Three diverse takes on China:

Although written nearly a year ago (note the line, "Assuming that the global economy does not decline now, it will at some point"), George Friedman's geopolitical analysis of China (via InvestorsInsight) is perhaps frightening, perhaps reassuring, but certainly fascinating.  The concluding summary provides an introduction to the ideas, though it by no means does justice to the long article.

Geopolitics is based on geography and politics. Politics is built on two foundations: military and economic. The two interact and support each other but are ultimately distinct. For China, securing its buffer regions generally eliminates military problems. What problems are left for China are long-term issues concerning northeastern Manchuria and the balance of power in the Pacific.

China's geopolitical problem is economic. Its first geopolitical imperative, maintain the unity of Han China, and its third, protect the coast, are both more deeply affected by economic considerations than military ones. Its internal and external political problems flow from economics. The dramatic economic development of the last generation has been ruthlessly geographic. This development has benefited the coast and left the interior—the vast majority of Chinese—behind. It has also left China vulnerable to global economic forces that it cannot control and cannot accommodate. This is not new in Chinese history, but its usual resolution is in regionalism and the weakening of the central government. Deng's gamble is being played out by his successors. He dealt the hand. They have to play it.

The question on the table is whether the economic basis of China is a foundation or a balancing act. If the former, it can last a long time. If the latter, everyone falls down eventually. There appears to be little evidence that it is a foundation. It excludes most of the Chinese from the game, people who are making less than $100 a month. That is a balancing act and it threatens the first geopolitical imperative of China: protecting the unity of the Han Chinese.

A recent Slate article by William Saletan highlights another destabilizing factor in China:  the bitter consequences of the government's one-child policy.  Bizarrely, the author manages to find a postive twist, but he can't change the facts.

Sixteen million girls are missing in China. And now we know what happened to them: They were aborted because they weren't boys.

Worldwide, the number of boys born per 100 girls ranges from 103 to 107. (The numbers later equalize due to higher male mortality.) Among Chinese children born from 1985 to 1989, the number of boys per 100 girls was 108, close to normal. But among those born from 2000 to 2004, the number rose to 124.

[T]he boy-girl ratio escalates radically among children who were born second or third in their respective families.....For third births, the sex ratio rose to over 200 in four provinces.

Two hundred boys for every 100 girls. The number is mind-boggling.

[T]he "one-child" policy [limits] family size but allows exceptions, with variations from province to province, for couples who have only daughters. Essentially, the exceptions give you a second or, in some cases, a third chance to have a son. That's why, as couples approach the family size limit or the exception allotment, the boy-girl ratio goes up. You get the ultrasound, and if the fetus is a girl, you abort it and try again for a son.

The government...has openly expressed concerns about the consequences of large numbers of excess men for societal stability and security....The old problem was too many children. The new problem is too few girls. Without enough girls, the boys become unruly.

Finally, for a less depressing look at China, visit the Virtual Forbidden City.  I haven't downloaded it myself yet, but include it here because I hope to get to it, eventually—and because I know there are those of my readers who will immediately pull out their virtual passports.

The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time is a partnership between IBM and the Palace Museum in Beijing, China....[It] is the world's first online virtual world dedicated to a country's cultural heritage. This is presented as a three-dimensional replica of the square-kilometer palace grounds called The Virtual Forbidden City. The project partners' goal was to create an experience that is as authentic as possible by being true to important Chinese principles of balance and harmony.

Rather than being an isolating virtual experience, the Virtual Forbidden City allows visitors to see and interact with each other and with a wide range of volunteers, staff, and automated characters. To welcome the broadest range of visitors, a simple, easy to use interface guides interactions with the Virtual Forbidden City. As they explore the Virtual Forbidden City, visitors can choose to simply observe the buzz of activity, participate in activities that provide insights into important aspects of the Qing dynasty, or even take guided tours that uncover new insights into the stories of the Forbidden City.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 8:54 am | Edit
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