What’s Wrong with China?

Every time I travel, I keep talking with a lot of people in the States to find out an answer of a simple question: What is the future of China? And that leads to another question, which is “what is wrong with current China?”.

I am reading the book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The angle from environment and population, education, etc does not answer the question. Why there is so bad environment problem? The book China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power‘s point of view about power, about society partly answers the question, but there is still a lot of puzzles for me.

What’s wrong with current China or China in the last 300 years that turned the once-most powerful country in the world with 40% of world production into a country with 1.6 billion people but only less than 4% of world wealth?

I have some answers, but not so sure, and I am keeping seeking for more and think more about it.

45 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with China?

  1. Here’s my 2 cents:

    It’s true that for last 300 years China has been reeling until 30 years ago. But it’s not like the people in China get worse or the army get worse. It’s because nations in the west developed so fast and people in China didn’t know what happened outside of its land to keep up with the pace.

    I blame it to the government of Ming and Qing Dynasty especially Qing of being too self concentrate and refusing to communicate with the western world. Remember In Tang Dynasty, China communicated with the world really well.

  2. China has bn around for almost 5000 years and still play catching up with the developed countries in the world.

    Really a waste with such a long history. Look at some small countries for example Singapore. A small island with mostly immigrant from China able to develop from 3rd World to 1st World within a short span of less than 40 years.

    A country can flourish only with good Government – who is hungry for success for the country and have passion to develop the country. Only with good Government can a country delevope faster and close the gap with the 1st World.

    My 2 cents worth !


  3. Because Chinese philosophy doesn’t have the theme of seeking the truth; Trying to understand the eternal problem…about the meaning of life and death of human being.

    Confucius said, “We don’t know yet about life, how can we know about death?”

    and Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

    For Chinese, we just care about how to manage relationship with others, but not seeking the truth. The truth that can transcend death.

    Chinese do not think much about death, they just care how to live. The western world, on the other hand, tries to seek the universal truth, tries to find meaning of life, and the pursuit of such truth exists in all different forms, be it physics, mathematics, music, arts…that’s why we have Galileo Galilei, that’s why we have Abraham Lincoln, that’s why we have Albert Einstein.

    If you can read Chinese, maybe you can check this out too. I agree with what he said:



    The difference is clear. That’s why the western world can improve significantly after the “enlightenment”, while China still don’t have any great poet/scientist who can transform the world…

  4. Hi Michael, I’m think you are wrong about China wasting with such a long history. It’s not like China always played catching up through out the history. Like Egypt and India, China has its great dominating years. 1000 years ago, China is the dominating force in the world.

    But history will not bring you eternal success. It’s true that for the last 300 years, China has been struggling. It’s mainly because the western world developed so fast that China couldn’t keep up with.

    You are somewhat right on the idea of the government is the main problem blocking the progress of China. But this is a far more complicated problem than just blame it to the Government. I think although there are so many issues China’s facing right now. But the past 30 years, China is the fastest growing country in the world.

  5. I don’t like blaming it to the old Chinese cultural defect or Confucius. I feel like if that’s the problem, How did countries like Japan and Korean being developed countries. How did China in earlier years being so dominate?

  6. Hi Yanging,

    A country is as good as what the Government is. China will be diff today if you hv a strong Government throughout the years. China is the fastest growing country in the world today, for this I am happy and hope China keep improving and developing to the 1st World.

    My 2 cents worth.


  7. What is the future of China and-or What is currently wrong with China. Good questions.

    A couple simplistic observations for a couple very complex questions.

    China’s future is linked to the future of world for good or ill. The future for all of us on this planet will look very different from the past. With technology that is manipulating the fundamental building blocks of life, with an intricate lightspeed electronic web connecting every country in the world and significant percentage the people, with 3/4 of scientists who have ever lived alive today, and with change and novelty accelerating exponentially so that the last 20 years of “progress” will take in just the next 5 years…Whatever it looks like.. it will look very different from where we have come from.. hopefully we can develop the understanding and ethics to handle it.

    The current what’s wrong in china.. of course there are all problems you can read about.. the poverty in the west, the lack of ethics resulting in producing products that harm people, the pollution of air and water, the population issue.. But it boils down to having a significant enough number of people here care about China in a tangible way. Care so that people dont drop trash on the street. Care so that companies don’t drop their industrial chemicals in the rivers. The tangible list goes on and on. Historically it may have something to do with fact the the current older generation when through tremendous cultural trauma a few decades ago.. that resulted a good part of the intelligence being suppressed. I think this trauma now shows up in different ways in the way people care about this country and their neighbors.

    Just a couple thoughts.

  8. Always strive for improvement and how to make things better. Henry Ford once said “Don’t find a fault but find a remedy.” The Chinese would do well to follow this advice.

  9. @Michael (the 1st one), i don’t think it’s fair to use Singapore or any other small countries as a comparison for China. If Singapore’s land size were as big as China’s, do you think the Singapore government would have achieved similar success in governing the land? It’s so much easier for a government to govern (and control) a country like Singapore because it’s really small, not even 1% of China in terms of land size and population I think. But in China, as the saying goes, the mountains are high and the emperor is far in many places.

  10. @Michael – absolutely no disrespect meant here…. Singapore has developed a lot, but as far as the govt attitudes to censorship, personal freedom and restrictive laws against the individual, there is still some ways to go for this country to be a truly global player…

  11. I bought China Road after you wrote about the book recently. It is a very insightful book and is easy to read. Rob Gifford discusses a lot of the questions concerning China.

  12. Interesting topic and great comment so far.

    I tend to agree with Chen Yanqing. Many of my students (I teach history) ask a similar question, “What happened to China?” My answer is: nothing. Let’s assume as many of the commenters do, that the industrial revolution as the historical moment when–to borrow a phrase–Europe and China diverged on different development paths.

    History is full of chance and contingencies and it was not inevitable that Europe had an industrial revolution. I think 300 years is a bit long, it’s probably closer to 200. Even as late as 1800, the agrarian economies of China and Europe faced similar technological and ecological limitations on growth and development. Europe broke through this barrier during the industrial revolution and Kenneth Pomeranz has argued that Europe had two things that made sustaining an industrial revolution easier–ready access to coal and overseas colonies as markets/source of natural resources. It was not because Europeans were somehow ‘better’ or ‘smarter’, just luckier and–perhaps more controversially–willing to use exploitation as a means to sustain economic development. I think there’s probably more to it than simply the “coal” and “colonies” of Pomeranz’s argument, (certainly the Qing were not above colonizing), but the larger point is that China didn’t “fail,” an industrial revolution just never happened.

    For years–well, at least since Max Weber anyway–social scientists have been searching for the fatal flaw in China that would explain this Chinese “stagnation” or “backwardness”, with various bogeymen including Confucianism, a lack of scientific innovation, government repression of trade, etc. And since then, researchers have looked at all of these “reasons for China’s failure” and discovered that none held water. The problem was actually the question they were asking. Rather than seek the source of China’s failure (Why did China fail to have an IR?) the real question lies on the other side of Eurasia. (Why did Europe have one?)

    I think the IR was great. Now the fact that some European countries used the technology and the imperatives of the industrial revolution to bring more resources, markets, and colonies under their control through force of arms and economic warfare is another story–and one with which the Qing government and people were all too familiar.

    Ps. I agree with Ling about the unsuitability of Singapore as a model for comparison with any country, but especially China. I studied at NUS for a year. Singapore is a city-state with a small, almost entirely urban, population. China both before and now faces grave problems and challenges–rural/urban economic disparities, population/resource pressures, uneven development of coastal and interior provinces, a growing and dangerous disconnect between central and local government–that are pretty much unheard of in Singapore.

  13. Yanqing Chen :

    “I don’t like blaming it to the old Chinese cultural defect or Confucius. I feel like if that’s the problem, How did countries like Japan and Korean being developed countries. How did China in earlier years being so dominate?”

    The answer is simple. Because the western world was not knocking on doors of Japan and Korean before.

    Do you see what happened to Japan after Meiji Restoration (明治維新)?

    They converted.

    Finally, Japan and Korean became developed countries in the 20th century is based on .

    Definitely not China.

    I want China to be a superpower too, but its just lacking something…

    The closest to a strong China was back in the Korean war, when people still believe in communism. They fight like tigers and defeated the United Nations.

    A country who got its ass kicked by western power for close to 119 years at the time, the Korea war demonstrates that China, when combined with devoted will power and help of the Soviets, can defeated forces that are 100 times greater than 八國鄰軍.

    Now that, my friend, is what China’s lacking. People who are willing to sacrifice their lives in pursuit of dreams/a new China/heaven…instead of “To get rich is glorious”.

    We did have that chance back in 1949, but it went all the way down and reaching new low at the “Cultural Revolution” where all the good OLD teachings are lost and replaced with … void …

  14. @all,

    I know any answer to this complex problem is too simplified. There are so many level of solutions. Here is some of my thinking after I kept seeking for many years.

    1) Why people don’t care?

    The cornerstone question is, why people don’t care about this country any more. In 1980s, people still care, but now if I ask any one around me, most of them don’t care about the future of China any more? Why? Because in the last 18 years, it is not allowed to care, or even discuss about the future of China (economics, maybe OK, but politically, absolutely no). With a strong propaganda system, it is very easily to prevent people to talk about the Country’s Affair (莫谈国事).

    2) The Bottom Up Governance.

    The biggest difference challenge is, it is so hard to impact. There is no power in local government that common people even cannot impact a street before them, or stop any factory from pollution, or even traffic rule violation. I just feel the power is concentrated to limited people, and it does not work because it needs many people (who are affected) to enforce the “good deed”, but they don’t have the power, and those who has the power is just impossible to handle so many “small things”, no matter how hard they try. That causes the chaos in the local level, and sum-up to the top level.

    (I know I didn’t explain very well for this point, and I will give examples in future entries).

    3. Who set the Rules

    The significance of American history, or the significance of Magna Carta is, for the first time in history, there is someway of deciding collectively by the people of the affairs of the people. In China, we are still seeking for that kind of thing. After going from circles of dynasties, we almost entered into another dynasty, with no real republic spirit in it.

    Regarding the law system, since most people, no matter how significant the number is, or economic power is, have no impact to change a law, the only thing people can do to is to find out workarounds. When every one work around laws (or break laws in certain sense), law does not distinguish the good and bad any more and then leading to further chaos.

    4. Ownership

    People spit on the street do not spit in their home or on their bed. Why? That is the different between public and private property. In China, “public” means something you completely have no control, and private means something you have control. I talked with many people, and asked the simple question: Do you think the street near where you live is yours? No one think so. I tried to ask the question, do you think the roads in this city is OURS (the citizens’)? The answer is typically no. There is something wrong. This land should be owned by the people, not government, or any party. Just because we own it, we care it. If someone else own it, why should everyone care?


    I don’t want to blame to culture, or history, since the important thing is to have a mechanism to learn (collectively as a country), and to improve, no matter what is the starting point.

  15. Jian Shuo, after reading your comments, i’m reminded of my own country, Singapore.

    Point #1 raised by you is also very applicable to Singapore. Sometimes, the more we Singaporeans try to make a difference, the more discouraged we feel. No doubt some are still trying, but many more are choosing to leave the country instead. It’s really sad.

    Point #3, the people also don’t have the power to change the law. But the difference is, over here, not many dare to break it. *:b

    As for point #4, you know what? My dad used to spit on the ground too. But our wonderful government introduced the No Spitting law back in the 80s, and it worked! I think the law says if you spit once, you’ll be fined S$500, and for repeat offenders, the fine is more. Of course, not many people questioned how the government would be able to catch “spitters”. But since our country is so small, and the people have been conditioned to fear the government, this law worked pretty well. Hahaha.

    Anyway, whatever the causes and challenges China faces, let’s all pray that it will keep growing, not just economically, but also as a nation with ideals and great culture. And I believe you’re one of the proponents of this change. Thank you for standing in the gap for your nation. *:)

  16. Any comparison between Singarpore and China is naive. If Shanghai is indepent from China, Shanghai could be more prospect than Singarpore.

    The fact that China survived so many disasters means in the past means a lot. We did have our good days. Now we have not so good days does not mean we should doubt our future. Nothing comes without price. Some people in our country are paying the price for all Chinese. Show some respect to them.

  17. @Ling,

    For the high fine, well, I don’t think the way Singapore is the right way to go for the future. I would vote against any idea of high fine, or the idea with just high fine price without any other methods. Why? Since something worked in one case does not work in the other. Let’s say, if the people don’t use the wisdom of crowd, or there is no free flow of information that keeps the crowd aware of what is going on, there will be huge mistake one day.

    Taking the spit fine as one example, it does not matter too much whether this law is correct or not, the really thing that matters to me is the process how this law is published. If there is no transparency about this, let’s imagine that one day, someone on the top (maybe the same in Singapore) makes a mistake, and a new law was published, something like no one can use Internet. In this case, the strong enforcement by the government just like they enforce the no spitting law is even worse.

    I am not implying anything about Singapore. I am just trying to say, to enforce or not enforce the law in a strictly way matters, but not the key to the question. The first priority is to give people the power to influence a law before we enforce it.

    We don’t want to make the mistake that when the economy of a country (like Singapore) goes up, everything Singapore is doing is right, and when there is a down turn, everything it does is wrong. My personal belief is, we need strong reasoning to decide whether it is good or bad, instead of simply judged by the result.

  18. What is wrong with China ?

    Hunger for wealth, and everything that goes with it.

    It’s the same thing every other country wants and there is nothing wrong with that.

    The only difference is that we are willing to go further and make bigger sacrifices than the rest.

    Comparing China with Singapore is dumb. Just because you are a successful street vendor don’t mean you can run Walmart.

    That said, I am impressed with the efficiency of Singapore. At least the system works for them.

    But I dread living in a society where every positive behaviour is maintained by the fear of punishment.

    I am sure we can immediately put a stop to spitting, or any other antisocial acts too if we link it to some drastic punishment.

    It would be simple would’nt it ? but should we ?

  19. @Jianshuo, @wonton, gee, I’m beginning to feel the heat in this post, man. I hope when you say that we shouldn’t compare Singapore with China, you’re not referring to me. Cos I *never* thought for one second that my dear Singapore government would be able to do well if they were tasked to govern China. Why? Cos their experience was limited to running this tiny little country that many foreigners despise, for a mere few decades.

    I was just commenting on how we managed to stamp out spitting by implementing high fines. And this probably only works in Singapore because people in Singapore really do fear the government, hahaha, although this is not something I’m necessarily proud of. Also, China is so vast that nobody will believe the government can catch them red-handed for spitting. So, I never suggested that China should impose high fines for spitting.

    Sometimes, it really seems like the Europeans are more sophisticated in this area. I don’t ever remember seeing a European spit on the ground. Most of them seem pretty sophisticated and civilized, without the government having to impose laws to improve their behaviour. I guess this may have something to do with their culture. Again, I’m not saying that Europeans are superior to Chinese or Asians. I’m just saying, in this aspect (of not spitting in public), the Europeans certainly seem much more civilized.

    Also, Jian Shuo, even when the economy is going up, I don’t think *everything* Singapore does is right. Just see how our ministers take the opportunity to raise their own salaries this year despite knowing how unhappy the citizens are with their self-declared pay hike.

    Wonton, when you say “I dread living in a society where every positive behaviour is maintained by the fear of punishment”, I’m not sure if you’re referring to Singapore. Not every positive behaviour of Singaporeans is caused by fear of punishment. There are genuinely good and considerate citizens in this land, too you know? That’s why I like to say, don’t use one bamboo to beat off a whole boat of people.

    Finally, one thing I notice, is that Singapore is currently still dominated by the Chinese race, and so certain traits like being kiasu and stuff, *is* related to the Chinese culture of wanting “face”.

  20. @Ling, thanks for your additional comments. As always, I smile when I see different opinions, especially from different countries, so we are able to see something we didn’t see before, or even didn’t think about.

    Don’t worry that anyone take your comment personal. I agree with your point, and my previous comments emphasize that whether to enforce it in a very strict way or don’t enforce it that much is not the key, the key is to make sure the rule itself is the right rule. Although democratic way to do it does not always lead to the right decision, but it leads at least to the possibility to change it without violence.

    Again, thanks for joining the discussion with us.

  21. @Ling

    I have been to Singapore. It’s a good place and very efficient.

    There are many things we can learn from it.

    I am just saying that I won’t be too comfortable if there is a threat of drastic punishment over my head.

    Today is may be chewing gum (I don’t chew gum so it’s ok).

    But tomorrow it may be smoking, which I do.

  22. @wonton, oh I see. I’m surprised by your humility when you say “there are many things we can learn from it.” Thank you for that. *:) But of course I know very well that Singapore may be here today, and gone tomorrow, depending on how our government steers the boat.

    As for smoking, well, the rules have already arrived. Now, smoking is prohibited even at coffeeshops, bus-stops, discos and pubs!!! In coffeeshops, small yellow boxes are drawn on the floor to demarcate smoking areas. But some coffeeshop owners, in a bid to continue business as usual, try their best to accomodate smokers who want to sit anywhere they want. In discos and pubs, there’s a small smoking section for smokers, but most of the area must be no-smoking.

    By the way, speaking of forceful laws, Jian Shuo, did you know that homosexuality is a criminal law in Singapore, punishable by lifetime imprisonment? Some Singaporeans are still trying to change this, but so far there has been no breakthrough. Our government says they want to keep the law that way, but they will “close one eye” (paraphrased by me). What about China? Is homosexuality a crime in China too? How serious is the punishment?

    P.S.: Jian Shuo, I feel bad that I keep mentioning my own country in a post titled “What’s wrong with China?”. If you find my post irrelevant, please feel free to delete it. I mean it. Thanks and no hard feelings. *:)

  23. @Ling, thanks for your comments. No, no. Don’t feel bad about posting this topic. This is the perfect place to talk about Singapore, since the contrast makes perfect sense for this article.

    In China, there is no law about homosexuality yet, so far as I know. There are much more important laws (as wonton may agree) to draft than this law. For example, recent we are talking about Property Law, which for the first time tell people that it is OK to own some property, and how the law can protect you. I believe everyone think this is a very important law – a law delayed for half an century.

    For people’s behavior like homo sex, my personal wish is: no law is much better.

  24. @Ling

    You may be surprised to learn to there are people in many countries who wish for a government like Singapore.

    I am not saying it’s perfect, but it’s way ahead of many governments.

    When you lived in a country where the pay of the ministers are “reasonable” but the main perpetrators of corruption are ministers themselves you will know what I mean. You don’t need to look very far from your country.

    I don’t know how high they pay themselves in Singapore, but at least they have something impressive to show for it.

    Heck, nobody will fault a successful business if it can afford to pay its employees a little better.

    Sometimes we really have to keep things in perspective. Mr Lee Kuan Yew may not be perfect, but at least he was not Marcos.

    The Philippines have yet to recover from his plunder.

    Freedom has a price. If forgoing some of it can gurantee stability, security and comfort for the people then I am all for it.

    There are systems that choose to push this to the extreme and failed miserabily. I am glad China is now moving towards a freer society.

    You have an easier decision to make. It is just money and you already have the other three things.

  25. Hehe – they won’t let me smoke here in Singapore while waiting for a bus now… (but it’s been like that in Australia for some time, so not complaining)… makes my wife happier!!

  26. 300 yrs

    ming dinasty

    present dinasty from revolution date

    from the last 300yrs no one really worked for china and its people.

    before every one was busy making fortune and satisfing the mings, after the wwII everyone been busy making metals and forgave agriculture because the leader said so, therefore million died in hunger, now its time of coorporate socialist chinaeverybody busy makign money in property developement filling up with concrete and steel bars any possible green square, or coorporate factory productions pollutign air, water soil, u name it.. the governance people is busy procuring energy to all of them, careless is from coal mining that mean heavy polluted air, plus heavy human life cost, slave labour, as well since local energy is nto enough, then we see the result of Darfur, Burma, or easy the “at gun point” child slave mining in Central Africa, for procure all the Tin (needed to change ur mobile every year, in the china mobiles phone mass production), or copper mining since china is drying all the global copper…

    and when i speak with my chinese friends, who plays in the stock market, and sell and buy a new villa or appartment every 2 years.. as well of course new cars.. no one cares.. they to busy to follow the harmonious coorporate china…. one dinasty after another…

    soon china will be the most polluted country in the world… soon life count for pollution will be heavier that the ratio of a africa war fro copper, petrol, diamond, tin or else needed in china….

    so WJS… tell me what is wrong in China ?… that in the no car day u used the car…and no one cared , that u covered the few meter of green with concrete bloks… that u changing a mobile and computer every year…. what is wrong… ? when u enjoy the profit of the stock market… despite that profit are costing life of severals …what is wrong.. the day u or ur close relatives may be victim of pollution too..

    no be offended pls.. this is a just a thinking point…

  27. Well … my two cents. Maybe I am wrong but here they are.

    I think one of the reasons of the backwardness of China is a combination of centralized imperial power structure and invasions of foreign, mainly nomadic peoples.

    After the victory of the Qin dinasty which resulted in the creation of the imperial system, china has been most of the time governed by a centralized power/pyramidal structure. When the Imperial dynasties were local (i.e. chinese)

    there were on the most part oriented to good government of the country. For most of time in known history the government structures in China were far ahead of those in Europe.

    But when foreign invader successfully conquered China, their may objection was to keep themselves in power while controlling the society. On those government institution were, sometime subtly, transformed into ways to subjugate the Chinese people.

    My feeling about the last imperial dynasty, of Manchu origin, is that they thwarted the development of China by closing it out of the world. The may reason of this was better control the society and keeps its grip on power. Specially commerce with foreign powers, which could led for example to increased economic power to Chinese merchant classes, and contact with other forms of government. That could put in question the dominance of the ruling Manchu class.

    The timing was disastrous. At the same time Europe was experiencing the industrial revolution, which pushed its technology and production capacities far beyond those of China, with the final results we all known in the military/colonial conflicts between the west and China.

    Another disastrous disaster was the prevention of the evolution of the political system in a similar way as it occurred in Japan during the Meiji restoration.

    The imperial system could have evolved into a sort of Parlamentary Monarchy, which could have facilatated the evolution to more effeicient form of government. But the Manchu Dinasty was considered a “foreign” dynasty. That helped, among other things, quite a bit in creating the basis for the proclamation of the Chinese Republic of doctor Sun Yat Sen.

    Although the intentions of Doctor Sun Yat Sen were to create a modern China, the disruptions at the political and social levels were to great, as result the country fall in a chaotic situation.

    Not much luck fur China again this time. The rising of 20th century revolutionary political ideas together with the Chino-Japanese conflict threw China in absolute Chaos.

    Last but not all was the civil war after WWII and the proclamation of the Chinese Popular Republic. Again China closed itself out of the world and what started as a revolution that promised the final emergence of China, because ideological strait jackets and delusions, turned itself in one of its worth historical nightmares.

    Only after Deng reforms in 1989 has China started the way towards a more modern society, but from the point of view of an European like me, the current political, economic and social system is highly unstable, and also verydifficult for us to foresee its final outcome. The result… a lot of books about China ;-)

    My diagnosis of the problem….

    Basically, the CCP has no legitimacy to power, they fear they own people more than anything else, but the country can not go back to a closed authoritarian system because, it will fall again back technologically with respect to other countries. History would repeat itself again!

    There is now a pact wit the devil between CCP and Chinese people, basically is this: do not question my power and I will let you enough freedom so you can prosper and enjoy life. And life is much better now for many Chinese across the social scale, no matter the problems we all see.

    But the system is, form my point of view, incompatible with what is required to correctly govern a modern society: there is no rule of law, exacerbation of nationalisms as a way to deflect attention from local problems, no way for impartial conflict resolutions, no transparency, no accountability and no way for the people to change things in power… no peoples government (Demo=people) Kratos=government). China, more than any other country, needs the most efficient economic, social and political system possible to be able to compensate the huge mismatch between population size and available natural resources (counting also foreign natural resources!)

    The current situation in China is similar to a very complex machine, running at full gear, but without systems to correctly detect what is going wrong, why it is going wrong, who/what is responsible of the malfunction and the means to fix it.

    Such a machine has the risks to run wild at the least chance… with, I fear, dire consequences.

    I really hope this “machine” can be fixed….


  28. The Communist must give way to the other part as far as Authority is regarded. I hope in the future, China, like the US, will be run in a way with election of government from all parties, not only Communist. This party has been greatly corrupted. Everything is in change, so why no change to this government?

  29. I largely agree with ecodelta except the “machine” example at the end.

    My thought: China is right in her natural trajectory course, for better or for worse, like it or not.

    1. Democracy is not THE ONLY way to build a mordern society. Many other issues, such as culture, history, geopolitics, etc., are all in play here. – not by the book, I hope:), especially taking into account that Japan, Korea and Taiwan (all East Aisan cultures) were all under recent one party rule when they registered their most speatacular growth. Saying this, I am not implying the CCP is THE one party China should follow during the full course. If CCP fits into China’s current development level, it will prosper; otherwise, it will not survive. Deliberately forcing China into another ideal system will be worse if the time is not due. As simple as that.

    2. One can detect hundreds of “mulfunction” areas in China’s system, as many mentioned above, or the ecodelta machine, or in any system. This doesn’t mean the machine will run wild, or even a risk that it could run wild (probabaly hard to understand, eh?). It is because one can always, at the same time, find other hundreds of areas in that machine seemingly compensating the “malfunctions”, purposely or not. Indeed it is butterfly effect. Nature will make it sure that every piece goes where it ought to go.

    So no worrys. Even though no one can figure it out exactly how (giving current scientific and social development level of mankind), or “what’s wrong with China?”, at least we should be grateful to start to realize why.

    Forget Laozi ? – “constantly exam the nature’s flow and follow it. ”

    Here comes K. Wang: “There is nothing wrong with the nature, and China.”

  30. 1) For a modern society you need.

    Transparency: you can see clearly what is going on

    Accountability: people are held responsible for her acts.

    Democracy: you can replace something is not working (or not satisfied with)

    You may get T and A but without D it gets increasingly difficult.

    With an authoritarian system you may get a quick jump start. That is just like standing on your feet for the first time. But then you have to learn to walk…

    2 )Hhhhmm…. I really think is starting to run wild…..

    The problem as I see it, is the lack of enough compensating areas, no checks and balances.

    Such systems can also be corrected…. after a total breakdown! Not the most desirable course of action.

    Nature have more than enough checks and balances. Product of millions of years of evolution. We humans have not so much experience.

  31. What I state is the general course instead of details within.

    1. I agree that T.A.D are logical, ideal and desireble. However, desirebles are not necessarily fit for the time being. I am not convined that China is ready now.

    2. I was aware it’s not easy to comprehend.

    How we define run wild and breakdown? what is the criteria of the time frame involved? If it is a “breakdown” given preset subjective criteria, is this breakdown neccesarily a bad thing when we jump out of that time frame? An desirable outcome through our lens is necessarily a desirable outcome for the nonforeseeable future?

    Chasing the frontier of every single category of “social”scirence, you will inevitablely deal with fundamental laws of natural science, if you expect make a meaningful breakthrough. We are not the God to dictate that mankind social development path ought to be seperated from the undelying physical laws. The way how we organize our societies, how we see fit, desireble or enough balances, to an extent why given social phynominon happens (corrupted Manchu, authoritarian communist China, smoking-free Singapore, etc.), has nothing to do with subjectve judgement, but evereything to do with the natural path. We humans have not so much experienced but enough eagerness to correct the nature machine and shortcut the due course. It’s a bold backfire caused by our limited knowledge, regardless of imminent outcome.

    The right way to see therefore, is not “what’s wrong with China”?, because China is prefect although intolerable, as perfect as the nature – prefectly corrupted at the perfect time by the prefect regime.

  32. “People spit on the street do not spit in their home or on their bed. Why?”

    That simple statement is very revealing of the mentality of the people in China. If that way of thinking does not change, it will lead to an absolute environmental catastrophe, not to mention other economic and social problems. With its incredible recent growth, China has already headed down this dangerous path. Nobody owns the air or the rivers, so let’s just dump our garbage there. I’m not saying individuals and corporations of developed nations are immuned to this type of action, but certainly as a whole, they have a much greater sense of responsibility toward “public goods”.

    Sure, the government can introduce laws to control such behavior – and it may or may not be effective. But until the people understand why it is wrong and can change their way of thinking, the associated problems will continue to worsen. I hear people say that this new up and coming generation will be the catalyst for change, but unfortunately from what I’ve seen, I don’t see it happening soon. This is from the perspective of a Chinese-Canadian who has lived in and traveled throughout China in the past 5 years.

  33. Hello Wangjianshuo,

    Compared to many countries there is little that is wrong with China. Many westerners given the opportunity would prefer to live in China if they knew what it is like. There is nothing wrong with a one party electoral system but it does need to be democratic from the lowest levels up. For anyone who thinks that the US is a desireable model they should read a book available at this site.


  34. Here is my 2 cents:

    I think many of the problems can be explained by the geography.

    The main rice growing regions of China historically suffered from one problem: high mortality rates. It is hard to advance culture when your energies are concentrated on survival. In the early 1900s, western medicine and more importantly pesticides brought relief to this problem. This led way for the political changes. However, the culture was stuck in the old system. High birth rates continued until recent policies started to solve the population problems.

    The one child policy is only a short-term solution to this problem. I think urbanization will lead to a long-term solution.

    As to politics, democracy is seen by westerners as the ultimate sign of an advanced society. Someday, China will be a democracy. Hopefully, this will not be a copy of some other countries democracy.

  35. Many of the comments here, especially the earlier ones, seem to frame China and its needs for development from a “Western” POV.

    While I understand that indeed Europe and North America have achieved tremendous lot in many areas, is it necessary to pinpoint the standard of developments to mimic those two areas’?

    While I do think that China need to develop and improve itself, I don’t see why China needs to go full-throttle toward western ideals.

    Read Adbusters# 79 volume 16 number 5 (September/October 2008); civilization of the west is “dead”: the new generation people of the west are stuck in “hipster” culture, rendering themselves narcisstic, vain, empty and obsessed with anti-authority notions even if it means they’re going against themselves. The west is like ADHD case rampant in double-talks; that’s the result of mishandling of “freedom”.

    Is China supposed to be like that and just mimic whatever mistakes the west has done just because it smells of “more freedom and liberty”?


    @jo: the criticism you address toward China should first be addressed toward the USA. Why does the world now dump all those behaviors toward China first rather than the US or Europe?

    You’re practically looking at your Chinese friends and made a hasty-generalization that all Chinese will be like them or that no one of your own country is doing similar thing.

    I’m not arguing that either China or the US is perfect or that either China or the US is totally at fault. I’m arguing that biases are floating around:

    1. Who were causing major stock-market crashes throughout the 20th century? Chinese? Nope.

    2. Who’s the worst polluter per-capita? China? Nope.

    3. Who installed Guantamo Bay and , Bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to oblivion and became one of the starters the nuclear-armaments race? China? Nope.

    There are many other points, but in short: all of the blames you put on China is disproportional to the whole picture, plus you’re forgetting so many contemporary actions by USA, Europe and others.

    The blame isn’t supposed to be on China alone; China isn’t even the main player of the crimes you stated.

    The whole issue and topic is not even supposed to be a blame game at all.



    Yes, democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people” however, what form would it take shape as? European social-democracy? Canadian/UK parliamentary government? American?

    As for “democracy” as usually thrown around in the media, it’s American democracy and look at how it turns out to be. USA only have about 1/4-1/5 of PRC’s population but USA have 5 times more pollution per capita than the newly developing PRC. Imagine if such “freedom” and “liberty” are handed out to Chinese people…imagine all the added numbers of cars.

    The world is currently squinting to tears because of what China is doing; imagine what the world would do if indeed “democracy” is installed hastily to the current generation of Chinese –the world would scream to death and find a pretext to dump all the global warming discussion solely upon China (as the media is currently doing) and escalate many other issues regarding China; that’s on top of the possibility that China will be further subjugated under external and internal influences, which have first created the modern gap between the rich and the poor, the polluter and the polluted for centuries.

    “Democracy” is indeed ideally a “government of the people…” but “communism” is “temporary dictatorship of the proletariat” which in spirit (not in practice) wouldn’t be that much different; the practice of the government would still depend on the person on top as well as the people governed, plus the rich, the religious/fundamentalist and the media. Each government still advertise itself as the vanguard of the people, thinking of the people’s short-term and long-term benefits.

    Thus, I lean toward K. Wang’s argument to a degree: China will need to chart its own course and learn to adapt, adopt and improve its own cultures and “nature”.

    I seriously doubt the notion that PRC leaders don’t know the contradictions and paradoxical nature of their government. I think the PRC’s approach can be summarized in Deng’s famous words: “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” It simply is just impossible to be coherent all the time when handling a government: just look at all the double-talks of democratic governments…no one actually adheres to democracy all the time (eg. look at what MI6 and the CIA are doing around the world).

    Let’s hope that the stream of discussion between China, USA and Europe will continue on increasingly better terms; as it is now portrayed in most public discussions, the differences between those countries’ will only heighten the sense of alienation and antagonism.


    Hmm, come to think of it: Isn’t it funny how many of the comments in this thread is usually both: addressing PRC’s deeds as wrong, but at the same time also addresses PRC as wrong if the PRC isn’t doing what it’s doing as well? (eg. China is the worst polluter and it’s wrong to have so many cars in China, yet, at the same time, it’s also wrong not to give Chinese people freedom– to buy cars–?). Why isn’t such paradoxical correlation between individualism/freedom, social responsibility and consequences addressed?

    Another one that floats around in public psyche is that China is wrong for having so many population but China is also wrong and “apartheid-like” at implementing “one child policy” –so what should China do? Just gulp down all the blame, racism and mockeries while not curbing down its population and environmental problems within its capabilities?

    It’s like no matter what PRC does, it’s always wrong and evil, just because it doesn’t use the label “democracy” and just because it opt to more pragmatic approaches rather than subtle lullabies for the masses. Do people really think they can handle the governance of China better?

    It’s too simplistic an argument, I say.

  36. Hmmm, before I sound like a jerk who thinks he knows everything about China or the “correct way”, I must openly say that I’m only typing those thoughts up above as mere discussion points.

    I just don’t think China should aim to be “rich” like Americans. Hugo Chavez, the propagandistically-smeared democratic leader of Venezuela, says it right when he says that development doesn’t mean people should want to be “rich” materially.

    There are other ways to develop, there are other more important goals other than merely gaining rich as quickly as possible.

    The development of the people should be the aim, not just about giving access to capitalism and competing for the same senseless ground of mass consumerism.

  37. I find it unusual that any of this up for debate. It is pretty simple why China is what it is today. It’s the big elephant in the room that everyone is afraid to speak of. The government sucks. No questions asked. We don’t need any trival debates. Just look at history, human psychology, and human sociology.

    Starting from basic universal principles of survival instincts let’s build it up, relate it sociology, and then look at history as a guide and teacher.

    Humans are animals. Animals have basic survival and self-preservation instincts. These instincts are manifested in wants and needs. How we qualify what is good and bad needs is another debate, but hardly worth discussing right now. These are the basis for intelligence — what we can we do for ourselves to ensure our survival, etc – not to only survive to live but to live a “good” life. By instincts, we will resort to our lowest form or energy exertion to attain our minimal needs. That is – for intelligence – its, “How can we be efficient with our time and energy?” If we want more “happiness” we shall exert more energy in doing what it takes to get what we want. But we don’t have unlimited energy so we desire to become efficient. Guess what happen to all the lazy cavemen, that got eaten by lions and tigers!

    Now that I’ve laid down some basic principles – let’s look at how this affect society based on the individual.

    The individual strives to be efficient by an act of intelligence— in terms of survival — efficiency is a must and not choice. So how does that affect society? Society does want to be efficient too. Society’s that aren’t efficient are stagnate and eventually die out as more efficient societies take over. This “efficiency” is manifested in “specialization.” That’s why you have farmers, doctors, soldiers, teachers, plumbers, and scientists, etc … Society functions more efficiently and better when everyone is efficient at what they do.

    BUT we have to be careful – we can’t force specialization or efficiency as a society. The society is composed of individuals and we must remember that individuals are animals by principle and have all the innate instincts of survival and efficiency. That is, “why should I exert more energy than I have to if I get the same results by using that much less energy.” Again, like atomic particles, we like to reside in our lowest energy state.

    The question for society is then, “How do we create a framework of rules so that every cavemen and cavewomen in society functions to the best of their ability?” That my friend is why a government modeled after the United States is our best solution to date.


    We have to go back to the individual. Humans are smart creatures. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile for better or for worse. That’s why Marxist-based economies fail.

    The United States has to date have created the best balance of government and power for the individual. The framework is open enough so that the individual can be rewarded for their contributions to society based more or less on meritocracy. A free market encourages the cream to rise to the stop. Nevertheless there are rules to prevent monopolies and corruption as well. Balance is the KEY word.

    The founders of the USA also knew “greed” and “evil” are easy traits of humans so they separated the government into three major groups – Presidential, House and Senate, and Judicial — no one man is a saint. In these Marxist economies there are no real checks and balances. Absolutely power corrupts absolutely. That is why these countries can never get their feet off the ground and be relevant in an international community in a positive light. The government is too busy regulating when it can’t understand why it’s over regulating. Only a free-market society can produce the fruits China and every other corrupt government desires. A society that fears its government can never be a free society. Look at Japan, look at South Korea, and look at Singapore and Taipei. The minute you let a free market rule with anti-corruption rules of course – any city, any county can do anything.

    With the resources China has it’s humiliating that they’re “catching” up in the world community or that we’re even asking the question of what’s wrong with China.

    The government sucks. That’s all.

    I just rambled a lot — oh well I’m done now. Let me know if I said something wrong. Blah blah blah.

  38. YH I feel like your thinking is extremely short-sighted and basic. Perhapes it’s the difference in culture and the way we have developed. But Chinese culture has proven itself in the past that unlike you claimed “By instincts, we will resort to our lowest form or energy exertion to attain our minimal needs”. We created Martial Arts and our people for god knows how long practiced it endlessly. It was hard work for the sake of hard work.

    Perhaps the instinct to exert the least amount of energy to attain as much material as we can is more common within cultures that originated from cold regions. I feel like that might be a very Western mentality.

  39. Hi!

    China has a long history.About thousands of years before China was a very big country in the world.About 100~200 before it was became not rich.On…my English is not very well.Can you understand me?Now China is one of the biggest countries in the world.Chinese are stand up now.(my mean is chaos)

    They need…many or by understanding…

    That’s very sorry.My English…

  40. too many things are wrong with the Chinese people as a whole (China is the Chinese people together.

    The key one is that the Chinese have not resolved within themselves a key contradiction; on the one hand they are told and retold “we are the longest running civilization, we historically were the center of the World”. That sort of message is inmature and childish because if you really are the smartest, most civilized and so on, surely you woold not brag about it or become annoyed whe other treat you as just another people, you would just quietly thank your Lord or whatever.

    The facts put them in direct contradiction with such beliefs because they know they have imported far more from other civilizations than other civilizations got from them; from Budha to Marxism and now Capitalism, and basically all the ideas they now apply in technology, medicine, science in general and so forth come from outside China, mostly from “Western” civilizations. By “Western” I start with UR, Egypt, Persia, The Greeks, modern Europeans and Americans, even Indians and Modern, highly westernized Japan.

    After all, for whatever reasons what started in UR continued advancing till modern Euro-American civilization, in a way and to a degree that pales China.

    Surely China invented a few things and traditional Chinese medicine may be superior to other traditional medicine but its is the equivalent of chicken soup; good for flue and other minor problems, useless when you really want to enhance public health for millions and when something is really wrong with someone. But those inventions, like the compass, gunpower and a few other are just anecdotes compared with the advances of the West.

    As we speak it is obvious China is accepting reality where it really counts; economic system, technology, science, etc., China finally accepted the facts and shows that through her actions and the actions of Chinese people, the last step is to accept those facts sincerely, internally, feeling really so proud of who they are that they can accept reality.

    There are e few things China has yet to learn; that people have the right to choose their rulers and to throw them out through a fair, free and open system of one person one vote and though that change society (like the Americans did ending slavery and lately with the civil rights movement. Anothe idea not yet imported into China is that the rulers must be under the rule of independent judges. There are others. Odd for such ingenious people in material things thay have not yet caught up with an idea that started 26 centuries ago in Greece. They have not caught quite caught up yet with another idea started in Mount Sinai 29 centuries ago, the golden rule. Neither have they caught uo with an idea prevalent in the English speaking world, with lots of imperfections, a sense of fair play.

    When Chinese rulers, literally go nuts over the Fishing boat incident and are ready to strangle Japanes industry over a dispute over some minuscule islands or even because there can be oil under the sea nearby, or when they really become hiperhisterical because some independent panel in a country of a few million giv es the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese disident, all they illustrate is that the Chinese ruler become irrational for minor things and are ready to encourage the irrational tendencies all masses have.

    And such people want to become a preeminent power in the modern world? All they will quickly become is the most hated regime on Earth and will rot from within because they treat their own people as if they were the enemy. It is really a case for massive psychiatric help. Once again, their behaviour shows you can be very clever at som things; like manufacturing yet utterly stupid about running a country. Reminds me of Nazi Germany in many ways.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *