Friday, December 1, 2006

Notes from China Journal

Still struggling to catch up with a life that's racing out of control, so I thought I'd toss out some pages from a journal I kept while I was travelling in China.


So stop me if you've heard this before. A group of political and religious refugees flee an oppressive regime and found a new nation overseas. After some initial conflict with the indigenous peoples, they establish themselves for several generations and soon regard themselves as independent. Despite an increasing tendency towards democracy, the citizens of this nation are still regarded as citizens of the regime they've fled. A seemingly inevitable conflict is delayed by those who urge reconciliation on both sides.

Now, here's the ten thousand dollar question -- am I talking about America in 1776, or Taiwan nearly 230 years later?


There's been a lot of concern and discussion lately about the possibility of China becoming the next global superpower. This seems to me to represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue at hand. The question is not whether or not China will achieve this power; the question is what China is going to do with the power it already has. China could be the most powerful nation in the world tomorrow if they had the focus and the leadership.

This may not be a politically correct observation to make -- since, after all, everybody's exactly the same and nobody's better than anybody else -- but I believe that the Chinese have more potential than any other race of people on earth. In every discipline, their society, and the individuals within it, have completely redefined our understanding of what the human race is capable of. Our best defense is, perhaps, the fact that many of them do not realize this -- but one day, and one day soon, the Chinese will awaken and realize that they are strong. And the earth will tremble.

In fact, the only credible threat they face may well be the Americans, whose emphasis on the value of the self, and individual creativity and inventiveness, produces its own extraordinary achievements -- and renders them an ideological polar opposite to the thinking of the Chinese. The conflict between the two would be fascinating to watch, if it wasn't me and family getting caught in the crossfire.


Currently on our way out of Taiwan, and even from my (admittedly narrow) outsider's viewpoint, the country has thoroughly charmed me, particularly the bustling metropolis of Taipei.

What the Chinese have built here is extraordinary -- they've managed to preserve their ancient history and roots while simultaneously progressing forward into a more democratic state. They've achieved what mainland China so dramatically failed to do -- they've entered the modern world without sacrificing their own unique identity.

I find the mainland's insistence of ownership to be deeply troubling, and despite conciliatory voices on both sides, I find it impossible to credit that they will simply leave Taiwan alone indefinitely. If I have learned any fundamental truth about politics, it is that greedy and stupid is always finding new ways to be greedy and stupid. One day -- maybe tomorrow, maybe in twenty years -- they're going to make a move, and the real question then for Taiwan will be -- do they resist? Or do they submit?

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