Monday, May 01, 2017

The Wisdom To Know The Difference

Robin Sears has been visiting China for thirty-five years. He writes that, as Canada's relationship with Donald Trump's America becomes more and more prickly, Canadians should be working hard at establishing a meaningful relationship with that other world superpower:

Historically, China’s service reputation has been closer to that of the U.K. — that is, the customer is always wrong — than to the rest of Asia. Today, the animated digital maps, flawless English announcements, and helpful staff on the Beijing and Shanghai subway systems would make a TTC executive blush.

China’s mobile payments infrastructure is growing faster than any in the world — consumers search, pay for and track delivery of everything from food to major appliance purchases in the local version of Twitter by the tens of millions daily. The service is reportedly impeccable.

My wife visited China forty years ago when most people were getting around on bicycles. But things have changed. Sears asserts that those who still see China from the perspective of the 1960's are fools: 

Those journalists who see China through a 1960s Cold War lens on policing, law, and civil society have either never seen a real Stalinist police state up close, or are merely promoting an agenda. Those who dismiss and sneer at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “romantic” engagement with the world’s emerging superpower are similarly just fools.

No, China is not a democracy. Yes, China’s approach to rights and to the sovereignty of the individual citizen are often deeply troubling, and certainly not ours. But the private, social, and civic space for the ordinary Chinese citizen is greater today than at any time in its history, and expanding. That is surely the more relevant test of progress than whether they have arrived at our level of expectations of rights and freedoms.

Trudeau is surely right in recognizing that the Canada/China relationship is the quintessential challenge for our children’s economic prosperity. 

Those on the Right have a Manichean view of the world. People are either Good or Evil. For Us or Against Us. That vision was a heresy in its own day. It is a heresy today. The world has never been that simplistic.

Which means that dealing with China is fraught with complications -- dangers and opportunities. What matters is whether or not we have -- in the words of the Serenity Prayer -- the wisdom to know the difference.

Image: Ryan Remiorz -- Canadian Press


The Mound of Sound said...

This post, while interesting, seems to miss a few points. Sears castigates those who persist in a view of China essentially pre-dating its industrial revolution. His intemperate dismissal of critics of China as "fools" hardly adds much to his argument.

There was an article in the weekend New York Times about how China is now accelerating the collapse of global fisheries, its fleet sailing to every corner of the world to supply its insatiable domestic demand. China is likewise on a global land grab to tie up vast tracts of productive farmland, again to supply its domestic requirements.

Sears treats trade with China as essentially one-dimensional. He criticizes those who see China through a "Cold War lens" yet he has a fairly shallow grasp of the realities of today's, post Cold War China and its global impacts.

Steve said...

I first went to China, in 1986 on business. My conclusion was that anyone doing business there would leave the country naked and bleeding. I last went to China in 2002. After close to two years on the ground there I became nothing but more convinced. China is a Ferengi enterprise that will assimilate everything. The only thing stopping the Chinese is the Chinese, and last time around they went 6000 years without interruption. Sellers beware, in a deal with China most likely its you that have been bought.

Owen Gray said...

An interesting perspective, Steve. You're not alone in believing that when you dance with the Chinese, you dance with the devil.

Owen Gray said...

I take your criticism of Sears' piece, Mound. It's right to conclude that China is acting only in its self interest. Superpowers do not practice altruism. On the other hand, China is no longer Mao's fiefdom. And it must -- for better or for worse -- be dealt with.

Steve said...

Assimilate. Just like the global is too big for men to effect with warming, no chance men could empty the seas of fish.

Owen Gray said...

Are you saying you don't believe in global warming, Steve?

Deacon Jester said...

From his own blog this seems to sum up Steve's opinion of overfishing (or something) as well.

"of cousrse the first thing to to do]
is satisty asll th r e  doolphins
I might interacat with
because we share
the sea"

I'd post the screen capture but I can't here.

I'm impressed with his grasp of English idiosyncrasies.

Anonymous said...

Simple explanation for China?

So far they have avoided being Fascist.


Owen Gray said...

I suspect that all dictators think of themselves as benevolent, TB. I don't believe the Chinese are benevolent. But I do believe they cannot be ignored. Justin's father took that approach with both China and Cuba. Justin, too, will have to find a way to deal with China.

Steve said...

Owen, being sarcastic.