In a virtual conversation with several others at Understanding China, One Blog at a Time, hosted by an anonymous American working (or once worked) in China, an incident at a McDonalds in China of a baby defecating in a washbasin is mentioned.
This led to a series of comments where Ontario Mike says he is “sick of hearing of China…” or Omar Tabee who said, “China has one of the most barbaric and backwards histories mankind has known.”
Tabee’s statement was one of the most ignorant I’ve read since writing this Blog. Historical facts say otherwise. For more than two thousand years until the 19th century, China was the most powerful, wealthiest and most technologically advanced nation on the earth. Then in about a century, the West shot ahead of China during the industrial revolution.
My comments, which Ontario Mike called “long winded”, were an attempt to explain why China is the way it is and some of its history. Without knowing a country’s history, you cannot fairly judge that country, its government or its people.
In May 2010, I wrote a series of five posts about the importance of electricity bringing China into the modern world.
In fact, in 1952, China’s electrical generating capacity was almost nonexistent and most of the people in China lived as they have for millennia—some still do.
In China’s Electric Challenge, I wrote about what it would take to bring electricity to China’s 1.3 billion people and how difficult that task was going to be. It wasn’t until after Mao’s death in 1976 that China seriously started building electrical power plants and extending the grid. The first step was to provide electricity to urban China, which had a population larger than the United States and China did it faster than the US did a century earlier.
Then in Electricity is the Key, I posted a chart showing the electrical generation projections for China from 2010 to 2030 and mentioned the gap in living standards between rural and urban China was due to the lack of electricity and paved roads in remote areas far from urban centers.
In VOLTING all of China into the 21st Century, I compared China to the United States. I also wrote of China’s plans to extend the grid to rural China until China’s night sky looked like America at night, and I included photos so readers could see the difference between the US and China.
As a further comparison, I wrote America Electrified (a two part series) that covers the time and effort it took to build America’s electrical power grid.
Thomas Edison built the first power plant in 1882. Forty-five years later, the first power grid was established in one state, Pennsylvania, and it wouldn’t be until after World War II and the 1950s that America would extend the electric grid to most of the country.
It took America almost seventy years to build a power grid and China didn’t start building one until the 1980s with about five times the people to hook up. As can be seen from America’s history, modernization takes time.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.
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