Fourth Question [Parfitt]:
Apart from business and trade, what does China have to offer the world?
The PRC was the first Chinese government to attempt systematically to reduce both inequality and poverty offering the world a lesson on how to reduce poverty and illiteracy on a scale unmatched in global history.
In addition, the respect accorded to teachers and the merit-based educational system offered to the world a lesson when 15-year-old Shanghai students placed first in every category in the 2009 International PISA test. The only Western nation that came close was tiny Finland.
These achievements may be attributed to Confucius’s teachings.
Henry Kissinger says it best, and I agree. “China’s exceptionalism is cultural. China does not proselytize; it does not claim that its contemporary institutions are relevant outside China.”
However, China’s accomplishments to improve the quality of life since 1982 offer many lessons to learn from.
Chinese culture is mostly about the collective mindset of the family. Western culture focuses on the self-esteem and happiness of the individual to the exclusion of long-term cultural survival as Niall Ferguson points out in Civilization: The West and the Rest.
Ferguson says, “The West’s reign is coming to an end as it loses faith in itself.”
A better explanation may be found from a Gallup study by Richard Burkholder and Raksha Arora that concluded, “With greater levels of affluence, the importance of the capitalist work ethic begins to erode, and the end becomes self-expression…”
For these reasons, many in China want nothing to do with the evolution of the West’s political and cultural institutions.
Emperor Qianlong’s 1793 letter to King George III demonstrates what most Chinese believe. “As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious.”
In this letter, Emperor Qianlong points out the differences between the West and China and that the West has nothing to offer China.
That changed after the Opium Wars in the 19th century due to the West gaining a slight technological advantage in weaponry.
Today, we see China catching up and when it does, will it say that the West has nothing to offer China beyond technology already gained?
The PRC reduced inequality (A) and poverty (B), offering the world an unparalleled lesson on how to reduce poverty (B) and illiteracy (C)?
In terms of GDP per capita, the IMF lists China in 94th spot, with $7,519. What, then, does China have to teach the 93 countries above it about poverty reduction? Ditto that question for literacy, where the UN lists China in 68th spot.
The CCP has made great strides toward improving the lot of its citizenry, and may have something to teach the developing world – but not the developed one. China is not a developed nation. It’s listed on the UN’s Human Development Index (a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and living standards) in 101st spot.
Moreover, though the CCP has worked to reduce poverty and inequality, it has adopted an economic model that, by its own admission, has created the world’s sharpest rich-poor divide.
Final Word [Lofthouse]:
The answer for “C” should be “ALL OF THE ABOVE”, which is correct.
I find the rankings you list interesting but meaningless.
In fact, a better measurement compares China’s poverty reduction with India, the world’s largest democracy. For example, the CIA Factbook says “absolute poverty” in China is 2.8%, while India is listed at 25%.
In addition, the CIA says China’s public debt is 17.3% of GDP while India’s is 50.6%.
Even more shocking, the CIA reports 15.1% of the US population lives in poverty while the US public debt is 61.9% of GDP.
Another example would be to discover what life was like in China before the CCP became the only government in China’s history to set goals that have reduced both inequality and poverty dramatically. To learn more, read a poverty study of China written by David C. Schak, an Associate Professor at Griffith University in Australia.
Continued on December 2, 2011 in Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas” – Part 6 or return to Part 4.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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