CHATTING ABOUT CHINA
One of my best friends just returned from an extensive excursion to China. Charlie is well traveled and has toured some of the world's great cities and destinations.
China blew Charlie off the map.
Imagine. The city of Beijing is as big as the country of Belgium. Traveling through Beijing means driving forever on immaculately paved roads and freeways, passing mile after mile of new skyscrapers that rise high to the sky in every direction.
China's wealth is staggering. If you haven't been to China you have no idea just how much money China has. Instead of urban peasants sweeping streets with straw brooms, you see expensively tailored capitalists driving luxury brand automobiles from all over the world. Mercedes. Rolls Royce. Lamborghini, Bugatti. Land Rover and of course, Ferrari. A high rise office tower is completed in a month. As Charlie said, “China will soon be the wealthiest and most dominant nation on Earth. You can drive for 40 minutes in any direction from the center of Beijing and still be engulfed by new, high rise apartment’s buildings.
If the government of China needs to dam a river but there’s a village in the way, the government dispatches representatives to the village, cuts them a check for new housing and expenses, and tells them they have to be out at the end of the month. Engineers and workers arrive and the dam is built. All without the nag of environmental protests or concerns for endangered species.
There is a dramatic downside to China's immense wealth and industrial growth and that's air pollution. China burns more coal than all the rest of the world combined. China alone is responsible for 20% of the world's greenhouse gases. In 2010, 1.2 million Chinese people died from polluted air. The atmosphere in Beijing is so fouled that it blocks out the sun and causes disruption in air traffic. Millions of residents of Beijing wear face masks to protect their lungs from inhaling air borne particulates. Soon, more people in China will die from lung disease than from any other cause.
China's evolution from rural feudalism to the world's preeminent capitalist leviathan is strictly controlled and supervised by the state. It's a unique combination of unfettered individual economic endeavor tempered by government regulation and intervention. China's state rule over capitalism may be the most unique and perhaps the most utopian of all the world's economic platforms.
It was late in the nineties when I first read predictions about China's economic destiny. If the twentieth century was the American century, then the twenty first century is Chinas.