in rural areas. Visiting China was like going back in time. There was no middle class. There were serfs, a modest class of skilled workers, and a small cadre of elite in the Communist Party, the government and the military, who ran the country and controlled what little wealth it had.
Once China embraced a form of capitalism, much of which is highly destructive crony capitalism and embraced globalization by joining the World Trade Organization, and promptly massively cheating on its rules, China transformed itself into an economic juggernaut. In doing so, it lifted close to one billion people out of poverty, while flooding the world, principally the Unired States with mostly well-made, inexpensive goods, which increased the standard of living for everyone here as well.
China experienced double-digit growth for many years and its stated single-digit growth achieved between 6 to 6. However, this nevertheless impressive growth rate has materially slowed each year now since at least China has failed since to achieve its stated annual targeted growth rate. The effect of which has been a global slowdown in the undeveloped world that had previously grown by selling necessary raw materials to China.
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In future columns we will examine the internal and external consequences of this long —term downward trend. This very brief history helps understand why China is the way it is today and what China wants. Internally, China wants order and continued growth. Externally, China wants respect and raw materials to support its growth.
Most Chinese have shown a willingness to accept lack of freedoms and many human rights, censorship, repression, and the loss of substantially all privacy in exchange for order and prosperity. Order is primarily tied to prosperity. Where there is not prosperity in China, there is unrest, sometimes great unrest. City dwellers who lose there jobs and do not soon find new employment risk being sent to the countryside where there are no jobs. Those in rural areas today can see even through the filter of state television that they have been largely left behind relative to urban dwellers with apartments and better jobs.
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Some repressed minorities and ethnic groups have taken to the streets in protest, risking retaliation. Some have fought with stones and knives and farm implements, since gun control is strict in China. And now, once again, all eyes are on tiny Hong Kong, as pro-democracy citizens seeking to preserve the promised fifty years of one country-two systems, risk everything by taking to the streets where they can be arrested by the police or beaten by gang members being deployed by the Communist Party to intimidate and change the narrative shown to the mainland Chinese from one of peaceful protests to anarchic hooliganism.
The potential threat to peace and world order is palpable, but until the last couple of years, China has been cautious and judicious in expressing and exercising its power. This appears to be changing, not for the better, which we will examine in greater detail in a future column. This advertisement will close in seconds Or click here to close it. Sign in.
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