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How Far Behind Is China?

Popularity 12Viewed 8341 times 2014-4-10 10:41 |System category:Life| China

I regularly meet and discuss culture, philosophy and comparisons of lifestyle with a dean of a local university here in Henan. He told me something some time ago that has helped me and continues to serve me in understanding more about where China is today. I've traveled the world (26 countries thus far) and know how to temper my comments about any country in which I am visiting. So, I would never have come to the same conclusions that he has shared with me, much less, verbalize them.

Here are 3 things that he has repeatedly told me over the past 2 years that I've known him.

1. "China is a developing country."

This is something that I had never thought or known. With its 5,000 year history, I don't think it would be appropriate for a Westerner to come here and make such an assessment or judgment. However, having heard his statement, it helps me in understanding the disparities between the West and China.

2. "China doesn't value specificity of goals and stability like Western countries."

Change is something that happens fast and often in China. I've seen it. In fact, it is shocking to me how fast and how often it can come. I realize that it is an attempt at making something better (improvement). However, it makes things quite unstable. An example is school schedules. In the West, planning far in advance is important. School schedules are set at minimum one year ahead of time and they don't change. Not so in China (in my experience). I'm teaching 10 classes a week now in the most stable school I've been in since I came to China 2.5 years ago. Here, at No. 19 Middle School in Zhengzhou, we actually know when our classes will finish for the term. This hasn't been the case in other schools I've taught in. We've yet to receive a detailed schedule for the Spring term and we are nearly half way through the term now. However, the scheduling here is better than other schools I've experienced.

3. "In several ways, China is 100-150 years behind in its development than the West."

There is no way that this can be said as a blanket statement. However, he identified areas such as education, industrial development, male/female relationships, protection of intellectual property rights, family relationships, workplace relations, sanitation and ecological environment. I've seen several examples of each of these since I came here. 

I find many, many positive things about China. It is why I've chosen to remain here for the past 2.5 years. I love China and cherish the opportunity I have to live here. I love learning and understanding this great country. I try to stay objective about China and the USA. There are many problems in the West that must be acknowledged and cannot be hidden. I will write about these in future blogs.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-10 13:51
A nice post Michael. 26 countries is very good. Will you catch my 32? You might as I seem to have got stuck here some years! My students will fail a question on my early diagnostic economics test if they do not show knowledge that China is a developing country. It sure is by World Bank definitions. it is a middle income developing country. Compared to a typical Developed country, China is poor. The average income per head in USA is approaching $50,000 (with large inequality) and the average income in US dollars per head in China is around $6,000.  Again with wide inequality and China has a huge number of dollar millionaires. Yet statistically most people in China are poor and that is the challenge China faces in next decade - to double China's average income of its citizens..  I look forward to next posts. keep on blogging!
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-10 21:30
ColinSpeakman: A nice post Michael. 26 countries is very good. Will you catch my 32? You might as I seem to have got stuck here some years! My students will fail a q ...
Thanks for your comments. I really have little desire to travel at this point in my life. I know you might feel the same. Been there and done it. I love what I'm doing here in Zhengzhou. I just found out that my small hometown in Texas (Sherman, population 35,000) has a company that is headquartered there with a manufacturing facility near my home here in Zhengzhou. Small world. Thanks for your insight. I appreciate you.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-10 23:44
MichaelM: Thanks for your comments. I really have little desire to travel at this point in my life. I know you might feel the same. Been there and done it. I lo ...
Very small world. Will you pop in to see the local branch?
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-4-11 17:48
Sherman, Texas??? Well, Howdy, Neighbor!! I'm from the DFW area.
"China is a developing country.": Aren't all countries developing?
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-11 18:35
I just found out that a company that is headquartered in my hometown also has a plant and warehouse here in Zhengzhou.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-12 04:52
teamkrejados: Sherman, Texas??? Well, Howdy, Neighbor!! I'm from the DFW area.
"China is a developing country.": Aren't all countries developing?
You could say that in an everyday sense but under World Bank and general economic definitions countries are either STILL DEVELOPING or DEVELOPED. The main indicator that puts countries in different categories is the income per head of ifs population . Which is high in a developed economy and lower in various stages of developing economies. So it has a rather specific meaning.
Reply Report huaren2323 2014-4-12 19:33
Enjoyed the articulation of your experience in the light of developing China. I think all nation should keep on developing and innovating. From Agricultural base China embraced Industrialization at the expense of environment and internal governance.

The pace is fast and so does the laggards with thier corrupt activities that threatens China from within. The last count I read is about 25,000 officials who were disciplined. Per capita numbers as a yardstick does not really portray the difference between both Nations. Each nation , not just USA and China have their own cross to bear and challenges. Having almost a fourth of mankind with the very little world resources is troubling for China in the future. I do not think war of expansion is in the books as internal stabiility must be secured. Have you seen how much security there are in each underground metro stations? A price to pay in trying to integrate northwest and Tibet. I am in Hangzhou and was in Shenzhen. Saw this as a sign of the times. I do not think it will help if terrorists are determined they can easily poke this " show of security"
The one fundamental pillar to secure this stability is education, not just technical ones but moral and ethical ones. Where you contribute in Zhengzhou and with others like CollinSpeakman should be appreciated for the moral and ethical examples that you would inadvertently convey.
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-12 20:43
huaren2323: Enjoyed the articulation of your experience in the light of developing China. I think all nation should keep on developing and innovating. From Agricu ...
Thank you Huaren! I appreciate you!
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-12 21:03
huaren2323: Enjoyed the articulation of your experience in the light of developing China. I think all nation should keep on developing and innovating. From Agricu ...
Your comments appreciated! I gather you recently are back in a China after time in USA? The subway security is definitely a step up and less voluntary than a couple of months ago. That is good. I agree that it seems China's focus is on internal security and stability and it would make no sense to be territorially expansive these days.
Reply Report thomas.wood 2014-4-13 07:56
I have very little knowledge of economics but the terms "developing" and "developed" countries do seem to me quite odd.  First of all, all countries are developing and changing in some ways.  Secondly "developed" makes it sound like these countries have already reached a fixed end point of progress and all the other countries are on exactly the same trajectory, just further behind.  This seems to suppress an awful lot of differences between countries.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-13 11:01
huaren2323: Enjoyed the articulation of your experience in the light of developing China. I think all nation should keep on developing and innovating. From Agricu ...
Wow, I had no idea the number was so high. 25000, that's impressive.

One of my Chinese friends said that the current president seems to target the old government removing opposition, can I ask, would you say that in your opinion this is true or not?
Reply Report huaren2323 2014-4-14 15:33
seanboyce88: Wow, I had no idea the number was so high. 25000, that's impressive.

One of my Chinese friends said that the current president seems to target the o ...
OK..I bring a peace pipe this time and would even amuse you with this peculiar old Scottish game which they now called golf when we have the chance. I am in Hangzhou soaking in the sun and flowers and tea

It is more serious than is commonly known that a faction purportedly instigated by former head Jiang Zemin, bankrolled by petrol head & China Security Head Zhou Yong Kang and spearheaded by Bo Xilai wanted to take power from the moderates and had attempted unpublishable seditious acts. Some of their association were with shady gangster out west. When they fell, all their support network within the politburo were fair game. The gangster of all colors and origin and those officials who had unexplained wealth were collateral damages. I think this bloodletting while very disastrous for entertainment and hospitality sectors are necessary to send a message that thievery and graft would not be tolerated. The most impressive action by this set of leaderships (not just Xi and Li but those behind them) is that even the untouchable supreme leadership who used to receive slap on the wrist are now fair game. This is a precedent. No suicide as in Qiang Qing but jail terms and frozen assets.
I am not saying that these new set of leadership is completely saintly but it is a step in a right direction. just as Nixon could be impeached...an alien concept in the usual monolithic structure in China.
and then you have Karma like the bad guys that slipped thru the cracks..The Joseph Kennedy who supplied booze to Al Capone and fueled the rise of mafia in North America. His eldest son (Joseph Jr)disappeared after an air raid into Germany, his second son was John F, then Robert (both of whom  ironically went after the Mafia who actually delivered the decisive votes popular and electoral in Chicago and Florida that gave John F the smallest margin of victory as President of the USA. John F had the gall to bed Marilyn Monroe who also slept with Sam Giacana) and then his grandson John Jr ( son of John F) who fell from the sky flying with his wife to Martha's vineyard from New Jersey...if you believe in Karma...but then China does not believe in Karma so the recent silent purges behind the scene. There will be more...
Reply Report huaren2323 2014-4-14 15:42
thomas.wood: I have very little knowledge of economics but the terms "developing" and "developed" countries do seem to me quite odd.  First of  ...
absolutely spot on....from agricultural base most definition of DEVELOPED world in industrialization..but look where it is taking us...well I guess GAEA or Mother \earth will decide adn She may cull the ever burgeoning population that makes our Earth out of norm.

I was still skiing in Canada two weeks ago. \the the weather wentup to 7 deg C an dnow in another snow storm. This is April.

Save yourselves into a sanctuary in Yunnan or Tibet (or Argentina or Chile or Yucatan) and get accepted into their midst. The new Norm will wreck havoc and who cares who is the most developed or if you are a billionaire?
Reply Report huaren2323 2014-4-14 15:57 (Pending for approval)
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Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-14 20:10
huaren2323: OK..I bring a peace pipe this time and would even amuse you with this peculiar old Scottish game which they now called golf when we have the chance. I ...
I too  will smoke the peace pipe, I hope we can be friends :)

Hope you are having fun in hangzhou.

I really respect the current government of China. No government is perfect but you are right, it's definitely a step in the right direction. We see it now in the western news all the time and it bodes very well. Everyones opinion of China as a corrupt government is changing, and not just slowly.

The loss of such entertainment sectors, like you say is a means to an end. When they are dealing with western gangsters they should be punished. I just wish the western governments were so bold. Instead we lock up our heroes who telltales on our governments evil. Julius assange, Snowden etc

Thanks for the lesson :)
Reply Report huaren2323 2014-4-15 00:44
seanboyce88: I too  will smoke the peace pipe, I hope we can be friends :)

Hope you are having fun in hangzhou.

I really respect the current government of China ...
You are welcome anytime Sean
Reply Report TheMakerzBiz 2014-4-16 07:53
thomas.wood: I have very little knowledge of economics but the terms "developing" and "developed" countries do seem to me quite odd.  First of  ...
Different organizations have different definitions for "developing" and "developed" when it comes to national economics. In general, metrics such as GDP, per capita GDP, level of industrialization, physical infrastructure, human capital, and general living standards are used.

While of course there is no "fixed end" in a nation, it is indisputable that some nations have higher living standards based on economic metrics -- such as access to goods, income level, and so on. This is an economics definition with real parameters, not an opinion meant to disparage poor people.

Put another way, somewhere like Guangdong Province could probably be considered developed, but Gansu Province would be developing still. Take a look at the relative metrics between these two regions, such as physical infrastructure and per capita income. Guangdong has a far higher standard of living, based on economic measurements, than relatively poor Gansu.

It is important to not take these words as an insult or a knock, when in reality "developing" v. "developed" are merely tools to help classify the economic conditions in a given area.
Reply Report ANNAWU88 2014-4-21 10:34
China is developing with almost the fastest pace in the world, but how about chinese people? they work very hard to just make a living, around them are high-price housing, bad environment and congested traffic. we still have a long way to go before we reach the point when we can live moe freely.
Reply Report Fred9 2014-4-21 17:00
Without an original idea for invention like gun powder invention in ancient China, people can say China is still far behind. With new idea and innovation then China can be said as developed.
Reply Report Fred.Hui 2014-4-22 14:30
Hope many more teachers arrived in china which come from different contries .Thanks for your effort for china's development.

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MichaelM

Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.

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