Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My Final Assessment

It's amazing. Since I have returned home, I have thought a great deal about my travels, what I learned and the impact it has had on me. I continue to be amazed at the impact of this experience.

I read through an essay I wrote prior to the visit, having reveiwed footage from a documentary on China. What's funny is, my perspective then is the same as my perspective now. Take a read of "Colliding Cultural Forces". It sums up my thoughts still.

Colliding Cultural Forces (Written Prior to My China Visit)

The rise and fall of multiple dynasties throughout China’s history has forced the Chinese culture to endure numerous periods of control followed by chaos. The Communist Party leveraged the desire for order, wielding control over the lives of so many Chinese for so long through the promise of stability and order. One of the state’s most compelling control features? A deep seeded cultural norm of caution and unpretentiousness. The result? A cautious, risk adverse populous. China’s way is described as the “middle way” – stability over the unpredictable nature of creativity and individuality.

How can a risk adverse populous embrace the rate of change China is experiencing now? Powerful forces are colliding in present-day China – the force of change vs. the force of order. This collision is pervasive in every aspect of Chinese culture.

Young minds are opening. Innovation and daring are commonplace. The impact of a liberalized information flow is stimulating curiosity, creativity. Students now boldly question everything and distrust propaganda. Yet the government and Communist Party still find their way through propaganda into the lives of students.

The broad and uncontrolled reach of the Internet is forcing state influenced media outlets into a competition for the first time, causing many consumers to distrust state run media outlets as pure propaganda. Broadcast programs like “Live at 8” are now seen as consumer advocacy outlets forcing accountability on government officials when solving problems of Chinese. Yet government and party officials still ensure that some investigative reporting material remains unaired, unreported.

The evolution from a planned economy to a capitalist economy is creating economic forces never before felt by the Chinese. Privatization of state run firms. Pressure to perform. 10% unemployment. Yet many businesses prosper thanks in part to a strong tie in some form to party and government officials.

The Communist Party in China has prospered for so long due in large part to their ability to stabilize virtually every aspect of the lives of all Chinese. Delivering prosperity is now the “measure of the party’s legitimacy”. The government has shown incredible signs of flexibility in responding to the change. Yet much of the economic reform felt today is due to the party’s insistence that change take place.

The force of change is rampant in China. All the while, the government continues to flex its powerful muscle in more subtle ways.

But what will happen? Which force will win in the end? Human nature will eventually prevail. As the Chinese taste the effects of freedom, ingenuity, innovation and creativity, they will inevitability want more. Of course not all Chinese will want to lead the life of a capitalist society and it will take decades to truly transform the culture from one of caution to one of risk. But for the most part, the culture will follow.

But do Chinese leaders understand this? Of course they do. Chinese are planners. They take the long term view. They are calculated and take smart risks based on well thought out plans. This is game theory in action. What the rest of the world must do is understand their moves and plan accordingly.

1 comment:

Sudhir said...

Hey this was a great post to summarize everything. Enjoy...